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Published on: Sept. 10, 2020, 12:29 p.m.
How Treelife grooms start-ups
  • Mitra and Agarwal: nurturing start-ups to grow

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Jitesh Agarwal (30) the founder of the Mumbai-based Treelife Consulting, is a chartered accountant and oversees the finance vertical at Treelife, while Garima Mitra (29) is a lawyer and leads the legal and compliance segment for the company.

Treelife was born out of the efforts, vision and skill-set of Agarwal and Mitra who founded the company in 2015, at a time when India was beginning to witness the start-up boom. They both invested their capital to set up Treelife. From the initial three members including Mudassar, manager of Treelife, the firm has been able to grow, both in terms of internal team strength, and by way of working with an ever-increasing range of start-ups.

Previous to this, they worked in separate firms. While Agarwal worked with Deloitte, Mitra was with Wakhariya & Wakhariya, a boutique law firm. “We noticed the lacuna in the space of start-up consultancy. Additionally, it wasn’t the need to fill a void that led us to leave our comfortable jobs, but rather it was a need to fill a void with standards adopted and perfected by the likes of the big four firms, top law firms and top business consultants, with the same being directed at start-ups,” explains the duo.

In the last five years working with over 200 start-ups, Agarwal has spearheaded multiple funding rounds for them. In Tree Consulting he is involved in complete oversight over multiple funding rounds, for instance, in Rentomojo; then setting up the ERP system and providing a process overhaul for Atomberg, and providing financial transactional and advisory support for the debt funding round of The Better India, among other mandates. 

Agarwal routinely liaises with NAARM, and is the point of contact for social incubator BNest. They have been key advisors to Whitehat Jr and have been advisors for Whitehat in their acquisition by Byju’s. 

Services and solutions

In addition, Mitra brings to the table her expertise towards providing intellectual property advice and transactional support. Key clients of Treelife to which she has provided advice are Rentomojo, social investment platform Rang De, and apparel label WYO. Garima also routinely advises, and is featured as an integral knowledge partner for Social Alpha and SINE. 

“We are first and foremost a full-service start-up consultancy. All solutions that are backend/in-house for a regular company, are provided by us. This includes accounting, audit, legal, compliance, regulatory and strategy. Treelife provides both transactional and advisory support for each service of the range of services they provide,” says Mitra.

“Yes, while we provide services and solutions to early stage start-ups, as Treelife has evolved, so has its client base. Treelife mostly aims to work for mature entities that have moved beyond the proof of concept and have started generating revenues. Our aim is to work with such start-ups till the time they raise their Series C or D funding. After that point, start-ups work with Treelife on a more consultative role as they usually have to move more functions in-house,” points out Agarwal.

“Apart from this, Treelife approaches its service delivery with the aim of providing effective solutions that cut out both the ‘extra’ advice (which, though being conceptually sound, may not be essential at the time) which is a by-product of clubbing services or making the service delivery seem unnecessarily elaborate, and ‘incompetent’ advice which is a result of not paying sufficient attention to the unique challenges a start-up faces,” adds Mitra.

Treelife also works with investors, funds, incubators and accelerators. For many such incubators and accelerators, Treelife has been able to position its offering as a set of service standards that should be abided by as a necessary system of checks and balances for the incubatees and applicants to such kinds of entities.

Says Geetansh Bamania, founder, Rentomojo: “Treelife does not count competitors, primarily because of its own characterisation of the service that it provides. Treelife approaches the provision of its services without assessing the work being done by legal, accounting or regulatory and policy firms operating in the start-up space. Additionally, with Treelife operating as a dedicated start-up-ecosystem enabler, the belief of no-need-to-define-competition, persists.”

Treelife does face challenges but more from specific services like Vakilsearch, an online platform for any business, or indiafilings.com. “These platforms, though functional in their service delivery, cater to a standardised set of services. There isn’t too much of room for accounting for the dynamic requirements start-ups may need to have or benefit from. Moreover, a point of competition (if at all) arises from the seemingly straightforward services offered, though in reality, jumping the hoops within such online platforms may lead to more confusion for the ill-initiated,” says Agarwal who feels “India itself is undergoing policy level changes in the healthcare sector space. 

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