By Prafulla Mathur
The term ‘Entrepreneur’ wasn’t always as cool as it is today. When I quit my job in the United Kingdom, people around me frowned upon my choice of returning to India to ‘Start-up.’ It took people very long to digest the fact that someone could leave a high paying international role to start a company in India from scratch.
As a young engineering student, I always hoped to build things. I always dreamt of building need-based products that would make lives of people convenient, help them save money and hence, create value. Alongside of working towards fulfilling my engineering aspirations, I also played music professionally. I played solo and was also the lead vocalist and guitarist in a band called Bronze and I’ve played at some popular bars, clubs and colleges in London, Delhi, Bombay and Jaipur. My dream to build a product that combined the power of technology and music forced me to leave my job.
In 2010, when Android and iPhones weren’t nearly as popular as they are today, I built a product that could stream music content on Java devices. The product was called Zephyr – The Indian Rock Music Hub, and I called my start up “Queppelin” inspired by the name of two of my favorite Rock Music bands, Queen and Led Zeppelin. The product saw 26,000 installs in less than 2 weeks, a feat unimaginable in 2010. Oracle, the owner of the Java platform decided to showcase the technology at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona 2011. Queppelin also went on to win the Red Herring Award alongside Snapdeal in 2011. Queppelin is now a leading company in its space and has built some of the most popular products in Indian Mobile internet history with clients including Gaana, Reliance BigFlix, Facebook and many more.
Queppelin gave me some of the deepest learnings both as an entrepreneur and a professional. It taught me the power of persistence. Many times, as an entrepreneur, you hope to achieve all your goals in one day which eventually leads to the fall of a business. It is important to give each investment; monetary or non-monetary time before you start expecting radical results. Another great learning that I drew being the CEO and Founder of Queppelin was that it’s important to make your team feel as passionately about your company as you do. No amounts of money and designations can ever replace the feeling of ownership that a person has towards his/her company.
Post building Queppelin as a sustainable business, I decided to explore opportunities for next entrepreneurial project. Having travelled the length and breadth of India and abroad, I was appalled at the shoddy condition of unbranded hotels in India and how miserably they compared to similarly priced hotels in Europe. The final nail on the coffin was when I travelled to Banaras for my Aunt’s final rights. In a completely stressed state of mind, I was forced to find myself a decent hotel to stay. After a few hours and countless hotel visits, I finally found a livable accommodation. This experience gave me the idea to start WudStay, an online marketplace for unbranded standardized hotels. The proposition was to build a large chain of hotels that focused on ensuring high quality accommodation irrespective of a customer’s budget.
While, building technology was my strength, it was important to gather knowledge and real insights into build high quality hospitality startup. I decided to leave my house and spend months living in unbranded hotels and using my personal professional network to understand the basic nuances of hospitality and the general user’s needs while choosing a hotel. I was fortunate to have built strong relationships with Institutional Investors during my times as Founder and CEO of Queppelin. Similie Ventures, a VC Luxembourg based Venture Capital Fund invested a seed fund even before the website was live. With two cities, Jaipur and Gurgaon, WudStay was launched. Today, WudStay has partnerships with over 450 hotels in 45+ cities in India. Backed by Mangrove Capital Partners and Vikas Saxena for USD 3 Million, we continue to scale our operations while keeping a close eye on our objective of being the ‘Gold Standard of Quality in the Unorganized Hotel Space.’
Entrepreneurship is an addiction. It goes far beyond the desire to ‘Be One’s Own Boss.’ For me, it has always been about creating sustainable value that brings convenience to the lives of users. I have always believed that companies are far bigger than just money. While, I was in the United Kingdom working with some of the best brains in the business, I was convinced that being an employee would never allow me to build something new. My most fond memories of that time are when me and my friends would get together and make music. I have always been inspired by the thought of making new things. Entrepreneurship for me is about freshness and doing things that haven’t been done before.
The author is founder WudStay, an online marketplace for unbranded standardized hotels