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We've Managed To Break Even Six Months Ago: Rohit Chaudhary, eTechies CEO

Gurgaon-based eTechies.in, a service provider offering onsite, online and on-phone technical support and repair services for desktops, laptops, printers and other digital devices, has recently raised $2 million from Inventus Capital in a series A funding round. The company also raised an undisclosed angel round from Rajan Anandan (currently MD of Google India) in November 2010. eTechies currently has offices in Delhi-NCR but intends to open a new unit in Bangalore, followed by Mumbai. The company aims to expand to the top six metros by fiscal 2013.

In an exclusive interview with Techcircle.in, Rohit Chaudhary, co-founder & CEO of eTechies, talks about fundraising, expansion plans, revenue model, competition, challenges and key focus areas. He also feels that economic slowdown will not affect the business as people will be still spending money for PC repair and maintenance. Here are the excerpts.

How have you fared since eTechies started in 2010?

We have been growing at 15-20 per cent month on month. But given the nature of the consumer services business we are in, the company is still facing a lot of competition locally in a sector which is hardly organised. Although it's not easy, we have still managed to grow every month. We have been operational for the last 16 months and each month, we have registered better growth than the previous one.

The company has recently raised $2 million from Inventus Capital in a series A funding round. How do you plan to use the capital?

We intend to go ahead with team-building. We need to develop marketing resources but to do that, we require a senior marketing professional who can actually create campaigns and help us with new concepts. We are in the consumer services space where one must have very focused marketing and lead-generation campaigns, which are typically ROI-centric. But we are the founders and not the typical execution guys who can develop effective strategies to ensure bigger ROI. We need to hire professionals for that.

In November 2010, you raised an undisclosed angel round from Rajan Anandan (Google India MD). How did you utilise that money?

We have typically used it to hire middle management people because we feel that the quality of resources (both technical and non-technical) can make or break any consumer services model. However, we used the capital cautiously and didn't go for big branding campaigns. Instead, it was effectively used to create ROI campaigns. In addition, we are gradually building eTechies as a reliable platform and part of the funding has been used to build technology.

In fact, we always put the 'money' in areas which will result into high growth. Although we've had some ups and downs, the platform has worked wonderfully well for us. Best of all, we have been able to convince our customers that we are at a premium in this space.

Can you share the revenue details?

Well, we have been growing pretty fast and during the past six months, we have managed to break even. However, it is not all that important right now. At this early stage, we need to build our revenue slowly but steadily.

What is your revenue model?

We follow the simple process of charging customers for the services provided. We have a one-time fee of Rs 1,000 for routine PC-related problems. We also have annual subscription plans starting from Rs 3,000. But the charges do vary. For Apple products, we charge slightly higher and for printers and routers, customers pay a little less.

How many customers do you have? And what's the number of requests for repairs everyday?

At present, we have more than 4,500 customers in Delhi-NCR and we register around 150 requests for PC-related repairs  every day, which is also growing at a rapid rate. Till December, we had around 100 requests a day.

How big is the team at eTechies?

Right now, we are a team of about 100 people. We will have more hires as soon as we open new operations centres.

Who are your competitors in this space?

As I have mentioned earlier, it is not an organised sector yet. There are over hundreds normal PC vendors, local pot shops, distributors, technicians dealing in this sectors. But nobody specialises in servicing like us.

We have in-house machinery, which we can fix anything from a laptop to routers. In other words, we provide end-to-end solutions for PCs to the consumers. That is what differentiate us, from the rest.

A consumer facing problems with his laptop can call us from home, then our engineer will go to his doorstep, fix up the problem at home or bring it to our office to fix it and then deliver it back.

What's the key focus area of eTechies?

We have focused on quality throughout – a service parameter which seems to be almost non-existent in the market. But if we are charging a premium, we will have to justify that. On the other hand, if you are providing quality services, you have to charge a premium.

To ensure quality, we have certified technicians and qualified engineers in our team. Plus, they are put through rigorous training sessions every week – so that they are aware of latest technology changes. Technology keeps evolving every there-four months and our engineers always stay updated. Local technicians are easily available in the market but they are not so well-informed all the time and that's our differentiator.

What about the challenges you have faced while running eTechies?

Getting good people has been a challenge for us. And to get down to the basics, I would say that India doesn't have enough facilities for business incubation. So start-ups like us, face quite a few problems that way. Moreover, handling customers can be a tough task at times and services as a business is not well-understood either.

What are your priorities in 2012?

Recruiting more people tops our priority list. Also, we are looking at fast-paced growth and should not restrict ourselves to a growth rate of 15-20 per cent. We need to scale up our business in a way that would help us grow at 100-200 per cent every quarter. We also need to expand across the country. We should be operational in Bangalore from March this year and Mumbai is next in line. The idea is to be present in the top six metros by fiscal 2013.

With experts predicting a slowdown, how cautious would you be in the coming months?

We see a robust growth this year because of the nature of business we are in. People have to get their PCs fixed even during a slowdown. You might be spending a little less, of course, but that won't really impact our business.

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