Building A Service Marketplace In Bangladesh: An Interview With Faisal Ahmed, Founder, AppointMe

Building A Service Marketplace In Bangladesh: An Interview With Faisal Ahmed, Founder, AppointMe

Co-founder and CEO of Online Service Marketplace startup AppointMe, Faisal Ahmed, reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, talks about AppointMe, how AppointMe came into being, how AppointMe operates, its business model and product details, the state of AppointMe’s business today, its ambition going forward, shares his thoughts on the challenges of being a founder, reflects on the importance of positive thinking and having a bias towards action and much more.

Future Startup

Could you please tell us about your background and elaborate your path to entrepreneurship?

Faisal Ahmed

I started my career as a telemarketing executive in an international call center in 2008. After that, I worked for different call centers until 2010. Then I started working in different marketplaces like oDesk (Currently Upwork), PPH and Freelancer.com and worked with 100+ clients and handled their sales and acquisition departments. During this period, luckily I had the opportunity to work USA-based businesses such as LivingSocial and Handy. Handy is much more similar to what we do in AppointMe. In between, I have worked with Genex Infosys Ltd. as an Operation Manager for around 2 years.

I originally came up with the idea of AppointMe in 2016. But there was no proof of concept in our market at the time, which slowed me down a little bit. I waited for a couple of years, studied the market, worked with investors and prepared myself as a founder to run a business like AppointMe.

Future Startup

When and how did you get started with AppointMe? What motivated you to start AppointMe?

Faisal Ahmed

As I mentioned earlier, the idea first came to my mind ion 2016 when I was working for Handy, a US-based service marketplace. I took some time to understand the market. Sheba started their pilot around this period. We started our pilot on April 16, 2018, with a Facebook page.

See, it is a challenge for urban people to hire house help and maids when they need with proper verification both for security and skills. There are many challenges that come with hiring house help or a plumber. We thought that this is a challenge that requires a solution. That’s how AppointMe came into being.

Future Startup

What went into building the initial operation of AppointMe? How did you put together initial investment and other things to get started? Please walk us through what the first few months of your journey were like and the challenges you faced.

Faisal Ahmed

I have been lucky to find my co-founders who I know for a long time and we have experience working in the same industry. It is hard to build a good team and we have been able to do that. I and Musnad bhai belong to the same industry and we have known each other for years.

We essentially started as a bootstrapped company. We invested a small amount from our own pockets to develop the MVP and to run the pilot. We eventually went to raise investment after the success of our pilot after November 2018.

The first few months were tough. We started a scrappy startup with limited resources. The major challenge we faced was with fulfilling the demand. We received a huge demand for our housemaid service from day one and it was a difficult ride to meet the demands. In fact, we had to stop taking new orders for a while. But that challenge helped me to grow and manage pressures better.

Currently, things are pretty smooth after operating for 18 months. We are working to bring awesome services to our users.

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of AppointMe in terms of services you offer, how many users you have, the size of your business, etc?

Faisal Ahmed

We are a service marketplace where we create a bridge between users and service professionals. We currently offer cleaning & pest Control, beauty salon, appliance repair, electric & plumbing, car rental & caregiver services through AppointMe. We have more than 1500 service professionals and small businesses that offer their services through AppointMe.

Currently, we have over 9000 Users registered and 65% of them are repetitive users.

Future Startup

What is your business model? How have you grown your revenue?

Faisal Ahmed

We have a commission or subscription-based business model, which we charge from service providers when they successfully complete service through AppointMe.

Future Startup

How big is your team?

Faisal Ahmed

We are a team of 23 members and are in the process of hiring new members from January 2020. We have a fun culture where everyone can openly participate and share their ideas and see them come true.

Future Startup

On average how many customers you serve per month? How have you attracted customers and grown AppointMe? Could you tell us about the strategies and activities that you carried out to achieve the growth?

Faisal Ahmed

Currently, we serve around 8000+ orders per month and the number is increasing rapidly. I believe by the end of the first quarter of 2020, we will be serving around 50000 orders per month.

Future Startup

Have you raised investment? If yes, how much have you raised? What are the plans now? What does it take to raise investment? What should founders who are trying to raise investment to be mindful of?

Faisal Ahmed

Yes. We have raised seed investments close to USD $200K from local angel investors. Raising investment is tough, especially when you have strong competition in the market. We have a couple of strong competitions in the market operating right now. We are lucky that we could raise regardless and our investors have put trust in us. I think having competition is useful sometimes because the steps of your competition help you to grow your business.

The prerequisite for raising money is that you need to have a product that is already in the market and you have validated the need. Founders need to present them to the investors in a good way. Investors know where to invest. Your business model, your balance sheet, traction, business plans just play a 5% role while you are looking to raise investments. The rest 95% is you. They will look into how committed, how truthful you are to your business and how big is your dream. Investors invest in founders, not in a business idea. So the important thing is to become a founder who attracts investment.

Future Startup

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced? What are the challenges now?

Faisal Ahmed

The biggest challenge we faced was during the 2018 Eid-ul-Adha when we had so many pre-booked orders that our service professionals couldn’t serve them in time. We struggled but our customer experience team handled it professionally and things eventually got better.

The second challenge we faced was maintaining an inhouse maid team because it was expensive and difficult from a management perspective. Despite that, we had to keep it in the house for around a year because verifying the maid businesses and freelance maids were taking time as we do multi-tier verification before onboarding any professional or agency with us.

Future Startup

How do your sales and marketing work?

Faisal Ahmed

Initially, we started off with Social media campaigns. It helped us to build awareness and acquire users. Of late, our growth has largely been driven by referrals from our old customers.
We are committed to offering excellent service to our customers. We maintain a ZTP (Zero Tolerance Policy) for our customer experience team and that works pretty well.

Future Startup

What are the goals for the future?

Faisal Ahmed

Our goal is to build AppointMe into the biggest marketplace of the Country. I understand it is a lofty goal and will be tough but I think it is not impossible. That’s for the long term.

In the short run, we have been working on a few exciting services and we will launch some of them by March 2020.

Future Startup

What are some lessons you’ve learned?

Faisal Ahmed

There is no alternative to being focused. Be humble and reflective of your mistakes. Always keep your co-workers and investors updated on what and how you are doing. Be transparent.

Future Startup

Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous in the process of building AppointMe?

Faisal Ahmed

Yes. My last job at Genex Infosys was very helpful because there I met Prince Bhai there and learned a tonne. Prince bhai is now one of our Directors and is a mentor to me. He has been of tremendous help throughout our journey and has guided me through all the time and helped me to meet new people.

Future Startup

How do you deal with challenges and stress that come with being a founder?

Faisal Ahmed

Stress is the best friend of a startup entrepreneur. It will never leave you alone and it will force you to think and work harder. However, not all stress is good. Stress that prevents you from making decisions and keep you awake at night is not good. I usually read books, hang out with friends, spend time with my family, and play cricket Saturday morning and sleep for 7 hours straight.

My suggestion for everyone is, never cheat on your sleep time. You need to be healthy to operate well in the long run.

Future Startup

What is your advice for founders who are just starting out?

Faisal Ahmed

Think Positive. Have a bias towards actions. Just start. You will never learn until you start something. So give it a try, make mistakes, learn from it and make things. Never worry about the consequences before starting. Just give it a go.

Building your own business like AppointMe and want to share your story with the world?

You should apply to get featured at Future Startup.

We’re looking for entrepreneurs building profitable businesses and side projects to feature at FS. If you are building one, come share what you’re working on and let us help you to reach out to customers, potential partners and to the world. Simply fill out this form, we will reach out to you.

Not ready to get started on your own yet? No problem. Read our interviews and insights. Learn. Share. Feel free to just browse!

Ruhul Kader, Future Startup Founder

This story is made possible by our friends at Evaly, a leading digital commerce company based in Dhaka. Evaly is one of largest ecommerce companies in Bangladesh and has been changing online shopping in Bangladesh with its disruptive approach to digital commerce, learn more about Evaly here.

We Recommend

Type to Search

See all results
Shares