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From squash pro to global business leader: Meet Anuj Gupta, connecting tech entrepreneurs via TiE London, and running Amazon for services


Anuj Gupta has been a serial entrepreneur since he was a student, starting his first business, FaXappeal, while he was in college. Exiting that when he was just twenty, his career boasts a series of successful startups and exits, and he is now supporting other founders, leading The Indus Entrepreneurs’ (TiE) London chapter. And, of course, he is continuing his own entrepreneurial journey.

Gupta joined TFN for an exclusive Q&A, where we asked him about his journey, TiE London, and his latest projects.

You founded a lot of companies in your career, but how did you get started as an entrepreneur?

“I was born and bred in Delhi. And when I was young, I mostly played squash: I was the national champion in 1994. But I built my first business, FaXappeal, with a friend of mine while in college.

At the time, there were a lot of exports from India, like garments and apparel, and fax was the primary means of communication. We saw the opportunity to create better pricing for the consumer, using the international rates of the US. I was actually on sabbatical backpacking around the world when I got the offer to sell it.

When I came back, having sold the company, I’d had lots of problems when travelling finding good ticket prices and making my money last. So, after that, we ended up building a travel technology company. We became the first company to build an engine that would pick up the availability from the airlines and make it available to websites. And we ended up powering the two biggest players, eBookers and Priceline. When we sold that, I was invited by the buyer to move to the US to work on projects with him, and I’ve involved in startups ever since.”

You’re now based between London and New York, how do see the two tech sectors?

“Actually, I received an invitation, through the industry, from the prime minister’s office. They felt they were playing catch up with the US innovation ecosystem, and they wanted to know why all the amazing companies come from the US, whether it’s a WhatsApp or a Tesla, an Uber or an Airbnb. What are the reasons?

I think the reason is the stigma around failure. The US really understands: fail fast, the stigma around failure is really, really low. For us to get up to the US’s speed, the UK is 20 or 30 years behind as we speak, even now. But that’s not a harsh reality. It’s a good reality, the UK can copy quickly.”

You are the President and Chair of The Indus Entrepreneurs’ London chapter. Can you tell us about that and your plans?

“TiE is a big brand. It was founded in 1992 in the US and is one of the world’s largest not-for-profit organisations with thousands of members.

The idea is to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs who are looking for something, and entrepreneurs who are ahead in the journey. It bridges that gap and fosters integration, success, and entrepreneurship.

Here in the UK, peer-to-peer networking is one of the big things I want to enable with TiE. To create this cohesive group, a community exchanging thoughts and ideas, creating better things for a better tomorrow.”

And while you’re doing all that, you’ve been working on GreenVan. Can you tell us about your latest project?

“This is the project I spend my entire day working on. Very simply put it’s like an Amazon of services, an app that allows you to book a plumber, mover, electrician, locksmith, in any city in the UK.

And the beauty is that we’re the first company in the world to let you book from WhatsApp. It took us two years of integration with WhatsApp, but now you can just book a mover on your WhatsApp who will come on a day at a time that you want.

It’s the world’s most applied conversational AI. This industry has existed for 100 years, but run by people making calls to people on the phone. We have automated that process: we give you the price, we make the booking, and then they come and do the job for you.

We’re already signed to provide the home repair service for a major insurer. And are currently in our first fundraise. And our last, too, we expect to be profitable afterwards.”

You call it the Amazon of services, do you envision it being as transformative as Amazon has been to retail?

“It’s called GreenVan because the fleet is green, it’s clean, so there’s a huge environmental angle to the business.

But we are creating wider impact by increasing the income of tradespeople, and increasing their family time, by automating parts of a 100-year-old industry.

We are creating 1,000s of jobs in the economy because the prices are so accessible to the consumer, we are shifting work from the DIYer to affordable professionals.

We’re levelling up the regions by aggregating the demand for local tradespeople.

We’re helping the environment, creating social capital, and supporting the economy.

GreenVan will have a 360-degree impact on the ecosystem, starting from the consumer.”

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