Sumit Jain and Lalit Mangal, both 25, joined Oracle Pvt. Ltd in Bangalore right after graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, in 2006. By July 2007, the two, along with Mangal’s childhood friend Vikas Malpani, also 25 (then an engineer with SAP Labs, Bangalore), had a simple mission: Create a product that would make the lives of millions of people easier. The three engineers quit their day jobs in May 2007 and tried their hand at several ideas (including a service to block telemarketing calls/messages on mobile phones), and six months later launched CommonFloor.com
Jain and Mangal moved to Bangalore after college. They did not know their neighbours or anyone else in the city and struggled to get basic information, such as where to find a plumber. They realized that anyone new to the city would face similar problems and thought of finding a way to make life earlier for such people. “We had a problem at hand, and CommonFloor.com was our solution to the problem,” says Jain.
Neighbourhood watch: (from left) Lalit Mangal, Sumit Jain and Vikas Malpani are building new platforms for which they will charge users.
They launched a Beta version with 10 apartment complexes already in hand. The site allowed members to post classified ads,? get information on local services, and even conduct online opinion polls within the complex. “The difficulty was to prove the value of the platform. Some apartments had Yahoo groups, but most had absolutely no means of a common platform for the residents to communicate,” Jain says. Currently, the site works with over 1,000 apartment complexes in Bangalore and has started operations in 21 other cities in the country.
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“There are 1,000 reasons why a plan won’t work and just one way in which it will. The way we visualized our portal is miles away from what it has turned out to be,” says Malpani.
Currently, all their services are free. They are building new platforms and services for which they will charge users.
A year and a half after they started the company, they are too busy with Plan A to even think about a Plan B.
“The key thing that we learnt along the way is that if the people around you, such as your friends, parents and relatives, are sold on the idea and will use it in their lives, the chances of the business model scaling up are that much higher,” says Jain, adding that it’s important to minimize risks.