How AstroTalk become a Million Dollar Company? How they capture the Indian market.

In 2016, Tim Cook visited India for the first time as Apple’s CEO. The three highlights of his trip were a visit to Siddhi Vinayak temple in Mumbai, a dinner party with Bollywood celebrities and a surprise visit to an IPL match in Kanpur, these were not random, unconnected events. This was a part of a very carefully planned strategy. According to various experts, films, religion, and cricket are the holy trinity, also popularly known as ABC Astrology, Bollywood, & Cricket, which make India’s heartbeat and drive most of the consumption in the country.

Now Bollywood and Cricket have massive economies that have evolved over decades. However, Astrology did not have an organized economy like that until Puneet Gupta and his startup came into the picture. Puneet himself never believed in astrology but he understood the pulse of Indians in a way that no one before him did (this is one of the qualities of an entrepreneur) and today, his startup, Astro Talk controls an 80% of market share in India’s online astrology market. In the ongoing financial year, the company will make 600 crore rupees in revenue and earn a hundred crores in profit.

So how did Puneet do it? What are the challenges of creating a market from scratch and what can we as future entrepreneurs learn from this journey?

In 2011, Puneet was working as a software developer and was earning Rs. 37,000 per month. As a middle-class person, he was very happy with his life and the thought of a starting up a company never stuck in his mind. But this thought of his was however changed when one day he had a big fight with his long-term girlfriend who left him for not being financially well off. Puneet realized that starting up was a good way to get rich and so that’s what he thought of starting something.

He moved to his hometown in Bathinda, Punjab and spent the next seven months working on an idea that never worked out. Puneet was devastated and since he had spent all his savings on his previous startup, he had to get a job again as a developer to earn some money. These were tough times for Puneet, but here he came across a friend who would change his life. This friend of Puneet was a hobbyist astrologer and he predicted that Puneet would start an IT services company. But with a caveat, he said that the company would shut down in two years. This gave Puneet some hope and courage to start up again. But his astrologer friend’s prediction came true.

The company shut down in two years. Puneet was shocked about the accuracy of the prediction and he went back to his friend. After talking to her multiple times, Puneet had a light bulb moment. He realized that the answer was not through the astrology, but actually astrology itself. He carefully understood that astrology is a key part of Indian society and there’s a big business opportunity here and that was the birth of Astrotalk.

Astrotalk 2

While doing his research, Puneet figured out three key insights about this sector.

  1. First and one of the critical was that there were a lot of fake astrologers and customers found it difficult to separate the genuine ones from the pretenders.
  2. Secondly, this market is totally offline and offline players did not have the tech expertise to increase their reach or scale their business efficiently.
  3. And finally,Indians were getting online. Jio had just launched and most Indians now had access to good Internet and a smartphone.

Puneet used these insights to build the first MVP (Minimum Viable Product) of Astrotalk. The idea was to connect astrologers with the users over a 30-minute video call. After this product, Astrotalk saw some potential but he did not see the explosive viral growth that he was expecting. The problem was he was building it for the older generation living in tier-2 and tier-3 cities and most of us would think that this is the right market for an astrology app but this wasn’t the case. In fact, Astrotalk’s biggest demand was from the younger generation in tier-1 cities and this was a surprising fact. Astrotalk also worked as a mental health app disguised as an astrology app for the youth.

In India, mental therapy is most expensive and also a taboo for a large part but astrology is considered as part of our tradition. This knowledge helped the team at Astrotalk to revamp their app and also focus on this young crowd, which eventually helps them to become a crowd picker.

Also, the major change the company made with their first version was to introduce audio calls and chats, as most people or introverts were not comfortable on video talking about their stuff. and finally, instead of a fixed 30-minute model, they made it on a per-minute basis as different people had different requirements. Some could finish their call in five minutes, while others took hours even after these changes, Astrotalk still had to solve for the most important factor, trust.

Astrotalk 3

As we all know, fake astrologers are a very rampant problem in India and if Astrotalk had to win in this space, it had to make sure that people trust the astrologers on its app, to solve this problem, Puneet started a rigorous interview process to onboard astrologers on his app and this wasn’t easy to do. Most astrologers laughed at Puneet’s face, saying things like, we have more experience than your age and the other one said it took Puneet one and a half months to get the first 3 astrologers. But this did not restrict Puneet from his conviction and today they have over 15,000 qualified and trusted astrologers on their platform.

This entire process of learning and making changes to the product took one year for the team, and by the end of 2018, they were on the road to massive growth. So, we have talked about what made Astrotalk different and what drove its growth.

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