The MyGate Story
(Excerpts from my FreeFlowing conversation with Abhishek Kumar, Co-Founder @ MyGate )
My motivations for starting up
I was in the US for 11 years, and when I came back to India in 2009 I joined Goldman Sachs after completing my MBA. After 6 years there, during which time I met and worked with my co-founder Vijay. One fine day, Vijay called and spoke to me about an idea. It was unique. After few months, I decided to take the plunge and joined Vijay to build MyGate.
“All of us have unfulfilled dreams and desires but with some things there comes a point when you can no longer ignore it.”
But this is also a step that needs considerable preparation.
For example, I engaged in self-reflection about my strengths and what I could bring to the table in a startup. I believe that all three of us co-founders have complimentary qualities. Being mentally and practically prepared go into this for the long haul is important. For my part, I had to prepare myself financially – I planned towards not receiving a steady income for three years.
On ‘Urban Living’ and the reworked definition of communities
Urban living, and specifically community living has received a fillip because of a number of external factors
1. Many of us live and work in the big cities of India, so we know that these places have become concentrated hubs of people and activity. Most of us have left the homes of our birth and childhood.
“we are separated from our roots, so to speak, and so as humans we feel a natural yearning to belong.”
2. Amongst our other fundamental needs as human beings is a feeling of security, of feeling safe wherever we are
3. Thirdly, given our hectic and demanding jobs and the general rigour of life in a big city we value convenience in our products and services
Our cities are also growing to accommodate these changes. Gated communities that put certain people together in one place become proxies for achieving this security, convenience and a sense of community.
On initial idea and the groundwork
Our initial idea was to make security convenient for apartments, and that was the use case that we solved for first. However before we got down to creating the product we spent a lot of time, energy and legwork understanding the stakeholders who will be using this app. I, along with my co-founders, spent several weeks understanding the psyche of the guards manning the security of such apartments. We talked to them, asked them where they were from, what their motivations are, about their jobs, and so on.
“The aim was to answer this question: will a tool or system like what we wanted to build, make their daily job easier, or harder?”
Do they have the ability to use such systems, to integrate it in their working lives, and if so how can we make it suitable for them, adaptable to them?
On challenges of starting up, growing, maintaining scale
To make any useful product, you have to understand the users really well- what a member of the Managing Committee is looking for, versus how a security guard uses it, and then what is the typical process for the residents to start using it.
In addition to the time spent talking to the various stakeholders involved in the smooth running of an apartment community, we also offered trials of the initial product.
Once the trials went well, now we had to figure out how to get people to pay for it. That was another iteration cycle.
“The challenges vary as the company grows.”
As I mentioned earlier, initially it was about getting people to try the product. Then it was about getting them to pay us for it. Then it was about scaling up, one apartment complex at a time. Now it is about getting people to use all the features that we have launched.
On importance of systems and processes
One of the things that I believe we did right was to build internal systems and processes early on.
“Most companies, when getting off the ground, tend to focus on building products outwards, for customers.”
It has been these internal systems that not only helped scale from two communities a month to on boarding thousands of communities a month, and more importantly retain and consistently add value to our vast base of existing communities.
On early traction and temptations
We were lucky in that we tasted early traction. Anecdotes about the signature MyGate intercom ringing in a meeting and four people pulling out their phones to see if it was theirs provided us with evocative images of our slow, but steady growth.
“We found unexpected opportunities knocking on our doors at this time”
from enquiries to launch in other cities, to builders and large facility management companies wanting us to white label the product.
At a time when we were barely adding two communities a month and we had yet to raise capital, a fat cheque would have been nice. But from day one, we were committed to build a B2C brand, so we kept at it, building it our own way, one apartment community at a time.
Building a consistent brand with a user base as diverse as ours
Building a brand when everyone from the daily help, the security guard, and the residents of a gated community use the app to various degrees is definitely a challenge.
“We have tried to address this by just sticking to our core tenets”
which were formed by the problems we have set out to solve for from the start – to establish a trusted, secure and convenient platform for the residents and the staff in a gated community.
We believe that we can build competence, success, and eventually dominance on these pillars. That can be a guiding light for evaluating new opportunities for expansion
On how can MyGate help marketers?
In an age when we are overexposed to marketing messages, brands look forward to personal interactions with a people sharing a common demographic and residential communities provide a great platform for them to engage with their target consumers. At the same time,
“the concept of a gated community was built on keeping the residents safely in, and unsolicited messaging and people out.”
Any marketer would be interested in access to such a set of people, but we also have to go back to our core tenets while evaluating opportunities.
We are poised and committed to solve for this, while retaining trust, security and convenience.
On data privacy
“Data privacy is extremely important to us.”
We take this very seriously and undertake a number of initiatives.
1/ Technological: we work on keeping our certifications updated. We are compliant with the privacy act. We also use external experts and ethical hackers to ensure that we are up to date. A general thumb rule is that no single individual should have access to all parts of the data, and that no single individual will be able to take any action by himself / herself related to critical data.
2/ Legal: We have clear policies on what we will do and what we will not do, keeping in mind data privacy standards. Lastly,
3/ Processes: This stance also has to be communicated to the various stakeholders, internal and external
In a nutshell, the journey of MyGate has been from solving for security inside apartment complexes to helping redefine a sense of community, to carefully curate a platform where relevant brands can reach out to specific demographics in an non intrusive way.
“We are on a mission to make MyGate truly a gateway to better urban living for everyone – not just the residents, but also millions of security guards, housekeeping staff, and the house helps that check in on our app everyday.”
Article originally published here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/mygate-story-gurudev-prasad/