Entrepreneur Name: Kunal Kerkar
Business Name: Helix Tech
Welcome to #eoindia #startupstories Episode 24.
When you think about Goa, the first image that springs to mind is probably that of long beaches and holidaymakers. Long renowned as a holiday destination for domestic and international travelers – less well known as a Startup Destination! But today we head to Goa to meet a tech startup and it’s founder Kunal Kerkar (@kunni7h).
Originated With Humble Beginnings in an incubator by two IT grads fresh out of college , and now close to under 4 years into operations the company in question – Helix Tech has a strong foothold in the area of Mobility and is looking to expand into Wearables , iOT & Machine Learning. Having its HQ in Goa, – Yes GOA, a Development Centre in Bangalore and Business Offices in Istanbul & Hanover and soon to open a Full Fledged Europe Business Head Office in London!
We’re excited to hear the story of how it all began. Welcome to Entrepreneurs of India #startupstories.
Kunal as usual, lets begin with our first question…
1) How did you get your idea for this business?
Business is something I always wanted to do right from as early as 4th std I don’t know why, but it just came to me very naturally. I remember when I was small and all my friends used to idolize film stars and WWE wrestlers my role model used to be Mr. Dhirubhai Ambani.
The first time I really gave it a serious thought was in my 5th Semester of Engineering when I built this web portal for engineering students to access exam question papers and got a pretty good response, That was my eureka moment for me when I felt I could really build something. I have had my fair share of hardships pretty early into my career for instance although I have a computer engineering degree coding was not something I was really fond of so I had to my find people to write code for me, fortunately, I was surrounded by several talented programmers and I built this website for 4 consecutive semesters, with people then contacting me from across colleges in Goa.
That’s when I realised that building websites for others could be a real business and that was something I could do as there was demand in the local market and people to get the job was done was easily available.
Just them an old family friend of mine and a reputed dentist in Goa wanted someone to rebuild his age old website and create a digital footprint for his brand and he was kind enough to give me the project.
However none of the friends that helped me build all these websites were ready to take the plunge and start up with me , that’s when I had almost lost hope and thought this idea should wait a little longer and I had started applying at other companies ,that’s just when a college buddy of mine who was with me in first year, had just dropped out of college and approached me that he too was looking for a partner and that was it, there was no looking back after that!
We hired a couple of our college friends and started working this new project and the rest, as they say, is history.
2) Why is “now” a good time for this idea to exist?
IT services and more specifically App Development have been around for decades now and India has always been an IT outsourcing haven, However, these times that we live in are really exciting for any tech entrepreneur more so in the Indian sub continent given the smartphone penetration and network expansion reach that only widens your target audience.
We are now seeing the app market boom just as we saw the website market flourished during the early 2000’s where every single business needed a website and it was more of a me too strategy and a fear of missing out (FOMO). However having said that it means increased competition as well with more players throwing their hands into the basket.
“WE ARE NOW SEEING THE APP MARKET BOOM JUST AS WE SAW THE WEBSITE MARKET FLOURISHED DURING THE EARLY 2000’S”
3) What was the reaction from your family when you first decided to become an entrepreneur?
Where I come from, I am a first generation entrepreneur with no one in my immediate or distant family has ventured into starting a business, almost all of them are salaried employees and have been that way for most of their lives, so it came more as a shock than a surprise to all.
There was almost as little as no financial support from my family for most of the initial period, I even remember using all of the money that I had saved from 21st bday party gifts! Me and my partner had put in all of the initial capital expense money needed. It was only when we received our first pay cheque from our first client a good 6 months into the business is when my family first started believing in what I was doing, until then for them and the rest it was a something I was doing till I would find
myself a REAL job.
4) What was your biggest failure in business and what did you learn from it?
“Take care of your employees and they shall take care of your business “ this is something I’ve learned and now truly stand by. It was around the mid of 2015 when almost everything came crashing down and all together. Most of my core team had left me to add to the mess delayed project deliveries made most of our reputed clients lose trust in us.
Up till then things were growing faster that I wanted them to grow we moved to bigger offices the headcount almost doubled the projects doubled, that left a huge gap between me and my team and the rapport and the warmth that we once shared when we were working together in one cubicle was lost. I truly feel the team is the most important and valuable resource for any startup.
5) What is your biggest obstacle in the next 12 months and how will you overcome it?
We have reached a stage in our startup journey where we’ve had our share of ups and downs and the stable base has now been built to launch ourselves into orbit. We’ve very often faced the chicken and egg situation where good talent searches for a stable credible organization with great work and an illustrious clientele to boast of; in turn good business get attracted to a great team. The plan is to ramp up the senior leadership team at Helix Adding people to the team that can add value to the company and help leapfrog to a next level. We are already in talks with several mid to
We are already in talks with several mid to senior management level professionals from medium to large organizations that are looking to join us and have that ownership feeling rather than contributing to larger organization for years to climb up the corporate ladder. It’s a trade off between stability and pace to the top and it’s a win – win situation for both us and them.
We stay positive and look to build a credible leadership team in the next 12 months that will help take the ship forward.
6) What habits contribute to your success?
Whatever ethical plane you hold yourself to, when you are responsible for a team of people, it’s important to raise the bar even higher. Your business and its employees are a reflection of yourself, and if you make honest and ethical behavior a key value, your team will follow suit.
Knowing what you want accomplished may seem clear in your head, but if you try to explain it to someone else and are met with a blank expression, you know there is a problem. If this has been your experience, then you may want to focus on honing your communication skills. Being able to clearly and succinctly describe what you want done is extremely important. If you can’t relate your vision to your team, you won’t all be working towards the same goal.
If you expect your team to work hard and produce quality content, you’re going to need to lead by example. There is no greater motivation than seeing the boss down in the trenches working alongside everyone else, showing that hard work is being done on every level.
Creating a business often involves a bit of forecasting. Especially in the beginning stages of a startup, inspiring your team to see the vision of the successes to come is vital. Make your team feel invested in the accomplishments of the company. Whether everyone owns a piece of equity, or you operate on a bonus system, generating enthusiasm for the hard work you are all putting in is so important.
7) If you had the opportunity to start this business again what would you do differently?
It’s always easier looking back and connecting the dots as Jobs famously said, but in life, we can only plan for the future, However, given an opportunity, I would focus more on building a great team and holding that team together, because I truly feel that is something every startup needs.
8) What is your favourite inspirational quote?
A couple of them actually:
“TIMING, PERSEVERANCE AND 10 YEARS OF TRYING WILL EVENTUALLY MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE AN OVERNIGHT #SUCCESS!”
“BEING A STARTUP FOUNDER DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU WILL NEVER FAIL. IT JUST MEANS THAT YOU GET UP EVERY
TIME YOU DO.”
9) Where do you find inspiration?
For me there is no greater pleasure at the moment than creating something from scratch and then watching it grow. The legacy that I’ve build and the brand that is what keeps me going, having known from where we’ve started and all the hard work that’s gone into it from so many people that motivates me day in and day out! Looking back and joining the dots it all makes such perfect sense.
10) What is your favourite book?
11) What advice would you give to someone starting out?
I feel I’m still pretty young into the business to give advice but I can only share what I’ve learnt this far in my journey, is that entrepreneurship is not a sprint but a marathon and it take loads of passion and courage to go till the finish line, please don’t choose to be an entrepreneur as it may seem very glamorous from the outside to own a company and be your own boss and have people work for you, But in reality It is something that requires a lifetime of an effort to sustain and grow, in the end it’s only your deep passion that will be help you sustain day in and day out all the de-motivation all the hardships and all that comes in your way. So if you really believe in your dream I would say just jump and the net shall appear!
Thank you Kunal for the excellent honest interview and for sharing your story with the world. We know that others will be inspired by it.
If you are in the market for app development and looking to up you digital game then head over to their website and get in touch with Heliz Tech
If there is one thing that Kunals story teaches us, I think it is the importance of building the factory rather than building the car. You cannot rely on your own skills and talents – you need to build a solid team of people around you. That is the only way you will scale
Don’t forget to check out the recommended books below. They could be the ones that will inspire you to get going. We wish Kunal and Helix Tech all the success for the future.