“As far as I remember, the most common bane I heard was –Instead of focussing on product & customer satisfaction, most of my time goes in grappling with these compliances, taxes, regulatory affairs”, says Deepak Dhamija, co-founder of Aristotle Consultancy, when asked about the number one problem afflicting entrepreneurs.
Prior to starting Aristotle, Deepak had worked in Ventureast for a couple of years till late 2009. His role as an Investment Manager in Tenet Fund II, a seed stage fund for technology start-ups, gave him the chance to interact with a number of budding entrepreneurs. The most common problem among entreprenurs was finding a solution to their routine regulatory framework issues. “And along with it if someone could present the broad view picture of financial status of the company, it would be a divine intervention” spoke an entrepreneur during my venture capital days mentioned Deepak while telling about the inception of the idea.
Come 2010, Deepak wanted to reverse roles after working with so many gung-ho entrepreneurs. Deepak knew there was a gap in the market for integrated and professional accounting, financial and corporate advisory services for start-ups and SMEs. At the same time, Sanjeev Lamba, CFO Inca Informatics, an IT Company in Noida, was looking for a more challenging career role. They met over a cup of coffee and the idea was born. “I would like to say that I had all planned it out before leaving Ventureast, but it is not true” laughs Deepak.
Although there was no business plan and concrete targets, the vision was clear – To provide end-to-end financial and advisory cost-effective services to start-ups and SME’s, helping the founders and MD’s focus on their core business. Right from the start, Deepak was clear on some of the tenets of startups “Number driven business plans are good for corporates where the operations have been stabilized. For start-ups, they look nice on paper and give you an illusion of control – they don’t have much value beyond that” says Deepak. “My underlying philosophy in life and business is simple. One should give before you get and growth will happen if organization’s focus is customer satisfaction. And it has worked wonders for our business. Once you have invested in the client’s business and you provide excellent services on an ongoing business, clients would give you repeat and additional business.”
Right from the beginning, the founders were focussed on building the right team. Deepak says “The initial team, along with the founders, sets the culture of the business. They help attract the right talent and their relationships with people and businesses provides the feed stocks of leads and clients to scale up the business.”
“We wanted to be in new and fast-growing industries for three reasons. One, as a start-up, you face challenges in getting into accounts of established industries with established relationships. Two, new industries generally have young people at the helm, and young people are more open to new ideas – like outsourcing your finance and accounts department. We do not even want to try selling our idea to first generation entrepreneurs nearing their retirement. And finally, fast growing industries give us a chance to scale up with our clients.” says Deepak.
Aristotle hit it big with Jabong. “I proudly say that we have been associated with Jabong since they were 3 employees old and an unheard of name in India. And our continued relationships with almost all our clients is our biggest testimony to our client satisfaction”. Today, after just 3 years, Aristotle counts Jabong, Fabfurnish, Tolexo (Indiamart), Foodpanda, OfficeYes, Printvenue, Phone Warrior and PressPlayTabs among its clients. “My single biggest advice to start-up service companies is to follow the Trojan Horse principle” adds Deepak “Get inside and work”.
On Future Plans and raising capital, Deepak says – “We wanted to grow organically initially and see if we have an expandable proposition in our hands. And it’s not easy for a service venture to raise capital. Initially, we did not want to be limited in our experimentation by targets from investors. I think, unless the business model demands it, entrepreneurs should try to use their own funds. Also, most of the times, external funding makes entrepreneurs relax on cost controls and cost discipline is vital. We might seek funding in future, but we are sure we won’t be going to raise capital just for the sake of it. Now after streamlining our delivery model, we are planning to expand to different cities. Hopefully, you will see our offices in Bangalore and Mumbai in this year.”
Learn more about accounts outsourcing at Aristotle Consultancy.