What inspired you to startup in this industry?
As entrepreneurs, we were facing our share of difficulties in getting the legal, accounting and compliance work done. This all seemed like black box. The Lawyers, CA or CS were like Oracles who would share their knowledge with us but we what we will have will be far from the complete picture. We’d have a budget, both in terms of money and bandwidth for these work, however, this would never be enough. Googling was of no help. Legal is very similar to medical in a sense – Google search on every medical symptom would lead to cancer – we needed someone who could tell the practical aspects of the laws, compliances and their applicability. Working with quite a few entrepreneurs, we knew that we were not the only ones who were facing these challenges.
Diving deeper, we realized that this was more of a problem of information asymmetry and resulting inefficiency. In the absence of ‘best practices’ and a defined information sharing mechanism, the industry has been running far from its optimized efficiency.
Did you have any expertise in these?
Actually no! Both Abhishek and I are from Engineering and Management background. I have studied at IIT Kharagpur and IIM Calcutta, while Abhishek studied Engineering from Mumbai University and MS Finance from Cranfield University, UK. Our background has been in consulting and finance. So, this was a new industry for us.
However, as entrepreneur you get a lot of exposure to these things, and we had our share of exposure. Luckily, we shared our earlier office with a legal and accounting firm for 4 years that gave us a very good exposure of the industry. The coffee breaks with them helped us understand their business, the challenges they faced, the way they delivery approach, team structure, commercials etc. This exposure has helped us a lot in shaping Wazzeer.
What was the initial approach that you took?
Technology has been at the core of our vision for Wazzeer. However, we took a very different approach to build what we believe to be essentially a technology company. Contrary to the intuitive approach, we decided not to focus on technology for some time and instead channelize our energy and resources to build delivery capabilities and processes.
The legal, accounting and compliance industry, if we look at it, is made of people who are extremely smart and well educated. The way law works, more often than not, there is no defined process to do anything. Every professional has a different approach to every work that exists. This probably is the largest white-collared but largely unorganized sector (at least in the Indian context). The nature of laws and its interpretation offers a wide range of ways to do that work. Best-practices are rare in the industry.
Thought we understand technology and product, neither Abhishek nor I are developers. Both of us have an understanding of how businesses work and how the industry functioned. We decided to play on our strengths, to start with. Our first product was a simple one page website where all we did was collect contact information of people who wanted to reach out to us. Everything after that was done using simple freely available tools – making sure we do not stretch the professionals (lawyers, CA and CS) on technology – most of them are less tech savvy. We used Whatsapp, mails, Asana and excel sheets to start and deliver.
It was simply an experiment. This was November 2015. Over the next few months, our clients kept telling us we were doing a great job. These were early-stage entrepreneurs. We were their lifeline in taking care of all their related work. From the very beginning, we focused on giving clients information and allowing them to decide for themselves what course of action they wanted to take. Their feedback gave us encouragement.
What was your strategy behind on boarding professionals or partners?
Often online ventures are measured in terms of the number of brands, vendors or professionals they have on their platform. It was tempting for us to focus on getting every Lawyer, CA or CS onboard. However, stepping into the clients’ shoes made us realize that the number of professionals was nothing more than a hygiene factor. What mattered was the quality.
We focused on building a network of handpicked partners (yeah, we consider them as our partners). We have developed a selection and onboarding process, which boils down to whether we would trust the professional with our own work or not? We have built a robust mechanism to select and onboard the professionals. Most of them are someone whom we know and have worked with them or coming with strong references. We start with small piece of work that we closely monitor and as they deliver on a set of parameters, we increase the volume of work to them.
Also Read: story of Jewelebration
Over the past two years, how has Wazzeer grown?
For the last two years, we have been focused on defining the best way to deliver every process. Working with a wide range of work types and professionals from across the country, we have first hand exposure to these work. We have been busy observing, asking questions and taking notes to come up with the detailed process and information needed to get every type of work done in an efficient way (and virtually, in most cases).
It has been a challenging but rewarding effort. We have observed the customer satisfaction level improving and positively impacting the repeat work from them.
With the processes defined and the best professionals doing it, our efforts have been to get the technology to support them. We have been observing every step and figuring out what is the best way to automate things without adding to the complexity.
A lot of work has been going in the background for a year now and we very recently launched a part of our platform. We are moving fast on this and adding features every week. The objective is to leverage tech automation to reduce the possibility of errors and enhance convenience.
What are you doing to maintain the quality of your network as the laws and rules under which these professionals operate changes?
We offer around 200 services at Wazzeer out of which 60-70 services are most frequently requested. For these, we have gone into the details of each service and recorded step by step what needs to be done to deliver it. We share these processes with our professionals so for each request we take up, our professionals follow a specific process to reach an end result. Now, as the regulatory regime changes, we inculcate these changes into the corresponding process.
The second thing we’ve done is to enable knowledge sharing for the professionals. If someone is not versed in international tax law, we will host a knowledge session with someone who knows international tax law. This way everyone’s knowledge increases.
This is helping us become a knowledge hub for such processes. This stage was identifying processes to capture and record. The next stage is to improve communication through technology. We have released an MVP which is getting excellent responses.
The other aspect of technology was to use it to bring down the effort/time involved in delivering a service and the error rate. We want to empower our professionals to use the tools to deliver work faster and with fewer errors.
How do your processes work across geographies because each state might handle things a bit differently?
The processes and network that we have built helped us with this. They enable us to deliver the services across India virtually.
How do you find service seekers for your marketplace?
We don’t have a marketing team as such. What we do is to put a lot of content out on our blog. We can relate to entrepreneurs and small business owners because that is our background as well. We try to write posts answering the questions they might have in a manner they will understand.
We have a product called Counsel where anyone can ask any question and a lawyer, CA or CS would answer it for free. There, if we see the same question coming up again and again, we write and circulate a blog post about it. We find a lot of inquiries because of this. We find this very effective with international clients. We have served customers from Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Dubai, Australia, and America looking to do business in India. They like the way we explain things, the way we carry ourselves and give us their business.
Where do you see yourself going in two years?
Wazzeer started as an experiment. Our team, made up of engineers has developed expertise in the legal, accounting, and company secretarial space. We have done the groundwork. We have between 800-900 clients and 100+ professionals. Our repeat rate is roughly 75%. We have 200 more professionals in our extended network who will be onboard in the next round.
In the next two years, we will build up the virtual platform. By next year, we expect to scale up and become the go to destination for these services. The other part is investing in our technology. With our technology, in two years, we expect to lead the market and shape the market.
Who are your competitors and what have you learned from them?
On the surface, IndiaFiling, VakilSearch, and Cleartax may seem to be our competitors but I think the industry is in such a nascent stage that there is room for everyone. All of us combined serve about 1% of India’s legal, accounting, and compliance needs. We aren’t competing with each other. We are helping our customers get comfortable with the idea of going online in search of legal help. If we can manage our bank account on the phone or call a cab on the phone, why not find a lawyer?
Also Read: Refabd Startup