Exclusive Interview: Devendra Sarda CEO of Local Market place Apneareamein.com

Devendra Sarda 160We caught up with Devendra Sarda CEO of Apneareamein. A BE in Electronics and Power, graduated in 1994  from VRCE(NIT,Nagpur) having worked in various verticals  like  SAP HR, Marketing, Computer Education, Customer Care, Placement fields with Start Ups as well as with MNC’s like HCL, MPhasis both in India & Abroad.
During his stint in the corporate world he was recognized as a savvy leader with strengths in reengineering business process, defining continuous process improvement , presiding over lively brainstorming sessions, building consensus, recognizing and accelerating peer strengths and delegation of the right task to the right person and propensity to initiate positive changes.  Praised for prudently managing human resources and continually extinguishing fires.
he is a very friendly & easily approachable person with a caring attitude. He is equally active on social & professional networking sites like Facebook & Linkedin. He is a go-getter with a flexible and positive attitude and is proficient in Client Interactions & timely deliverables to customers.
His hobbies include organizing outings, get-togethers & hosting events in Hindi.

 

WD: What is Apneareamein.com all about? What problem are you solving?

Devendra Sarda: ApneAreaMein  stands  for creating a value for Society and Small Businesses.
It is to help individuals to effectively use technology and Web for information and effective communication hence saving time and fuel to source anything needed on day today basis.

Today there is no convenient and cost effective media, which can help small Shopkeepers to reach to   potential clients who stay in their neighbourhood.
Another important aspect was to connect the users of a Society through Intra Society Communication tool for improving the efficiency, connectivity and transparency in working.

In other words, I must say, we are trying to  bridge  the  gap for Middle Class People in India with low cost options, instead of using technology to help limited Upper and upper middle class users with high cost options.

 WD: Tell us the story of how it started and the challenges you have faced?

Devendra Sarda : After working  across  various  verticals  in esteemed  companies likes Mphasis & HCL   I was unable to see the scope of utilizing my creativity and different  thought process , I was exploring  options which would  satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit and which can become a household name in times to come.
While I was working with Mphasis as SAP HR Consultant, while   wanting  to help my  spouse  to advertise for her Tuition classes  at home, I realized that there was  a dearth of  convenient and cost effective media, which  could  help us to reach  specific potential clients  who stay in neighbourhood.
A further deep dive into the issue revealed that,  it is the  need of even the users  to get solution/service providers where they can reach easily and without wasting time.
The concept and its scope excited me so much that and I quit my regular  Job at Mphasis   and immersed myself fully in this venture . It started with the   formation of  a Private Limited Company, as we wanted to do everything in the  best & most ethical way which would also be  legally strong.
With the kind blessings of  my father Sh.Radhey Shyam Sharda who kindly consented to be the  Managing Director  and myself Devendra Sharda  as Director we launched ETin MyArea.com where ET stood for Every Thing ..

As a next step I met a lot of Shopkeepers and users and collected the database of Shops. We launched it as a Combo Media(Web and Shared Pamphlet).I  used to get it designed, get the Pamphlets printed  get them circulated in the neighbourhood  along with various  Newspapers being distributed  at 3.30am mid night in my presence to ensure quality distribution. Simultaneously I had to take care of Data Collection, Compilation and Web Development. Thanks to my variety of corporate experience  and Engineering qualification, it helped me a lot to learn and execute the things without  dependency on others.
I started with one Part time team member and worked from Home. Gradually we took Plug and Play office on Rent.  hired 3 more full time people including Sheetal Gore, who  provided her expertise in  technical development and bringing the venture  in today’s shape.with an ever increasing team size..
We initially wanted to replicate the model through Franchisee Network of Fresh Graduates. But I realized after meeting many of them that Freshers are mislead by easy earning opportunities and have lost Entrepreneurship spirit. I Also realized that until every area representative  is  ready to take the  pains of Printing co-ordination  24×7, we will not be able to justify the money paid to us by Advertisers and  will  loose goodwill  as a Brand. Hence we changed our strategies and decided to focus on Web based media and adding more features in this. We could successfully develop very focused search as well as Intra Society Communication tool.

Challenges are many…the first challenge you start facing to answer the World…What the hell you are doing? Why did you leave the Job? What if it doesn’t work?  My immense faith in the supreme power helped me  to  look beyond  these questions and stay  focussed on my goal.
Though, my wife Jyoti was always a home maker, but she  added value to the venture by taking up   some responsibilities & bringing in new ideas  when she saw that getting the  right and reliable  candidate  is not only a costly affair  but also very tough for a start up like us. In the initial phase, money always flows in one way(it only goes  )…so friends supported to make sure that we are in right shape. Parents also supported a lot, when they realized that this project can help many person’s family in life, where as staying in Job will help only one family. Though even daughters also feels the pressure of being part of Entrepreneurs family, but  both my daughters Prerna and Dhairya have also been a constant source of support & always talk to everybody with great enthusiasm about the features of ApneAreaMein.com. Very soon,  they will be playing an  active role in our upcoming  promotional activities.
WD: What issues do you see in current trend of E-commerce in India? Do you see ApneAreaMein getting into E-Commerce in near future?

Devendra Sarda : Today E Shopping market is purely focusing on Price War. User’s  have the  privilege to buy from any of these portals which is offering at the low cost with discounts thrown in. However this will not help the Companies to survive for long by continuously reducing margins. Untill and unless some differentiators are created or used by these companies, this may adversely affect the Dot Com /E Commerce growth in Indian Market.
No, we would not be directly entering into E-Commerce activities as we have huge scope of our own offerings, however we can certainly hand shake with like minded E-Commerce venture to provide them differentiators to get an edge over others.
In your kind of Services, Telephone interface is very popular. So are you planning to come up with Telephonic Interface?
No, not at all.I am sure 9-12 months down the line, the need to get info over phone will be almost negligible. One, People find it a threat to their privacy as anybody and everybody starts calling them after getting their numbers, Secondly, there would be Web based Mobile devices with voice interface, which  are as good as Calling to a Call Centre and getting required information.

WD: Don’t you think, you should have more Co-founders ?

Devendra Sarda : I got great support of Financial Experts Chiranjeev Ajmera, Rohit Somani and Amit Heda right from day 1 & have been giving their valuable inputs in financial matters .  Their formal consent to join our Advisory Board is awaited..
I intentionally did not start with Partners, as I have seen many Partnerships break even before the product seeing the light of the day and it affects the momentum and enthusiasm of the Entrepreneur. As any start up might need to change the idea which was actually conceived multiple times based on practical feedback in the market, before you start saying, Great, we are ready !…this involves some time only time and sometime huge cost. And I wanted to make sure I would invite Partners/Investors only when I have experimented and I am ready. So that their investment is safe.
So now it is right time to get Partners.

WD: How is your product so different when there are already similar Products available? Do tell us about your existing and New products.

Devendra Sarda : We talk about very focused data. Apne Area Mein means Apne Area Mein
We provide hand holding to  the small Shopkeepers to increase his advertising budget as per  their  growth. One area to multiple area gradually.
We understand that although we can generate great Advertisement revenues by creating competition among Advertisers themselves, but keeping in mind the  long term perspective, it kills the spirit of Vendors(our Advertisers) being in business if they can not earn to survive and grow reasonably well. Our model is helping the Advertisers to retain Clients in their area and Clients are also able to get best after sales support.
In Intra Society Communication Tool also, we initially developed it based on our own understanding as a user and later collected the feedback of Residents of various Societies(who were already using such Products or who have not tried such products).And glad to share that we have features which has great utility and practical application and we are able to address the pain points of Users even in first version. Also we are going to launch different models to work with Builders and Societies as per their overall size and requirements.

 WD: What initiatives are you planning in the next 2-3 years?

Devendra Sarda : Wishlist !  Though actual shape has dependency on Funding, which should be through soon.
Reach: 5 Cities in one year. 100 Cities in 3 years.
Technology: To be available on all the Technologies, which will be used by more than 60% of Internet users in India within 2 years and continuous upgrades thereafter.
Employment : 1000+ Employees.

WD: Currently which locations is it available? Are you looking to launch this product in other Geographies?

Devendra Sarda : Currently We have presence  in 10 areas of Pune, Maharastra, India as of now.
As most of the initial features are developed, now we would be expanding rapidly.
In other geographies, yes, we want to launch in 5 Cities within 1 year and 100 Cities in next 3 years in India.

WD: What is your Marketing/Promotional approach?

Devendra Sarda : We will be operating through hybrid model of Company owned Branches as well as Franchisee operations
.
WD: Did you raise any funding? If you want to raise funds do you want to be contacted by Investors?
Devendra Sarda : We have recently initiated discussions with Investors. As ApneAreaMein addresses the need of huge Market potential in India, we are getting positive response to our initial discussions.
We are definitely interested to discuss to finally start working ASAP with Investors, for a mutually beneficial relationship.

I would like to introduce myself as a BE Electronics and Power graduated in 1994  from VRCE(NIT,Nagpur) having worked in various verticals  like  SAP HR, Marketing, Computer Education, Customer Care, Placement fields with Start Ups as well as. I have also worked with MNC’s like HCL, MPhasis both in India & Abroad.

During my stint in the corporate world I was recognized as a savvy leader with strengths in reengineering business process, defining continuous process improvement , presiding over lively brainstorming sessions, building consensus, recognizing and accelerating peer strengths and delegation of the right task to the right person and propensity to initiate positive changes.  Praised for prudently managing human resources and continually extinguishing fires.

I am a very friendly & easily approachable person with a caring attitude. I am equally active on social & professional networking sites like Facebook & Linkedin. I am a go-getter with a flexible and positive attitude . I am proficient in Client Interactions & timely deliverables to customers.

My hobbies include organizing outings, get-togethers & hosting events in Hindi.

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