How these 2 schoolfriends set up a marketing company for SMEs and Startups

Back in May 2016, I messaged my schoolfriend and football team-mate Kartik to invite him to discuss a business idea over a coffee at Bombay Gym. Little did we know that 18 months later that business idea would allow us to build a team and work with over 30 brands from the F & B and fashion to the housing and education space!
So let me back up a little… I was working for BookMyShow at the time, in their content and social media team; where I understood the power of the digital world. Having completed my Bachelor’s in Mass Media from Jai Hind College just a year ago, I had previously worked or interned with conglomerates like Coca-Cola, McCann Erickson, and the TATAs, where I learned the basics of marketing and how companies leverage different mediums to grow.
Kartik, on the other hand, had more of a marketing and finance background and worked with a lot of Startups and Small Businesses. We very quickly came to the conclusion that there is a huge need for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises and Startups to leverage the power of the internet to grow their businesses. We did a bit of digging and here’s what we found:-

  1. Typically, there were just a handful of people at the top handling every aspect of their business rather than focusing on what’s crucial to them. Take a restaurant, for example, digital channels like Instagram, Facebook, Zomato etc. are often so neglected because the restaurant owners and their management team need to look at 10 other things like the chefs, menus, deliveries, tables, government compliances, accounts, legal etc. etc. This, in return, hinders their growth.
  2. An alternative is to hire 4-5 employees as social media managers, execs, designers, strategists etc. which becomes not only expensive but also a pain to manage.
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On the last working day of August 2016, Kartik and I quit our respective jobs and founded The Starter Labs. We began working out of my living room in Colaba with 3 companies – Nitrro, a fitness chain with award-winning gyms in Mumbai, Thane, and Pune,, a sports tech startup, and First Mom’s Club, an online community with over 100,000 members from 80+ countries. Our business quickly grew and before we know it we were working with larger companies like BookMyShow, the Mars Group, Doppio, etc. Chris George, our mentor, even offered us some office space at Andheri free of cost, before we moved in to our own office at Opera House in mid-2017.
What we’ve learned in this time working with brands from all over the world, is that when it comes to Digital Marketing, the bottom line is everything. It’s not just about fancy designs and cool photos or high reach and engagement but what impact digital marketing can make on the brand and add to their bottom line. We keep asking ourselves how we can add value to a client which helps their brand or sales rather than just do “what looks good” or “what’s on our contract”. We strongly believe in this approach and the fact that we’ve got pretty much all our clients through referrals from other clients really encourages us.
We hope to keep expanding as a business and get more talented people on board to help us continue delivering the best we can to any brand we may work with.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our entrepreneurial journey.

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