What makes the beauty industry so competitive? Especially, on-demand beauty services. Here’s the story of GetLook, an online marketplace that provides professional salon services in the comfort of your home.
Founded by husband-wife duo Gaurav Maheshwari and Vatsala Kothari, GetLook first launched in Bangalore. Their services are now available in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Hyderabad.
In a freewheeling chat, Gaurav talks about how he started GetLook, his journey of bootstrapping the startup, importance of ensuring customer delight to grow, streamlining payments with Instamojo, his vision for his startup baby, and more…
What inspired you to turn to entrepreneurship?
After I graduated from IIT Kharagpur in 2011, I worked in the startup space for four years. First with Mumbai-based Gupshup and then with Bangalore-based Traction/Tracxn. Working with these startups gave me the motivation and courage to venture out and start something of my own.
Beauty was a booming vertical at the time. There weren’t many structured options for women wanting salon services at home. My wife faced the same difficulty. We have a newborn baby at home and she couldn’t find the time or opportunity to go to a salon. Getting a skilled, reliable professional to come home was also not easy.
Where did you get the idea for GetLook?
We researched and realized that there was market potential and we could use technology as an enabler to streamline professional beauty services from the comfort of home. We knew we could turn this idea into a viable business. This is when we decided to take the plunge and launched GetLook in May 2015 with an Android application.
What are the challenges you faced while building your company?
We are a bootstrapped company, hence the journey has been challenging so far and continues to be so. The biggest challenge has been a “funds crunch.” While we did raise a small amount from friends and family, it was not enough to sustain in a highly competitive market scenario. We were unable to build the team required. Even the technology development got delayed because of lack of funds.
So, how did you manage?
We were stringent with our expenses. We created a business plan in which we would profit from the very first order. Essentially, we ensured the unit economics was positive from day one. We wanted to make something from every order. We definitely did not want to go the route where we provided insane discounts/offers to customers. Our strategy was to provide excellent services and grow customers organically, rather than enticing them with discounts.
While growing customers was an obvious challenge, there was another hurdle of getting stylist on board. Competition is on both sides – customers and experienced stylists. Other similar service providers are trying to attract the same pool of stylists. Hiring and retaining them is a bottleneck. We have stylists on payroll, as opposed to percentage cut like other providers. We try to retain them with above market average salaries and bonuses. We also help them grow improve their skill-set.
Lastly, cash collection was a hurdle. Earlier, stylists had to collect cash from customers and submit with their manager in the GetLook office. But there were hiccups. We wanted to limit cash transactions. To handle this, we partnered with Instamojo in 2016, along with few other payment gateways. This move has optimally solved the issue.
How does GetLook differentiate from its competitors?
There were 72 beauty startups in India in 2015 when we started. UrbanClap, Housejoy were a few names we heard. We knew it would be difficult, especially with limited funds.
There were three ways we decided to differentiate ourselves.
Firstly, our focus is only beauty, unlike UrbanClap that enables services of plumbers, electricians, etc. Our belief is focussing on one segment and ensuring customer delight is a better approach. Beauty is our core expertise and we work towards continuously improving our offerings.
Secondly, we try to offer our customers excellent services by introducing international products, cost-effective beauty packages, and more. A big part of our business revenue comes from referrals and repeat business. This shows our customer-focussed approach is paying off.
Lastly, we allow customers to choose their stylist based on reviews. Stylists are not randomly auto assigned to customers based on proximity, which is the case with other portals.
How are you gearing up for the wedding season?
Wedding season, the period from November to February, has been a great time for us in the last three years. We have geared up for it by hiring more stylists. We are also marketing aggressively. We are launching more combo offers and packages to provide cost-effective services to customers.
What have been your learnings in the last three years of entrepreneurship? what advice would you like to give other young entrepreneurs?
I am still learning. As a techie, when I started out, I did not understand the core business. My biggest advice would be for techies to understand the business thoroughly, and then use your technical know-how to enable the business. If you are starting up, you need to be the Jack of all trades – learn how to keep accounts, how to market, how to run operations, etc. Business cannot be run only with technology. Yes, it plays a very important role, but there are many other aspects that you will have to deal with and learn as a founder.
How did you come across Instamojo?
I am a big Facebook fan and browse it regularly to stay abreast of trends and new developments. This is where I came across Instamojo.
I read about it and felt it could be a good fit. What I particularly liked about it was its link-based offering. It was the first to provide a link-based solution. Most other players have now followed suit. With the link-based solution, a stylist can instantly send a payment link to the customer via their phone. The customer then clicks on the link in the SMS and pays via their debit or credit card. Integration with Instamojo was also seamless and quick. We now regularly use the Instamojo payment solution and there are no hiccups in processing payments. Fifty percent of our online payments are done via Instamojo.
Another feature we liked is the convenience fee option. By switching it on, we have now transferred the convenience fee to the customers. As it is only two percent, the customers do not mind it. This essentially means a fee of only Rs 20 on a bill of Rs 1000. It’s a small amount for the customer but culminates into massive savings of lakhs for us.
I would definitely recommend Instamojo to other startups looking to streamline their payments. Its link-based technology and easy integration make it a clear winner as compared to other payment gateway partners.
GetLook is one of the 600,000+ businesses that use Instamojo. You can too! Get started with the Instamojo experience today.