Think & build with Indian entrepreneurs

November 1. Yikes… how the hell did that happen?

With only 60 days left in the year, our team is taking massive action to help you think, build, and grow alongside the world’s most inspiring entrepreneurs.

In today’s issue, I revisit two conversations with Indian entrepreneurs and give you a sneak peek into what’s on the horizon for feature stories on our site.

Let’s go!

In today's email:

  • Think with Indian e-commerce entrepreneur Brij Purohit

  • Build with Sakshi Shah, who’s “making mental health a 'dining table' conversation”

  • Grow with women and underrepresented entrepreneurs in two distinct corners of the world

  • Watchlist: We’ve got a new writer on the team, and her first story is our third about a Kenyan entrepreneur.

Think with SellerApp’s Brij Purohit

When I asked Brij Purohit, as I always do, if he started thinking about entrepreneurship as a little kid, he laughed. “Probably when I was seven years old, I was playing cricket.”

Although he didn’t say (or didn’t remember) the exact moment the idea popped into his head, Brij says he “always wanted to explore something which is not… in the given, defined track.”

“So that's where I started my journey: From [being a corporate employee], I switched to [a] startup, and from the startup, I moved to entrepreneurship.

“I always wanted to challenge myself. When you do something and don't know your ceiling, you will try to explore more. That's where I felt things move for me and put me on [this] track,” says Brij.

Sensing he’s comfortable outside of his comfort zone, I dig in. It’s been around eight years since he started SellerApp. Does he remember a time he thought, Wow, I'm in way over my head, I don't know what I'm doing?

When Brij co-founded the company at the end of 2016, it wasn’t called SellerApp. 

For the first “six to seven months,” he says they were doing a lot of “non-scalable things” (more on that in the next section of today’s newsletter). They talked to people individually, “chatting on Facebook forums, Reddit forums to understand [their] problems.”

After several months of consistently chatting with potential customers on social media, "people were using [the product]. They were very happy about it. There were discussions… and people saying, ‘Why don’t you use this? This [product] can solve your problems.’”

It was around this time that Amazon took notice of Brij’s hot new startup, SellerPrime. The e-commerce giant dropped the hammer with a cease and desist letter saying, according to Brij, “You cannot use ‘Prime, our favorite word.’”

“And me and my founder were like, ‘Shit man, what is this?’”

Brij said they “invested eight to nine months — or probably more time — building content, building SEO,” which they ultimately had to reverse, requiring “a lot of work for another six months because all our content had to be [modified to fit]”

Getting a cease and desist letter from one of the biggest companies in the world is enough to stop a brand-new, cash-poor business dead in its tracks. It's like, Oh, holy shit, we're going to die, right? Or is it?

What did Brij and his team do?

“We replied to that email. We said, ‘Hey, Mr. X, can we talk? We are okay to change the name. Can we get on a call and understand what else we can use?’”

He recalls “asking the guy if we are okay to change the name and follow the terms and conditions, the marketing guidelines, whatever Amazon says.”

“Exploring [all] the options,” as Brij put it, impacted the entire direction of his business. Rather than thinking, We’re screwed here, he thought, Let’s talk and seek to understand — and this is how they landed on SellerApp as the new name.

“But [] was not available. Someone was selling it for $15,000. $15,000!”

“We negotiated hard… and got the domain name for $3,000, which was still considerable for us because we were not making much money. So, we bought the domain for $3,000. Now just the domain itself,, is worth $3 million,” he says. (The domain name’s value is unverified.)

Brij says choosing SellerApp was “probably the best decision at this point“ and sums up his thought process with a healthy dose of self-awareness: “You have to take those bets.. and you probably have to be lucky enough that they eventually fall in the right place.”

Build with Indian entrepreneur Sakshi Shah

How much conventional wisdom around building a business is completely outdated?

For most people I talk to, it’s the unconventional stuff that gets them moving in the right direction. They do things that don’t scale (like Brij) because this is how they connect deeply with their customers. They also do things most people aren’t willing to do (but perhaps that’s what makes them entrepreneurs in the first place).

Take Sakshi Shah and her business partner, Lawrance Lovedeep. Put yourself in their shoes: You’ve got an idea; you think you’ve identified a very basic problem

Are you willing to talk to 600 - 700 people to see if you’re on the right track — to test your hypothesis?

This is precisely what Sakshi and Lawrance did (on WhatsApp!) as a first step in building their mental health platform, GoodLives.

So, how did GoodLives come to be?

Sakshi says, “Lawrence and I both have been very sensitive towards the topic of mental health from a very young age. We have seen people in our families going through depression, and when we were doing our masters together at IIT Kharagpur — it was [from] 2017 to 2019 — five people lost their lives due to depression.

“That was a big turning point for us.”

She explains they were “completely shook. We realised that even though there were facilities at the university — there were counsellors present — nobody would go and talk to counselors.”

That’s how the WhatsApp conversations started: “[We] asked our friends and family, ‘Why you are not going to a counsellor? Do you need help?’ — some basic questions. Then we realised that the problem was very simple and very deep-rooted.”

Elaborating further, Sakshi admits the pandemic helped them foster these conversations. “Fortunately or unfortunately, at that time, the pandemic had just started. So, the awareness grew suddenly about mental health. We were able to talk to people more openly,” she says.

After several hundred conversations, they identified the very basic problem: “People did not know how to choose the right counsellor. And there were very basic steps to it. Honestly, there was no sort of technical rocket science to it, and it was very simple: They should be aware [of] the counsellor's expertise, they should be aware [of] their age, which counsellor is more comfortable in dealing [with] their past experiences, etc.”

Sakshi reiterates, “People just didn't know whom to go to and what to expect with a counsellor.” A very basic problem.

Was that very basic problem something that just occurred to you over time?

“So we put together some data because we were talking to so many people. After a point, you know, listening to everybody's problems, it's very difficult to understand what actually to help with. So, we started analyzing this data. We started asking people to answer a few questions.

“Because it was a conversation, it was very easy for them to answer. If I would have asked them to fill [out] a form, they would have shied away from it.

“So we asked them, you know, ‘How are you doing today? What are you coming for help [with]? What is your age?’ and so on,” she says.

Sakshi admits that building the foundation for GoodLives involved a bit of intuition and thinking on her feet while constantly checking her gut feelings against the data.

“As the saying goes, ‘In God we trust, but all others must bring data.’”

She says, “Because of my computer science background and his (Lawrance’s) electronics background, we were very tech-focused from the start. That helped us a lot in many ways. We developed an algorithm where we just said, ‘Come to us, and we'll match you to the right therapist.’”

And yet again, the universe gave them a nudge in the right direction: “That sort of boomed during the second wave of the pandemic in India. [It] really hit the chords with people who were feeling anxious. They knew that when I'm going to a counsellor, this person would be able to understand what I'm going through. So that confidence building happened very quickly because we were solving a core issue for the audience.”

At this point, we’ve only laid the foundation for how Sakshi and Lawrance built GoodLives. There’s much more to the story — like how they monetized the business, grew, and served the other side of their marketplace (therapists). We’ll continue exploring their entrepreneurial journey in the coming weeks.

Grow with [redacted]

I’m struggling to keep my mouth shut (no surprise there), but this is a big deal, so a couple of little hints won’t hurt.

We’re finalizing partnerships with two organizations — one in LatAm and one in Europe — that will allow us to feature women and entrepreneurs from underrepresented cultures on our website and in upcoming issues of this newsletter.

Do enough internet sleuthing, and you might be able to find out exactly which organizations I’m talking about (but you didn’t hear it from me). The LatAm org is a community for VCs and Angel Investors, specifically focusing on empowering women to advance their entrepreneurial careers. The European one is one of the world’s largest startup accelerators with “~40% women founders and usually 20-30% of each cohort are international people.”

When we get the thumbs up to be an official partner of these organizations, the Grow section of this newsletter will primarily focus on featuring the entrepreneurs and startups that are part of their networks.

We’re gonna make it happen ASAP — so stay tuned!

🔎 Watchlist

In our third feature story out of Kenya, we take a deep dive into Granville Wafula’s mission to empower local entrepreneurs and startups in Nairobi. His story combines passion, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of transformative change in Kenyan entrepreneurship. Read it here.

Know an entrepreneur we should meet? Drop us a line at [email protected].

Until next time,

Nolan Bulger

Founder, Mergerous Media Co.

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P.S. Don’t forget to check out the special announcement about Mergerous Growth Academy.