It was a harsh afternoon in Pune, when Aditi Bhosale Walunj and her husband, Chetan, were inundated with calls of customers asking for barrels of diesel. One of their family-run businesses was that of a petrol pump, and a power cut in the city had triggered a flood of orders. While they were figuring out the logistics, Aditi received a package from Amazon, and simultaneously, she received notifications from the e-commerce giant validating the delivery of the product. It was at that point that the husband-wife duo had a eureka moment, and decided to launch Repos Energy to deliver diesel to the doorstep, in 2017.
In an exclusive conversation with MAKERS India, Aditi spoke about the journey of Ratan Tata-backed Repos Energy, the challenges that came her way, and how she and her husband wanted to build their startup before chasing investors.
Hurdles along the way
The couple always wanted to change the world, and this was their big chance. But the biggest challenge in their way were the regulatory hurdles associated with selling fuel online. Since the business idea was rather unheard of, there were no regulations in place; but both Aditi and Chetan were passionate to bring their idea to life.
When they first sought guidance from bureaucrats and industrialists, the couple got only discouragement. At that time, Indian law did not permit selling diesel outside a petrol pump. And for what Aditi and Chetan wanted to do, they had to seek a policy amendment.
“It was unbelievable that within four months of setting up our office (in 2017), Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted that they will try delivering petrol and diesel at the doorstep. The policy was passed in 2019,” said Aditi.
Today, Repos does door-to-door delivery of diesel in more than 65 Indian cities.
Leading by example
Aditi, a graduate in International Relations, conceived the Repos dream when she was just 26.
Since she didn’t have any prior work experience, she was doubtful if she’d be able to manage this new role.
“I was also worried if people would respect my opinions and decisions, just like Chetan. As women, we often tend to underestimate ourselves; I told myself, if I don’t believe in what I do, no one else will. I made it a point to do everything on my own, because when a male and female are leading, people are more inclined towards the male leadership,” she shared, adding that her husband has always been very supportive, and wants her to lead before him.
Today, Repos has a team of over 250 employees. The startup does not believe in any reporting structure, but in ‘leading by love, not logic’.
Seeking funds in the future
Until now, Aditi and Chetan haven’t actively looked for funds, because they wanted to build a business that is self-sustainable. “We have invested Rs 25 crore from our own pocket, because we wanted our business to generate money. The purpose of investors is to scale it up. At this point, we are being selective about our VCS; we only want strategic investors who we believe we are going to create a revolution,” said Aditi, signing off.
(Interview by Geetika Sachdev; Edited and Produced by Athira Nair)