(October 20, 2021) It was the Fall of 2017 when a 19-year-old Akshay Ruparelia was studying hard for his A Levels in the UK. The Indian-origin teen had his eyes set on a university education at Oxford, one of UK’s most prestigious institutions. However, Akshay wasn’t your typical school-going teen. He was also calling the shots at his just over a year-old startup Doorsteps. The online real estate agency that had been disrupting a traditional, centuries-old industry was finding its moment in the sun. And so was Akshay. The company had just been valued at £12 million just 16 months after its launch and Akshay had become UK’s youngest millionaire.
Today, five years later, Akshay may have moved on from Doorsteps, but he’s become a name to reckon with in the world of real estate and startups for his keen business acumen. In 2018, he was ranked sixth by The Sunday Times Rich List in Britain’s Millionaire Entrepreneurs Under 30, while Startups.co.uk included him in their list of 15 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2018. By 2019, The Great British Entrepreneur Awards listed him in their 20 Most Exciting Entrepreneurs to Watch For and this year, he was included in Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe Technology list.
Turns out, this young Global Indian had always had an entrepreneurial streak.
Eat the frog! And other tips on success from 19-year-old millionaire Akshay Ruparelia #MondayMotivation
— BBC Ideas💡 (@bbcideas) July 6, 2020
The Harrow lad who made it big
Akshay was born in 1998 in Hemel Hempstead in a Gujarati family: both his parents are hearing impaired. His father Kaushik Ruparelia is a care worker, while his mother Renuka a teaching assistant and support worker for deaf children. His parents impairment meant that Akshay had begun shouldering responsibility from a young age along with his elder sister. When his family moved to Harrow, he attended Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet. The Indian-origin youngster had always had an entrepreneurial streak from a young age and would often sell sweets for a new PlayStation, sell colognes or start a new app. In an interview with Love Money he’d said, “I’ve always enjoyed the feeling of trading and working with new ideas, outside the framework of the school curriculum.”
Akshay was exposed to the real estate industry at a young age when his parents were looking to move the family home from Hempstead to Harrow. The experience exposed him to how real estate agencies functioned, the services they offered and the costs involved. By the time he was 17, he began to notice several gaps in the market and the exorbitant costs involved for the home buyer.
That’s when he decided to launch Doorsteps, a disruptive new online real estate agency that drastically cut down agent fees and made selling and buying homes a whole lot easier. He’d borrowed £7,000 from relatives to start the website and would hire call centers to take client calls while he was at school. Once he’d get home from his classes, he’d begin returning those calls.
His first breakthrough came when his first client, a man from Sussex, asked Akshay to sell his house and a chunk of land next to it. “I had to pay my sister’s boyfriend 40 pounds to drive me to Sussex to take photographs of the house, as I hadn’t passed my driving test and didn’t have a car,” he told Hindustan Times in an interview. He was able to sell the property and land within three weeks and that set the ball rolling for this youngster.
Before long, he’d begun to expand his team and hire employees to aid his work. His model was based on hiring a network of self-employed mothers across the UK, who would show clients around the properties he’d listed. “Quite rightly people trust mums. Every mum who works for me will be honest and tell the truth. It is important. For the majority of people selling their home is the biggest financial transaction of their lives,” he told the Daily Mirror.
Within 16 months of launching Doorsteps, the company became the 18th biggest estate agency in the UK. What worked in Akshay’s favor was his keen business acumen. He stuck to one office, worked with local property consultants and focused on customer service. Doorsteps allowed people to sell their property for a set fee (a fraction of the market rate) from the comfort of their homes.
His idea to set up a small business stemmed from his reading of Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary’s biography. “Mr O’Leary began by selling flights for just 4.99 pounds. His point was that if you can offer customers something at a price they can’t believe and you deliver what you say you will, you hook people in and your business will work,” he said. He also followed brands such as Uber and Amazon to learn disruptive business tactics.
In an interview with Forbes, Akshay said that he imbibed his work ethic from his family. “My parents’ work ethic is amazing. Dad was kicked out of Kenya with his family and moved to the UK. Being deaf (both Akshay’s parents and one of his sisters are deaf) made things even more difficult. But they worked very hard, saved, scrimped and became independent from their family. That’s where I get my work ethic from – not only from an imitation point of view and role modelling, but my desire to succeed was initially driven by the goal of changing their lives for the better.”
His business grew quickly under his leadership and in 2020 Doorsteps was valued at £18 million making it the third largest online estate agent and the 10th largest estate agent in the UK.
A bend in the road
Earlier this year, Akshay announced his decision to move on from Doorsteps following a strategic difference with his fellow director. In his statement, he’d said, “I am deeply motivated and passionate about the projects I will be moving onto, starting with AKR Growth Ventures. The purpose and mission of AKR Growth Ventures is to change lives by helping young founders, startups and charities disrupt out-of-date and out-of-touch business practices – through technology, organisational culture and exceptional performance.”
Incidentally, Akshay had been offered a place at Oxford University to study Economics and Mathematics back in 2017. At the time, he decided to forego the admission to focus on his business. However, last year, the youngster completed the 10ksb program by Oxford.
The youngster, who’s been making waves in the world of business, also actively works to give back to the community he lives and works in. Akshay became the ambassador for the Royal Association of Deaf People, a non-profit organization, in 2020. He is also on the board of The Prince’s Trust RISE young philanthropy campaign. Apart from that he is the ambassador of the Harrow United Deaf Club and supports the Step Up to Serve program by iwill Campaign.
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