In Stanford University commencement address in the year 2005, Steve Jobs said that one can only connect the dots looking backwards. He was referring to the decisions one makes following their gut the value of which is clear only after some years.
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It seems that a local boy, originally from Mangalore, is following the path that Steve Jobs paved. 24-year-old Alan Vincent Dsouza quit his engineering in his third year, because he did not find any value in the course and risked his career to formally start his own company, Vavia Technologies. He is one of the founders.
D’souza lives in JP Nagar and finds Bangalore to be most conducive for entrepreneurship. He thinks that his dots are yet to connect but is confident it will.
When and how was Vavia Technologies formed?
I thought of starting a business with this name when I was three-year-old. I got selected for Infosys’ contest ’Catch’em young’ when I was in class eight. It was meant to teach children about computers. There I realised that my interest lies in web (internet) and learned the techniques. Later on, gaining some proficiency, I undertook small projects in my locality.
After completing my Higher Secondary, I came to pursue my engineering course in PESIT, Bangalore. However, I did not find much value in the course structure and dropped out in my third year in 2008. This was the time when we started Vavia formally.
What is Vavia all about?
We build web applications. We take an idea, market with minimum budget, build the social media presence and do the search engine optimisation. Basically, we provide end-to-end solutions for the web. Last year we served about 350 clients across India. Apart from services, last year we launched our flagship product: discountpandit.com. It aggregates deals for products and services from various deal providers. It works as a search engine for deals. Recently, we also launched askthepandit.com, under the the umbrella of discountpandit, which is a discount-as-a-service portal. Here we find discounts from vendors according to the customers demand.
What is so unique about askthepandit.com?
It works on a model that whenever a customer wants to buy a product, they come to us for discounts. They give the specification and maximum price and we have hundreds of people asking for it everyday. We collate all the orders and negotiate with the vendors to give the discounts which is not available anywhere. For example, recently a customer wanted 50 air tickets, we negotiated with the vendor and saved a lakh rupees for the customer.
So what is the revenue model?
We get some commission from vendors, as we push their sales in volumes. Plus, for our services in askthepundit.com, we charge Rs 11 for mobile phones, Rs 21 for home appliances and computers, gadgets and Rs 31 for air tickets and hotels from our customers. Our clients are mostly from Bangalore and some from Delhi.
What was the initial investment? How did you manage marketing?
I started with a capital of one lakh rupees only. We had problems but understood that financial constraints are part of any start-ups. If you don’t have any constraint then what is the fun in it? We believe that it is our work which markets our product.
You dropped out of the college in 3rd year. Why? Do you think education system in India needs a change?
I did not see much of value in education system. Not that I disrespect it, but I did not find any point learning advance microprocessor without any interest. I took couple of projects including the one to build my college’s website. Then I realised that business was growing. I had a choice to leave my business and continue with engineering. But I chose to venture full time into my business.
More than educational institutions, it is the society that needs to change. If we were able to respect the plumber for his job, someone would have created a new tool for plumbing or new dimension to mechanics for a mechanic. There is no point studying just for the heck of it.
Wasn’t there a risk?
Inspiring lines of Ratan Tata gave me lot of courage while dropping out, which is ‘I don’t believe in taking right decisions, I take decisions and then make them right’. Also, 2008 was the right time to start any business. Owing to the recession, we learnt all the nuances.
Who has been your role model?
Two people. One, Dhirubhai Ambani, for his approach of doing things. Second, Steve Jobs for the innovation he brought in to the technology world.
What is your favorite past time?
I am a foodie. My friends suggested me to start foodpandit.com (laughs). Also, I travel a lot. One of my favourite holiday spots is Santa Monica, California.
Alan did not seem interested in revealing much of the statistics, and when asked about the future plans, he says, “Media will be notified soon,” with a smile.⊕