An excerpt from the Interview:
• What made you start your venture?
We provide online mock tests for aspirants of competitive exams. You will often hear from knowledgeable people that the best problems to solve are the ones the entrepreneur has faced herself. MockBank is probably a classic example of self-felt need meets opportunity.
Having grown up in a small city, I felt my JEE test prep was severely compromised because I did not have access to mock tests for JEE. The only way to be able to take mock tests was to make a 150 KM long trek to Delhi every weekend, something that I thought was too draining. As a result, I was not able to benchmark myself to the larger student set before taking JEE. This had stayed with me for years as a regret, never as a business opportunity though.
However, when I met a senior professional from a computer based testing software company last year, he told me that they got a number of mails and calls from students requesting online mock tests. Digging deeper, I found that competitive exams have moved from paper OMRs to computer based testing over the last few years, fueling the need for computer based mock tests.
This fascinated me- I thought it was a perfect opportunity to level the playing field between metros and smaller cities. Once I realized the need, we launched within 15 days, and got our first paid customer within 15 minutes of launch.
• What has been the key to your business’s success?
Well, I am not sure we can call ourselves successful yet, though I feel we have made a good start. The key to the success till now is just an insane focus on the customer. We like to think from our customer’s perspective all the time. We do not sell what we can make; we make what the customer wants. Then selling is equivalent to just turning up at the right place and the right time. I want to emphasize here is that it is not possible to understand what the customer wants by just hearing them- you do that by ‘listening to’ them. They won’t tell you what they want; they will only tell you how they feel, their frustrations and insecurities. You have to build what makes the frustrations go away and then keep calibrating to the customer’s reactions.
• What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them? Our business has some major challenges, some that we did not know of when we started. There is a mini crisis of credibility in our market- there are many poor quality providers of ‘online test prep services’. These are people who consistently provide poor service to customers and spoil it for everyone else.
We are still working a way out of this, but our response has been to differentially focus on quality service, and encouraging our satisfied customers to spread the word. We also tactically use freemium to show our quality before we ask to pay
• Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
We lean on a very small set of successful entrepreneurs who provide practical, pragmatic advice. Our experience here is that the right way to go is to keep this set small. A single person may not be able to guide you on everything- you may have more than one guide each with expertise on different aspects of business. But do not have too many cooks… ultimately, the broth is what matters.
• Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
We are an internet company. So obviously we use a lot of software technology. We lean towards free and pay-as-you-go software tools- mailchimp, surveymonkey, moodle, wordpress etc.
A very famous Silicon Valley entrepreneur says- ‘Software is eating the world’. More and more major businesses and industries are being run on software and delivered as online services—from movies to agriculture to national defense. If you look at MockBank, we are trying to ride the same software wave.
• What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion? MockBank is about helping a large number of students with a specific part of their test prep. We satisfy the customer not by providing an inexpensive service- we provide excellent service at a premium. However, we focus on providing such a good service that the customer ends up thinking of us as a great value for money offering.
Once we satisfy the customer, we focus on providing the customer same service on a number of occasions repeatedly, and on getting the customer to help us reach her friends using various social media and real world tools.
• What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Execution, execution and execution- one needs to execute at a very high quality. Focus not on doing ‘too much’, but doing it ‘well’. Whatever you are building, launch early. If you are not embarrassed by your first version, you have launched too late. You will almost always be in a beta for the first 5 years. Find out more about MockBank: www.mockbank.com Like them on Facebook: MockBank