Commonsense entrepreneurship – a real-life story shared by Ravi Gururaj

My friend Ravi Gururaj shared a story on Facebook recently about his encounter with an Indian entrepreneur called Prasad. The story was fascinating on many respects. You will see from the story that:

  • Prasad was offering a service that was needed
  • Prasad was making it more convenient for the customer
  • Prasad was going above and beyond the call of duty
  • Prasad was offering the service at a cost much lower than what the customer would have paid
  • Prasad ensured that the customer was satisfied with his service
  • Prasad had no fancy tools – he was using whatever he could get to make things happen
  • Prasad demonstrated transparency
  • Prasad demonstrated flexibility

From the story, it is clear that Prasad is an effectual thinker (read this paper on the topic of effectual thinking by Dr. Saras Saraswathy). I am sure Prasad will not be aware of the term, but it doesn’t matter as one does not have to know how electricity works to make the most out of it.

Prasad, in my opinion is practicing what can be called as Commonsense Entrepreneurship. You find a problem, assemble the tools and resources you have to solve it, go after customers wherever they are and provide the service at  a cheaper cost and with added convenience.

Hats off to Prasad for being an example for many others to follow. And, hats off to Ravi Gururaj (who is one of the nicest people I know) for taking a chance on him and for sharing the story.

Here is the story in Ravi’s own words:

Earlier this week my new car bumper was damaged at a traffic intersection by a smartphone distracted motorbike rider who rear-ended me and then proceeded nimbly to speed away … escaping all responsibility for gifting my car bumper with a large, deep, and prominently ugly depression. Very frustrating but a rather commonplace occurrence in the hodgepodge that is Bangalore traffic.

This morning I was driving home from a meeting and about a mile from home, I noticed a chap on a scooter who seemed to be tailing me. When I disembarked from my car … there he was parked on his scooter right behind me. He shouts – “Sir can I speak to you a second?”

Turns out he had noticed the damaged rear bumper on my car a couple miles back and followed me home to offer to fix it. I asked if he was from a car dealer … “No Sir – I am Prasad from Shivam Bumper Repair and a specialist in repairing car bumpers only. Can do it way better and cheaper than your car service center.” He offers to fix the bumper and bring it back to factory state on the spot!

How do you do that I ask? He said without dismantling anything, without any metal tools, without any scratches to the body, and guaranteed to be restored as new! He adds “I don’t even need to open or move your car, Sir! Plus I offer 100% satisfaction – pay me nothing if I fail to deliver as promised.”

I am now getting hooked (I am a sucker for anything that promises to save hassle and time) … the bumper will be fixed real-time, guaranteed back to new, no risk, no scheduling a service call, no need to drive the car to a repair shop and all the attendant wasted time, no insurance claims and deductibles to deal with, etc.

Prasad promises to do nothing that might further damage the car. After all, no point turning a molehill of a problem into some mini-disaster.

I ask what all this will cost … he says “3,000 … that’s a bargain … it will cost you at least 10,000 when you go to the dealer as they will insist on replacing the entire bumper plus all the hassle and time. Also, insurance claims will be involved and your no claim bonus will go for a toss.” Smart sell … he has my value equation down right. But I haggle a bit and we finally agree on Rupees 1,500 for a job done perfectly.

BTW, I have no context if 1,500 is a good or bad deal, but he has done a good job of mentally anchoring me with his initial offer of 3,000 and the concurrent claim that my alternative will cost me 10,000 if I went to the shop.

He gets out his toolbox and swats on the road behind my car. I walk away momentarily to get my phone to capture a “before pic” for the record. When I return, I am aghast to see Prasad holding a live flaming bundle of newspaper to the rear bumper!!!

I yell – “WTH are you doing!!!” He douses the flame out, calms me down, and says “the bumper is mostly fiber and heating the surface helps softens it up so I can easily reshape it back to its original shape, Sir.”

Over the next ten minutes, he taps the bumper from all angles using a wood mallet and the plastic end of his screwdriver. He then polishes the area. Lo and behold the bumper is indistinguishable from the original both visually and to the touch. Very impressive indeed. I pay up in full.

So I am now curious about this Prasad chap and how he operates. He is clear and focused in his approach. He drives around residential areas and in traffic-heavy areas to “spot” new cars with bumper damage. The newer the car the better! He follows the car until stationary to speak to the owner. He only targets new car owners (they are most frustrated with dents, least price sensitive – hence most likely to convert instantly – nice!). He is only interested in relatively small dents/bumps that he can easily fix back to original state (wants to ensure 100% customer satisfaction post his efforts) and where fiber body parts are involved (so his flaming technique will work!). He repairs 6-8 cars per day. Each takes no more than 20-30 mins each so he has plenty of spotting time on hand. He is happy and makes a tidy monthly salary. Has no competition that can provide on-demand doorstep service delivery and at his price band. He needs near zero tools – just old newspaper, a matchbox to set the paper on fire, a small bottle of polish, his wooden mallet, screwdriver and fuel for his scooter. He leaves his number with each new customer since they inevitably call him again for the next inevitable dents that will need fixing!

Way to go Prasad! 👍👏

The question for you is:

What can you learn from this story AND where can you put what you learned into practice?