INSIDE RB - THE FOUNDERS
A candid interview with the co-founders about the birth and journey of Royal Brothers.
India has become a booming hub for budding entrepreneurs who are tapping into untouched markets of the country. From Narendra Modi's initiative 'Make in India' to new-age web series like 'TVF Pitchers', inspiration to start up businesses has turned the youth of Modern India into an innovative and aspiring generation.
Here is a story of a similar kind, where passion to fulfil dreams triumphed over endless failures and self-doubt. From humble backgrounds, two individuals had the tenacity to achieve something extraordinary. They defied the expectations of society and everyone around them, and now lead one of the fastest growing startups in South India. I had the opportunity to have a candid conversation with them about their journey with Royal Brothers, the brain-child of this duo.
So let's start off with how and when did you two meet each other?
Manjunath: "I’ve known Abhishek since his 3rd Semester in engineering, where I taught him Fluid Mechanics, and I remember the first question I asked to all my students that day, “What do you want to become in the future?”. His answer was what stood out to me the most, because he said he wanted to become an MLA! He was also nicknamed CM by other students for his political aspirations."
It was then that the Professor knew he was different from the other students. He saw Abhishek after that as an individual who wasn't afraid to dream big. Not a lot of youngsters aim for a career in politics at that stage in life, but he did. With his one answer, Abhishek had impressed his professor, and that's how their budding friendship began.
So he was your favourite student I presume?
Manjunath: "Definitely! But not in academics."
Abhishek: "I was passing all my subjects though, and that's what mattered to me."
How did this business idea, Royal Brothers come into picture?
Abhishek: "So sir came up to me a month before my graduation in 2015. He asked me what my plan was post college. My plan was to pursue an MBA degree , but he convinced me otherwise. Eventually, after some more meetups in the college canteen, he shared his idea about starting a company of bike rentals [Here] .
We had already commenced with the business by the time I graduated and kept ZoomCar as our benchmark at the beginning. That's when he said this to me,"
"from today, there is no turning back".
When asked what sets Royal Brothers apart from the others, Abhishek recalls an incident that occurred at the beginning of their business where their determination was tested to it’s limit.
He vividly entails how on that one fateful night, things couldn’t have gotten any better. That night, the true nature of the company’s philosophy came into light - People come first.
Abhishek: “In the beginning, our mission was to serve customers across Bangalore. The city is huge, so we had already set high standards. Initially, whenever we got a customer, we would personally deliver the vehicle to their preferred location.
However, one day the situation got quite messy, that could have costed us our customer’s trust. At Marathahalli location, the pickup-point was a parking lot, so for helmets we had to store them at a nearby bakery! That night, the bakery had closed by the time the customer required a [bike for rent](https://www.royalbrothers.in). The customer, not wanting to take the bike with just a single helmet that we offered, cancelled his booking and left. I was upset with that situation, but I had to do something.
Luckily, out of nowhere, one of our boys showed up at this location. I took this opportunity and used his personal helmet to serve the customer. I called him back and requested him to make a booking again, because I didn’t want to lose the customer; this pleased the customer.
But fate had other plans it seemed.
In the midst of rushing, we ended up giving only one helmet again.
You’d think the customer would have completely lost it, but he didn’t. In fact, he took the bike and said he was pleased with us, because we were determined to serve him no matter what.
We have always wanted to serve customers till they are beyond their expectations. That’s what makes us different.”
What was the most difficult phase of the business you faced?
Manjunath: “Everything was a difficult process at the beginning of the business. Since we are first generation entrepreneurs, learning about the business of bikes for hire [Here] , how to increase sales, etc, were all hurdles that kept piling on. However, even though the journey was surely painful, it was worth going through in the end.
When it came to procuring licenses for example, we knew it may take time, or even be delayed, but we had the help of imminent IAS officer, Mr.P.Ravi Kumar & IPS officer Mr.Balasubramanyan in Andhra, and IPS officer from Kerala, Mr. Ananthakrishnan to our rescue. This was almost a 6-month long process at each location, but we got through it with patience and commitment. Every person we approached in our process has a clean, corrupt-free record."
We continued to talk about how people are an important aspect of the company. This brought the discussion to their relationship as partners, from being former teacher and student. While most people would think such an alliance is difficult to sustain in a corporate environment, the duo think otherwise.
They are aware that just like any other relationship, there will be difference in opinions and conflicts of thought process arising. However, without such conflicts a relationship cannot be stable. What I learned from them is that no matter the difference in their views and actions, at the end of the day these actions and views benefit the company. If either of them ever go astray, the other person will act as a brake and redirect him to the right path.
Abhishek: “He's still my mentor to this day. If I'm ever in doubt, or don't know something, the first person on my mind is him. Whether he knows the answer or not, I take his suggestions and we work together on it no matter what. He's my security net and my support system.”
Seeing Abhishek talk about his professor so lovingly showed how strong their bond was. This showed that no matter the problem, they had each other’s backs. They were truly family to each other. We continued to talk about their moments together and how this bond between them grew stronger with time.
What are the sacrifices that you both made at the start or during the course of the business?
Abhishek: "I'll tell about his sacrifices! Sir got married in 2013, and 2015 is when we started. And within two years of his marriage his schedules became very erratic and long. He used work from 9am to 5pm at RV, and then 5pm to 11pm at RB, so quite long hours. Both of us were working for 13-14 hours everyday for 6 months, because that's how long we were renting out the bikes. To have that kind of schedule would definitely take a toll on anyone’s marriage, but all is well now. "
Manjunath: "Yes, as he said, we barely spent any time with our families, and from morning till the time we went to bed, the first and last thing we did was check our phones for notifications, emails from customers, attending calls, etc.
With Abhishek, he too gave up many things to make this company successful. He declined an MBA offer from a very prestigious international university, and got into multiple disagreements with his parents. But with time, everyone around us saw the potentiality of this endeavour. Establishing the company is like bringing up a child, it's a tough task and requires our complete focus."
One last question, where do you see the company going in the next few years?
Manjunath: "So we'd like to connect the company to everything related to transportation. We want the name Royal Brothers to become a household brand, worldwide. We hope by the end of 2020, we are the largest, international motorbike rental company there is in the world. We are already growing quite fast within India, so this will eventually happen for sure. We want people to be able to rent a bike [Here] with the utmost convenience and simplicity.”
Mr. Manjunath wanted to give one last advice before we were done. He wants to let aspiring entrepreneurs know that starting a business is the easy part, but to face the obstacles ahead is the difficult part. Nonetheless, one should not give up no matter how impossible the situation may seem to overcome. If you don’t you’ll only regret it dearly, and that is far worse than the problems you face now.
And so we can all learn that to fulfill one's dreams, we only need passion, dedication and perseverance. Did that inspire you? For more information about the company and the people behind it, check out our website.
- All images are taken by our in-house photographer.