Building An On-demand Beauty Services Platform In Bangladesh With Armin Zaman Khan, Founder and CEO, Romoni

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May 9, 2019
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Armin Zaman Khan is the founder and CEO of Romoni, an on-demand beauty services startup based in Dhaka that offers on-demand salon, makeup, spa, and bridal services. Founded in 2016 as a simple Facebook page, over the past few years, Romoni has evolved into an independent platform and a team of 12 people.

We recently caught up with Ms. Armin over an email to discuss her path to entrepreneurship, how Romoni came into existence, what inspired her to embark on an entrepreneurial journey, the state of Romoni’s business today and its ambition going forward, challenges of being a founder, lessons she has learned from her journey so far and much more.

Future Startup

Please tell us about your background and what you are working on now.

Armin Zaman Khan

I graduated from Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka in 2013, and started my career with Standard Chartered Bank as a Fast Track Graduate. After a 1.5 year stint in SCB, I started working with the Access to Information Programme in Prime Minister’s Office as an Innovation Consultant. I later went to work as a key member of the Rural e-commerce project and piloted the launch in Union Digital Centres across the country. After a 2.5 year stint there, I started working full time on Romoni Services Limited, along with two co-founders.

Future Startup

What motivated you to start Romoni? How did you start Romoni?

Armin Zaman Khan

Romoni started as a simple motivation fueled by a problem that I had faced myself. I wanted to get a simple haircut from a renowned stylist, but after calling her salon for one week straight, I couldn’t get the appointment. That prompted me to think: there must be a better solution to this problem!

I started talking to a few beauticians in the parlors in my neighborhood about their salaries, earnings, etc. and came to realize that a lot of them provide home services to their regular clients after hours to earn extra income.

I found out that they earned around 2000-3000 taka per job with their home service clients, an amount that can aggregate to a much higher monthly income compared to the salary they were earning from their employers every month. The two instances prompted me to start thinking about the beauty industry as a whole and I realized that a large part of it is still broken. Since I was (and still am) quite passionate about solving problems through technology innovation, I sought after designing a tech product that can address this problem.

Future Startup

What went into building the initial operation of Romoni?

Armin Zaman Khan

I started testing out my idea with just a simple Facebook page in 2016, while I was still working with a2i. I signed a few freelance beauticians and makeup artists and started offering their services on-call from my page. A few months into my endeavor, I realized there was a significant portion of customers who preferred salon services at home for the regular services such as manicure, pedicure, facial, hair treatment, etc. as opposed to booking appointments of artists and salons they can easily access on social media or elsewhere.

Sensing the viability of scaling this up as an on-demand service, I contacted two of my friends to help me out with the tech product. They came on board as co-founders and we started building the initial version of the app and backend. We on-boarded around 20 beauticians and listed them on the system. That’s how it all started.

Romoni app
Romoni app

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of Romoni in terms of services you offer, your business and users, team size, operations, etc?

Armin Zaman Khan

Currently, we are offering beauty services on demand, which include salon, makeup, spa, and bridal services. We plan to roll out salon appointments, tailor on demand and e-commerce by this year. We want to create a 360-degree business incubation platform for women micro-entrepreneurs that will guide and support them in their journey to be full-fledged entrepreneurs from freelancers, with training, authentic products, growth capital, etc.

We have served more than 6,000 customers by now, with the number growing every month. We charge a 20% commission off each service through our platform. The average bucket size of each order is 1500-2000 taka.

Currently, we have 12 full-time members in our team, comprising of tech, marketing, and operations teams. We run our marketing and operations/customer service completely in house.

Future Startup

How have you attracted users and grown Romoni? Could tell us a bit about your process and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?

Armin Zaman Khan

If you browse through our page, you will find reviews from our happy customers and comments about how much they liked our service. I think our customers speak for our growth, and they are everything to us. Though more than 90% of our customers have reported being “satisfied” about their services, we are taking up a new project to ensure end-to-end experience management for our customers, starting from how the beauticians present themselves to their products to their service quality.

The initial growth came from word of mouth through Facebook. Whenever anyone used to ask for recommendations about home service artists, someone or the other would inevitably recommend Romoni. We also grew a lot through online influencers promoting our services and raving about their own experiences.

The most important thing we wanted to get right was the front line of customer service. Everyone should be comfortable discussing their beauty problems with us and seeking a solution. The customer service representatives receive hands-on training from me and renowned skincare and makeup experts so they can become expert beauty advisors for the customers. I personally overlook customer communication so every time the representatives have any question or have to deal with any complaint, I step in and provide the best solution that I can. Our personalized approach to be the beauty advisor for our valuable customers have given us the key edge over time.

Future Startup

What’s your business model? How have you grown your revenue?

Armin Zaman Khan

We charge a 20% commission off each service booked through our platform. We have seen a 20% growth in revenue each month.

Future Startup

What were the challenges in the early days? What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

Armin Zaman Khan

The earliest challenges have simply been getting people to understand how Romoni actually worked. We had to educate the market about the service a lot just to get the word out that it's possible to avail beauty services at home without worrying about safety or extra hidden charges.

The biggest challenge we have faced till now has been ensuring a homogenous service experience by all the enlisted beauticians. Since all of our beauticians are freelancers, it's a huge challenge to ensure all of them provide the same experience, quality of service and products for all the customers.

Future Startup

How do your sales and marketing work?

Armin Zaman Khan

On the service provider acquisition side, we have a dedicated team who run offline efforts to onboard, assess, screen and train beauticians and other service providers.

On the customer side, we are mainly doing online marketing based on Facebook and Instagram and occasionally, SMS. We want to work more with influencers and focus more on offline marketing activities to draw customers in the future.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Armin Zaman Khan

The biggest lesson we have learned is that it's not possible to satisfy all the customers! Different customers want different things and the definition of a “good service” really varies from person to person. So it's important for a brand to decide what kind of experience THEY want to provide or evoke for the customers.

The second lesson we learned was that the investment climate here in Bangladesh works quite differently from that of Silicon Valley or the well-established startup hubs. We had to learn a lot by doing about how we should structure our business and the key factors we should be focusing on by studying the successful ventures here, as opposed to those abroad.

Future Startup

What are your goals for the future?

Armin Zaman Khan

The primary goal is to be a reliable platform for all things beauty, lifestyle and more for the urban and semi-urban women in Bangladesh. The secondary goal is to create a 360-degree enabling platform for women micro-entrepreneurs in the creative industries and provide them with all kinds of support, financial and non-financial, for establishing and growing their businesses.

Future Startup

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Armin Zaman Khan

I have found that giving the stakeholders in your business, such as your employees and in our case, our service providers, an open space to talk and discuss their concerns has been particularly helpful in identifying a lot of issues and possibilities that we had never imagined before. Also, creating a space where all the team members share knowledge, exchange ideas, progress with their work or even a new book has been quite important in keeping up the team spirit intact.

Future Startup

What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs who are trying to build a business?

Armin Zaman Khan

It's an uphill battle out there. It's all worth it, but make sure you draw it out with pen on paper before you step out there.

Future Startup

Where can our readers go to learn more about Romoni?

Armin Zaman Khan

Readers can learn more about Romoni from https://romoni.xyz/about and our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/romoni.xyz/. They can also email me directly at armin@romoni.xyz

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