Mohammed Abdul Gafoor, a college student from Kerala's Malappuram district, recently won this year’s state-level Global Student Entrepreneur Award (GSEA) instituted by the Kerala Chapter of the Entrepreneurs' Organization. The 'studentpreneur' won the prestigious award for the successful business model of his startup 'FIX IT' which he launched in 2020 with a paltry investment of Rs 5,000.
The company which offers almost all household-related services has grown to clock business worth Rs 30 lakh in just two years, Gafoor claims.
Twenty-year-old Gafoor is a second-year BCA student at the SAFI institute of Advanced Study, Vazhayoor, Malappuram.
After winning the state-level prize, Gafoor has made his bid at the regional finals of GSEA held at Visakhapatnam. GSEA is the world’s premier business competition for student entrepreneurs organised by Entrepreneurs' Organisation (EO). The competitions are held in over 50 countries.
The FIX IT story
Gafoor started his venture amid the Covid pandemic and lockdown in July 2020 when people in his locality were struggling to find workers to get jobs like plumbing, gardening and plucking coconuts. Gafoor then made a directory of the people skilled in such jobs and advertised about it in and around Kondotty through some flex boards and short videos. It was such a humble beginning.
The company has now grown up to be an aggregator of household services which is spread over three districts in Kerala – Malappuram, Kozhikode and Palakkad. It employs 72 staff in its three offices and has a wide network of skilled and unskilled labourers. Its services are available in just a phone call.
“We help people hire workers from their own locality and the payments are done on an hourly basis. It is of huge help to people as it is difficult to find people for such works nowadays. Even if you find someone, you often have to pay them a day's wages even for a small work,” Gafoor said.
He said for skilled jobs like wiring and plumbing he only employs authorised workers with necessary licences. Also, a police background check is done before enrolling a worker into the company's network which has over 300 people.
Gafoor said it took some three months for his venture to be stable as people were apprehensive about this new model of hiring workers. The company earns its revenues from commissions on payments.
'FIX IT' also has its expansion plans and it is hoping to launch its services all over the state by switching into an app-based model.
Business in his blood
Entrepreneurship is not entirely new to Gafoor. His father Abdul Gafoor is an NRI-turned-businessman running a power tools and hand tools shop after returning from the Gulf. His mother Kadiumma is a home-maker. He also has three sisters.
The GSEA journey
Gafoor came to know about the GSEA competition through a teacher of Commerce in his college. The entire competition was held online, except the regional finals at Visakhapatnam.
By the end of the competition, he was approached by two US-based venture capitalists, but he has decided to wait till the next phase of growth before accepting any funding.
Gafoor was presented with a cash award of Rs 1 lakh by EO Kerala Chapter president Issac Alexander, who is also the managing director of Avenue Hotels, and Vinay Kynadi, managing director, Silver Sands and founder, Venture Way, in Kochi.
The first runner-up in the state-level competition Hishavdas also participated in the regional- level contest at Vizag. The first runner-up at the state-level gets Rs 50,000 and second runner-up Rs 25,000.
“We had a lot of student participants in this year’s GSEA despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and I am confident that we will have more participants and winners in the next edition of GSEA. The success of the event is fuelled by our sponsor Federal Bank and strategic partner Venture Way,” said Abhishek Bhat, GSEA chair and managing director of Bhima Jewels.
Vinay Kynadi said Venture Way has always been at the forefront of providing student entrepreneurs with the right ecosystem for taking their business idea to the next level.
EO-Kerala, established in 2018, has 26 members with a median turnover of Rs 200 crore. Globally it was founded in 1987 to empower entrepreneurs by facilitating their personal and business growth. Founders, co-founders, owners or the controlling shareholder of a company with annual gross revenue of US$ 1 million are members of EO. The membership is by invitation only.