We are publishing an interview of Mr. Puneet Gupta, Founder & CEO, AstroTalk.
Please tell us about the founders:
Puneet Gupta, Founder & CEO, AstroTalk. Below is my story:
Back in 2015, I was working with an investment bank – BNP Paribas and was planning to startup. I was in touch with one of my school friends, who later went to IITD, and we were working on a Product Idea together and soon wanted to work on it full-time. Once the business plan was ready, we decided to quit our jobs and take the plunge.
I had quit by job with Nomura in 2013 to startup but struggled for an year and ended up losing all my savings and finally had to took up a job again to make ends meet. That fear was definitely running in my head and made me very anxious, when I was typing the resignation letter, yet again. I remembered the days when I was left with no money and was getting rejected from every company because of 1 year gap in my overall career of 2.5 years and how difficult it was to get through BNP.
As I was merely starring at the send button of the resignation email, my collegue came over my desk and asked, “Is everything all right? You look lost.” I showed her my resignation letter and told her what was going in my head.
“Tell me your birth details, I ll tell you what to do,” she demanded.
“Like seriously! Do you think I believe in all this? padhe likhe ho ke aap andh vishwas faila rahe ho“, I mocked her.
“Are you done? now give me your details. You can ignore the prediction but let me try to help,” she told me and I gave the details and behaved like a junior, as we all have to do!
I went over to her desk as she opened by birth chart. After analyzing for 10 minutes, she told a few things about my past like I had a bad phase in 2013-2014 etc, which were actually true but all I could think was, how she was tricking me to make me fall for Astrology. I thought of arguing by saying that it was a very generic statement and anyone could guess it but I could not dare to speak against her again, so I kept listening.
She told me that I could quit and startup as the next 2 years from then, looked very promising for business. Then she took a pause and said that my partner might leave after 2 years from then and I would face a lot of issues in sustaining the business and it might take me an year to pivot to a new venture and things will be awesome again. Then she advised me to stay in IT business only and told me to do anything I wanted but it should be powered by technology as my planets are supporting it.
“So, what are you waiting for? Send the resignation email,” she said and smiled.
“First tell me more,” I requested, although I had sent the resignation letter before coming to her desk. There is something about Astrology that it is very addictive, it doesn’t matter if you believe it or not but once someone starts telling you about your future, it is very fascinating and you want to know a lot more. She started explaining how Saturn and Rahu in my chart would support technology and a lot of other things.
After that I served my Notice and came to Noida and started an IT service company named CodeYeti in April 2015. We managed to scale up very quickly to 45 resources, serving about 15-20 clients at a time and clocking a revenue of $0.5 million in the first year. Below is the pic from the first year anniversary of CodeYeti:
Things were going well and we started working for big enterprises like Yamaha, GreenPly along with startups. However, after 1.5 years, my co-founder told me that he is not happy with the services business and want to start a product, as services seemed to be a thankless job to him. And I could totally agree with him and we started investing a lot of our time into research and launched a few new products, but nothing was worked out other than services. So, he finally decided to quit and do something else as services business was too lucrative to sideline and focus on other products.
That’s when I recalled what my collegue had told me and I remembered telling her that I might struggle again after that. So, I called her after a gap of 2 years and told her that her prediction actually came true. And there was no way it was a generic prediction as she told me that my partner would leave after 2 years, even before starting the business.
When I called her, she first congratulated me for the success of CodeYeti as she was connected through facebook. But when I told her about the departure of my co-founder, she was feeling sad but I could sense some happiness in her voice too, as her prediction came 100% true.
“Do you want me to check your chart again?,” she enquired.
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 on it?”
Then she paused for a few minutes and said, “hmmm… Although, I had quit my job, 4 months back, for personal reasons and have a lot of time these days, but I won’t be able to work on it very actively, so you will have to find more astrologers. I can connect you with a few from my network”
“Yes Yes!! you can work whenever you have time and you can interview other astrologers and we will keep hiring more. You can become their mentor and take care of the department of Astrologers”, I said in excitement.
“So, when are we going live?”, she straightaway asked for a deadline, the way she did back at BNP. Some people never change 😛
I worked on developing the product and launched an MVP (minimum viable product) of AstroTalk within a month and assigned a dedicated tech & operations team to it.
And then I called her as a customer and asked, “How would AstroTalk do?”
Give us a brief background of what founders were doing before starting the venture.
Before pivoting to AstroTalk, Puneet ran an an IT services company named CodeYeti for 3 years. Before that, he has worked with investment banks for 4 years.
List all the names of the core team members, along with their skill-sets, specific domain expertise & designated roles. How do you see them evolving over time?
:: Puneet Gupta, Founder
:: Rajeev, Android Lead
:: Sunil Rawat, Backend Lead
:: Rajat Jain, Full Stack
:: Ashish, Website Lead
:: Shikha, Customer Experience Manager
What is the problem you are trying to solve? Can you share with us any insights that led you to believe that this is a big enough problem?
Growing up in India, we all can relate to so many incidents where someone predicts our future by seeing the birth chart (kundli) or the palm. Doesn’t matter we believe in it or not, but we were always fascinated by it.
As we grow up, in this competitive world with increasing level of stress, we often resort to Astrology to foresee bloomy days ahead, that’s the reason the demand of Astrology is ever increasing. However, there weren’t many companies in this space which had customer first approach and that’s where AstroTalk is making all the difference.
AstroTalk has provided access to more than 125 experienced & verified Astrologers, who can be consulted through the app/website from the comfort of home. Users from all across the globe can connect with any astrologer via Chat, Call or a text query.
What challenges did you face when you were starting out?
Biggest challenge was to find best Astrologers from different parts of India. We won’t hire anyone without taking interviews and making them do a case study. It was very time consuming to onboard an Astrologer.
Now we have a dedicated recruitment team for this. We get about 300 applications every month and only 8-10 make through the on-boarding process.
How did you get the initial capital? What returns does it have? Tell us about the investors (if any)
CodeYeti is the parent company of AstroTalk. It invested about INR 25 Lacs on building the product. We never invested much into marketing, as our main focus was to build a great product first and by the time we achieved it, we started getting a lot of organic leads.
Please tell us about the Product / Solution. Explain how you went about the Product-Market Fit Process.
It took us more than an year to understand customer behaviour and pivot the product as per the need. We started as a video call platform which failed miserably as people were not comfortable in doing a video conference for privacy reasons.
We spoke to the first 100 customers and took their advise to pivot the product. Till now, we keep seeking help from our customers to improve the product to achieved a product market fit. In terms of revenue, we are #1 in this industry but we are still way behind the numbers which this industry could achieve.
What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learning that you have?
We thought the only problem with this industry was discovery of genuine Astrologers but as we spoke to customers we realised that people don’t trust the companies also as they were not at all customer friendly. There was not support for customer and they would make them speak to amateur astrologers.
We have kept our services very premium but we make sure our customer never compromises with anything. We have 24*7 customer support available just a text away and we keep taking customer feedback also through that in building a better company.
What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Building trust!! Although, it is important for every business but this industry can’t move without trust. So it is extremely important to build a brand name which customers can rely upon without thinking twice.
What is the strength of the startup and the scale of operations? Who do You Perceive as Your Competition?
We have a strength of 150 including the consultants. Although we have achieved a throne in terms of revenue but we haven’t reached the masses yet. So, in order to build a bigger brand we will start providing some free services soon.
What is the revenue model? Explain your thought process.
We provide following premium services:
- Talk to Astrologer on call or chat
- Ask a query or report from the astrologer
- Online Puja
- Customers can recharge and avail any of there services through the online platform.
Who are the consumers that you are targeting? How is this going to affect them?
Our customer base is anyone who is growing through a tough phase in life. Our astrologers help them by showing them the right path by predicting the future.
How did you get your first customer?
By referring the app in our circle of friends, we found that many of them were happy to try it out and see if it works for them. Most of them used the app again after getting the right prediction.
What is the big picture of your startup? Is this Product leading to something bigger? If so, how?
Yes, as our core strength has always been in building great products, we would soon be launching other services for counselling under CodeYeti.
Since inception, give us a sense of the value of business done by your venture? What is the current turnover? (From Launching till date total no. of visitors on website/persons registered/enquiries and enrollment). Please explain in details:
Any business with a repeat rate over 3 is considered to be very good and AstroTalk has a repeat rate of 5 as per last 1 year data and it is only going to increase.
:: Repeat Rate > 5
:: No. of Installs > 300,000
:: LTV (Life time value) > INR 2000
What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
Our goal is to keep improving the product and start some free services to attract masses.
What message do you want to convey to fellow entrepreneurs?
Stick around and keep giving your best, results will come.
Any other information you would like to share:
Do check out https://astrotalk.in/ and share your feedback. I would love to get on a call and discuss about the product anytime.