Why did we start Vouch?- To build Trust.
Contrary to popular belief, "Trust" - is tangible and can be made tangible
Not all that Glitters is Gold
How an unknown Drone operator earned our trust and a well-known "Trusted" Company defrauded us.
Sometime in February 2019, it was a hot day in Penugonda, West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. It was the inauguration day of The World's tallest 90 Foot Tall 5- Metal Idol. The Idol was Vasavi Kanyaka Parameswari, worshiped by over 10 million Indians.
Chandra Babu Naidu (then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) was the Guest of Honor along with G M Rao (one of India's well-known industrialists) and other local dignitaries.
This project had taken approx. 30 years to reach this state. Therefore, to put together a grand event for the inauguration, and do justice to the tall 15 Storey Gopuramto, the management decided to shower it with flowers from the sky.
The task of arranging this event was entrusted with Krishna and a few other individuals.
Krishna researched a few Aviation companies and found that the only available option was a company that offered helicopter taxi services in Bangalore - Thumby Aviation.
They quoted a sum of Rs.8 Lakhs (a little over $11K) for a 1-hour service.
Krishna, who always believes in finding alternatives, found a reference for a drone-based flower drop service.
But, there was a catch- that person was based in Rajasthan, a good 2-day drive away. Since there were 3 days left for the event, Krishna thought this was feasible.
Which is the Right Service?
Krishna thought about going with the drone-based flower drop service because of its novelty, flexibility as well as price. So, he engaged with him and handed over the task of negotiating with the helicopter service to another person from the temple trust.
While the helicopter service charged $11K for 2 trips to drop flowers above the tower, the drone service would cost only about $100 for a whole 8-hour period!
Krishna doubled the compensation to $225 and offered to reimburse the $300 flight fare to the drone operator.
Now, both Thumby Aviation and the drone operator Ram Prasad asked for an advance. Where Thumby Aviation demanded the entire amount ($11K) as an advance payment, Ram Prasad asked for only half of the full amount ($275 of $525).
Although he was referred by a person in Krishna's network, Ram Prasad was still a private party from an unknown location. There were no ratings, reviews or any information about how well he would deliver. Krishna was hesitant to pay an advance to either party and more so to the drone operator as the $250 itself represented more than twice his normal fee.
There was no way to get the money back if either party failed to deliver. Any legal options are always messy and counter-productive. Furthermore, time was of the essence since the event was just 3 days away.
Failed to build Trust
Krishna felt that if the drone operator showed up, it would be a huge hit. So, he decided to take a chance and release an advance of $275.
However when Krishna was about to pay, Ram Prasad called back and asked not to make the payment.
Ramprasad had been informed that the drone will be sent through the cargo hold and it could possibly suffer from movements affecting its quality during transport. He had never done this before and considering the 2 day drive and number of interstate approvals needed, he became unsure if the drive was practical.
So, Ram Prasad decided to back out and was unable to keep his word.
Till then, the Temple Trust had already booked the helicopter company and paid off the full amount of $11K as the demanded advance.
On the day of the inauguration, the helicopter company failed to show up! The promised flower shower was never delivered by them. They tried to justify with a lot of lies arguing that the helicopter had taken off from Bangalore and was stuck close to Vijayawada due to lack of clearance. Detailed investigation by the trust revealed that the company had never done any of that. As of writing this story, the Money is still stuck with Thumby Aviation and the Trust has had no success in recovering it.
The Need to Start Vouch.
In the process of arranging a flower shower of Vasavi Kanyaka Parameswarie, it occurred to Krishna that there was no solution for protecting money. Besides, it was impossible to figure out the degree to which a business or service provider could be trusted. At that point, Krishna realized the need to start Vouch.
To add insult to injury, a widely known company that operates a prestigious Heli Taxi service ferrying top executives from Bangalore's Tech Hubs to Bangalore's International airport neglected their commitment and took away the money. Payment for a web development project delivered in October 2017 was still pending and many invoices remained unpaid or lost.
Krishna inquired with several freelancers, online buyers, sellers and discovered that this is not a personal problem. Millions of independent service providers had no way to build their reputation or increase their trust score.
With freelancers alone, more than 80% of payments were delayed and more than 40% of payments were either lost or unpaid.
When he looked back he observed that he faced similar problems in the past. There were a whole host of services for many website development, marketing, design which did not bear fruit. Krishna identified that this was a profound problem that needed to be solved. After wrestling with it over a year, he decided to build a platform to build trust, known today as Vouch.
Collaboration of Krishna and Nithin
Krishna and Nithin met each other at Startup Leadership Program's 2017-18 Cohort*. Nithin's awareness of Libertarian Values had always impressed Krishna.
He even tried to recruit him to his then start-up - Flit (a start-up that created a unique format of multi-brand popup showcases). Also, Nithin tried recruiting Krishna to his Student credit card start-up later. Both of them had high regard for each other.
Krishna discussed the idea with Nithin. Nithin had lost nearly 2 Lakh of payments on his freelancing work at this point. Nithin also desired to take this major hassle out of freelancing. When he realized how Vouch could guarantee payments for his work, he was in. Thus began the journey of Vouch.
*The Startup Leadership Program is highly selective, which trains outstanding leaders and innovators to become top startup CEOs.
SLP Trainees have founded nearly 1900 successful startups & raised more than $700M in funding.
You invest your Blood and Sweat in a service and don't even get paid for it. We know it can be depressing. Everyone who spends their time and efforts should be rewarded with their rightful money. To make it happen, Krishna and Nithin founded Vouch. Vouch is a Payment Protection Platform that Builds Trust between the buyer and the seller. Building World's Trust is Vouch's Vision.
It's an initiative to solve the pain of lost payments, lost products or services. Vouch removes friction and unlocks hidden economic value.
Next time you see someone complain about held up payments or services, introduce them to Vouch.
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