Guess what? – he did. After a bit more than a year of doing the business the Doorsteps.co.uk was recently valued at 12 million pounds and has an average rating of 9.5. Apart from thorough research, reading and studying, Akshay believes what made him succeed where many others failed, was the human touch factor. He hired moms who needed an extra money to work as local agents in areas around London, because the maternal instinct has proven to drive a sense of empathy and understanding towards clients. Top customer service followed by the lowest price won the game.
This inspiring fellow left the studies at prestigious Oxford University so he can run his business and on the top of that, he takes care of dad Kaushik and mom Renuka – both born deaf. He will consider himself successful if his business continues to grow, leaving a life changing legacy to others.
Meet the Britain’s youngest millionaire.
Dear Akshay, let’s not talk about work in the beginning...Having in mind you are in the office seven days a week and you still find time for giving an interview and relaxing, when exactly do you have a break and how do you like spending your time off?
I like to spend time playing football, or more so, tennis, outside of working hours ( when I get time to leave the office). Cycling to and from work is useful sometimes, as exercise can be a good stress reliever. Breaks come sometimes in evening and wekeends, but we tend to work 7 days a week! Other than that, eccentric bars and attending interesting attractions in London too.
You were only 17 when you were about to set the real estate business. Who helped you the most to make this happen? Also, did you open the call centre that answered the calls while you were at school, right away or after the business was starting to gain momentum?
At the time, I had a passion for *disruptive technologies and the archaic nature of estate agents and the real estate market. In doing reading, to prepare for my Economics degree, it became increasingly apparent that the market was in a vertical format and remained disparately undisrupted. The call centre started outsourced, and begun in house once we gained momentum. I had one very strange goal at 17 – to capitalise on an opportunity I thought hundreds would have already capitalised on.
Twelve people work in your call centre, plus the mums that operate as agents for local areas. If we have in mind all of them were there with you from the very beginning, how did you manage to pay all these people while earning only 99 pounds per sale? (that is more than 20 salaries)
Originally, it was only me. I started off, after school had ended, by knocking on doors to people, all day, everyday – to convince them to use Doorsteps. It was not easy! I would work very very carefully. For example, work with commission only door to door partners, as well as telesales staff. For technology, I would work with freelancers and remember, “cash flow is king”! The business model and the efficiency practiced, allowed me to hire people later on. Further investment via crowdfunding was conducive to this expansive effort too.
An idea that you came up to, to sell properties for the price 10 to 50 times lower than the usual market price, in a way, sounds too good to work. Surely someone before you, tried or thought of doing the same at some point, but probably gave up, because it was too risky. Before setting up the business model, have you taken a professional advice from any real estate agent, or it was your decision only?
I attended events, and met with business people within the family and network, wherever I could find them. Again, the fact I did not have the baggage of another real estate professional, I found in my advantage, as I was able to enter the market with a fresh perspective, allowing me then to disrupt the market in turn.
The books I read, also taught me how to control operations tightly and this was critical to our survival and future growth now. I’m sure people had tried it before, but they were missing “the human touch”, which I, after market research, found vital to offer a fantastic customer service. The incredulous combination between lowest prices and top service, I felt would be the way forward and this is still what we root for.
Who trained your staff in the beginning and how much time did it take from the initial idea until the first working day? (when the website was done and all the people ready to start working)
As mentioned, it started with just me, as a one man band. I handled all matters of the supply chain and all issues, customer service, sales, admin and so on. In this sense, the company became my life and I found it hard to outgrow the one man team and divide the labour. However, I slowly grew staff base and moved offices more and more and improved my training process, as we went along for the customer service staff, and took it from there.
Since you offer a full service to your clients, does that include the legal services as well? If so, how did you manage to find proper solicitors you can trust?
We do indeed; we want to be a “one stop shop” for selling your home. To offer trustworthy and high level service solicitors, we partnered with the UK’s largest conveyancers to do this.
Isabella, Maria, Liz and Lucy are just some of many mums that work for you as part-time agents, showing properties to potential buyers. You said once you picked them for many good reasons, but one of them was also the fact people simply „trust mums“. Interesting way of thinking, where does it come from?
Came from generation of my own parents, and the premise behind Uber really. The combination of the two mean you have a well constructed work force of flexible, professionals (i.e mums or dads), as well as the fact that the maternal instinct has often proven to drive a sense of empathy and understanding towards customers, that we look for, as do the public.
What was the biggest obstacle while developing your business?
The largest obstacle I would say, is inoculating fears that came my way. Two included my age. My age was a challenge for my counterparts to overcome, whether it be staff, customers or investors! Secondly, viability as a business model. People thought building a well branded, clean online proposition at £99 per home, to take the UK market by storm was impossible. By growing at our current pace, we have attempted to quell both fears and get on with focussing our efforts on really serving customers and expanding.
You are a great example of how one does not need University diploma to be successful. Still, if your business continues making millions, will you use the chance to study economics at Oxford University, something that was put on hold for now?
I always wanted to go to University for the experience, personal development and social aspect. If I find a window in the future, I would potentially return, with the aim of an edifying experience in mind, as opposed to with the sole aim of securing a job. This way, I hope to enjoy it as much as I can, if I do attend.
After about a year of selling properties for 99 pounds, today your firm is worth 12 million pounds. Do you get offers from big investors and is there a chance for some major cooperation in the future?
For sure, the appetite and level of belief in our vision, has been tremendous. We are now raising a £5m fundraising round to strengthen the expansion of the business further over the next 18-24 months and hopefully become No.1 agent in Britain.
You offer two packages for clients, the £99 one and the £199 one. Which one is being sold more and how many homes do you sell per month, on average?
At the moment, we sell about half and half. We cater to a huge range of needs and we will continue to do so. In terms of selling, we sell around 100 homes per month, at least. This is approximately £25-30m worth per month, thus saving homeowners up to £1m in fees per month!
Describe success in 3 words?
I see steps to success via vision, belief and hard work while success itself for me is legacy, in this case creating a life changing service or brand and the last thing – freedom!
*A technology that significantly alters the way that businesses operate. A disruptive technology may force companies to alter the way that they approach their business, risk losing market share or risk becoming irrelevant. A disruptive technology does not have to be better than those currently offered by the market, and may damage the overall market to some extent by existing. It could, for example, be significantly cheaper and still provide the desired features.
Photos: Carl Fox