When Anant Vats was working for Infosys in Houston, he once took the bus with some friends to go to dinner in town.
Suddenly, an old lady sitting next to them asked them if they could fix her computer. Pleasantly surprised at this request, Anant asked her what led her to believe they could.
“Because you are Indian!” she said.
The incident stuck in Anant’s mind. So two years later, when he quit his job at Infosys, it was to co-found Techieworks, a venture that fixes computers remotely for seniors in the U.S. and Canada.
More Seniors Online
The need to keep in touch with family and friends is leading an increasing number of seniors to use the Internet. A Pew Research Center report says that more than half of American adults over 65 years of age are active online.
Nearly 86% use e-mail for communication, with 48% accessing it every day. More than 39 million from this group use social networking sites such as Facebook, Skype, and Twitter. Their presence on social networking sites such as Facebook has tripled to 43% during the last four years making them one of the fastest growing demographics in this space.
However, they are often at a loss when they encounter technical problems.
It was to solve these problems specifically that led Vats and his brother, Abhinav, an advertising and copywriting professional, to found Techieworks in 2011.
Based in Gurgaon, India, the company offers remote technical assistance services including PC optimization, anti-virus support, operating system support and troubleshooting. The company also helps with data backup, transfer of contacts and multimedia from phone to PC, application installation, home or office network setup and and other tech updates.
Need for Online Technical Help Grows
Techieworks is not alone in providing online tech help.
There are several remote technical support firms operating out of India. But what sets Techieworks apart is its specific targeting of the senior niche.
The company is sensitive to the needs of its ideal customers and so has evolved an intuitive, simple service model.
It offers multiple touch-points to reach out to customers eliminating the need to remember and write down numbers. It also offers chat support for customers who find it difficult to talk. And it eliminates waiting queues by allowing customers to leave a request to be called back.
Bootstrapping Model Leads to Profitability
The two brothers bootstrapped the company with their own funds.
They hired their first two employees in a coffee shop even before they had any office space. And they pushed themselves to be austere in their expenditures by using second hand furniture and by renting IT infrastructure instead of buying new.
The money they saved was used to build their knowledge and expertise in areas where they could gain a competitive edge. The company is currently generating revenue and profitable. And it owes this profitability to the cost-saving methods established in its early days.
What Comes Next?
So, what’s next for Techieworks? Vats says the company will continue to offer new products and services that address the needs of the senior market.
The company is not yet ready to look for external funding. And Vats says he believes that external investors take the fun and freedom out of building a company.
The founder adds that he does not harbor dreams of becoming a multimillionaire overnight. Though making more money is certainly a consideration, he says he wants to be in a situation where he can decide the kind of culture he will build for the members of the Techieworks family.
As a fan of bootstrapping entrepreneurs, I am delighted to see a company generating revenue and reaching profitability without external financing. And the secret is catering to the needs of an under-served segment.
Senior on laptop image via Shutterstock
I worked extra at the computer room at the library at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, NH. I set up the computers so they were ready before the training sessions for the seniors and then checked them after the class was finished. I think that was a great initiative by the library and school.
It’s also a great way to get the seniors more interested in technology. It’s nice that they are doing something like that. I hope they do that in other places as well.
Aira Bongco: I think they have. Where are you located? Do you have services like this?
It’s true. There is now more seniors using technology than before. And it is not because technology is easy to use. It’s because more and more seniors and staying at home. The problem is that these people need more guidance when it comes to using technology. Making your website senior-friendly is therefore important.
I think it’s a market that hasn’t been fully explored, Aira, or not even explored that much. There is a need in this area if my dad’s anything to go by. I’m guessing it’s likely we each know someone in their mature years who either uses a computer or is keen on or curious about using one.
I guess it is because there is the assumption that technology and seniors don’t really go so well together. Well, the rising senior users show that this market is definitely adopting this technology.
Even if the assumption was indeed true, it presents an opportunity for those who wish to learn and those who wish to teach/support, as the rise you mention seems to be proving.
I wonder if there’s a program out there that trains seniors to teach seniors. That would be really useful and a success, I think.
Thank you for this post Sramana, it’s good to see people focusing their efforts on helping others, especially the elderly. Working with computers is no easy task and trying to help someone else with their computer issues is very admirable.
Sounds like a solid business idea. I know that my grandparents are helpless around computers and even my Mom waves the white flag pretty quickly.
The Business Idea does have potential. The very reason Amazon launched Mayday.
I’m technical support for my dad! It’s something I don’t mind doing. However, it would be nice if he had an additional place he could call on if I’m not around. Techieworks is a brilliant idea, and in my opinion, a need.
(p.s.: I think it was presumptuous of the old woman to think he could fix her computer because he was Indian.)
Roger was my trainer for the 3-module sessions. He has been very helpful to me and I learned many things from him. He was easy to understand and presented the information in a way that was easy for me to understand. I am 81 years old and appreciate the interest and patience that was given to me.