Startup Sunday || Season 4 Episode 25|| Astrotalk

The business world might appear buttoned-down from the outside – but in reality, it’s a lot more interesting than you might realize. Many entrepreneurs are known for their colorful characters, both at work and in personal lives and few just mesmerize you with their journey of starting up. After all, following rules and staying inside the lines doesn’t often make for business success, whether it is establishing a strong and influential presence in the field of astrology or any other field.

From being a non-believer in astrology to launching the biggest brand in this field, sharing all the ups and downs that came in his way and how he became a successful entrepreneur. Presenting the journey of Puneet Gupta, Founder & CEO of AstroTalk :

1) What is Astrotalk all about?
Astrotalk offers online Astrology consultation with an Astrologer on call or chat.

Customer has an option to choose between the list of 400+ Astrologers and talk to anyone they desire, based on their profile, price, and reviews. We have the World Famous Astrologers on the Best Astrology Website in India, practicing both Indian Astrology and Western Astrology for astrology today. They will provide the best free horoscope astrology to you by analyzing your birth chart and your astrology sign and will provide you with accurate future predictions online.

Current stats:

Total Installs: 900,000+

No of Astrologers: 300+

Daily Transactions: 1000+

Repeat Rate: 7+ (Higher than Swiggy)

Rating: 4.7/5.0 (Highest in this industry)

2) How did Astrotalk start? What was the Eureka moment?
A strange but true prediction made me believe in Astrology, which eventually became the reason behind pivoting my IT services business to a product in the line of astrology.

Story- Back in 2013, I quit my job with Nomura to pursue my dreams but things didn’t go as planned and I struggled for a year and exhausted my savings. To make ends meet, I went back to Mumbai and did some odd jobs as I was not getting shortlisted for any technology job interviews, sighting a gap of 1 year. After some networking, an old colleague referred me to BNP Paribas and I got the job at a pay cut.

After working there for a year, I got in touch with one of my school friends, who later went to IIT Delhi, and we both planned to start an IT services company. It was time to put down the papers yet again, and I typed the resignation letter with full enthusiasm (that time I didn’t have to look for email templates on google) but I got very anxious before sending it, as the old struggling days started haunting me.

As I was staring dead at the resignation email, one of my colleagues came over and inquired, “Is everything okay? You look lost.” I showed her my resignation letter and told her how my own negative thoughts are not letting me do what I really wanted to.

She looked at me with empathy and said, “I can see your birth chart and tell you what to do as per Astrology. What are your birth details?” and she opened one very badly designed app on her phone to input my details. I was shocked and amused at the same time. I promised myself to hire good UI/UX designers to develop better apps than that).

“Like seriously? Do you really think I believe in all this? Padhe likhe hoke aap andh vishwas faila rahe ho!” I scolded her but I wished I could get some help.

She waited for me to complete and demanded, “Are you done? Now tell me your birth details. I don’t care if you believe or not but let me try to help.” I shared the details as I would rather not mess with a senior. But knowing her coding skills, I could totally judge that she would screw up in Astrology as well.

As she was analyzing my chart, I waited curiously to know the outcome, the way I had waited for my 10th standard board results. There is something about Astrology, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in it or not, but it fascinates you like nothing else. However, as I didn’t trust her and would never have liked to take a biased decision based on Astrology, so I quickly sent the resignation letter and locked my screen. Meanwhile, she was done with her calculations and it was time for the results.

“You are Leo Ascendant and your Sun is exalted…” I interrupted her in between and asked, “I don’t understand all this. Tell me something about the past to make me believe you,” I was such a spoiler.

Beta, jitna tu bhaagta hai na isse, aage jake utna jaada believe karega (Dear, as much as you are mocking this today, you will believe in it much more, in future),” She mocked me this time but after hearing that I was convinced she knew Astrology as good as Database designing, as I would never do that.

You don’t choose Astrology, Astrology chooses you”

Then she told me many things about my past to make her point including the date of my accident in school days, which was shocking. And once she observed the change in my body language, she stopped telling about the past and came to the main question. She not only predicted the past correctly but was also such a nice observer of behavior. Oh God! Why the hell was she a MySQL developer?

“Yes, you can quit your job as the next 2 years are very promising for an IT business as per the placement of Saturn and Rahu,” she smiled as she made the prediction. I am still not sure if that smile was for a positive prediction or for the virtual win over me.

“Just 2 years?,” I exclaimed with a sheepish laugh as I had to pretend that I was not interested.

Like every other story, this story was also filled with some twists and turns. The twist was that my business partner might leave after 2 years from then and I would face some issues in resuming the business and it might take a year to pivot to a new venture, “But you will make it” she assured after observing my not-so-good body language.

“You can press the send button,” she finally said something with a real smile as she observed that I wasn’t mocking anymore and had surrendered myself, unlike a Leo.

After that, I served my notice period and came to Noida and started an IT services company named CodeYeti in April 2015. We managed to scale up very quickly to 45 employees, serving about 15-20 clients at a time and clocked a revenue of $0.5 million in the first year itself. We started working for big enterprises like Yamaha, GreenPly along with startups.

Everything was going well until my partner told me that he is not getting a kick from the services business and wanted to do a tech product. We spent the next 6 months on 2 products but ended up wasting capital as nothing seemed to work and he finally quit in March 2017 to do something else.

And that reminded me about the prediction, my ex-colleague had made about my partner’s exit. I called her after a gap of 2 years (Let’s just assume that I was busy and was not bad at keeping in touch) and told her about the prediction.

I could sense the happiness in her voice as her prediction came true but she showed concern as it was a loss for me. To my surprise, she knew everything about CodeYeti as she followed our social media channels and congratulated me for what we had achieved in such a short duration.

“Do you want me to check your chart again?” she inquired.

I paused for a moment and proposed an idea, “How about I start a product in the field of Astrology and I become your first customer?” She halted for a few seconds and said, “Hmmm…I had quit my job 4 months back for some personal reasons, and I can take out some time to work with you but I won’t be very active, so you will have to find more astrologers. I can connect you with a few in my network”

“Yes Yes !! You can work whenever you have time and you can interview and train other astrologers and we will keep hiring. You can become their mentor and take care of the department of Astrologers”, I said in excitement.

“Hmm…So, when are we going live?” she straight away asked for a deadline, the way she did at BNP. Some people never change.

And then, there was the ultimate turn – I worked on developing the product and launched an MVP (minimum viable product) of AstroTalk within a month and assigned a dedicated technology & operations team to it. I called her as a customer and asked, “How would AstroTalk do?”

3) What exactly is the business model of Astrotalk? What are the sources of your revenue?
Business model is pretty simple. Every astrologer has a different per minute price to connect with them on call/chat. Customer recharges their Astrotalk wallet and then initiate the session. Money is deducted from the wallet based on the duration of session.

4) What are the challenges you faced while launching Astrotalk ?

Challenges always have been to source quality astrologers. Unlike any other marketplace, we take a lot of interviews and do background checks before onboarding anyone on our platform. This helps us maintain a very good quality of service but it becomes difficult to source such quality astrologers as they are available in different parts of the country.

WhatsApp Image 2019-12-22 at 10.54.56 AM

5) Please share something about your experience in making your own place in the market.

The journey has been very fascinating. I think what I learned while running Codeyeti helped me a lot to run the business in a very mature way. Our focus has always been to serve the customer in the best possible way and we have grown majorly by word of mouth and our positive reviews over the web. People who were treated very well by our customer support and who genuinely got helped by astrology, write good things about us online and those articles and reviews have brought us most of our customers.

We still haven’t invested much into marketing. Although we want to spend a lot on marketing, we haven’t been able to do so, as we are still trying to work on our internal operations to an extent that none of our existing customers ever face an issue. We are very finicky about customer retention and a little casual about new customer acquisition for now.

6) How do you differentiate and compete with your competitors?

I think we have raised the bar very high in less than 2 years that we don’t see a lot of competition now. However, we still keep hustling and see a lot of gaps that need to be filled. So, we are continuously trying to iterate on our product. We have a team that talks to all our customers to take product gap feedback and our tech team reports to that team.

7) What are your plans for expansion and scaling up?

Our plan is to reach out to the masses and make Astrotalk a household name in India. In order to achieve this, we have recently started providing the first session free of cost and brought done the minimum recharge value to Rs 60 from Rs 200.

8) How did you fund your start-up, to begin with? What difficulties you are facing for funding your start-up?

We have been approached by a few investors but nothing materialized as our mindset did not match. We are bootstrapped and profitable at this stage and are making a profit of over 1 Million USD annually. Although, we are open to the idea of taking investment, but only when someone is aligned with our vision.

9) Is there any point in your life when you wished to give up? How did you overcome this challenge?

There were a lot of difficult and low moments in my life but more than giving up the dream, it has always been about pivoting the business.

While running Codeyeti, I had reached a stage where I couldn’t think of doing that for a long time and that’s when we pivoted it to AstroTalk.

10) In this ever-changing global scenario, starting up a new business and launching an innovative start-up is a big challenge. Please share your key learnings for the benefit of budding entrepreneurs as a person who has been there done that.

Patience and Perseverance is the key to success. Starting a new business is a very challenging lifestyle with no guarantee of results. Universe will test your patience at every step and if you keep hustling and do not give up, you will eventually find your way.

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