“Put­ting it in the Right Hole”

Dhruv Verma, Founder and CEO, GolfLan Shares his Jour­ney to Suc­cess

DQ Channels - - Channel pulse - JY­OTI BHA­GAT jy­otib@cy­ber­me­dia.co.in

DHRUV VERMA Founder and CEO, GolfLan

Founded in 2011 by Dhruv Verma, Golflan is a lead­ing global tech­nol­ogy-based so­lu­tions com­pany for the progress of GOLF as a sport and leisure. GolfLan mis­sion is to make the sport of golf more ac­ces­si­ble and af­ford­able to golfers, while help­ing golf clubs/ cour­ses to in­crease uti­liza­tion and rev­enue. Golflan now con­nects reg­u­larly with over 200,000 golfers across In­dia, Mid­dle-East, South-West Asia, US and South Africa.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR­SELF, COULD YOU PLEASE ELAB­O­RATE ON YOUR ED­U­CA­TIONAL BACK­GROUND AND YOUR EX­PE­RI­ENCE IN YOUR EARLY YEARS?

My fa­ther was a busi­ness­man and our house­hold was a typ­i­cal up­per mid­dle class set-up. Both I and my brother went to one of the finest schools in Delhi- Mounts St.Mary School. When I was 10, my fa­ther passed away due to a heart at­tack and our lives changed im­me­di­ately and sub­stan­tially. My mother took up teach­ing and other odd jobs to keep the fam­ily’s ba­sic needs and life­style to­gether. But it was still a huge down step from what ev­ery­one was used to. It was at this stage of ad­ver­sity that I be­came en­tre­pre­neur­ial and learned to max­i­mize the lit­tle money that I used to get as pocket money. These small ini­tia­tives helped me buy my first house at the age of 22, an age when most of us our still study­ing. While I en­joyed a cut throat but a suc­cess­ful cor­po­rate life in the bank­ing in­dus­try, I kept try­ing my hands at var­i­ous ven­tures - Ar­chi­tec­tural ser­vices firm, re­cruit­ment, per­son­al­ized stationary- while none went on the sur­vive and scale, each made me a bet­ter busi­ness man. My for­mal train­ing in start-ups hap­pened when I was re­cruited as the ini­tial team for set­ting up/scal­ing of the CPP, UK In­dia op­er­a­tions at the age of 28.

DID YOU HAVE TO FACE ANY HARD­SHIPS? WHAT WERE THEY?

Just like any start-up - GolfLan started with a team of 4 peo­ple mul­ti­task­ing (Even clean­ing the of­fice if re­quired!). The first of­fice was hardly much - in fact in all our of­fice get-to­geth­ers we hear sto­ries about the first of­fice which was in Budela vil­lage in Delhi, pretty much a small shop than an of­fice. It was not easy to find tal­ent to help scale this busi­ness. Since the com­pany was self-funded, the other chal­lenge was to scale it with­out burn­ing cash. De­spite care­ful ex­pen­di­ture, in 7 months of run­ning the com­pany, we had more or less run out of money to run the com­pany. While growth was a want, sur­vival be­came a need that had to be ful­filled some­how. It was at this junc­ture that I took the hard de­ci­sion to sell my house and move whole fam­ily to a rented apart­ment. Even though GolfLan had shown po­ten­tial, one never knew if it would give the kind of ROI that would be worth all this. The cash in­flux helped us sur­vive a few

more months. Again it was ad­ver­sity that made us con­stantly tweak our prod­ucts and busi­ness mod­els. Apart from the mail busi­ness of global golf sub­scrip­tions, we also en­tered cor­po­rate busi­ness to en­hance mar­gins and cash flow. This worked and is to­day the foun­da­tion of steady in­come for GolfLan on which we have been able to launch new tech­nol­ogy prod­ucts, en­ter many new in­ter­na­tional mar­kets and also ac­quire 2 other com­pa­nies.

WHAT WAS THE BIG­GEST CHAL­LENGE IN SET­TING THE BUSI­NESS?

I think, Fund Rais­ing, like ev­ery­thing else, this too was an up­hill battle. Due to very strong net­work­ing skills, I got 15 min­utes with most of the lead­ing an­gel in­vestors, fund houses, but golf was too un­known, too am­bigu­ous as an in­dus­try for any­one to even fully un­der­stand the busi­ness or take the risk. We knew we needed to ex­pand glob­ally for the busi­ness to truly be­come for­mi­da­ble and large, at the same time golf is well un­der­stood in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets - hence it would also help us in ac­quir­ing the growth cap­i­tal. A few in­vest­ments from a few HNIs helped us take baby steps and have pan In­dia pres­ence, and launch our Dubai and South -East Asia op­er­a­tions. In 2014, an In­dian An­gel fund - YourNest An­gels in­vested in Dhruv and GolfLan. In their words -they de­cided to back a horse that was meant to win the race and will find a way to do so against all odds”. With ev­ery in­vest­ment, we were able to be slightly bolder with our mar­ket reach. With each in­vest­ment we could give a slightly bet­ter of­fice, bet­ter in­cen­tives and a fan­tas­tic work en­vi­ron­ment to the team. With a ma­jor round of fund­ing com­ing in in 2016 from ISON group, we were able to solve 3 prob­lems plagu­ing us 1. We cap­tured Dubai, but had dif­fi­culty in cap­tur­ing South-East Asia as this mar­ket was closed to out­siders. We did an Ac­qui­hire in Sin­ga­pore and ac­quired Golf­greedy by re­tain­ing their CEO. This was a great deal for the com­pany which was ex­perts ne­go­ti­ated by Dhruv. The con­tracts have started rolling in, and now GolfLan and Golf greedy have be­come a com­mon name in the golf in­dus­try in SEA. 2. Golf in­dus­try is tech­no­log­i­cally be­hind. We faced hur­dles everywhere be­cause cour­ses didn’t use tech­nol­ogy and were used to prim­i­tive ways of func­tion­ing. The only way to truly grow as a busi­ness was to bring easy to use tech­nol­ogy in which the cour­ses see tremen­dous value. GolfLan ac­quired StayPrime, a Dubai based com­pany that had cre­ated and de­vel­oped Smart Cart so­lu­tions for Golf. This ac­qui­si­tion had a domi­noes ef­fect across the globe, as GolfLan en­gi­neer­ing team headed by our CTO-(ex-Ama­zon VP) re­vamped this prod­uct and did a global launch. Or­ders and in­quiries started pour­ing in from all over the world in­clud­ing US, UK, Europe, Aus­tralia, South Africa,Sin­ga­pore etc. We were able to bring tech­nol­ogy of the West at costs of the East to­gether - which re­sulted in a prod­uct that is far su­pe­rior to any avail­able com­pe­ti­tion. 3. En­ter­ing USA - Be­ing the largest golf mar­ket in the world, USA was al­ways a must for us. But we needed to be thor­oughly sure of our prod­ucts and ser­vices and needed funds to launch this mar­ket. Fi­nally we reached this stage in 2017 and opened an of­fice in the Val­ley and signed our first con­tract.

WHAT ARE YOUR HOB­BIES?

Cre­at­ing brands, Net­work­ing and Rally Driv­ing

ANY AD­VICE YOU WANT TO GIVE TO YOUNG TRADERS OR EN­TREPRENEURS?

Golf is a niche mar­ket, hence the qual­ity of prod­uct and of­fer­ings should be very high and un­com­pro­mised. Se­condly, be very care­ful in the mar­kets where you op­er­ate in golf at var­i­ous stages of your busi­ness. It is a cap­i­tal in­ten­sive in­dus­try.

WHERE DO YOU WANTED TO SEE YOUR ES­TAB­LISH­MENT IN FU­TURE?

We are dou­bling our rev­enue year on year - with least amount of cap­i­tal in­flux. This fi­nan­cial year the com­pany is ex­pected to close on $3mn. The last few years have set the foun­da­tion for our prod­ucts, ge­o­graphic reach and team strength. We are now ready to max­imise our rev­enues in the com­ing years.

GolfLan since day 1 of its op­er­a­tions had high fo­cus on mon­e­ti­za­tion and prof­itabil­ity. StayPrime de­vices are sold for up­front cash trans­ac­tions or 5 year leas­ing deals. Tee Pass cor­po­rate so­lu­tions are pro­vided to large cor­po­rates on 3-5 year deals against prod­uct and ser­vice fee.

Apart from ex­pand­ing and es­tab­lish­ing new mar­kets across Africa, Europe , North Amer­ica and Ocea­nia , GolfLan will also aim to pro­vide a wider va­ri­ety of au­toma­tion and big data so­lu­tions for golf cour­ses and cor­po­rates to re­duce the cost of golf op­er­a­tion and thereby the cost of play­ing golf.

DHRUV VERMA, Founder and CEO, GolfLan

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