By Christy Lau
In the business of buying used phones, Kaitorasap founders Deepak “Daniel” Narula and Thanavut “Woody” Kalra are on a mission to give their customers the prices and service they deserve.
Anyone familiar with selling their phone at MBK Center will have endured the frustration of going from shop to shop in an attempt to get a fair price for their second-hand device. Hoping to change all that, Deepak “Daniel” Narula and Thanavut “Woody” Kalra founded Kaitorasap in 2016. It’s Thailand’s first website to give users the ability to sell their old phones without leaving the comfort of their homes.
Enjoying a close friendship since their undergraduate days at Mahidol University, the two men had their own businesses prior to setting up Kaitorasap, but saw a potential business opportunity that combined their respective talents and skillsets. Daniel had the online marketing knowledge from running travel agency Yellow Star 88, while Woody’s five-year background in the phone trading business at MBK Center proved invaluable when coming up with fair pricing. Sacrificing their leisure time to set up the business, they originally handled all of the operations on their own, before expanding to become a company that works with some of the country’s biggest phone companies.
Despite this remarkable achievement, they may just be two of the most down-to-earth entrepreneurs you will ever meet. They stress that their primary motivation isn’t monetary; they simply want to make people’s lives more convenient.
What drove you to start Kaitorasap?
Daniel: The frustration that people weren’t getting the right price for their used phones and thousands of people like us were being cheated and misled. We understand the struggle of going around MBK Center and not knowing which price is real or fake. My partner Woody, who had a booth selling and buying phones at MBK Center, was the one who proposed that there should be a system where people can get a fair price for the used phones they sell, and that’s how it all began.
What are the unique benefits of using Kaitorasap?
Daniel: We’re different from 99.9 percent of phone trading services out there trying to take money from you, because we come directly to you and pay you cash up front. You don’t have to spend hours hunting for a good price for your used phone. Once you place an order through our website, we give you an estimated price, and then deploy one of our technicians to your house to pick up your phone within 24 hours.
How do you ensure fair pricing for the phones?
Woody: We study the phone market ourselves every day. We also regularly check the prices at MBK Center to make sure our prices are better than 98 percent of the booths there.
You have a grading system to determine a phone’s value based on its condition. How does it work, and how can a customer be sure their phone is being given a fair analysis?
Woody: We rate phones from A to F, Grade A meaning the phone is in near mint condition. Customers use the guide on the website to pick a grade, and we give them an estimated price based on that. When our technicians reach your address, phones are re-evaluated again, and the technicians will explain exactly why your phone falls into a certain category. If the pricing has to be re-adjusted, we offer the customer the choice to still go ahead with the deal or not. This is a far more trustworthy procedure than what usually happens at MBK Center, where they sometimes ask you to wait an hour while they evaluate the phone, and may even tamper with it in an attempt to rip you off.
Do you accept phones with broken screens?
Woody: Phones with broken screens are considered Grade F, but yes, we will accept even those, as long as they can still function.
Where do the used phones you buy go?
Woody: We actually have our own buyers from India, Bangladesh, and some countries in Africa. They each have their own technical teams to repair and resell the phones in their respective markets. In India, most machines are re-sold in rural areas and in big mobile markets in Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore.
What were some of the challenges you faced setting up Kaitorasap initially?
Daniel: When we started, it was a whole new world for us. We were doing everything ourselves, including launching the website, promoting the service and even picking up the phones from customers. We only hired our first technician after six months, to assist with pick-ups.
As a company, what has been your biggest achievement yet?
Daniel: We were contacted by a leading global smartphone brand (name is withheld for confidentiality reasons) in 2017, asking for our help in selling more than 5,000 used phones through the website. At the time, we still had a very small team, and on our very first day of operations, we got orders for over 100 phones. We had to pick them up from the company’s branches all over the country in 10 days. We ended up visiting eight or nine stores in a day, travelling around the north of Thailand by various modes of transportation, and managed to complete the task in just eight days.
What are your future plans for Kaitorasap?
Woody: In about a month, we are hoping to launch the Kaitorasap app on iOS and Android. It will include a GPS tracker, so you don’t have to manually type in your address for phone pick-ups. We also want to work on shortening the timeline of getting your phone picked up to within two hours. As for expansion, we just opened a branch in Chiang Mai. Our next target will be getting Kaitorasap to Korat, Phuket, Chonburi and all the other major cities in Thailand.
What would your advice be to other people who want to start a business?
Daniel: Be prepared to put in the time and hard work. You have to sacrifice something in order to gain something else. It’s easy for people to look at the end process of Kaitorasap and think we had it easy going, with a big budget and all the resources in the world, but Woody and I were working 16-hour days for the first two years and there were moments where we didn’t know if we could make it. Handling the deal with that major phone brand with just the two of us seemed impossible, but we pushed ourselves to the limit and here we are today. No matter your background, what matters most is your determination to achieve success.