Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Uncut" version of Bangalore Mirror Article - "The law on a screen near you"

Tell us a bit about your entrepreneurial journey. Is this your first start up? [What's the status on others, if any]

Yes, this is our first startup, but we have previously worked on several ideas as students. We have tried our hands on ideas related to Speech Recognition, Carpooling and then on developing a NLP Search Engine.

How did LegalCrystal come into existence? [People-founders (full names pls), Idea, when it was founded (month, year), the 'tipping point' that made you feel that this is something you had to get out and do, how long did it take to firm up the idea]

Bangalore Mirror - February 21st 2011 - Page 6
LegalCrystal – the idea sprouted when I noticed my mother, Smt. Rekha Prasad – Advocate, High Court of Karnataka who blogs about several legal issues, referring to humungous books which have listings of judgments.   In these books, Judgments are bifurcated into different subjects or based on different law points. That’s when I realized that a lot of time and effort was being wasted by numerous advocates and judges in the process of searching the precedents suitable to their requirements and in this process  the main issue in focus was sidelined. Being a technology enthusiast, I figured it would be interesting and challenging to develop a search engine as easy to use as Google for Indian Law.
We began our research in March 2008 and discovered several other players in this market. We had several discussions with their customers (law firms, individual advocates) on the pros and cons of the products they were using. Most of them were frustrated with the products and they pointed out some features which would be really useful for them.
After analyzing the information we received, my friend Phaneendra Kaddi (Co-Founder and the brain behind the coding) and I strategized on what we could build and chalked out the basic outline of our product. Soon after that we started working on it. We started by building the search engine, then we structured the data, and several beta versions later, the end product was what we had dreamt of.  We founded the company on February 28 2010 and launched the product on June 21st 2010 at High Court of Karnataka, Bangalore. 

What is LegalCrystal's 'elevator pitch'?

The highlight of our product is the simple and effective search feature. Its hassle free and an advocate/user does not require any training to use the software.  By keying in a phrase, our product retrieves judgments pertaining to Supreme and All High Courts related to that phrase in just one click. Any Advocate who is looking for a judgment supporting any "Point of Law" can search and research in one single window, and has access to the complete Library at the tip of his finger.

Who are the primary users for the service? There are similar services online, what is the differentiation? How have users responded to the service? How have you marketed the service? Any insights you'd like to share?

The primary users for this service are advocates/judges all over India. There are three segments to this Market – advocates/judges, Law Firms and Companies/Businesses. LegalCrystal serves the need of all these three segments. We will be releasing a Corporate Version sometime in April 2011 with additional features and tools, bound to make the job of the law fraternity easier.

We are a rapidly growing startup and at the moment, we have covered different parts of Karnataka. We have visited District Courts and the respective Taluk Courts. We usually fix a date, present our product and interested advocates or Judges contact us for subscriptions. We have covered High Court of Karnataka and bar associations in Kolar, Mysore, Mulbagal, Chintamani, Chickballapur, Hoskote and Malur. Our software is also being used by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and Karnataka Judicial Academy which is currently the training academy for judges.

The Main Differentiator would be the efficient search and ease of navigation. We have a panel of advocates who write Case Analysis, Headnotes for every judgment (Headnote – Gist of a judgment, User can get a glimpse of what the judgment says by reading the Headnote). We also manually format the judgment to increase readability. So far, we have received a lot of good feedback from our clients and it has motivated us to enhance the product further and also to consider international judgments ahead.

Is there a business model to this service? If so, what is it?

LegalCrystal is based on a yearly subscription and an annual fee. At the end of each year, the user can subscribe for the latest updates (Latest Judgments, Acts, and Amendments). The online version is updated on a daily basis and the offline version, once every quarter.

What are the trade offs you've had to do for making this work'? [Personal/professional]

Phaneendra and I started working on this product when we were students, while we were focusing on this, we faced a huge challenge in convincing our parents and the people around us regarding starting a company of our own.
The biggest challenge we faced was to successfully execute our idea and reach out to potential customers, with no prior work experience! It took us almost 6 months to get LegalCrystal running properly and when we finally did that it spurred us to go further.
It requires tremendous amount of effort and articulation to convince lawyers and while pitching our idea to them we mainly focused on “differentiators”.

Do you have a mentor/ investor? (Names please and whether they're mentors or investors)

Chief Mentors – My revered Parents who are advocates themselves, D. L. Prasad & Smt. Rekha Prasad. I would also like to mention here the people who have come out of the way in order to help me to run the company and sell the product – Mr.V.K.Haridas Bhatt, chartered accountant Mr.Chakra Pani / Mr.Krishna Murthy.
Investors – my parents, my uncle – D.N. Badarinath and Phaneendra's uncle Mr. Subbanna.

What are your plans for the immediate future? [Service evolution, funding/revenue model, break even, marketing]

In the near future, we are looking to expand our reach to advocates in every other state in India. Of course, usage of the software is not limited to advocates; even laymen could use LegalCrystal to find solutions to their legal issues.
Our main focus is innovation, brainstorming on new projects is an ongoing process in our startup.

So what's the entrepreneurship end game for you - fame, money or the adrenaline rush?

Entrepreneurship is all about the adrenalin rush for us. Any radical person would disagree with the risk of starting a company without prior experience of any kind. Its pure passion to work on new things which drives us.