For episode 4 of Pathfinders, we have Mandeep Manocha of Cashify. Cashify lets customers sell and buy refurbished electronic devices, mostly mobile phones and laptops. Apart from buying directly from users, the company works with several offline and online channels and OEMs such as Xiaomi, OnePlus and Samsung for their exchange programs.

It also works with marketplaces Amazon and Flipkart to ease the process of buying and selling refurbished phones and laptops. They have crossed a monumental revenue milestone of Rs. 1000 crore in a year!

What are the major pivots that you’d had to take at Cashify?

I think one of the major changes that we did in our business was, move to a full stack operation. So when we started, we were not an inventory carrying business, purely a marketplace, but we realized you are leaving a lot of value on the table. 

So, we shifted to a full stack model where we bought devices, refurbished and then are now selling directly to consumer. And I think, over the years, we have built a very significant mode because this is a very difficult thing to do. You're managing three different operations. And it's not a sexy business. It's a very tough business. A lot of moving parts, which the capability that we have built in the last 10 years is what sets us apart, actually. 

So it's not like anybody with deep pockets can come in and do this business overnight. So that's the kind of mode that we've built. So that's one milestone I think from a thought process perspective, we made a significant change. 

The other piece which has changed significantly is our focus on direct to consumer. At least on the selling side, when we sell devices directly to consumers, and we're seeing very interesting trends where a lot of people have shown us their aspirational side of wanting to buy say the latest iPhone or a Galaxy series phone at a much lower price point. And that showcase the aspirational nature of the country. Most of our customers are buying refurbished devices from us are students or people in their first jobs, saving money for six months to buy their first iPhone, wherein they pay part by the savings that they have done and part EMI program that we offer. 

So, I think it's a very interesting journey and I think over the next decade or so, India has a huge potential when it comes to the consumer side story. We're still scratching the surface on consumption and I think I'm very excited on that piece.

Have you faced any near-death experiences in your company?

Well, I think like every founder here in this room, many of us have had near death experiences. There are 2-3 instances that come to my mind. 

The first one was, we were running out of capital and one of our prospective investors pulled out at the last moment. So, we were about to get money, but then it got refused. So that was like really shocking for us, but it was really early, 7-8 years ago. But we scraped through, put our heads down, went back to some of our existing investors and Blume was really helpful in extending some life support and oxygen to us. 

Then, came demonetization, a company which was doling out cash for old devices, now cash does not exist. So, it took a lot of time for us to repurpose our product, our offering, like our name has cash, Cashify means we would buy devices for cash. So, that was an interesting phase. 

Apart from that I remember we burned through a lot of money in 2018 or 19, I think. We were doing a lot of experiments and like any founder, there are so many things that you can do. And you tend to say yes to everything and that is a learning that I've had that, just do a very few things well, rather than doing many things. And we had to raise a bridge round. And that's where some of our investors were very helpful and they extended a hand. So yeah, 2-3 near death experiences.

But I think one thing that I realized that you have to be shameless and just go and ask for support and if you are true in your intent that you're building something for long term, I think people will help you. I've seen that with all our investors and they have been really, really helpful in extending those life support and the moment that we needed it.

How did you get introduced to the Blume team? What was it like?

I think we were initially in touch with Arpit for the longest time, and he had been tracking us for a while. I remember meeting Arpit at the first Chaayos that opened up opposite IIT Delhi. That was his spot that he used to sit every evening. But I think my first meeting with Karthik was in a cab while he was going to the airport and one thing that I've always loved about him is he has this knack of fitting in meetings in like random places or just squeezing in so much during his day. 

My conversation was, he picked me up from Gurgaon and we traveled together till the airport. Our pitch was pretty simple that we are building a platform which will just bridge the gap of people who are changing their gadgets every 2-3 years and a large segment of people who can't afford aspirational products at the price at which they were existing. 

I think more than the pitch or the product, in hindsight, I think Karthik was more interested in who we are as people because I think at an early stage, you are just betting on people not the business. 

We have made so many changes. So I think that was the conversation, who we are, what do we do, that's all.

Part of Pathfinders

Welcome to all our new series, Pathfinders!

We’ll take you through quick conversations with tenured entrepreneurs from Blume’s Fund 1.