- Date : 28/01/2021
- Read: 7 mins
With a vision to bring about professionalism in sourcing handymen, Shaifali Agarwal Holani founded EasyFix in 2011. Today, her business operates in 300+ cities and towns in India.
Ambitious, hard-working, and highly disciplined – that is Shaifali Agarwal Holani, a US Open Karate Championship gold medallist and Founder-CEO of EasyFix. She says she was destined to come up with the idea of EasyFix, a startup that delivers last mile services post sales of consumer durables, appliances, and home improvement products. In this tête-à-tête, Holani talks to TommorowMakers about the challenges she faced while starting up, how being an athlete shaped her life, and shares advice for fellow women entrepreneurs.
Q: What inspired you to launch EasyFix?
A: The goal from the beginning was to solve the problem of getting good, qualified handymen. When I moved into my new house, I wanted a plumber and carpenter, but the experience was not good. It was difficult to find professional handymen, and my dealings were not pleasant. I spoke to a lot of people and realised this was a common problem faced by many. This is where the idea for EasyFix germinated.
Q: How does EasyFix work? Did it turn out exactly as you envisioned, or did you have to pivot?
A: We had envisioned building a brand that solves a specific problem – getting access to talented, certified handymen. While we are doing exactly that right now, a lot changed. Earlier, we targeted end consumers, but by the third year we pivoted to work for corporates and became a B2B services marketplace.
We experimented with multiple modes and models. While some ideas failed, others helped us justify the bottom line. We continued to invest our time, efforts, and resources to perfect our model. Today, we provide handymen services for luxury and technical products. This includes brands manufacturing gym equipment, modular kitchens, solar appliances, furniture, etc.
The EasyFix platform helps connect customers with brand-trained handy professionals. We operate across 300+ cities and for us each negative feedback becomes an opportunity to grow. We worked on what brands want from us, rather than what we wanted they should buy.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting up?
A: I do not have a finance background. So, it took me a long time to get comfortable with how all of it works! Company law, compliances, statutory audits, nitty-gritties of due diligence, tax calculations, Tally, and so on. I was very fortunate to have a strong accounting team, and family members who were involved in my business to make sure that each financial and legal aspect was taken care of.
My father-in-law has a special love for numbers and is a mentor to multiple startups. He is my financial accounting guru as well. He still reviews the EasyFix business every quarter and is involved with yearly audits. He helps us improve by giving critical feedback.
Q: What are the mistakes you made along the way?
A: It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as we learn from them. Repeating the same mistake is a big no-no. I too have made a few mistakes along the way. From hiring the wrong people to firing some right ones, signing a non-profitable deal, letting go of a client who was unhappy, not being able to meet expectations, etc. I try my best to not spoil relationships. Whenever I feel I am in the wrong, I go back and try to make things right.
Q: From a small startup to being active in more than 300 cities and partnering with global brands, how would you describe your entrepreneurial journey?
A: Exciting, challenging, and overwhelming. I feel stronger today. All entrepreneurs will agree that the more we play, the stronger we get. If I were employed and helping a corporate, I obviously don’t know how my growth would have been. If I weren’t an entrepreneur, one thing I can be sure is that I would have been a very different person.
The initial years went by quickly. We were 5-6 people in the team and we did not have a reporting structure or the concept of performance appraisal. It was over time that the team grew, mostly organically, and we replicated the success of the EasyFix model in Bangalore and Mumbai. With new people, clients, and business opportunities, today, after 10 years, we offer handymen in 15 service categories and deliver across India.
Struggles still exist, but they are different in nature now. We continue to learn and grow. People have been the brightest highlight of my journey. We take pride in being a team with a common vision and mission. Today, my primary role in the company is to find the right people and build them to be the best version of themselves.
Q: You are a 2017 US Open Karate Championship gold medallist. How has martial art influenced you as an entrepreneur?
A: I am a passionate fitness enthusiast. If I weren’t an entrepreneur, I probably would have been an athlete. Love for fitness is also rooted in my childhood. Since his youth, my father played badminton professionally. He inspired all his children to join the stadium in Almora to pursue sports. My siblings and I are grateful to our parents for that start.
Martial arts and karate happened by chance. Back in 2012, when I was doing my usual 10 km run at the Japanese Park in Delhi, I met Sensei Prakash, who was teaching kickboxing to his students there. My husband Sundeep helped me break the ice and got me enrolled for the classes. Soon after, when we relocated from Delhi to Gurgaon, I found a professional martial arts academy.
Being fit means a lot to me. My mind stays a lot calmer and disciplined. It has influenced my professional career by helping me stay calm and become tough.
Q: You backed an original idea rather than becoming another me-too startup. How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors today?
A: Many companies provide handymen services; we continue to call ourselves specialists, having built our infrastructure to cater to a small and niche customer base. We do not aim to service each and every household in India. We will continue to work with luxury brands only.
Q: How do you deal with setbacks? What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?
A: Almost always, my first goal is to stay calm and not react immediately. Taking time off the situation helps; it allows me to decide better. Whenever needed, I also share my problems with family and friends and seek their advice. Every setback is an opportunity, and sleeping over the problem definitely helps. A new day brings a new solution.
Q: As you have successfully managed to raise funding for your startup, can you share some tips for the same?
A: If this is your first entrepreneurial journey, be a part of an accelerator program. This is an environment where we see more people like us; it helps us share our experiences, learn, and smoothen those rough-edged corners. What’s more, it gives one access to angel investors and venture funds.
Q: While entrepreneurship is difficult enough, do you think it is more so for women? How should they deal with it?
A: Employment and entrepreneurship are both difficult and full of challenges. There are moments that bring us down. If an entrepreneur is an athlete, an employee is a passionate fitness enthusiast.
Life is different for women and men. When young, most girls are made to play with a doll house. So when they grow up and decide to not play house any more, they are looked at through a different lens and may not get the desired support.
If you are a woman, no matter how big a business you run, at the end of the day you have to take on 95% of home management responsibilities – all while staying productive at work, coaching house managers, and managing family and relatives.
My advice would be to factor in all this work and do the best you can. More importantly, stop feeling guilty for having a career.
If we look back ten years ago, she had a tough time finding a dependable handyman when moving into her new home. Today, her brainchild EasyFix supplies qualified handymen in over 300 cities in India. Thus, it clearly amplifies the thought that anything is possible if you are passionate and have a clear vision.