Tell us about yourself?
Tazeen: I was passionate about computers from a very young age and that’s why I chose to become a Computer Science Engineer.
After graduating, I worked in Corporate for about 2 years before co-founding Gavel Legal with my college roommate. Building Gavel Legal has been the most liberating experience for me. It was only after I founded Gavel Legal that I found myself and my true calling.
I’m a first generation entrepreneur. My parents were apprehensive about me starting my own company which is why I hid the fact that I had founded my startup from them until it started generating revenue! I’ve realised that I’m in my element when I’m on the business side of things.
My friends often tell me that I’m good at negotiating. I love discussing ideas that bring out interesting solutions to problems.
I’m guilty of being a couch potato and binge watching too many shows on Netflix. I enjoy baking. However, I’m not so good at it. You can say that only I can eat the cakes that I bake! I also enjoy reading and I try to squeeze in a few minutes to meditate every day.
You can hit me up if you have interesting ideas to share at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tazeen-ajmal-294849157
Sarvpriya: I am a first generation entrepreneur too. I took up IT in my undergrad because I was deeply fascinated with the applications of technology in modern life.
When I decided to begin my entrepreneurial journey, people asked me if I listened to my head or my heart because it was impractical to take such a risk.
I told them that I have finally decided to use my head to follow my heart.
To have the privilege of using my intelligence in building my dreams and watching my ideas translate into reality has helped me break my mental shackles and made me believe that anything is possible if you can muster the courage to dream bigger.
I also enjoy talking to people. I can hold a conversation on any topic with absolutely anyone. I think it’s because I am genuinely interested in what people have to say.
My energy for conversations is inexhaustible and I have realised that it has also helped me a great deal in my career. I love having interesting conversations, so hit me up at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarvpriya-srivastava Together, we (Tazeen & Sarvpriya) have built Gavel Legal which is on the mission of building the future of the legal marketplace and transforming the legal experience in India.
We are an online platform that facilitates instant and scheduled consultations with verified lawyers, for affordable prices based on time brackets.
Lawyers can freelance on our portal and take their career to the next level. We also leverage our digital presence to improve legal literacy in India by creating awareness on citizen’s rights and obligations.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
As first generation entrepreneurs from middle class families, we had a lot of mental barriers that we needed to break before we could even imagine starting our own business. Our greatest lesson is, take the leap of faith.
You will never be completely ready if you wait for the right time. The best school for every entrepreneur is their own business.
Another important lesson that we learnt was patience. We were extremely driven to make it as big as possible and as quickly as possible.
This drive made us impatient and we made some short term decisions for the business that did not work out well.
The highs and lows of running a business are extreme and you learn that being patient and staying true to your long term vision are the keys to success.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Honestly, we would not tell ourselves anything. No amount of warning could save us from the mistakes that we were destined to learn from and we are blessed to have learnt from so many.
We would not trade those lessons for minor successes because they built our character and gave us more clarity on what we are trying to build. Our mistakes have made us who we are today and we really like who we have become.
We have learnt to laugh at our younger naive selves and also applaud them for the conviction with which they believed in themselves. Had they not had the courage to be so unwise and yet so bold, they would not have started this business that changed our lives.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
There is no strategy for balancing work and personal life. It comes from an inherent belief that the people in your life are more important than any material gains or successes.
Our passion for our business is important too but it is with the love and support of our family and friends that we are able to pursue this passion.
As long as we find ways to make them feel loved and supported too, we will never have any imbalances. And that is not so hard, to be honest. It happens naturally when you genuinely care.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
It was our shared experience at college that influenced the conception of Gavel Legal. We had some issues with our rented flat and we urgently needed the guidance of a lawyer but most lawyers that we found via Google were fake or had no contact numbers and one of them even duped us.
In an era when every major and minor service was easily accessible online, legal services were not.
We did not have the courage to build Gavel at that point and we assumed that someone would come up with a service that becomes the go-to place for anyone who needed legal assistance but nothing significant came up.
That is when we took the plunge and we are glad that we did. Being stuck in the legal quagmires of this country can be extremely stressful and confusing.
It has been very rewarding for us to help thousands of people and we hope to serve millions someday.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
If we have to attribute our success so far to only one thing, it will be the trust we have been able to build on our brand.
During our initial market research we found out that people in India still find lawyers through references and contacts.
We understood the essentiality of the trust factor in the client’s eyes and used our advertising channels to spread legal awareness and educate people on their rights.
Consequently, this made them comfortable in reaching out to us for their legal troubles.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
Yes, we have. We have built trust among people by successfully executing our inbound marketing techniques.
We never explicitly sell our services. We share very useful legal knowledge on social media and through webinars.
People are not aware of their legal rights and obligations and if you break a law, you cannot plead ‘ignorance’. We continue to fill this gap and our strategy has boosted our sales 10x times.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
As a B2C startup, we struggled with cash inflow in the beginning because the ticket size was small and it takes time to build businesses of volume.
This is when we started to build a very assorted pool of our B2B clientele. It has helped us to survive on our worst days but we don’t intend to ever completely pivot in that direction.
We started with the vision of making legal services accessible to regular people like you and me. Gavel Legal remains faithful to that vision.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in India and the specific state you are in over other states in India?
The strength of operating in India is that the support system for startups is unprecedented. Moreover, the market for useful technology businesses is booming.
With the rising literacy rates and improved internet penetration, Indian youth are seeking every possible help online.
When it comes to the legal sector in particular, there is a huge knowledge gap in India with no concept of legal first-aid. When people find themselves in the middle of legal quagmires, they don’t know who to turn to.
They anxiously dial up all their contacts to find an answer. This acute pain point makes it advantageous for us to be operating in India.
We had started our operations in Bengaluru, Karnataka. The strength of this state is not just its rich startup ecosystem but also the mindset of its consumers.
People are very open to trying new products and services. If you want to test any futuristic idea, this is the place to be.
What (if any) are some weaknesses of operating your business within India and your state?
The average income of households in India is pretty low which makes it a price sensitive market. People switch to a different product even if it’s just a penny cheaper and thus making the market extremely cut-throat.
The weakness of operating in South India is its rich diversity. All the neighbouring states are very different from each other in terms of language, culture, market etc. This is not the case with North India. Catering to this diversity has been challenging for us.
If you could operate your business in another state in India rather than the State you are in, which state would it be and why?
In hindsight, starting from a Hindi speaking state would have been more beneficial for us since Hindi is the most widely spoken language in India.
If we could do this again we would start our operations in Delhi. It is the national capital and experiences the highest volume of court cases.
Moreover, we could have easily expanded to the neighboring Hindi-speaking states that are also quite populous.
India has an incredibly diverse population. How has the affected your consumer base and business?
Yes, we did face additional challenges due to the diverse population.
Customers prefer to get legal assistance in their own languages. And for legal professionals too, it is easier to express the nuances of the laws to the clients in their native tongue.
On top of the linguistic diversity, we also had to be cognizant of the differing state laws that directly affect people’s lives in India.
Infrastructure is really important to businesses. How have you seen India’s infrastructure improve recently? Do you see new opportunities opening up?
Yes, absolutely! The internet and smartphone penetration is at an all time high. People trust the online ecosystem and have adopted digital payments even in the remotest villages.
Online infrastructure and ease of building an online business have opened up a lot of opportunities recently. At Gavel Legal too, we are building an artificial intelligent assistant that will soon replace all our customer facing roles.
This assistant will give people legal first-aid i.e. guide them in understanding the category in which their case falls, give them knowledge about their rights and obligations related to their issue and also let them know the different routes they can take before connecting them to a suitable lawyer.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
In the next five years, we want to be the name that comes to your mind every time you think of anything related to law or legal services.
We want to build a future where people are not scared of the laws that are meant to protect their rights.
We will bring this vision to fruition by improving India’s legal literacy through our social media channels and also through our services that will soon be AI-enabled and hence much more approachable and economic for an average person.
India has recently imposed some relatively high tariffs. Has this had an impact on your business? Do you support the tariffs?
We operate only in India, so the tariffs have not affected us much. In our experience, the ease of doing business has improved significantly in India.
However, high tax rates and tariffs will be an impediment for businesses that are planning to get into exports.