Why did you start Wazzeer? Why now?
Around 2011-12, as Abhishek, my cofounder, and I were getting our consulting venture Castling Consulting off the ground, we started to realize how impossibly complicated and impenetrable the Indian legal system was. If you think an online search for your medical systems always leads to a diagnosis of cancer, you should try searching for legal help. Nothing is documented. The legal and accounting professionals are like Oracles - they tell us to do “things” and we do them, no questions allowed. There is no transparency.
We figured that if we have this problem, other startups are probably facing the same issue. Since neither of us were techies we simply put up a one-pager with a list of services like company formation and registration to collect email addresses and phone numbers. And the feedback was resoundingly positive which gave us confidence that we were on the right track.
If you think about it, while the rest of the Indian economy has surged forward into the 21st century, the legal and accounting professions are still in the 1990s. We are trying to drag it into the 21st century along with the rest of us.
What’s your back story?
I graduated from IIT Kharagpur and IIM Kolkata, then worked in Singapore for a year. Eventually, I decided to start something on my own. So, instead of just starting something without knowing much about the economy, I went into consulting. I worked in India and advised GMR Airport in Male, Maldives on strategy. I started Castling Consulting (Check the spelling) with Abhishek in 2011 who is also my partner at Wazzeer.
Abhishek studied Engineering from Mumbai University and MS Finance from Cranfield University, UK.
At Castling, we were fortunate to work with stalwarts including people who helped found the Indian software industry! Officially, we were advising them on strategy but we feel we learnt more from this relationship.
What sets Wazzeer apart from others? What’s your secret sauce?
Let’s start with the ground reality. While lawyers and accounting professionals are white collar knowledge workers, the industry as a whole is very disorganized. There is no advertising which means they cannot grow beyond word of mouth. There is no consistency in pricing. If you arrive at a law office in a car, you are likely to be charged more than if you arrived in an auto rickshaw.
Wazzeer's biggest advantage is our deep relationship with our professionals. Even before we started, we used to share office space with a law and accounting firm so we saw how they worked, what their processes looked like, what choices they made, whom they hired. We have maintained this deep insight into the legal, accounting, and company secretaryship industries.
Wazzeer acts a platform to normalize the relationship between lawyers or accountants and their clientele. We bring a consistent, repeatable interface with predictable outcomes for clients and lawyers both. We want to remove the information asymmetry between what lawyers do and what clients ask for. This is the 10,000 ft view of why Wazzeer is different.
Our secret sauce, if you can call it that, is that we have formalized and documented the most common 60 to 70 processes people request. We actually support roughly 200 unique types of services. Having encoded these 60-70 processes, we can see and leverage similarities across states. It makes it easy for us to respond to regulatory changes. Also, knowing exactly what a process contains helps us identify the quality of work delivered by any new professional who wishes to join our platform. We can compare their output with what the process says should happen.
We conduct discussions and conference calls between professionals to make sure they are sharing relevant information about legal or regulatory changes right across the ecosystem. And we make sure to update our documents with any new knowledge.
This serves two goals - a reduction in the error rate and an improvement in quality and turnaround time of delivery.
What impact have you already had in the 2.5 years you have been in business?
The coolest, most touching stories we hear are from professionals who send us photographs of their larger offices and new hires and tell us that this was only possible because of Wazzeer. It is very humbling but also gratifying to be part of their story.
Right now, we have roughly active 100 professionals and around 900 clients. We also have a pipeline of professionals who wish to work with us which we carefully vet before on-boarding. Our repeat rates for clients are in the 75% range which is phenomenal if you consider that the alternative is that they could simply walk down the street to the neighborhood lawyer.
We have served clients from foreign countries. Switzerland, Australia, the United States, Singapore - they have all used us.
Who are your competitors?
Funnily enough, I don’t believe we have competitors per se.
Yes, there is VakilSearch, IndiaFiling, or ClearTax but less than 1% of the Indian economy uses online means to meet their legal, accounting, and company services needs. It is my belief that we online platforms are reinforcing each other in the minds of the customers. For example, if Infosys had been the only IT company in India, no one would have trusted them with outsourcing. Now that there is TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL and so on, we have an outsourcing industry.