It seems like yesterday when Bhavin Patel entered our office after raising money from VentureCatalysts. He wanted me to mentor his startup and he must have been very brave (or foolish ) to choose me as a mentor. My mentoring process is probably the hardest thing an early stage venture would have to go through. I love numbers and tend to drill the KPIs in to the memory of the founder through a series of weekly calls and daily follow-ups. To my surprise, Bhavin was ready. He didn’t flinch.
7 months after we started building LenDenClub.com, it has become one of the leading P2P platforms in the country. It is currently growing 25%+ on a month on month basis, is operationally positive and is preparing itself to snatch the numero-uno position in the market with a growth projection of 10 times its current size in the next 12 months. It is moments like these that one asks for! Our journey during the last 7 months has been very interesting.
How’d you do it?
One of the first things Bhavin and I did, was to come up with a list of KPIs that we thought will be relevant to the growth of the business. We put them on an excel sheet and created a chart wherein these numbers were tracked on a Friday to Friday basis and discussed on Mondays over a preset agenda. The objective was to first, understand what is working and what is not and second, let data guide the decisions we were going to make for the next weeks and months ahead of us.
This is much easier said than done.
The founder, working in the business, has a different perspective than the mentor who is working “on” the business. To get each other to see the other’s point of view, especially when both are passionate sales people, makes for a lively and sometimes heated conversation.
One of the first things I remember arguing with Bhavin was about the money spent on Facebook marketing- there were simply not enough conversions, even if the traffic was good. It definitely did not make business sense. I told Bhavin we needed to shut that channel, it was a vanity metric and didn’t make sense for our business. Bhavin was obviously mortified. 80% of the company’s traffic came from Facebook and shutting it off was incomprehensible. We both came up with multiple scenarios on either side of the conversation but eventually, we agreed to reduce spends on Facebook in a phased manner and see what the numbers tell us. We also decided to re-purpose some of these spends to Facebook and SEO/SEM.
So what happened?
3 weeks later Bhavin turned off the Facebook marketing tap (well before our phased plan) as the conversion rates from SEO skyrocketed. Bhavin quickly inferred that spending on SEO was providing better results compared to spending on Facebook, this was the beginning of something huge inside LenDenClub
They were beginning to understand their own numbers!
My ex-boss is a brilliant man and he was not only a great boss, but also an insightful mentor and I remember an immortal business lesson that he gave me:
You either have the numbers or you have a fucking good story!
And that lesson, once internalized by a company, primes them to win half of all the battles. Simply because once you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, you can focus your energies on the forces outside the business.
So week on week, we learnt more from the numbers and strategized on how to overcome the next Everest. Unbeknownst to Bhavin, I gradually moved to weekly to bi-monthly and finally to monthly interactions. By now, the team was focused on analyzing their numbers and making decisions by themselves that would support their hyper growth.
What LenDenClub required in their early stages, was a mentor who could dispassionately help drive hard business decisions and not a crutch. Once the team learnt to do it themselves, I decided to step back. Today, Bhavin still comes to me for advice, but it is a joy to see him answer and resolve some of the issues himself and make decisions backed by data. So as the weekly numbers started coming on schedule, I started to come up with reasons not be involved. Bhavin, who already knew the answers when pointed out, started to teach himself how to ask questions about the business and let data drive business decisions.
The results have been stellar!
To say that the results were stellar is an understatement. With Bhavin’s growth as a founder coupled with the surge in his confidence, numbers started to grow exponentially (numbers tell a story!). The number of loans disbursed through LenDenClub grew from 2 a week to 2 a day and it is now on the path to grow that to 20 a day. What has been the total investment that was utilized to get to this point? Rs.35 lakhs ($50,000). Revenues as a percentage of loan books have steadily increased as borrowers and lenders are increasingly promoting and referring new business to LenDenClub.com, thereby reducing customer acquisition costs.
What more? this includes spending on technology, growing the team 4x and marketing spends on video testimonials. Also, PR and legal spends helped LenDenClub.com become one of the leading voices at the RBI on P2P regulations.
So where to now?
As with any business that is going through hyper growth, such as LenDenClub.com, there are new challenges each day and Bhavin armed with his complete understanding of “what is the difference that makes the difference” is executing a plan to grow another 8x from today. He is sure that he can achieve these numbers. I am doubly sure.
LenDenClub is a leading P2P lending platform in India, focusing on providing loans to salaried individuals and women entrepreneurs. Founded by Bhavin Patel and Dipesh Karki, this automated lending platform disburses loan within 3 working days. LenDenClub raised seed funds from VentureCatalysts in April 2016.