Interview with Mr Ramanuj Mukherjee , CEO of LawSikho & iPleaders

Interview with Mr Ramanuj Mukherjee , CEO of LawSikho & iPleaders

Content :

1. Tell us about yourself 
Professionally, I am the CEO of LawSikho and iPleaders, and I have started several successful businesses in the legal space, and shut down a few. I have been into the legal education space for 13 years now. In these areas, I have continually experimented with new products, services and platforms in the legal space. I launched my first online course Barhacker back in 2009 in collaboration with Abhyuday, my cofounder and Kian Ganz, founder of LegallyIndia. I am very passionate about making justice available to everyone in India, and I see working on legal education, legal literacy, legal media and technology as a way to impact the entire justice ecosystem. I have dedicated my career to creating access to justice and will keep working in this space until I feel that there is true justice available at a universal scale.
Personally, I am inspired by the idea that each of us can make a big contribution by standing behind causes that are bigger than just ourselves. I love building teams and curating communities. To start new projects and see them through is extremely satisfying to me.


2. Can you tell us about your venture LawSikho?
LawSikho is an online education company that creates advanced and practical legal courses that cater to lawyers, law firms, leading businesses and even universities. I can say today we create the world's most advanced law courses with a focus on practical work and challenges lawyers face in their work. Our goal is to create extraordinary lawyers through training, education, personal coaching and other tools.  Although as of now we teach only Indian law, we attract students from all over the world. In order to create these courses, we have to bridge the gap between theory and practice in legal education. We bring industry insights into the domain of legal education and simplify learning skills that help you to do client work. We have made legal education simpler, quicker and cheaper. We are not competing with other online courses, which are mostly content based. We focus on experiential learning, where you have to work on problems hands on, draft documents, come up with strategies, solve realistic legal problems and then you get feedback on the quality of your work from experts. Repeating this work-feedback loop week on week ensures that our students drastically improve their legal skills and emerge as better lawyers. We are able to short-circuit the learning process and speed up the development of legal skills. The idea is that we would teach legal skills like a master would teach karate, music or piano. We are producing phenomenal results. Traditionally lawyers learn practical legal skills and how to do client work from their seniors during course of work through trial, errors and observation. Imagine what an average law firm associate learns in 2 years, or a litigation lawyer learns in 3 years. We pack that much learning in our courses within 6 months to 1 year. Due to the benefit of guided deliberate practice, consistent work and systematic well-planned coaching frameworks we use, our students start seeing return on investment or learn new skills that they can use to earn more within weeks. Over the years, LawSikho has also become a formidable library of practical legal knowledge, a repository of insights, video lessons, how-to guides and templates that can elevate a legal practice and help it to scale faster. 


3. How did the idea for your business come about?
India is currently facing a tremendous problem when it comes to access to justice. Majority of the citizens do not have access to the necessary tools, information, or a proper platform to access justice in the country. The masses do not know how the legal system works which makes them disrespect the system. Many people have lost faith in the legal system because they cannot make the wheels of justice turn. Many people fail to get justice or are stuck in the legal system as it will take decades to hear the 3 crore plus pending cases. Undertrials are in jail without being proven guilty for years and thousands of people are waiting in a queue to get justice. But in many cases, the waiting period is longer than the punishment itself. The situation is a travesty of justice.

Even common people can improve their own ability to access justice if they get access to reliable and actionable legal insights. However, there is no initiative to make this information and insights available to common people. The prevailing situation is unbearable and very unfortunate – but most people in India do not understand what is going on because they don’t have the technical knowledge necessary to understand the situation.

It is not just the common people but even lawyers who are finding themselves in a difficult situation. In many cases they are not able to get justice for their clients because systems just don’t work the way they were designed to. At times, lawyers do not have the knowledge or skills to deliver the results that clients expect. A very large number of lawyers in India just work as brokers, getting work from clients and passing on to other lawyers who know the work in exchange of a cut. Many lawyers resort to petty tricks in order to make ends meet simply because they do not have the requisite skills to deliver results. This further alienates the public from the legal system.
What if all lawyers had access to skills that would help them to become an effective friend of the people, who finds solutions in difficult situations, and are respected for that work? Education and skill training of lawyers and mass legal literacy are the first two stepping stones if Indian has to emerge as a mature democracy, economy and a country based on rule of law.
So that is why I and my team at LawSikho have made legal education and creating and curating high quality training delivered through innovative methods a priority and purpose of our lives. I have personally dedicated my career to creating access to justice in India. To be honest, it is not just me or my co-founders, but many of our team members joined us and helped us to shape the vision.

4. What are the challenges you faced till date and presently facing?
For me it is very challenging to stay productive when things don’t budge, keeping the spirits high amidst failure and incomplete projects that just don’t progress. To keep working when results are not visible and you are not sure you have taken the right path. Sometimes you face the wrath of the system when you are taking on established norms and disrupting an industry. In those dark times, to keep faith in oneself and just keep doing the work is difficult and soul-crushing, but that is where success really takes place so one must keep going. My biggest challenges are building a great team, ensuring quality as we scale up in a big way, and learning how to manage a fast growing organization.


5. What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur?
I had an opportunity to begin working while I was still a law student. I was kind of forced to earn as well as my educational loan ran out as the university doubled the fees all of a sudden. I worked as a freelancer for one of the coaching institutes that was trying to enter the law entrance market. I performed well and managed to get fairly large contracts from them. I made courses for the institute from scratch for thousands of students. My work involved writing modules, preparing questionnaires, planning curriculum and classroom teaching. I also had classroom teaching experience of over 300 hours even before I graduated. I managed a team of people who helped me with this work. At a point, the team grew to twenty people working as freelancers for me. I also got exposure in marketing and sales as I went from school to school promoting the CLAT classes. The years really prepared me well to take the challenge of starting my own course, which I did even before I graduated. I designed and launched a course called BarHacker which is a bar exam preparation course. 50 people bought it before the first bar exam and we were in business! It was thrilling to see that we could launch a product and someone is actually spending money to buy it. Apart from this, I began doing some legal risk management work when I was a student. Initially, I worked for entrepreneurs for free. When I learned enough and had enough goodwill, I started charging. This was the beginning of iPleaders. We started it as a consultancy, but now it is a legal media website in its own right with almost 1 crore individuals reading it in a year. It helped me immensely to learn about the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs, businessmen and even lawyers. Our courses always focused on such problems because that helps the learners a great deal. Our experiences prepare us. It is always a good idea to get as much exposure as possible early on in life. My exposure led to  my eventual role as founder of an online legal education company.


6. How did you raise funding for your venture?
We are bootstrapped and self-financed up till now. We have managed to grow fairly well in the last 1 year profitably, without external funding. However, we have some pretty big expansion plans and we are now looking for funding.


7. How do you build a successful customer base?
Our customers or our learners as I like to call them are the reason we exist. We give our courses everything we can. We work tirelessly with our learners, faculty members and evaluators to deliver success to the learner. It is not a hands off business. Until the student gets to learn what they wanted to learn, and is able to produce some results in life by implementing what they learnt from us, we are not done. We go far beyond what people normally expect from an online education business. We are not hands-off, low touch kind of education business. We are not looking to make our business more scalable by reducing human interaction or intervention. It is very effort intensive. But we know that if we produce the right set of results for our learners, we keep growing rapidly. We just have to focus on the quality of the learning outcomes we produce for our students.
I believe that we have been successful so far because we have always given our customers a feeling of belonging. We are a community of people committed to utmost high standards in legal work, and continuous self-development, and our learners identify with those values. That adds to the appeal. We may not appeal to everyone out there, but those who identify with excellence, continuous learning and development, pushing boundaries and standards in legal practice gravitate towards us. 
Nobody does what we do, nobody talks about this either. That makes us unique. Sometimes we feel like we have a monopoly over what we do, because nobody else dares to even try to do what we do!
Positive reviews have gone up by 400% over the last 3 months, which we post in our LawSikho youtube channel. I think this is contributing a great deal in our growth. 


8. How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful?
Our primary marketing strategy is to give away lots of free content to potential users. This content must be of a very high quality, something that is evidently valuable and useful. When people benefit from such free content, a fraction of them take interest in our paid offerings. We also make it a point to keep in touch with potential users through our very popular email newsletter (you can subscribe from the homepage of, our youtube channel, instagram, linkedin page etc. This approach has so far worked well for us. 


9. What kind of culture exists in your organization, and how did you establish it?
We are a purpose driven organization, rather than just being profit driven or even personality driven. We need money to grow, so we have a sharp focus on that, but we genuinely care about work. I and Abhyuday have chosen to take a minimal salary and reinvest all the profits into the business year after year, which has enabled us to grow to a size of 50 people.
We practice full transparency. Everyone in the organization knows the revenues, expenses, growth, acceleration or slow down, everything. Our strategies and plans are not hidden, it is for everyone to see in the open. We are not afraid of being copied. 
And our people are given full autonomy to grow, innovate and follow only the minimum rules that allow us to prevent chaos but do not stunt creativity. We do not believe in an unhealthy competitive environment, that kind of an environment not only breeds politics but also hampers a person's productivity. 
Decisions are driven by fairness, compassion and a sense of justice rather than fear, insecurity or ego. This is very important. Many of us including me live together in a co-living space, and we are very good friends apart from being colleagues. I am very proud of the environment we have created in LawSikho.

10. How do you generate new ideas?
I read a lot. If there is something new happening in the world and it’s not making sense to me, I have to immediately figure it out. My research habit keeps me ahead of the curve, and helps to come up with new ideas as well. I am always trying to think ahead about how things would play out, and that is a great habit to develop as a founder. 


11. What are your ideals?
I would not call myself a very idealistic person but I do believe in following certain things in life. For me, hard work and perseverance are two pillars that make a person’s life. Without these qualities, a person can achieve precisely little. Having said that I also believe that every person fails at some point in life and that no man is perfect. I believe that there is always a scope for improvement in a person and I try to instill this belief in my team and all the people I interact with. From investment rises growth. I believe in personal, professional and environmental growth. I like to invest in all sorts of things that would help me grow as a person and I often recommend the same to my colleagues and peers.


12. How do you define success?
Success for me in an ongoing process. It is not an ultimate accomplishment, nor crossing a certain threshold. 
Success is being able to take the right set of actions with full intent day after day. Success is going beyond what seemed impossible earlier. 
Success is learning deep lessons about yourself, and being able to do internal work continuously. 
Success is being able to make a difference in the life of another person.
Success is being able to find your fears, their roots and deal with them. 
Success is being able to find what distracts you and dealing with it. 
Success is being able to find how your identity has shaped up, knowing and seeing that you can remake it. 
Success is being able to add value to the lives of the people around you.
Success is also about keeping your head down and working during difficult times. It is being able to invest in yourself when the competition is in despair and distracted.

And if you do these things, great accomplishments, results or desired outcomes are bound to come around eventually.


13. Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Yes there is a formula. Generate 10x value for your customer and then ask for only x. This makes sure that you grow superfast because your customers will be raving about you. The other thing is to focus on the market and find a real problem that is a burning issue for some people but remain unsolved. Too many people do not do this, and start something that is just incrementally better than another thing, or very innovative but with zero market demand.  Please don’t do these things. Other than this, you need to develop people skills. Nothing is going to happen unless you have a way with people.

14. What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Self-determination. In business, you get to make decisions. I like to believe that business is like a game, if you do things correctly and make the right decision you will get to the next level but if you don’t there will be consequences for that. Finally one day you will reach the goal you set out to achieve and that for me is the driving force as an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur helps me in making other people successful. Knowing that my organisation helped them to achieve some sort of success in whatever work they are doing is the best thing in the world!


15. What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment in business for me was the first time somebody bought our product known as the Master Access Library. The master access library previously was launched for Rs. 1,00,000 (now Rs.1,50,000) and our first buyer bought the product even before we could launch it. He got to know about the product from our customer service and bought it just by sending an email to me asking about the details of the product since at that time we still did not have a landing page for master access. Surely my team and I had doubts earlier regarding the pricing of the product. We were not quite sure whether someone would spend such a large amount of money on a library of online courses. But after that day, I became more confident and proud of my courses. That first payment was a breakthrough point for me and the team and it made me believe that we were going in the right direction.

16. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Tim Ferris.


17. Any message for future entrepreneur
No mediocrity, always take the game to the next level personally and professionally. Do not compromise with something that you know is not what you deserve.

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