Getting any legal process done, even simple things like drafting a rent agreement or sending a notice, is always a task. Not everyone knows the nitty-gritties of the law. Finding the right lawyer isn’t always easy either.
When Hrishikesh Datar was presenting an idea at IIM Bangalore for a portal to provide quality content to lawyers, a member of the audience stood up and said, “Why not instead help people find lawyers online?” This moment only reinforced to him the need for a provider of legal solutions online.
Having worked inside the system and looking at experiences of people around him, Hrishikesh saw a great business opportunity here and went on to found Vakilsearch in September 2011.
Vakilsearch started off as a website to find and fix appointments with lawyers, but has today grown into a one-stop solution for anyone looking not just for a lawyer, but also a chartered accountant or company secretary.
It started initially offering 4-5 services like writing a will, drafting a rent agreement for a house and seeking legal advice. Today, it has over 80 services.
“We register all types of entities (pvt ltd, LLP, partnership), offer intellectual property services (trademark, copyright and patent), documentation work like NDAs, employment agreements, founders' agreements and shareholders' agreements; accounting (completely online), corporate compliance and even government registrations such as VAT, service tax, and now GST,” says Hrishikesh.
But the most popular services they offer are company incorporation, trademark registration, their annual corporate compliance and accounting packages for private limited companies.
Customers are charged a fee for every referral or for the service Vakilsearch provides. Prices range from Rs 899 for a rental agreement to Rs 50,000 for an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
“Customers pay us typically only for the service they want, although many also choose a retainer for the annual and routine compliances. This keeps the price low,” Hrishikesh says.
The testimony to the fact that there are so many people out there looking for legal help is the fact that Vakilsearch has served over 140,000 customers across the globe over the past five years with growth being most robust in the past three years.
Hrishikesh Datar, founder and CEO, Vakilsearch
Going beyond just serving consumers with their legal needs, Vakilsearch launched a law practice management software for lawyers across India called Libra. The idea is to build the largest ecosystem of professionals by putting great technology in thousands of lawyers’ offices, says Hrishikesh.
Libra, a SaaS product is a comprehensive solution for legal professionals in India. For non-litigating lawyers, it provides services like time management, where lawyers can track every minute of their time and lets them manage and delegate work across firms. It lets lawyers digitise their documents with a 100 GB documentation vault to store and retrieve documents. Transactions too are recorded to let lawyers see how, where and when time was spent.
For litigating lawyers–lawyers who argue cases in court–it automates their cause-lists and also helps in preparing the court calendar weeks in advance. Libra also lets a lawyer track brand names, company data and even very valuable criminal data making FIR and criminal records of any person available online.
Additionally, 1000s of formats for every legal document and court procedures are available on Libra, cutting down the time a litigating lawyer would otherwise spend drafting.
These are just some of the services Libra offers.
Hrishkesh doesn’t see competition for his firm. According to him, they are the only online legal services provider that offer complete support to businesses.
“If you were a small business owner, for example, we would help you register your entity and get essential government registrations, manage your intellectual property needs, connect you with lawyers for all documentation requirements (as opposed to offering basic templates at a low price), and even help you run your business with services such as accounting, payroll solutions and our compliance packages,” he adds.
The legal space in India is heavily fragmented, according to him. And while there are several professional lawyers today, there no control over quality and no fixed pricing. This has given people the perception of good legal service always being extremely expensive.
This is what Vakilsearch is trying to change not only by providing all legal services but also by creating a massive network of lawyers through its software Libra.
And it seems to be working. Its technology investment in Libra is already beginning to show results and it expects its core business of providing legal solutions, online to start generating profits this year. In fact, Hrishikesh has even made it to the Forbes Under 30 list.
There are no grands plans as such going forward, but one simple mission that Hrishikesh says the 175-member team will relentlessly continue to focus on: Legal is now Simple.