www.LeadsAndDeals.com (Leads And Deals Limited) facilitates an international business-to-business (B2B) trade platform by connecting global buyers with suppliers (SMEs) through business directories, online product catalogues, buy-sell leads and industry specific marketplaces. Our aim is to provide a better, fairly faster and free service to:
- Reduce Business Costs
- Save Time & Effort
- Increase Global Exposure
- Reach Business Prospects Directly To Maximise Returns
LeadsAndDeals.com offers a variety of rich value added services, secure and user-friendly tools to make online trade business a hassle free experience. We aim to make it easy for everyone to buy and sell online. Users are in control, they manage their own leads and deals. It allows them to directly manage their online product catalogues, business information and leads and keep them up-to-date.
Continuing our effort to bring the news about startups to our readers, we had an email interview with Vikas Aggarwal, the CEO of LeadsandDeals.com.
Vikas has over 12 years of experience in the software industry and have worked with major financial institutions and investment banks in India and London. He has been involved in a number of mission critical financial projects and have worked on almost all aspects of software development. He is an engineering graduate in electronics and started his career as a web designer back in Noida, India in 1998. He is currently working for a major global investment bank in London and run LeadsAndDeals.com.
Q1. Being into job, when you started thinking of running your own start up?
There was neither an AHAAHA! Moment for me nor there was no bulb going off above my head. I guess it has always been in my DNA somehow which made it inevitable and it just evolved over the years.
My professional career started in dotcom era and I was totally taken aback by what was going on there. Big internet giants were coming up every day. Media was reporting of million and billion dollar deals. Heroes were being created and presented to the world on daily basis. I also wanted a piece of that for myself. However “(Resources + Experience) to Opportunity” ratio unfortunately was not good enough for me back then. Therefore, I instead started doing research and experiments as a hobby, which later became a sort of passion.
However, these are interesting times again. With web 2.0, social media and other available resources, the B2B trade industry has started to pick the pace again and SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) are lined up to make most of it. Internet has created a level playing field for all. The one, who provides better service or product, wins. These exporters and suppliers now have tools to expose their products/services in their market in a cost & time efficient way all over the world. Therefore, for us this was the best time to enter the market and help these SMEs with some of those tools in a better way. We went live with our beta version of service LeadsAndDeals.com on May 21, 2011.
Q2. What was the main point that made you pick up LeadsAndDeals.com as your area of focus?
My father has a manufacturing industry background. During our conversations related to supply of products and raw materials, I had few ideas related to manufacturing industry, which could be expanded even further to cover more industries and countries. That was the starting point. During my research, I found out that there were hundreds of players in this category (Small and Medium Enterprise B2B Marketplace) but except for top 10, others were not making substantial impact on the industry. They were alive and they were profitable as well but they were not serving this sector properly. There is still a huge gap between those top 10, which are expensive and too rigid to mould themselves according to customer needs and the rest. We target this gap. We aim to provide an inexpensive (in fact free!) Global B2B marketplace, which provides best of market reach, tools & information, value and most importantly better customer service.
Q3. Tell us the story of how you build it. What hardships you faced and how did you overcome them?
I have had my share of all ups-n-downs both professionally and personally during this journey. It has been extremely hard and joyful at times. Because I have technical background in IT and had all of my research backing me up, I started working on it to build a framework and prototype. On the personal level, it was extremely hard to manage a full time job, family and the project, all at the same time.
Since this has been a completely bootstrapped project, other challenges included funds, resources and time. It has been difficult to balance equation of Effort, Time and Money most of the times. You need to have all three (and plenty of it!) to succeed. If you lack in one of them, you need to step-up other two to compensate. This frustrates you but gives you hard & valuable lessons, which become lifeline of your business at a later stage. (I guess that’s the fun part of it as well.) Over a period, I guess I perfected that art. Can’t be more thankful to my family who have been always very supportive in all decisions that made and one of my friends who offered his helping hand. They have been instrumental. Other challenge that I have faced is team. It is absolutely essential to hand pick people who you can trust, who can commit and compliment your own skills. We have just now started hiring and building up a team of motivated individuals.
Q4. Do you feel that entrepreneurship is more rewarding than just being an employee?
Oh Yes, Definitely! Entrepreneurship does not mean just starting up a business. It is rather a state of mind and a phase in your life. You are committed to an aim and work towards it in extremely difficult environment. That teaches you a lot. No matter you succeed or not but those lessons and knowledge are invaluable. No textbooks or advisors in world can give you that. They can guide you through that process but you really need to experience yourself first hand. It prepares you as a better person and better professional. When I started working towards this goal, I had very little knowledge in some areas, which were very crucial for some functions in my start-up. I did not have any option but to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I tirelessly spent hours and weeks researching and learning about those things that I would have never learnt had I been just an employee somewhere. You probably do not need to learn everything in everything but at least familiarization with basic concepts of all aspects related to your goal is important. When you are into it, your job profile changes every hour, every minute of the day and that is challenging, motivating and rewarding. I recommend this to everyone sincerely but this is not a challenge for everyone.
Q5. What type of market are you focusing to target through your venture?
LeadsAndDeals.com is Marketplace targeting SMEs all over the world engaged in B2B trade. Our prime focus and target is SME level Global B2B Trade and will always be. We serve approximately 60 big industries and over 220 countries. We want to serve this sector better and faster way.
Q6. How your venture is different from other players who are already making big in this business, e.g. snapdeal?
There are big players in B2B Trade sector and some of them are just too big to provide good service. We are a new, fresh start up company and service. We are listening to the needs of our customers so that we can mould ourselves right now and keep on doing so to provide a better experience. We want to grow exponentially and become highly profitable (as any business would like to, honestly) but not at the cost of fundamentals of service offerings and customer satisfaction. They are and will be our biggest points in all future strategic decisions. We will keep on iterating, scrutinizing and changing our service continuously according to SME customer needs. We are not paying much attention to the competition at the moment. We are rather focusing on our plans and services.
Q7. Tell us about your first big success. What are your plans for future?
Depends on how you define success. In the journey of a start-up, you can define a success in many ways e.g. creating a prototype, launching a product, getting funded, acquisition, million dollars exits etc. We have had such few moments of our own but we have a higher goal and that is yet to be achieved. We want to place ourselves in International B2B Trade Marketplace category as soon as possible but be the best in its own category i.e. better experience and better customer satisfaction. We are working hard to improve our services based on customer feedback and are also looking forward to some strategic alliances which will improve our services. We have few very ambitious plans for year 2012 which we cannot disclose at the moment unfortunately.
Q8. Share some moments where life made you sit back and reflect. What such moments brought to your personality?
I guess there have been so many of them so far. However, every time you go into that mode of thinking process it makes you realise something and teaches a valuable lesson. For me every time I looked back I saw a mix of hard work, passion, sacrifices, joy and learning. This encouraged me to go on ever further. In all my down and low times there has been only one thought “I have come so far, not to give it up but to give it a little bit more. Let’s see…”
Q9. Do you feel that you can succeed bootstrapping a venture?
As I said earlier, bootstrapping needs the art of jugglery of three things i.e. Time, Effort and Money. As with any other skill, you need to get your hands dirty to master it. Bootstrapping is a great way of learning but it is like getting pushed from a mountain cliff in to a river and you have only few moments to learn swimming to survive. I have seen several of bootstrapped projects, which have survived and have made it big. However, I am not at all against the idea of raising funds and at a certain point we will also raise funds to grow faster. Money is one of the most important things in any start up or successful business. But in my opinion every entrepreneur should at least do some bootstrapping up to a certain stage in the entrepreneurial journey and then only go for raising funds. This makes you realize the value of it and makes you smarter about it. VCs & Angels should also consider this as criteria for investments.
Q10. Share your advice and message with our readers.
My personal advice to all start-ups and new entrepreneurs is the rule of 3Ps i.e. Passion, Persistence and Patience. These three are like elements of life for a start-up. They keep each other balancing out. You will experience crests and troughs in your entrepreneurial journey but as long as you keep at least one of these elements alive in yourself, you will have chances to go ahead and do it. The best thing that you can do is START NOW! Moreover, test your idea/product early on and iterate upon it. Never give up!