The Business Showcase :D

posted 10 Mar 2017, 07:39 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

So this is the last time Im blogging here, and Its giving me some bitter-sweet feelings. Im not gonna lie, the blogging part for ET9135 is probably the only boring part about it, but it does help ensure you sit down, take time to reflect, and write it down to maybe help other teams down the road. 
The business showcase on the 8th of March was also something like that. We'd gone down to NTC and were talking to a lot of MiE Batch 44 students as well as random people who'd come in just like that!
After this, we also went on to give our business presentation to all our batchmates as well as Adrian, Roderick, and the rest of batch 44. It was good to notice that we'd made the highest profit amongst all the teams (okay okay I know it wasn't a competition, but still :P ). Everyone we spoke to had given us such great responses for our business plan being super innovative and us being the ONLY player in that industry- it really was heartening to get that sort of support from random people! The showcase went great. Like always, we went in without practicing even once, and we were super smooth while presenting- One of the many many things that MiE has taught us :D

And well with that I guess its a wrap! MiE has given us so so much, and I hope to continue inspiring people to take up entrepreneurship. I do plan to expand Dorm Buddy to other universities, and I have an expansion plan in mind that would involve getting other people from other uni's on board as well- so that would be my way of getting them into entrepreneurship :)
The journey is all about give and take, and I've taken a lot from this course and the minor in general. I guess now its time to give back to others, as well as use all I've learnt to make my mentors proud of the person they inspired :D

Future Policies

posted 5 Mar 2017, 01:38 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

Since most of what we had to do for this semester has been done, I realized we now need to learn from our mistakes made and improve on the future Standard Operating Procedures. 
Changes need to be made to the future delivery systems- infact we might not even be doing deliveries for all cases. Using past data, it would probably make most sense to divide out the sales period deliveries into three segments- High Sales Days, Booth Sales Day and Low Sales Days. 
High sales days occur +-3 days around the booth sales date, as that is when most exchange students arrive in Singapore . On these days we would prefer to do a collection point system instead of a delivery system all around campus. 
Also, during the booth sales we would keep enough stock on hand to meet demand, as well as hire extra help to manage the hugedemand we would face on that day to reduce waiting times for students on that day. This would be the only day we would be doing cash sales as well, and we would stop our "Deposit Online and Cash on Delivery" option. 
After these two types of days, we would move back into doing door to door deliveries, as it would make the manpower cost more economical as we would have maybe just 4 deliveries to be done over a 8 hour period, instead of having like 20 deliveries over a 6 hour period. 

Apart from deliveries, we also need to work out a more efficient collection policy, which would need to be implemented this semester itself. This would probably be done such that we would ask all our customers to fill in a certain preferred collection date, and use all that information to figure out where our collection point(s) should be, as well as on which days we'd be better off with a door to door collection instead of employing 5 hours worth of manpower at a collection point to get just 4 collections. 

And after these thoughts, we need to think of how customers would react to being treated with different policies, since our technique while optimizing the deliveries and collections on our end, creates variability of service received for the same price by our customers. 

Behind the Scenes

posted 15 Feb 2017, 00:46 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

I was in India from the 4th of December to the 15th of January, so that meant I couldn't really be involved in the delivery and physical incentory management aspect of the business. 
So Pratyum and I took it upon ourselves to do everything we could remotely. 
I took over all the financial and accounting parts of the business (I was doing most of it anyway even before December, but the volume of transactions literally went 10x during December-January), as well as inventory management, order recording, and customer liaison via the admin email account. 
I am proud to say that today less than 1% of our inventory is mismatched, and our accounts are maintained with perfection. Our facebook page has a response time of 9 minutes, and our admin email response time is less than 2 hours. All our orders were fulfilled on time, and we had just one order which had a slight hiccup due to mis-packaging. 
All this, with no automation or optimization, just excel sheets. 

Financial and Accounting: I maintain excel sheets wherein I record journal entries and general ledgers. All transactions are first entered into our journals, then sorted into appropriate general ledgers as required. The general ledgers are automated to give us our total sales revenue, expenses, cash in hand, depreciation, etc. However, after doing this for so long, I've come to the realization that we need to move on to an accounting software that can atleast do the posting from the journals to the ledgers on its own. We also need to incorporate auto accounting from the website itself, so that when a sale is made, we directly record it into our deposit, rental income, cash in Stripe/Paypal Account, and transaction fees. All this was currently being done manually.

Inventory Management: Since I was in India, my room was available for the team to store our stocks, and basically became our rent free self managed fulfillment centre. However, the sheer number of stocks we had made it difficult to manually keep track of. So using the Assets Purchased from the accounts, and by keeping track of the orders, I would allocate ordered items to customers, so that we would know well before time when we needed to buy more inventory (since we were working with the Just in Time inventory model for 7 our of 12 of our products). Once a week I would reconcile my numbers with the actual stock in hand with Sheng Jie's or Rinie's help. The decision to increase inventory from 60 sets to 100 sets was proposed by Rinie, and then carried out by me as well- basically calculating using regression and estimation how much we would sell different products and combos. 
For the inventory management, the only problem we really had was with the overwhelming demand for the routers. Initially, we had planned to keep 25 routers. They sold our SO QUICK, that we had to stock out for a week. Later when we restocked, we sold out AGAIN. And this happened one more time. Eventually, we bought 58 routers and rented out 57!!

Order Recording: Every order that was successfully paid for sent an email to the admin email account. Since I was incharge of that, I was logged into the account on my phone. Every time we got an order, it was my duty to enter it into our "Orders"excel sheet which I had made, which had the customer details, delivery date and time, order, and payment details. Also, I would check where the payment had come in from- Stripe or PayPal, or if it was a Cash on Delivery order. Although this job seemed easy enough, trust me, it was tedious as hell. Even after Pratyum created the online order management system, it wasn't good enough since by then we had started taking a lot of orders via phone as well for some customers who didn't quite get our user interface. There was also the issue of people ordering say, a basic combo, then later emailing us asking for a router to be added into the order (Because if they ordered it online, it would be an order less than $40, so they would have to pay delivery fees for it. This is also one of the things we need to work on for the next rental cycle- Allowing people to add things into their order without paying delivery fees). 

Customer Liaison: Since ALL of our customers were exchange students, they didn't have local contact numbers or their room numbers. So EVERY customer had to be emailed 24 hours before their delivery time, to ask how we should contact them. Some had WhatsApp numbers, some of them had taken local numbers, but we didn't have this information until I emailed them to check. It came to a point where I was spending 2 hours a day just emailing people. When we stocked out of routers, we had to defer router deliveries- So I emailed all required customers. When we bought more stock, we emailed everyone who had indicated interest during the booth sales telling them we had them, and all those orders were done manually via the emails, not online, since we decided not to charge them delivery fees as it was a issue on our side. Customer liaison was not at all as easy as I had expected it to be when I took it upon myself!

Overall Management: Looking at possible issues, pre-empting them before they happened, managing the partners when they were physically, mentally or emotionally drained after the crazy amount of work we all had to put in during 1-14th Jan, expansion plans for the business, etc. Most of the business or policy related decisions are initiated by Rinie or I, and then the rest of the group gives their views on them and we decide. This might seem simple enough, but there are hours and hours of thought and discussion that Rinie and I put into them before we bring it up infront of the team. A lot of our policies are very smartly designed- to a point where I would rather not talk about it and instead lose out on some of the MiE marks to keep our competitive advantage!

Last but not the least: Why this blog is SO LONG and why it came after so long. We didn't want to open our backened operations to the public- our buying prices, our margins, our delivery optimization processes, all the thought behind each policy, etc, because lets face it- the threat of new entrants into our line of work is very high. We need to protect what we can about our processes, and expand to other universities before competition kicks in, so that we can set up barriers to entry by establishing relationships with Universities. It wasn't laziness or a lack of work being done on my part (which I tried to expand on in this post) that stopped me from blogging. It was this thought. What suddenly changed? Our second consultation with Adrian and Roderick. They told us that simply telling them about who did what and how and when wasn't gonna be enough. So here I am, finally finished with all my accounting and inventory reconciliation and expansion planning, and taking out time to record the crazy and rewarding journey that Dorm Buddy has been. 


posted 19 Dec 2016, 23:26 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

During the Business Plan Presentation, we got compliments for our intiative to brand ourselves using our logo and colour scheme. So we decided to take it a step further and get personalized bags made for our deliveries, and get Dorm Buddy tshirts made for everyone to wear when making deliveries/meeting customers, etc. So, we got these made:

Deciding on the colour of the tshirt was easy enough. Navy Blue is like an all team favourite for us :P Siya took initiative to find suppliers for it and design it and order it. 
QianHui found the bag supplier on taobao, Rinie Siya and QianHui edited the logo to make it a single  colour, but we still managed to keep it to the yellow-blue colour scheme :D

However, we also found that our logo designer on Fiverr wasnt exactly very creative or original when we saw this advertisement:
Now this is something we dont quite know how to deal with, but I guess if need be we'll have to come up with a new design later when we expand, or trademark this logo and go with it instead. 
And I thought I would never require the Intellectual Property lesson taught during MiE..... :/

Checking for Suppliers!

posted 19 Dec 2016, 23:09 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

So although we have a rough distribution of work within our group (Siya for customer relations and procurement; Sheng Jie and Qian Hui for procurement, Wei Ren for legal; Pratyum for website; Rinie for marketing and myself for overall management and accounting), since we're a start-up all of us pitch in whenever and wherever possible. Sometimes Pratyum handles the legal stuff with PayPal, sometimes Wei Ren does accounting, sometimes Siya does marketing, sometimes Qian Hui designs posters, etc. 
So after most of the suppliers had already been narrowed down, Siya and I again went to check Mustafa and SimLim to leave no stone unturned in our hunt for the best rates. but sadly enough we realized it didnt make much sense since literally EVERYTHING at mustafa was overpriced as compared to the other suppliers we had found. 
So then we headed over to SimLim to find universal extension cords, because we were still undecided on that product (Doesnt exactly make much sense to have Singapore 3 pin extension cords for students whose electronics are in a different plug). But we couldnt find anything on that either, but we did find pretty cheap ethernet cables, incase our current plan of making them ourselves from the wire and connectors didnt work out .
Also, after this trip, we realized our searching was getting a bit too extensive and the manpower and time cost of it was getting too high, so we decided to zero in on our current list of suppliers, unless something unforeseeable came up. 

So, now we were getting blankets, DormBuddy branded bags and plug adapters from China via taobao, bedsheet sets from Johor Bahru, routers from India, making the ethernet cables ourselves, and sourcing everything else from Singapore itself to have just in time inventory. 
Phew, zeroing in on those took a LOT of work!

Business Plan Presentation

posted 19 Dec 2016, 22:40 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

Preparing the Business Plan for the MiE presentation was actually very helpful for us as it forced us to set a deadline and get to work and do the basics that were needed. For example for me, I'm incharge of work allocation and overall management and Finances and Accounting. So it made me factor in stuff like salaries, next 3 years forecasted balance sheet and income statement, other expenses, etc. It helped us realize that in the long run if we were to continue with this and actually employ people to do the delivery and stuff for us, it wouldn't leave too much return for us, also since its divided 7 ways. So we realized that in Feb-March 2017, after our first run, we might have to look into the prices and strategies again. 
Definitely since this is going to be our first rental run in Semester 2, we will be incurring higher than normal customer acquisition costs, partnership-setting up costs, more internal decisions, more people/companies/institutions/suppliers to coordinate with, but in the long run it will reduce. We just need to find the correct expansion strategy and be able to streamline operations in the long run to make this viable as a company, and not just an MiE Business Project. 
And that was similar to the feedback we got after the presentation. "It will be interesting to see how you streamline your operations now that you seem to have the other things in place". And thats where we started to focus hence. 

 PS: For some reason Sheng Jie was the only one who knew where the camera was. The rest of us were busy presenting :P

361 Degree Thinking

posted 19 Dec 2016, 22:06 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

So coming up with rules and policies and prices and products and combos wasn't exactly as easy as I had imagines it to be.  The sheer number of things to consider was amazing. 
Coming up with the policies like 24 hour delivery, full refunds incase of any problem, free delivery, etc etc sounded brilliant for customer acquisition strategies, but then when later I looked into the financial and manpower costs related to the same we had to drop the ideas later. Delivery became 9am to 9pm; refunds were limited to the rental amount only and not the deposit as we agreed we were doing Just in Time inventory and would only buy stuff when the customer ordered it, so full refund would become unfeasible for us; and free delivery changed to $40 or above is free delivery, because we realized we cant keep making trips to delivery like a $2 plug adapter every single time. 
Thinking about how to reduce transaction costs for the customer was very important though, so we decided to have PayPal as well as Card payments acceptable during order; as well as giving people the option to pay only the deposit upfront and the rest Cash on Delivery, or the full deposit+rental amount upfront. 
Since we are a start-up, we need to do all we can to increase the customer's perception of our value. Value is basically benefits/costs. So we had to reduce all the non-monetary costs the customer that we could. And thats what we did. 
Coming up with the Terms of Deposit Refund; Rental Agreement to be signed upon delivery of the items; FAQ's for any doubts the customers might have were very time and mind consuming, but they were necessary to make us look and be more legitimate. And we did it! :D
These can be found on our website now, at https://dormbuddy.sg/ 
Do go check it out!

DormBuddy is born!

posted 19 Oct 2016, 07:47 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

We have a rental company. We want to be fast. Ugh! RentalExpress!
We want to be easy. We want to rent. Ugh! EZRent
We're in NTU. We wanna rent to you. Ugh! Rent2U

Ugh. That was the response to most of the names we came up with. No matter how trivial and easy it may sound, coming up with a name for a company isn't easy AT ALL. Especially when you have 7 "parents" who want just the best for their "baby". 

We had over 25 names suggested. We had 2 rounds of voting, with weighted averages to choose your 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice. And we still couldn't decide.

Finally, I realized this was because all of us had different thinking processes and different reasons for our choices. So I decided we all needed to meet up and finalize this. 

We needed a name that was easy to spell. You can't name it EZRent, because people who hear about it will search for EasyRent instead. 
We don't know how far this company can actually go, since it has such immense expansion potential, so having "Rent" in the name wasn't exactly the smartest idea. What if we started to offer buying options later on, or services?
We decided that come what may, we wanted to keep serving students living in Halls, or Hostels, or Dorms. And we wanted to truly help them. We had a target market.

We have a Dorm. We are a Buddy. Ugh! DormBuddy!!

And finally, we decided to name our baby DormBuddy. And all the parents were happy as could be :D

Products and Prices!

posted 19 Oct 2016, 07:44 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

So following up from my previous post, we had a LOT to do! So we had a marathon meeting of close to 5 hours to finalize on our products after conducting interviews and surveys with our target audience. 

We decided on the product catalog pretty fast, but wow was pricing hard!

Everyone had their own views about pricing, and everyone was right! We can't price it too low, else we won't make profits. We can't price it above the retail price, else why would people even rent? We need to make up for our costs, but what if we don't even continue with this business after the Minor? That would mean massive amounts of money stuck in bed sheets and laundry baskets!

We needed a middle ground, and we found a temporary one eventually, after like 5 rounds of voting and changing the prices of our products!

Now we needed to make combo's to make them cheaper. This was the same ball game all over again. Do we sell pillow covers with pillows, or with bedsheets? What are the most important things to include in the basic package? How much savings from the individual prices would entice the customers?

We just talked and talked and talked. Eventually, everything we decided on that day would change. But it was a good experience to see everyone feel like this was their baby, their startup. Not like any normal class presentation, where groupmates are usually like "Okay lah, also can". We had a feeling of ownership and belonging. And that's why no matter how tiresome or long the discussions were, they never got frustrating :)

Dont Just Copy Paste!

posted 19 Oct 2016, 07:40 by BAHETY DHANRAJ

So we looked into the costs- human and financial for providing laundry services and rental services in NTU. We thought of washing them ourselves, and even did a cost analysis of how much detergent we would use, how many bed sheets we could fit in one washing machine, etc etcEventually, we realized this was way too human intensive, and would probably end up being too costly for our target customers to even consider us.

So we started to tweak the idea. No laundry services, just rentals of Linens and pillows.

But that seemed too little. We could do better. So we started thinking of other things exchange students would need. Ethernet cables, plug adapters, dustbins, laundry baskets, hangers, brooms and dustpans, routers, extension cords, fridges, fans, calculators, cycles, the list just went on and on. 

Right, we'd gotten ahead of ourselves. The investment needed to get so many things off the ground was massive, and with such a short timeline to implement it all, we had to cut short. And so we did. No fridges, fans, calculators or cycles. Those would need to be our expansion plans. 

Now that we had some basic stuff decided, we just needed to find suppliers, decide on prices, payment options, and operations plans. Easy right?

Oh, did I mention, we didn't even have a name yet :P

But that's a story for another time!

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