Success Quotient is a weekly feature that appears every Friday on Firstpost, which looks at the pains and joys en route to success for a head honcho - whether a CEO, MD or an entrepreneur. The column looks at the ideas that helped launch a company, its highs and lows.
When Naiyya Saggi, Co-Founder and CEO of the Mumbai-based BabyChakra (www.babychakra.com) was in college, her mother was worried about her future. “My mother wondered what I would make of my life,” she says laughing. One of the reasons was that her academic records were not exactly in shining order when in school.
Like school students of her age who are not clear about their goals which keep shifting as brighter choices come their way, Saggi was unclear what she wanted to take up as a career choice. It was then that she heard interesting stories about the National Law School (NLS), Bangalore in the city, where her sister was studying. Hearing the captivating stories about law and its possibilities nudged Saggi towards studies in law.
“I liked to hear of my sister’s experiences at the NLS. My mother was worried as she felt I might regret going to NLS,” says Saggi. Not one to give in to family or peer pressure, Saggi describes herself as 'stubborn' and says when something interests her enough, she is committed to it. So it was to Bangalore that she went after clearing the `tough' entrance exams.
Saggi found that she enjoyed academic life for the first time ever. That spurred her to excel in whatever she did at the Law School. “I had a wonderful training platform at the NLS. The law is a living, breathing embodiment. My professors at school would tell us that there is law, but it is dictated by context. What it gave me was the courage to say what was written was not the gospel. Even in the field of law. That was the beautiful part of studying at NLS,” says Saggi.
The other 'exciting' part of being at the NLS was the opportunity it gave Saggi to intern with important people and platforms like with former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan and in the War Tribunal at the International Bar Association, London. "Law gave me a perspective on how deeply I could engage with issues. It was satisfying to solve problems of clients who approached me,” recalls Saggi.
The NLS gave a shape to her future career. She had an opportunity to work with Pratham, an NGO, where she worked on rehabilitation of slum kids and women. Interacting with people closely at the NGO, clients in the legal field and with legal luminaries during her internship, Saggi realised that whatever role she chose in the future, it had to positively affect a large number of people.
“I realised that I wanted to do something that would impact a generation. I was searching for a purpose to my life for long and I seized upon the realisation,” says Saggi. With clinical precision, she outlines what she had to do to get to her dream. “Will and determination alone would allow me to do something different that would impact on scale,” she says.
Saggi, whose future her mother feared for, bagged a JN Tata and Fulbright scholarship to Harvard Business School. “Harvard was a dream for me and remains so for most people I know. It is multi-cultural. I enjoyed academics here, too,” she says. At HBS, Saggi worked on health care interventions and how to scale it up.
Back home after Harvard, Saggi was grappling with changes in the Indian technological space. When she moved to the US for studies, mobile applications were unheard of in India. However, the scene changed dramatically when she returned. Mobile apps had become common parlance. In trying to figure out the correct method for launching in the new India she saw,Saggi decided to meet people who had built verticals and scaled businesses. “I wanted to know what had worked for them and what did not. Those interactions and information was quite valuable on hindsight,” says Saggi.
Around that time, it was by chance that Saggi met with an old friend, Mohit Kumar, her co-founder at BabyChakra at an accelerator program BabyChakra was part of. An IIT graduate from Delhi, Co-Founder, Kumar had had his own start-up which was later acquired. “Meeting Mohit was serendipitous. We got talking and decided to build on BabyChakra. With friends who were new mothers complaining of lack of knowledge of the various facilities and healthcare available for their babies, Saggi and Kumar decided to do their own research in the area and realized the sector was ripe for disruption. BabyChakra was launched in December 2014.
Chakra in BabyChakra means a cycle or a 'life cycle', as Saggi informs, around which all services for babies and baby care is available on the platform.
To the founders surprise and joy, they had interested investors like Mumbai Angels and Singapore Angel Network early on. “When we got funded, we used the funds to build and launch an app in mid-December 2015. There have been 7500 dowloads in less than one month already. There is a very high engagement level,” Saggi says.
BabyChakra is a parenting and child-care platform. The market size is at a conservative $37-30 billion and Baby Chakra’s share in it is 10-15 per cent, reveals Saggi. Her dream that she now works towards is to make Baby Chakra a 'must app' that every parent would have on their phones.
The revenue model is two-fold – through commissions and transactions. The company will be launching a service app soon. "Everyday we see over 250 calls being made through our platform to businesses we profile. From February 2016, BabyChakra will get into payment mode whereby customers can buy services and products on the platform.
BabyChakra gets users from over 60 cities in India and also the Indian diaspora from Middle East Asia and South East Asia.
Saggi’s husband works for a consulting firm. “What helps us in the marriage is that both of us have a larger vision to lead our lives. My husband understands my dreams. That makes for a good work-life balance,” she says.
It should not be surprising to know that she is buried in her spare time with Peter Thiel’s Zero to One: Notes on Startups. "I read a lot about technology and the latest advances," she says. “I also make time to help new entrepreneurs and understand their issues. If I ever make a lot of money, I would like to help other start-ups.”
Painting is another hobby that Saggi pursues. She does oils on canvas. “Painting is very meditative for me and it takes a couple of months to finish a portrait," she says.
Saggi's mother still can't stop worrying about her though. On the few occasions in the week that she gets Saggi on the phone, her question is: What is new at BabyChakra? “That question has no new answers every week and so I try and avoid that,” says Saggi laughing.