TECH TALK: Startup digitising repair works

Updated 23 Aug 2020

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RepairDesk CEO Usman Butt.
RepairDesk CEO Usman Butt.

Every year the world goes gaga over the launch of latest generation mobile phones and laptops as their specifications trigger debates among ardent fans and tech geeks. Meanwhile a related business — that of electronics repair, which in itself is quite sizable — gets little attention. But for a local startup, that hasn’t been a deterrent.

Repairdesk.co is a startup from Lahore that provides a cloud-based point of sale system for repair shops. A one-stop shop for the industry, the software does everything from issuing tickets to managing inventory. It can also send SMS notifications, has a customer relationship management as well as bill payments feature.

All one has to do is sign up (using a contact form) and once the credentials are available, the system digitises pretty much all the operations. You can choose the type of business (mobile, console, computer etc), start a shift and record sales, create invoices, issue gift or loyalty cards, manage expenses, even create a marketing campaign or check performance reports.

Given the local repair market is not particularly keen on the use of technology in day-to-day business operations (while ironically handling extremely sophisticated products at the same time), the startup has kept its sales efforts directed to the more developed countries where they have gotten clients in quadruple digits.

Maybe you are wondering why there is a need to have a specific PoS for the repair industry in the first place? I mean what’s wrong with a general solution which can always be tweaked a little bit? “That’d require the shops to use multiple products for each function like quickbooks for accounting, mailchimp for marketing, woocommerce for websites etc which obviously comes with a cost. Our system attempts to bring everything under one software,” Chief Executive Officer Usman Butt explains.

In fact, the market is lucrative enough for a number of players to focus on this niche. Within the same space, there are mostly US-based companies including RepairQ, IQmetrix, Cellstore, RepairShopr and Cellsmartpos. While none of these are known to have raised outrageous rounds (understandable considering it’s more of a quiet, yet rewarding, business), they are competition nonetheless so how does a startup running operations from Lahore take on geographically better positioned rivals?

“For us, getting clients has never been an issue,” says Butt, referring to his background in international sales. “Product (and service) wise, we have better customer support unlike others which usually only have email options. Other than that, our software is also on iPad in addition to the web version and comes in 20 languages, not just English, with better integrations as well,” he adds.

Back in the day, Butt used to sit at his brother’s mobile repair shop to make some extra cash where he first realised how disorganised the industry was. “These shops have lots of stuff going on, from balance recharge and selling sims to trading phones. At the same time, there is a shortage of human resources as the owner is generally doing everything by him/herself be it operations, marketing or supply and using a different platform for each function,” he explains.

Nothing really came out of this realisation though as after graduating in Business and IT, Butt took up a sales job and then set up his own web design company. But around three years into it, he had had enough of the services business and wanted to try his luck at building a product. That’s where the long-shelved repair industry PoS idea was revived. In November of 2014, RepairDesk was founded and soon after incubated at the then Lums Centre for Entrepreneurship.

The startup has a subscription model with the basic pricing plan beginning from $45 a month (if billed annually) while the most premium package costs $112.5 and comes with 10 employee accounts plus unlimited 75 tickets and invoices. Not long after setting up operations, RepairDesk also scored $40,000 of angel money from Anant Handa, an Indian American. “He just reached out to me on LinkedIn randomly and joined as a partner until I bought back the shares from him in 2019,” Butt tells Dawn.

While the company has legal presence in both Australia and the United States, all its operations are out of Lahore but the founder wants to change that soon. And it’s not only geography he is looking to expand.

“So far our focus has been limited to the mobile repair shops but 2021 plans include getting more customers in jewelry, computer services too,” the CEO says, adding they are also looking to build on-ground teams in the US, UK and Spain.

The writer is member of staff:

m.mutaherkhan@gmail.com

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2020