After working in the corporate domain for nearly a decade, Rohan Mahajan chose to commence with his entrepreneurial journey in 2013. The Founder of Lawrato, India’s leading legal advice and lawyer search platform has served more than 50,000 clients through more than 2000 verified lawyers on board LawRato.com since the launch of LawRato in early 2015. Prior to LawRato, he worked with Wizcraft International Entertainment and Digitas. Read this interview on his startup experiences, significance of online legal services and following his entrepreneurial calling.
WHAT WAS THE CONVICTION THAT INCLINED YOU TO PURSUE ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
After pursuing my law degree from the prestigious Faculty of Law, Delhi University, I ventured out into exploring marketing as a career option and was fortunate to work with some of the top global brands strategizing and managing their product launch and digital marketing campaigns. The organization I was working with taught me the nuances of managing a business independently starting from scratch as I helped them start and establish their country operations in Indonesia.
During my stint abroad in 2010 I realized that there were no reliable and worthy online solutions to legal issues faced by people in India. Did some research and found there was a huge demand and supply gap in the online legal market when the idea of starting a venture addressing this issue came to my mind. With my law education and the network of my law school friends supporting me, and the fact that I come from a family of lawyers, I finally took the plunge leaving my cushy corporate role to startup my own venture in mid 2013.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR STARTUP EXPERIENCES? WHAT ARE THE KEY TAKEAWAY LESSONS WHICH YOU HAVE ACQUIRED SO FAR?
I had learnt from my marketing days that for an online venture to be successful, its important to figure out ways and strategies to attract as many platform users as possible. Hence while the initial thought that I had was to address the legal space, I started off with my first venture where we expanded the scope across multiple professional segments – lawyers, doctors, CAs, astrologers, counselors, etc. After running this for a year, we realized that apart from the legal business, all other verticals were ending up in negative unit economics as while the acquisition cost per lead was almost similar for all verticals, the ticket size for most verticals except legal was too low to generate any revenues. That’s when I and my partner decided to shut down the venture and start afresh with LawRato in early 2015 to focus only on the legal space with all our learning and experience gained from our failed startup.
IN A FLASHBACK, WHICH WERE THE MOST CHALLENGING TIMES FOR YOURSELF AS AN ENTREPRENEUR?
My decision to quit my well paying corporate job came as a shock to my family, which tried its best to dissuade me from taking such a risky path that has no assurances and guarantee of success. It took a lot of perseverance and convincing for me to finally put in my papers and jump into the uncertain world of startups. The 2nd most challenging moment came when our first startup did not really take off well and all my savings dried up. I remember a day when I almost broke down while meeting one of my seniors from my corporate days to borrow some money so that we could stay afloat for a few more months. The money didn’t come but I promised to myself that I will come back stronger, and continued working harder on building LawRato with more passion and conviction. It’s said that luck favors those who keep moving and things started falling into place for LawRato – I was fortunate to get Nikhil Sarup (who heads tech and marketing at LawRato) to join me as a co-founder and raised a seed fund from an amazing set of angel investors.
IN A WORLD WHICH IS FAST CHANGING, DO YOU THINK INNOVATION IS EVENTUALLY LOSING ITS IMPACT? WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON INNOVATION WHEN OPPOSED TO COMMERCIALIZATION?
Innovation without adoption is meaningless. Even if a product or service becomes widely used, it must not become a financial burden on the company. Many businesses have shown successful innovation, but have failed to generate profits from their ventures, and have subsequently closed down.
So, unit economics need to remain positive. We are also innovating in the legal space, but realize some innovations are a social need and may not necessarily be a revenue earner, like our free MakeMyWill Service.
DO YOU THINK THAT MORE STUDENTS SHOULD COME FORTH TO PURSE UNCONVENTIONAL PROFESSIONS?
I have two thoughts to this. The first being perhaps due to my late foray into entrepreneurship and exploring new ways of doing business, I believe that without practical hands on experience, running a venture only on the basis of dreamy visions can often lead to massive failures. We have seen it more often than not that billion dollar aspirations of college drop outs are easier dreamt of than done. The success stories of a Ritesh Agarwal are one in a million and the ground reality is totally different than what it looks like to most of us venturing out.
The other thought I have on this again comes due to the fact that I started late. When you start early, you can experiment a lot and fail multiple times before you find the winning recipe as you have the luxury of time and youth by your side with energies exploding. One thing that experienced entrepreneurs lack is the appetite for risks, experiments that can make or break businesses.
WHAT ARE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT KPIS FOR A STARTUP IN ITS PILOT STAGE?
Most of us are so engrossed in perfecting that world class product we are making, that we forget to keep a check and track of performance metrics / KPI that can tell us whether the MVP we have built is even worthy of a larger market.
We at LawRato have consistently tracked 4 KPIs since the first day of our launch, that is (1) Customer Acquisition Cost (2) ARPU – Average Revenue Per User (3) Revenue Run Rate; (4) Burn Rate.
We have been strongly focused on building a business with positive unit economics and are proud of building a real business that can sustain itself.
IT IS SAID THAT BEHIND AN ABLE MAN, THERE ARE MANY ABLE MEN. DO YOU THINK FOUNDERS MOST NOT STOP UNTIL THEY FIND THE RIGHT PEOPLE?
I remember attending an investor meet during my initial days when I was still building the MVP. One of us asked the investors if they would be happy backing startups with a single founder. The best answer came from one of the top fund house partner in India who said “If you cannot convince just one person to join you in pursuing your idea, how do you want investors to be convinced to back you”
I also strongly believe in the quotation “If you want to run fast, run alone but if you want to run far, run together”
Company as a word means “the fact or condition of being with another or others” and hence I believe that no successful business can be built on single heroism – it has to be a team job.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE FOR OUR READERS WHO ARE MOSTLY THE MILLENNIUM YOUTH?
Innovation, patience and perseverance. These are the 3 qualities that I believe make for a successful entrepreneur. Innovate – consistently and as much as you can to create value and acceptance to your product or service. Be patient – the unicorns that you believe were built overnight have actually taken years of hard work and grit to be an overnight success. Perseverance – Keep doing more and more of what you think is the correct formula for the success of your venture.