Market void, zero funding and a killer idea

Unstuck asked GetSetGig founder Sahaj Nalgirkar to give tips on getting a bootstrapped venture up and running.

GetSetGig is an online marketplace to hire live performing artists within a 24-hour span. Corporate events, weddings, lounges and bars, malls and private parties… they are covering it all for budgets ranging from 5,000 bucks to 5 lakh rupees. With popular bands like Aaankhmicholi, Neeraj Arya’s Kabir Cafe, Daira, Aflatunes, Folk Masti and Bollywood singer Nupur Pant, solo performer Thomas Albert, YouTube sensation Siddharth Slathia, it’s a stunning range of performers to choose from.

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Sahaj is a musician himself. When the 25-year-old was looking to book gigs for his band in engineering college, he realised there’s a market gap in the Indian entertainment space. The clients spend a lot of time looking for artists who fit their show while bands ironically waste creative time trying to get gigs.

The reason Sahaj is the next entrepreneur in Unstuck’s Lifestyle Design Heroes series is that he spotted the business idea, and got cracking on it right away. While working on his idea with zero funding back in 2015, bandmade Aditya Hanchinal (23) joined him as co-founder. From two, they’ve grown to a team of six… and counting. GetSetGig has 2,000 acts — solo musicians, bands, stand-up comedians, DJs and anchors on board — and have 30-40 gigs a month. Not bad for a bootstrapped venture.

Sahaj represents the new breed of entrepreneurs. They are self-starters. He comes from the demographic his company works with. As a musician himself, he understands the minds and moods of creative performers better than a corporate shark would. This World Music Day, he launched GetSetGig Step for aspiring singers and musicians who want to jumpstart their career. “It’s a 12-week on-field crash course on how to be a performer. Eventually, the participants will be given opportunities to perform live in front of people,” says Sahaj.

He talked to Unstuck about startups and entrepreneurship in the Web 2.0 era. “Every step is a challenge and every challenge is a step. It’s a beautiful journey at the end of the day,” he says.

UNSTUCK: What is the story behind the name GetSetGig?

Sahaj Nalgirkar: Initially my team did a lot of market research and customer interviews under the name Modern Melody. We came across two findings:

A. We understood the problem in the market for which we want to build a solution.
B. Our name kind of sucked.

While we built a prototype [beta website] to test the solution we had in mind, we realised we need to have an awesome name. Over the next 3 days, 5 of my friends sat in a room and came up with 150-odd names for the brand. We narrowed it down to GetSetGig because of two things:

  • As a brand we wanted to be quirky and smart
  • It reflects the quality of quickness, which we were building on… hiring a live performing artist for your event within 24 hours.

UNSTUCK: How did this idea – of hiring an artist within 24 hours – strike?

SN: I moved to Mumbai to do engineering and I also wanted to try my luck in music as a composer. I met a few musicians here and realised there is no surefire path for it. The ultimate aim for most of them was – and still is – Bollywood. I mean, there is so much more that an artist can do than just be in Bollywood. And that’s when it all started.

I wanted to do something which would lead to a platform where musicians can reach out to the public through their art. I’d formed a band with musicians in my college. I became the band manager and tried to book them for gigs. That is when I found out how difficult it is to get gigs for a new band. Folks who wanted to hire bands faced problems too. I don’t know how and when, but I started moving towards building a solution for this market gap.

Improvising on the basic idea, GetSetGig is now an online space which makes hiring a live performer easy. Today, we have around 2,000 artists on board and more than 150 clients who hire our services regularly. We started with musicians only but today we have DJs, standup comedians and anchors apart from singers and bands.

If anyone wants to hire, for example, a band for a wedding, they just have to go to the website and post an enquiry. It doesn’t matter which genre they want; we are covering it all from ghazal to pop, rock and metal. We have created a process in our system online where, once you post an enquiry, you will get a list of suitable artists for your event within 24 hours with a confirmed availability. I don’t think there is anyone else who does this in the market.

UNSTUCK: GetSetGig was launched in 2015. Where does it stand today?

SN: We have successfully done 200 gigs since September 2015. While we are doing around 30-40 gigs a month now, we are likely to reach 500 gigs by the end of this year.
When we launched, we had 150 artists on board and all were musicians. Today we have 2,000-plus profiles of live performers.

UNSTUCK: What were the motivations behind setting up this company?

SN: There are three.

  1. I was always inclined towards being a businessman. I remember in school when my teacher asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I answered: “Businessman.” My father and brother are both MBAs and they would talk strategies often. If that was not fascinating enough, my uncle runs a successful business. This made me want to build something of my own.
  2. I was hugely into music. I proudly call myself an artist because I believe I can think in a different way. I like to create stuff. I wrote songs and poems, composed tunes, learnt various instruments and the idea of unlimited exploration through art attracted me all the time.
  3. When I was about to finish engineering, I realised I had two options. A) Get a job at an IT firm and spend the rest of my life slaving for someone else or B) Build something of my own and keep myself occupied with something I love. Option A had financial security, but option B had a story to tell even if I failed.

All these 3 factors came together and motivated me to start GetSetGig.

UNSTUCK: What were the challenges?

SN: There have been many challenges all the way till now and I am sure they will not go soon, but that is the beauty of it. Without them, the journey has no adventure.

The first challenge was to learn how to start a business. I had no idea how a business is built or run. I had to read a lot of books, consult with my brother for long hours. It was like shooting in the dark. I had no idea how to talk to artists, to clients, how to make a sale. I did not even know how to introduce my business.

The challenges would just pile up. I took my time. I made mistakes, I learnt from them. I met other founders and that’s how I got my courage and determination to overcome every challenge I came across.

UNSTUCK: What does it take to make a bootstrapped startup successful?

SN: Financial hurdles were always there and will be there if you are a bootstrapped startup [those which say no to funding/ Venture Capital]. The good thing is that you can make mistakes and learn. The disadvantage is that it takes a lot of time. People don’t want to work with you as employees since you can’t give them a salary. Clients do not want to work with you because you have no experience. Every step is a challenge and every challenge is a step. It’s a beautiful journey at the end of the day.

UNSTUCK: What kept you going in the initial days?

SN: I just knew in my head that I am doing something which is going to help artists somehow. I was sure and clear of my bottom-line, whatever we do is going to be for artists.

I figured that if I am trying to make a solution which will be beneficial to thousands of people, I am not going to get it easily. I kept telling myself, “Sahaj, it’s like a game; you overcome the challenge, you go a level up and you will face a new and more complicated challenge. If you back down now, you are not going to reach the end.”

Apart from self-motivation, whenever we did a gig, we saw a sense of satisfaction in the faces of the artists on-stage. They gave us feedback. This small appreciation and goodwill kept the team going.

by Kasmin Fernandes

Blog crawl: Top articles on the topic of startups

  1. 5 biggest problems faced by startups in India
  2. Fundraising tips for a startup – Saljack Enterprises
  3. How to Get Professional PR Help on a Startup Budget – Alexis Chateau PR
  4. Why a company can’t be more like a startup – Steve Blank
  5. Free lunch – The Shining Gem
  6. Looking for office space: The startup story – Adam Albrecht
  7. Blogging for entrepreneurs – Startup Iceland
  8. Finding “Unicorns:” Questions to Ask Before You Invest in a Startup – Tim Ferriss
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