“Start-ups are like cockroaches; no matter what the obstacles, they come out of it”

While the global pandemic has bought economies to a halt and massively disrupted businesses, it has also fuelled start-up dreams and we even saw several Indian start-ups achieve Unicorn status during the pandemic period. The times have never been better for the budding entrepreneurs to give wings to their start-up dreams.

The Government, too, has come up with various schemes to support its ‘Vocal for Local’ drive. A case in point is the recent Rs 1,000 crore Start-up India Seed Fund announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Start-up India International Summit 2021 held earlier this year.

Adgully is turning the spotlight on the entrepreneurs who fought against all odds to bring their dreams to fruition in our special series – START-UP STARS. We at Adgully wholeheartedly support the ‘Vocal for Local’ movement and over the next few months will be featuring all local/ homegrown businesses, brands and Apps.

Trell is a ‘Made in India’ app that offers short videos and blogs in various Indian languages, besides English, related to Fashion, Beauty, Personal Care, Recipes, Travel, Movies & TV Reviews. Trell Shop is an online video shopping platform offering an array of skincare, beauty and wellness products and more.

In conversation with Adgully, Pulkit Agarwal, Co-Founder, Trell, speaks at length about how the short video app has been bridging the gap between skilled-based Indian creators and consumers and much more.

How did you identify your TG? Did you carry out any feasibility study prior to starting your business?

Yes, absolutely. We started Trell in 2016 as a community. But even before launching the product, we spent about 12-18 months in primary and secondary research, wherein we first started building our community on existing social platforms. We started platforms like Instagram and Facebook, where our community group witnessed followers growing from almost zero to more than 100,000 on Instagram in a matter of a few months.

While we were building that community, we met 1,000+ bloggers, photographers, foodies, fashionistas to understand how they are using social platforms to build their individual brands. We executed this whole process to be able to better understand our users for more than 12 months; what are their needs and eventually combined those learnings to launch Trell in 2017, which is now one of India’s largest Lifestyle Social Commerce platforms.

Today, if we look at our target group, they are between 18 and 35 years from both urban and regional India, who have lifestyle aspirations. These are users, born and brought up in the social media generation, who are looking for meaningful content online in their native languages to enhance/ share their knowledge and stay up to date with the latest trends.

What were the challenges that you faced in your start-up journey and how did you overcome them?

Different phases of start-ups account for different kinds of challenges. So, when we were just starting, our biggest challenge was survival and identifying the gaps in the ecosystem through which we can make a huge impact, converging to the queries like: What are we building, and how will our solution solve an existing problem of our users?

Another challenge was building a team of passionate people who feel equally empathetic about the problem that we are planning to solve. It’s not just that they are empathetic, but they are ready to go the extra-mile to build those solutions with you. Of course, finances and capital play a big role too.

Well, we went through all of these. When we were starting off, we didn’t even know how to build a product; didn’t know how to identify individuals who are passionate about solving a problem. But over a period of time, we figured our way.

Once we started growing, the nature of the challenges changed. Now that we had individuals, the question was how do you align them as a team? How do you make your team understand who will work towards your mission and vision? How to ensure a process and incentive structure in place for your employees to remain motivated?

Having said that, at the end of the day, you have to start building your brand; the recognition of the brand so that people start relating with you and your brand’s vision. Besides, you simultaneously need to implement strategies to grow your user base and build a business model that will lead you to the next phase.

How is digital helping you further your business?

Digital gives you the advantage of scaling rapidly. One of the things that is fascinating about building a digital platform, or let’s say a digital company, is that you are able to reach millions of users in a very short period of time. 

With Trell, we were at the right place, at the right time, wherein the Jio revolution happened. The Internet became accessible to a lot of people in the remote areas of India and a huge number of users started using Trell to consume content in regional languages around their lifestyle interests. We were happy that we were able to identify and tap on to the opportunity that the world presented to us and provide solutions.

What were your key learnings from 2020? How do you see the start-up ecosystem progressing in 2021?

2020 was a year filled with rapid learnings and evolution. Start-ups are like cockroaches; no matter what kind of obstacles you throw at them, they can navigate their way and come out of it. This is precisely what we saw during the pandemic-induced lockdowns. Some of our fellow entrepreneurs faced multiple hurdles as everything came to a grinding halt. Their businesses got impacted. But they were able to bounce back. They were able to innovate and now they are growing very strongly. I would say that adaptability towards adverse situations is one of the key learnings.

We as an economy have grown rapidly in terms of Internet adoption. And, this pandemic only accelerated it further. It transformed several businesses to adopt technology and the Internet in their day-to-day life as compared to the times when they used to run earlier as pure-play offline businesses. This is all because of the rapid innovation of start-ups and deeper penetration of digitisation, content, learning, payments and e-commerce. Today, we are also seeing fast-paced adoption when it comes to social commerce. All in all, I would say, it’s how quickly you adapt and operate in given situations along with innovating solutions for the problems is when you see constant progress and growth. 

What would be your message for the budding entrepreneurs?

Budding entrepreneurs must know that this is the best time to establish a start-up in a country like India. We are going to be a $5 trillion economy in the next few years, and we are also set to emerge as the second-largest economy in the world in the next 10-12 years. That means there is going to be a growing number of amazing start-ups and companies that will be built in the upcoming years. The opportunity is immense to understand what could be some of the biggest problems that you can solve for Indian users. You can build innovative and localised solutions for them to create large organisations. No doubt, now is the right time!


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