How VConnect Is Changing Lives And Businesses

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Last week I came across an article on Forbes, an interview of Deepankar Rustagi, the founder of VConnect. I was expecting to hear him talk about how Nigeria is a promising market and give figures to support his venturing into founding one of Nigeria's most successful startups. But I was pleasantly disappointed. The idea of starting up VConnect occurred to Mr Rustagi while he was travelling along Lagos - Ibadan expressway and witnessed an accident. Everyone around couldn't say for sure where the nearest hospital was. Even almighty Google had no clue because no one had taken out time to create a directory of businesses, organizations, hospitals and schools in Nigeria. Then, searching for provider of services in Lagos would often take you to Portuguese pages of service providers in the Lagos that is in Portugal.

To say the least, I was inspired by that story. VConnect started as one man's decision to fix a problem that affected everyone. Most people wouldn't have seen beyond the bad road and the inept government. But he saw something that could be done to prevent such accidents from turning to disasters, and that could also help connect people to the provider of the services they need. So after reading that Forbes article I went on LinkedIn, searched for Mr Rustagi and sent him a LinkedIn connect request. Luckily, he accepted my request to connect. Then I sent him a message requesting for a 20mins interview session with him, which he kindly granted.


Yesterday was the interview day and below is the transcript of the interview.

How did VConnect come into existence?

So you have read the story in the Forbes interview. Basically, I grew up here in Nigeria. I've spent more than 15 years in Nigeria and I did my schooling here in Ilupeju. Slowly I came to realise, via incidents around me, that you couldn't just survive on the knowledge of the businesses you are aware of. There are times you would want to know the best business around that could provide you a specific service. So if I go to Abuja today, I will want to know how to hire a cab, which hotel is close by, which nearby restaurant to eat it at and the closest laundry firm to my hotel. But when I searched on Google, in those days, there is hardly any content online providing these information. I searched for a restaurant in Lagos and I was taken to a website in Portugal. There is a place called Lagos in Portugal. 
After the incident along Ibadan road, I decided that someone has to take a step to connect businesses to buyers. And we made it a goal to help small and medium scale businesses connect to buyers at negligible cost. And that was how VConnect came into existence. We named it VConnect because we had the objective of connecting buyers and suppliers in Nigeria.

How has VConnect been impacting lives and businesses?

We get a lot of testimonials from businesses who have been getting orders via VConnect. Especially small scale businesses who while registering weren't expecting so much from using VConnect. We were once contacted by a man in his late 50s who runs an upholstery business in Iyana Ipaja. He is extremely good at his craft but was relatively unknown. He contacted us because he got a very big order from a hotel. And he landed that order because of a referral from one of the clients who contacted him via VConnect and was impressed with the quality of his work. He sent me an email and it was very touchy.
On a daily basis we contribute value to more than 16,000 businesses. These businesses make a portion of their revenue because of us. Though if the quality of your product is not good, VConnect cannot help you. But if the quality of your product or service is good and you want to be discovered, VConnect will work great for you. You register your business on VConnect and when people search on the web for the services you provide, your VConnect page shows up in the search result, sometimes in the first 3 results.

How have you been able to overcome the difficulties of running a successful business in Nigeria?

We have been lucky. By the grace of God, things fell into place for us. When we started there was no online portal providing this directory service, the few attempting didn't have good quality reliable data. We placed a priority on the quality of data we provide. And wide coverage too. As we covered and verified more businesses we earned the trust of users online and they began to rely on our data. This helped grow our traffic. 2 million people come to our site on a monthly basis seeking reliable information. 
One of the challenges we still have is most businesses use mobile phone lines and they change phone numbers often, so we are investing more in keeping the data updated always.
We were lucky in the sense that we got investors at the right time. And businesses began seeing the value we create for them and became more receptive to the services we provide, becoming paid users for a longer period of time.

What advice do you have for people trying to take up big business challenges like you did?

We conduct business forums and we've found out that it's easy to start a business. But it's very difficult to sustain it because of high financial cost. Let's say you start your Excel training or PMP training business but if you don't get people registering for paid training after six months you'll change your plan.
We created a lead generation module on VConnect to help businesses. We get leads, customers for you, and all you have to ensure is that you provide a great service or training to them. We take the burden of finding customers off you. So if you put up your Excel training on our Deals site, it's our job to get people to register for your Excel training and you won't have to bother about whether people will come or not. You just have to ensure that even if 5 comes today, you train them in the best manner possible so that they go back and tell 5 more people, then next training you'll get 7 people. Then 9, and 12. That is how it progresses.
We want to become a sales partner for every small business who can't heavily invest in marketing. And we are already getting amazing feedback from partner businesses.

Mr Rustagi told me they are starting a communications arm and require the services of passionate and good bloggers to come on board, full-time and part-time. He has asked me for recommendations. So if you feel qualified send me your CV and 2 sample articles and I might forward your application to him. He also wants a Twitter geek, so shoot me an email too if you feel qualified for that. They are all paid positions and you are getting a chance to have your CV among the first he examines. My email is michael(at) 

And that is it for today's special post. And don't forget to check out the VConnect Deals section if you run your own business, provide a service or sell a product and you want VConnect to be your sales partner. Getting you customers. Here's the link: VConnect Deals

Disclaimer: This isn't a paid publicity or a way to get VConnect customers. It’s just my own way of pointing the light at people who are doing great things and we could get inspiration from. Rather than providing foreign examples all the time, I decided to look out for people doing inspirational stuff in Nigeria. People we know and can more easily relate to.


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