It was while working as a financial planner in Sydney, that 22-year-old Nikhil Sreedhar spotted an alarming trend – firms were consistently charging exorbitant amounts of money for substandard service. Seeing no convenient alternative, clients would still sign up to these firms and get little value for their buck.
This inspired Sreedhar to pursue a better solution – ProAdviser.com.au, an online marketplace where consumers can receive quotes, compare advisers and contact the professional best suited to the job.
At first, the idea was to create a platform for finding the right financial advisers. But on further study, Sreedhar learned that consumers – whether they’re seeking professional advice from a financial planner, accountant, insurance broker, or lawyer – are left manually sifting through search engine results or online directories, or asking family and friends for referrals. Conventional modes of discovery were not only time-consuming, but often required compromising on budget or quality of service.
As such, Sreedhar realised that the ProAdviser model could be applied across the financial, insurance and legal industries – simultaneously. As such, the online marketplace was born with the intention of making the professional services industries more transparent, accessible and cheaper for Australian consumers.
“All of these industries are huge, but there is still a large proportion of consumers that fail to seek advice because it seems out of reach. And there are plenty of professionals that haven’t yet explored the idea of attracting clients via the internet,” says Sreedhar.
ProAdviser launched officially in January this year. Sreedhar says the key difference between his startup and other websites with similar intentions is that ProAdviser’s proprietary algorithm uses 18 criteria to pair consumers to professionals –meaning there is a higher likelihood of finding “the perfect match”.
So how does ProAdviser work exactly? Consumers simply fill out a 2-minute form on ProAdviser, called ‘Advice Request’ – detailing type of professional they need, the problem they have and their budget. Using this information, ProAdviser algorithmically matches the consumer with the top five most suitable professionals that meet their requirements. The matched professionals will then provide the consumer with obligation-free quotes and proposals, and the consumer finally chooses the professional that is best suited to the job.
For consumers, ProAdviser is a discovery, quote and comparison tool; and for professionals it functions as a lead generation platform, allowing them to “transition their services online and truly leverage the internet to grow their business”.
“ProAdviser allows professionals to obtain high quality leads for very little effort. The platform does all the work, allowing them to focus more on their clients and less on expensive and time-consuming marketing initiatives,” says Sreedhar.
When he started working on ProAdviser he had enough money in his savings account to take him through the first year of development. Sreedhar’s plan is to bootstrap the venture as much as possible, though he is open to external funding in the future.
ProAdviser is fundamentally a web-based application that needed a custom development solution. Given Sreedhar’s background is in accounting and finance, he had outsource most of the development.
“Finding a long term IT team was important as ProAdviser will continue to evolve. We were able to secure a deal with a web development firm for the price of a sports car,” says Sreedhar.
ProAdviser has a core focus on educational marketing, given how complex the professional services industries are. The startup has a blog where their network of professionals can publish educational articles about their industries to promote themselves and educate the online community.
“The aim is to first allow consumers to use our blog to ask questions and get answers for general problems. Then when they need specialist advice, they can use ProAdviser to find the right professional,” says Sreedhar.
Thus far, ProAdviser has been a one-man show, and therefore a constant challenge for Sreedhar. Though he’s an expert in accounting and finance, he admits needing guidance in other areas of business.
To alleviate some of that pressure, Sreedhar has established a number of strategic partnerships – which has helped with generating sales and increasing online exposure.
Since launching in January, ProAdviser has grown to a network of 30 professionals and has started directing leads to those professionals.
“All of this growth has been organic with no paid marketing so I am very excited to see how ProAdviser performs once our marketing campaigns are underway,” says Sreedhar.
By the end of the year, Sreednhar is aiming to feature at least 300 professionals and help 3,500 clients find their perfect match.
ProAdviser is free for consumers. Professionals who want to be a part of the ProAdviser network are charged an annual subscription fee ($240 plus GST); and every time they want to contact a client, they are charged a contact fee ($60 plus GST).
For more information, visit www.proadviser.com.au.