When Burrp Founder Anand Jain Started a Company to Fight Pigeons


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Anand Jain, the founder of CleverTap, on Sunday, May 30, shared the fascinating story of a parallel business startup that he ran while building Burrp from the ground up. The current CEO of CleverTap, a customer engagement and retention platform, moved back to India from the US in 2006 to start a restaurant review and listing startup called Burrp. Jain said while he grew up in Ahmedabad, he relocated to Mumbai because that was the launch city for Burrp. “I would travel to Ahmedabad on weekends to meet family,” he said.

A few days after he returned from America, Jain noticed the problem of pigeons that were everywhere. “On rooftops, ledges, outdoor air-conditioner units, cars, window grills, balconies (if you had that luxury in Mumbai,” Jain wrote. “It’s not that pigeons had suddenly appeared in India. It was me who felt sudden annoyance from these flying rats.”

Jain then looked around for solutions but couldn’t find any. “You could import bird spikes from the US at Rs. 700 a running foot but that would end up being too expensive,” he wrote.

Jain continued, “In Mumbai, I noticed bird spikes only in high-end places like the JW Marriott or The Taj Mahal hotel.” It was probably expensive for them too and they didn’t cover the entire property with it, just some critical parts of their property, Jain wrote.

Here comes the “newly minted entrepreneur” into the picture, who thought he would solve this problem. “Remember, I had moved back to startup Burrp! I will *also* manufacture bird spikes. cough cough.”

“The US-manufactured spikes had metal spikes integrated on a plastic frame. Think of 3-inch spikes protruding out of a foot ruler,” he said. “My version would be plastic through and through because that would make it easier to manufacture.”

Jain invested a princely sum to get the die designed (found an autocad expert) and manufactured. “I had 100% confidence, and 0% experience,” he said. “Then we sent the spec to be made into a die. It came back a couple of months later. It was good looking and weighed probably 300 kgs.”

“I’m detail-oriented and got the brand name – BirdGuard etched into the die. See the image,” he wrote.

Step 1 was complete. According to Jain, the second step was to find how he could manufacture the spike out of this die. “So I found some plastic manufacturing factories who would take on jobs on an 8-hour shift. One could rent these for 8, 16 or 24-hour shifts. They’d load your die, your plastic granules and start the injection mould,” Jain said.

The CleverTap CEO added he had no idea about the different kinds of plastic material, or that they came in granules. “So that research happened. Found out there are so many varieties – SAN, ABS, PC, etc. and each has a specific characteristic. Some brittle, in some colour, can be added, etc.”

Jain experimented. He bought 5 sacks each of 4-5 varieties and ran through the 8-hour shift producing the output for each type. “Put the initial pieces in the 45-degree temperature to see if they’d simply melt away or sustain the shape. Boiled some pieces to see what happens,” he wrote, adding he finally settled on PC and ABC. “ABS is flexible and good if you need to twist the piece and can be produced in multiple colours. PC (Polycarbonate) is very brittle but transparent.”

Just another reminder that Jain came back to India to start Burrp and the work was on that project as well.

The next question was how to package and sell it? “Taking inspiration from my previous experience of selling soap door to door, I began selling this to shopkeepers door to door and also asked around family/friends if anyone wanted this,” he said.

Jain did taste success, getting orders from factories, temples, some commercial buildings, malls, etc. Following the success, he roped in a friend to help out with the installations.

“I would climb gutter ducts, dangle from the terraces of buildings, climb out on ledges to install the bird spikes. Some of my sample installations in the pictures. We sometimes used Araldite, drilling holes, or just zip ties to hold the thing together. Here’s the logo of Avian Roofing – which is what I called the business,” Jain wrote.

Jain said he ran Avion Roofing over weekends while simultaneously running Burrp full time during the weekdays.

Jain’s friend left the die on the balcony while taking off on a 6-week vacation to Europe in July. “The rains totally rusted the die, and it became unusable. Started 2006-ended 2007. We had a literal monopoly at the time. No one – PCI, Hi-care or anyone was doing this at the time,” he said.

Jain’s company did 50 installations across Mumbai and Ahmedabad. “For those interested, I sold the bird spike at Rs. 70 a running foot,” he wrote, adding it was 10 times cheaper than the imported version. It cost him Rs. 22/piece to make.

So that was the story of Anand Jain’s parallel startup which he ran until Burrp became popular. Let us know what you think about the story in the comments.



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