FlatMatch startup journey by us for you to kick-start your day, or end on a note that spurs positivity and joy in you. so today i am going to share flatMatch founder Paresh journey with you. So let’s start it
Ajeet: Can you tell us more about your entrepreneur journey? When did this idea of FlatMatch come to you?
Paresh : I came to Mumbai in 2011 when I got admission to the VJTI college. I had to struggle to find a suitable place for living as I had not been provided with the hostel yet.
I was then introduced to the concept of brokers. After getting the flat, I had to adjust to other people living there.
There is a startup jargon called “pain-point” which I was facing on a first-hand basis.
This was the moment when I thought this needs to be solved. I had to face the same problem when I got my first job.
I made a decision in 2016 that I would create a platform for people where they will easily find flats on rent as well as roommates.
I discussed this idea with my friend – Buddhabhushan. We started working on weekends and used to discuss the features and design of the app. I wanted to create something which I would like to use.
I got busy with my office work and this idea got sidelined. But when you are truly obsessed with something you don’t let it go.
Finally, I left my job in 2019 and devoted my full time to it. I called Buddhabhushan again and this time we were very serious about it.
As 3 years passed in between, we wanted to test the market. We started doing the market research.
We conducted the survey to gather information about the user’s behavior – what kind of real-estate apps they are currently using and what are their roommate preferences.
We talked with colleagues and college friends to ask them if they are facing the same problems as we were and what kind of changes they want in the existing platforms.
We studied Facebook groups for flat and flatmates. We made a list of drawbacks of the group.
By the time we were done with our research, we realized that we still have a market for the product.
We again started working on the features but this time we were making data-backed decisions.
One of the drawbacks of Facebook groups is there is no separate section for people searching for an entire flat and people searching for sharing flat. We added that feature to the app.
There is no budget filter in those groups so we added that too. For our roommate matching feature, we already had data i.e what parameters people use to choose their roommates.
We launched the beta version – basic website in December. We got a decent response and we were having 300 signup users on it. We wanted to create our initial user base and we’re trying to get early adopters. Simultaneously we were working on the app.
Infrastructure setup and backend development were done by me while Buddhabhushan worked on android development.
I am proud to say that we were able to create the product from scratch with a team size of two.
We’re almost ready with our app and we’re testing it out. But then something unexpected happened.
We are heavily impacted by the pandemic situation. Traffic on the website decreased drastically. People weren’t searching for flats. They were facing a new problem.
They went to their hometown and their luggage was still at their rental flats. As our core service was not having enough traction, we started a new service i.e. we started helping our users to find suitable movers and packers. We faced challenges in implementing it.
Even after doing the research about vendors i.e. movers and packers, users felt that they were expensive.
We did not have much success in it. But a startup journey is all about trying things, giving your best, getting user’s feedback, pivoting, and constantly improving.
I was having second thoughts on whether to launch the product or not. But then the moment of realization came.
Pandemic is here for 1-2 years. My idea will be there forever if I do it right. With that realization, we got the much-needed motivation and started working on the app again.
We made the necessary changes and made it production-ready. Finally, in the 1st week of November, we officially launched the app.
Ajeet: How did you acquire your first paid customer?
Paresh: I will be honest with you. I don’t have paid customers yet. My goal was to create something which could benefit the people.
You can’t be purely capitalist nor socialist. So we definitely have plans to monetize the app.
Well, getting the 1st visitor was equally difficult. When we launched the beta version we weren’t getting any visitors for the 1st week.
I tried messaging the people on flat and flatmates groups. I messaged about 50-60 people and finally got one visitor. Even that user complained about the website.
However, we listened to the feedback and made changes to the website. After that, we got 100 visitors within a month.
Ajeet: How did you manage to shift from an employee to a full-time entrepreneur? How did you convince your parents?
Paresh: Actually it was more difficult to convince my family than to create the product. My sister was preparing for civil services at that time and my father is a retired teacher.
The financial condition of the family wasn’t that bad but not so good either. When I told them that I quit my job they weren’t happy for obvious reasons. I told them I wanted to create something on my own.
Although I was getting a good salary, I was not satisfied with my job. They bombarded questions on me.
They were literally taking my interview. The first question was “how would I manage the things without capital?” I have enough savings to survive for the next 1 and a half years.
I told them I would cut on the expenses. Also told them about the back-up plan. There is no failure in a startup.
Either you become successful or you learn. With that learning, I can go back to the IT industry whenever I want.
They were convinced because I wasn’t asking for money and I had a backup plan. I will work hard so that I don’t have to go back!
Ajeet: How did you motivate yourself when your co-founder (Buddhahushan) and interns were not able to dedicate proper time to the work?
Paresh: I was self-motivated because this is my brain-child. As it was my idea, I was very passionate about it.
To motivate my co-founder and interns I had to make them believe in the idea. I had left almost everything for this idea.
I used to get stuck in some technical issues. But I had no other option. I had no senior member or anything like that.
I wasn’t getting a monthly salary, so I had to complete the development and launch the product so that we can at least have a chance of earning some revenue. I used to say the same thing to him and the interns. It worked!
Ajeet: What suggestions would you give to a person who wants to start his/her startup?
Paresh: Believe in your idea!. Whatever you are going to do, you have to be 100%, 200%, or maybe 500% confident about your idea because people will ask questions and some people might demotivate you.
Just don’t work on the idea which is in trends like ed Tech or blockchain. Work on ideas in which you truly believe in and you know about the problem in and out.
My second suggestion is about the team. Currently, I don’t have a proper team but I would suggest the people build a strong team – at least four members as early as possible.
I think a 4 members team is ideal. You need to have a Visionary/Leader, a Technical Wizard, a Marketing Genius, and a Finance Guru in your team.
Ajeet: Would you like to recommend any book to the people?
Paresh: Definitely yes! I would recommend “Traction – How any startup can achieve explosive growth” by Gabriel Weinberg. He is the founder of DuckDuckGo – 2nd largest search engine after google. Also, try to talk with more people. You can gain knowledge from a conversation too.
Ajeet: What are your future plans with FlatMatch?
Paresh: Currently my focus is on improvement. I want to make the product better so that more people like it.
I am targeting metro cities as of now. I want to get a significant user base in the metro cities so that I can start monetizing the app.
Once the business model is in place and running perfectly fine, I will move on to expansion. I really want to take this product on a global level.
Ajeet: What kind of changes have you noticed in yourself during your startup-journey?
Paresh: Networking was not my cup of tea. I rarely tried to communicate with other people. But now I do that. I try to talk to people. I love talking to people about their ideas.
I think everyone has some ideas in their mind. Another thing I used to believe hard work always pays off.
Not necessarily! There are certain factors which you can’t control. The pandemic was really unexpected.
I can’t change it. But I can change what’s in my hand. I will keep working without thinking about the results. You know good things happen when you least expect them!
Checkout FlatMatch App
End: I hope you like it. Please share this article with your friends or family members who want to start a startup but has no clues where to start. Also, if you have any question regarding startup you could ask in the comments section.