“Putting it in the Right Hole”
Dhruv Verma, Founder and CEO, GolfLan Shares his Journey to Success
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