Work with your customer to take the industry forward instead of pushing a product`
Anand Sinha Co Founded PressPlay along with George Abraham in Jan 2014. Both did their Bachelors in Bangalore and then were flat mates in Hyderabad in DE Shaw for almost two years. Post that, Anand joined Zomato(in their early days) as a sales manager and got exposed to what sales was for the first time. Anand recalls that these three years in Sales were golden for him and he understood and learnt a lot from the growth and says that he was lucky enough to see Zomato grow from 15 employees to 600 employees in front of him. Anand became the National Head – Sales. George also joined Zomato in the second half of 2011 and was Head of Sales in Dubai. Both of them had also spoken a lot of times on starting something and also tried starting a restaurant. Their experience at Zomato was almost like being on their own as it was an entrepreneurial environment every day.
The two of them used to travel a lot in overnight buses between Bangalore and Hyderabad. The buses normally would play a movie on one screen which was not exciting for every passenger on the bus. They discussed the idea of customized entertainment with a few people and everyone agreed that this was the way to go . A friend of Anand’s connected them with an Angel Investor who liked the idea and was confident about their experience and promised them some funds. With that assurance, the two of them began with customer validation. By October 2013, they bought 10 tablets and loaded it with some movies. Anand boarded a bus from Delhi to Amritsar and announced that he had ten tablets which has some good content and asked if anyone would like to rent it out. To his surprise, all the ten tablets were taken within 5 minutes. He took the feedback of the experience from the passengers and got raving reviews. Based on the this feedback and their gut feel they dropped the idea of testing more on other buses. The question was on how to solve the problem in the best way to make sure that there was no friction from the users side. So they validated the idea in their head and quit their jobs and started out.
They went to China and bought 1000 tablets. They started meeting all the bus operators and sold them the concept. PressPlay entertained more than 1 lakh passengers within six months of launch. They expanded their operations to 12 cities and all the operators were happy because the new mode of entertainment gave a new leash of business to the bus operators as the passengers were no longer bored. Anand and George now sat down and thought of scaling the business but realized that running their business through tablets would be an asset heavy and an operationally heavy model and maintaining the devices on a national level will only increase the cost of delivering entertainment to the customers. They figured out that smart phones in the hands of consumers were on an uptrend and thought of shifting the entertainment element to the phones of the customers thereby reducing their cost. They explored doing an app where people can download the movies and songs. But this might not be a scalable model because of the network stability in travel is not assured.
While working on a few ideas, they found out that Media Servers might be an option. They still were sold on the practicality of the solution and figured out that the users can just stream content through the media server on their own smartphones. They tested this on a few buses and all the earlier problems they faced with the did not exist and also got a lot of positive feedback from the customers. They developed these media servers and began reaching out to bus operators. Every operator saw the merit in this and immediately accepted ghe product because they knew that this would enhance the bus travelling experience and would reduce the hassles of maintaining the TVs. Over time, the team also learnt that games and funny viral videos were popular and they constantly began adding different types of content based on demand. They also introduced lots of regional content and Telugu movies topped the list followed by other South Indian regional languages. Now the total number of passengers they have entertained has crossed 150,000.
Anand summarizes his experience in Sales with the Bus Operators. He did not succeed that well when he sat across the table with an intention to sell. He always won deals when he began working with them to take the industry forward. In Marketing, since his customers were captive within the buses, he believed in doing Below The Line activities within the bus. They have now raised funds and they want to promote people to use the Volvos because of the added entertainment quotient and are also soon going to enter other modes of transport.
Anand’s Suggestion to early stage entrepreneurs – Don’t overthink the product. Once you are convinced, just launch with a MVP as early as possible and keep improving as you go based on the feedback. Let the market determine the perfect fit.
PressPlay today has 40 employees. They have been featured on NDTV Profit as Inspirational Stories of Entrepreneurs who made it big and have been featured in Your Story, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Silicon India to name a few. They have raised seed round funding from Sequoia Capital and had also raised an angel round earlier.