Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka met one day on a public bus and got talking. Prukalpa was always interested in technology and had started building communities using technology from the age of 10 while Varun is passionate about solving real-life problems using simple technology. The driving force behind their organisation was the lack of data that was available when decisions of national importance needed to be made. SocialCops processes data points to derive insights that enable key decision makers – the government, corporate heads, policy makers, non-profits and media houses to make data driven decisions. We chat with the founders about the venture.
An excerpt from the Interview:
- What made you start your venture?
Our world’s most important decisions are crippled by an astonishing lack of data. National level healthcare decisions affecting millions are made based on a sample survey of 100 people. No map in the world can tell women the safest route home or tell the police the best route to patrol. Our mission is to track the most important parameters in our world – such as quality of public infrastructure, adherence to drugs, access to medical care and teacher attendance in public schools to enable data driven decision making.
- What has been the key to your business’s success?
We believe in serendipity. We met on a public bus and got talking. We trace back our origins to a late night brainstorming session and a crowdfunding campaign that was launched a few hours later. We might have not seen day if we had decided to sleep over the idea. College dorm room startup that we are – we owe our existence to the lack of compulsory “attendance” in universities in Singapore. We spent most parts of the day building SocialCops – barring the mornings that were reserved for sleep post a long night of hacking
We made the best use of the “student” card – We did our market research by walking into competitor offices under the pretext of college projects. We raised all our initial funding via student business plan competitions – we made about 3000$ per half hour skype presentation, back then in the good old days.
We scored an initial pilot with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi – and didn’t think much before packing our bags and moving to Delhi from Singapore and wasted a good 20 days of our lives before we found someone who was willing to give us a place to set up shop in Delhi. (Yes, “Entrepreneur” means “unemployed” in Delhi).
We’ve always believed in building products that have customers – even when we were two 21 year olds with computers in a room, we built photoshop mockups and sold them to our initial clients, while buying them into our vision. Once someone agreed to pay, we’d build.
We’ve grown very organically – and pivoted more often than we can remember. But the only thing that remained constant is our belief that at the intersection of technology, data and people lies the solution to some of the biggest problems facing humanity.
- What are the major challenges in your line of business and how did/do you overcome them?
2014 was an incredible learning and leveling experience for the team. Some of our biggest learnings were
- Team quality and hiring should take precedence
- Processes matter
- You need to be tough to survive
- Don’t count your chickens…before they have hatched!
- Do you have a mentor who guides/advices you on matters of the business?
Our advisors include people such as Rajan Anandan (Managing Director, Google India), Manoj Menon (Managing Director, Frost & Sullivan APAC) & Dr. Hema Divakar (Previously President, Federation of Gynecological Societies of India).
- Have you benefitted from the use of any specific technology for your regular operations?
Given, we are a technology based company it would be hard to single out a specific one. We use many.
- What strategy do you follow for Customer Satisfaction & Expansion?
Build good products, iterate on feedback and deliver
- What, according to you, are the top 3 skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Hustle and Passion – and a little bit of naiveté.
Visit their Website: http://www.socialcops.org/
Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialCops