A 1965 American fantasy sitcom seems more likely to inspire giggles and groans, not business ideas. But that’s how it worked out for Akhilesh Pandya. Growing up in the early days of cable TV in India, Pandya was hooked to I Dream of Jeannie, where a 2,000-year-old genie appears out of a bottle to magically perform difficult tasks in — literally — the blink of an eye. Finishing his homework and arranging his schedule to ensure he didn’t miss a single episode was second nature to the young Pandya. So much so that when, a couple of decades later, he decided to turn entrepreneur, one of his first ideas centred on Jeannie. “Jeannie would try to make her master’s worries vanish. I wanted to offer something similar — an online version who will handle your tasks with care and take away worries,” says the 37-year-old first-generation entrepreneur.
The result was GenieOnCall, which started off in January 2012 as a virtual assistant but has quickly expanded to become a “lifestyle management assistant”, offering help in almost everything — from paying utility bills and organising birthday parties to making a presentation, software and web development to architecture and interior design. Nearly 18 months later, Pandya’s start-up will close FY14 with a projected ₹50 lakh in revenue, has close to 400 clients and is expanding out of its home base in Agra, to the National Capital Region (NCR).
The accidental entrepreneur
Pandya’s brush with business is pure happenstance. A native of Agra, he moved out of the city after graduating in economics. More than a decade later, he quit his job with OKS Group, a knowledge process outsourcing company, and returned to Agra when his mother took ill. Having handled the Dun & Bradstreet account while at OKS, he continued his association with the information company by taking on consulting assignments across geographies. “But I was travelling all the time, which defeated the purpose for which I had moved back,” Pandya recalls. That’s when the idea of working for himself struck. “Everyone needs help some time or the other, but they don’t always get it. Wouldn’t a portal where all services are provided make life easier and help people get a lot more done?” Pandya explains the rationale.
You don’t want to be left behind. Do you?
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