Law school has traditionally been restrictive in the paths it offers – most people limit themselves to a life in a corporate or pleading in the courts. However, this is fast changing, and more and more young lawyers and law students are venturing into new and untouched areas. Your reporter spoke to Aroon Menon and Pranav Jain, two fourth year students here at NLUD who ventured into the heady world of entrepreneurship very recently with their maiden project, KitnaTax.com.
What is kitnatax?
Aroon: It’s essentially a calculator that allows you to know exactly how much you should pay at a restaurant or bar, including all applicable taxes. It helps consumers and ensures that proprietors don’t get away with a dishonest buck through manipulating the taxes.
Was necessity the mother of invention in this case?
Pranav: You could say that. Born and brought up in Delhi, we’re used to a new joint sprouting up every two weeks which we’d end up going to with our friends. These days, the taxes are exorbitant, and are made convoluted to just confuse the customer into paying the amount on the final line. Most people find the hassle of calculating and scrutinising too cumbersome and end up just paying the amount asked for without verifying whether they’re paying only as much as they should. I’ve had some weird experiences myself: like the one time I was forced to pay service charge on a takeaway meal.
Aroon: In college, we often order in together or go out with friends. While we usually go Dutch, the taxes often become confusing to split fairly. KitnaTax is useful because it can be used to calculate your exact share! Just add the items you ordered and you’ll know exactly how much you need to pay.
Tell us a little about your experience with the word of law and entrepreneurship. What motivated you to start while still in college?
Pranav: There’s no doubt that one can do a lot more today then they ever could before. Our seniors have started their own ventures which did go a long way in motivating us. It helped to have seniors like Aayush Srivastava who gave us the confidence to venture out on our own.
Take us through the process that led to the creation of the website
Pranav: Our initial attempt was to try and make as many restaurants as possible have menus which showed prices inclusive of tax. When this didn’t quite work out, we started collecting bills and scrutinising the taxes. A fair amount of research and study in tax law was also involved. We made the algorithm for the calculator as well as the website ourselves. We hired a designer for some specialised coding, but did most of the other work ourselves.
Was it challenging? Did you face any particular hiccups?
Pranav: It was definitely challenging, but a lot of fun. We worked hard to make it happen, and faced our fair share of problems. We had to deal with high server costs and worked on the design aspect of it ourselves. We also experienced a crash on the very first day of our website being in action: too much traffic! This was really problematic because we had to buy expensive premium server space, and the site itself was down for an hour.
How was the response back home? What were the reactions from family and friends?
Pranav: Everyone has been really supportive and enthusiastic. My family is happy to see me doing something I feel passionate about. My batchmates and friends in college were surprised to see low rankers like Aroon and I doing something like this, but they’ve been exceptionally supporting nonetheless.
Aroon: It’s pretty much the same with me. My elder sister finds it very amusing that I have decided to embark on my own venture, and my parents are probably just happy I’m not in trouble.
What plans for KitnaTax in the future?
Aroon: Currently, we are operating in Delhi . Our plan is to gradually cover all of India in stages. We’re looking at launching our services in various cities across different states.
We’re also working on an iPhone and android app, which is very exciting!
How has working so closely with a friend been?
Pranav: I come from a business family while Aroon is from a legal background. We trusted each other’s skills entirely and counted on each other’s strengths. It’s definitely fun to work with a friend, but you have to be very serious at times. This requires a fair amount of effort, and we often end up having to make sure the other person is serious too. I won’t lie, Aroon tests my patience sometimes, but I’m sure it works the other way round too. On the whole, I’m glad to be doing this with a friend.
Aroon: Oh it’s great fun. Pranav can be very serious and takes professionalism to another level, the bastard (at this point Aroon stops and entreats me not to add the epithet, but he underestimates how seriously we take our reportage at Glasnost.)
Communication was easy because we’ve known each other for four years and could be honest and frank with each other. It’s definitely a different experience when you work with someone you’re associated with even outside work, because then your relationship is about much more than just your venture. It’s important to be very clear with each other and ensure you value the friendship as much as, if not more than, your venture itself.
Last question: with your fifth year fast approaching, what advice would you give your juniors about law school and life in general?
Pranav: You should realise that you need not rely only on your legal knowledge and learning to make a living. There are a lot of opportunities out there and new ideas are rewarded. Try and think beyond corporate or litigation and take the initiative to follow up on ideas and see where that takes you!
Aroon: I have similar advice, but in a larger sense: don’t limit yourself. I mean this not only in the sense of your career, but everything you learn and do in law school. In a place that offers so much, it is important to keep an open mind, to keep exploring and experiencing new things. Try not to fixate on one thing so early in your life. Take your time to figure it out and taste a little of everything you can on the way.