February 18, 2021
COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise for entrepreneurs who look for opportunities during crises. While the lockdown did not deter the spirit of the COHORT 1.0 startup, Deskneed (Science2Home), there came a point when they were grasping at straws to sustain themselves. Being a tech-enabled facility management startup, whose revenue depends predominantly on B2B sales of office supplies and office repair and maintenance services, the suspension of office and corporate establishments during the lockdown hit a major blow as almost all the revenue streams dried out. Sustaining a comparatively larger team of 11 members became almost next to impossible at a given point in time. But founder, Pankaj Kushwaha, isn’t made of brittle matters. He chalked out a two-tiered strategy to bring things back under control.
In the first part of the strategy, Pankaj adopted a number of expense control measures that included moving into a smaller office space, cutting down the team size by 60%, and dismantling credit sales to maximum clients. Meanwhile, the startup made sure of finding ways to communicate with the clients to ensure retention of customer loyalty and trust.
Though the expense control strategy started paying off, it still wasn’t enough to restore cash flow. The fact that the clients were unable to clear off their dues further added to the cash shortage.
Much to the founder’s relief, the startup received a Scale-Up grant of Rs. 12.6 Lakhs under the My Assam Startup ID (MASI), from the honourable Chief Minister, Sri Sarbananda Sonowal, in June 2020.
The grant came in just at the right time for the startup, enabling them to clear off payments to their vendors. Most strikingly, Pankaj, by now, had a model in place to scale faster and wasted no time in buying back the company shares from his angel investor.
Meanwhile, Pankaj and his team got down to some serious pivoting by focussing on facilitating COVID supplies and services for the clients. Interestingly, the pivoting instrumented a rethinking of the brand and sub-branding strategy. Following a lot of thinking and brainstorming, Pankaj decided to position Deskhub as the main brand under which are placed three sub-brands, viz.,
Deskneed: Office supplies (Stationary, Furniture, Gifting, Housekeeping Material, Printing, IT).
Deskfix: Office Repair and Maintenance (Electrician, Carpenter, Plumber, IT, AC technician, CCTV technician, etc.)
Desksafety: COVID-related supplies and services (Sanitizer, Gloves, Mask, Dispensers, Fumigations, Sanitisation).
Invigorated by the MASI grant, there was no looking back for the startup as it employed aggressive marketing tactics to convert prospects into clients. Since receiving the MASI grant, the startup has bagged 12 new clients. The major ones include IIFL Finance, Samsung Stores, Black Tiger Cement, IGGL, Radio Mirchi, and ASG Hospital, among others, yielding a turnover that is expected to touch Rs. 1 Crore by end of FY 2020-21. “The margin has increased from 10 percent to 15 percent. And we are good for FY 2021-22 with a total contract value of Rs. 2 Crore in our kit already,” Pankaj informs.
The founder envisions his startup to emerge as the pioneer in office admin management in the country. With clients like Tata AIG, Indusind Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Ujjivan Bank, and Bank of Baroda in the pipeline for this year, and a possible business expansion in New Delhi, Deskneed (Science2Home) is definitely on the right track to growth and scaling up.