TechI: GreenMango Co-Founder Unplugged

Today we have Nandini Narula, Co-Founder of GreenMango in our TechI@Malliks. GreenMango is Hyderabad based startup which provides an easy way to find and review local businesses that provide the daily services you need. You can search there to find the best carpenters, tailors, mechanics, repairmen and other service providers in your neighborhood.
Nandini is the co-founder of GreenMango and leads the company’s technology development and innovation. Before designing and launching GreenMango, Nandini led the development of a technology-based financial management product for micro-entrepreneurs at Women’s World Banking in collaboration with a social enterprise team at Stanford’s Digitial Vision Program. Prior to her time at WWB, Nandini managed web development projects at Fortune 500 companies including Starwood Hotels, AIG, and Avaya coordinating remote development teams based all over the US as well as in India. She served as an advisor to Kiva.org, a start-up in the online microfinance investment space. Nandini graduated with an MSc degree in Economic Development from the London School of Economics and a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan.

Good Evening Nandini, Its pleasure to have you on TechI@Malliks.
Mallik: Nandini, to start with, tell us something about how did you guys came up with the idea of GreenMango and the name?
Nandini: Before launching GreenMango, Yasmina McCarty (GreenMango co-founder) and I worked together in nearly a dozen countries where we met countless small business owners who were struggling to grow their businesses and make ends meet. These business owners can not afford traditional marketing channels such as advertising and are practically invisible to customers located just a few kilometers away. As a result, their businesses suffer and they rarely reach their income potential. On the flip side, we saw an increasing number of young professionals and middle class households in urban areas throughout India struggling to find the basic services they need on a daily basis. They are frustrated by how difficult it can be to find a reliable plumber to fix a leaky sink in a hurry or a good tailor who can do a quality stitch or a tutor who has good experience in a specific subject matter. We built GreenMango to act as the bridge between these two worlds - the low-income, offline small business owner and the middle/high-income, online professional.
The name of GreenMango came from one particular entrepreneur who touched and ultimately inspired us to start GreenMango. Malou Bacani is a green mango vendor in Baguio City in the Philippines, where Yasmina was raised. For the past 15 years, she has worked 10 hours a day, 7 days a week selling green mangos on the street, but she never earns more than $3 a day. She continues to work hard and save so that her daughter can attend university and have a better life. But given Malou’s income level, it is not clear whether she will ever achieve her goal. GreenMango was created for the hundreds of thousands of hardworking small business owners like Malou, who dream of a better life for themselves and their families.

Mallik: You may actually be talking to small businessmen who hardly understand anything about Internet. So how is your experience working with them?
Nandini: One of our real advantages is that we have a sales team that is out in the neighborhoods where these small business owners live and work. Everyday they are talking to these business owners and educating them about GreenMango and the value of advertising their services on our website. While many of these small entrepreneurs may not be active users of the internet, they easily grasp the importance of reaching more customers than those that live in their neighborhood and have been very open to a service that will help them grow their business.

Mallik: What is the feedback from the small business owner? On average what percent of their customers are coming via GreenMango after being listed?
Nandini: We continue to get very positive feedback from the business owners. We are just starting to track and survey our vendors to get a better sense of how much of their business is a result of listing with GreenMango.
One of our vendors is 30-year old Prashant, a painter who was struggling to find customers until he discovered GreenMango. We think Prashant’s comment sums it up best: "Before joining Green Mango I used to manage to get work but now I am getting more work and income as well. GreenMango has transformed my life."

Mallik: Small businesses differentiate you from other local search engines in India. But don't you see threat from companies like Justdial.com where any small business can just get listed by calling them up for free. I mean people who dont use internet can also get listed. So is it that Green Mango has advantage in teaching the small business about the importance of net presence?
Nandini: Local search is a very hot area in India right now so we definitely have competition. However, unlike many other local search sites, we offer more than a simple directory listing. Shoppers who come to www.greenmango.co.in to find a service provider will find detailed information about each business to help them make an informed decision about which service provider to hire. Each business profile contains valuable information like: years of experience, years in operation, business hours, services offered, areas of specialty, pictures of recent work, and reviews and ratings from past customers. By offering this very detailed information about local businesses operating in the informal sector, information that is otherwise very difficult to find, GreenMango sets itself apart.
And yes, an important part of our sales process is to spend time educating our vendors about the power of the net to help them grow their business. Once they begin to get business as a result of listing their business with us, they become our best salespeople!

Mallik: What is GreenMango's revenue model? Does small business owners need to pay Green Mango for getting listed?
Nandini: GreenMango generates revenue through list fees from the small businesses on our platform, online advertising, and through our latest offering, Premium Service. Premium Service offers customers the ability to request GreenMango’s end-to-end service to place service providers on jobs and to ensure their jobs requirements are met. With Premium Service both the shoppers and the vendors pay a subscription fee. We ensure that the listing and subscription fees we charge are affordable and not at all prohibitive for the small business owners we target.

Mallik: What are your plans for expansion in other cities. Is scalability an issue for Green Mango?
Nandini: Actually scalability was an objective we identified early on and knew had to be built into our model. Our goal was to create an efficient and scalable model that could be quickly and easily rolled out to all of the major metropolitan cities across India and then to other emerging markets, primarily in Southeast Asia. In our first 18 months of operations we have refined our model based on our experiences in Hyderabad and we are now starting to execute on our expansion plan. With our second office in Bangalore now fully operational, we anticipate quickly moving into other Indian cities next year.

Mallik: Nandini, What is your message for upcoming social enterpreneurs?
Nandini: I hope more young professionals in India take the risk and jump into an entrepreneurial venture. It is absolutely the greatest learning experience you could ever have – no matter whether the business fails or succeeds. Of course, it is risky and it is hard to give up a stable, comfortable salary and take on something of your own where nothing is guaranteed. But if you are passionate about creating something of your own, about building a business from the ground up...and if you are willing to face the obstacles and challenges that inevitably come with being an entrepreneur, then it’s definitely a risk worth taking.

Mallik: Its very interesting what you are doing and I hope GreenMango does great in the future too. Thanks a lot for your time Nandini
Nandini: Thanks very much for the chance to talk to you about GreenMango. We encourage your readers to check out www.greenmango.co.in the next time they are looking for a service provider and to follow us on Twitter @greenmango_hyd and @greenmango_ban. We also invite them to join us on Facebook at Facebook.com/greenmango.in.
To all of you Facebook users, I also wanted to mention that GreenMango has just integrated with Facebook Connect, enabling you to log in to greenmango.co.in with your Facebook identities in order to share reviews and ratings of local businesses with your entire Facebook network. Check it out and please let us know what you think!

Thanks again for profiling us Mallik.

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