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Seva Call headquarters are based in Washington, D.C., but recently expanded their service to Philadelphia.

Credit: Courtesy of Seva Call

A start-up by a Wharton grad is taking customer service to a whole new level.

Founded by 2009 MBA recipient Manpreet Singh and his brother Gurpreet Singh, Seva Call allows businesses to phone in-need customers rather than the other way around.

The company, pronounced “save-a-call,” launched in Philadelphia at the end of August. Seva Call grew out of Gurpreet’s frustration with his information technologies business. “He’d get a lot of consumers calling him for computer help and he couldn’t help them all because he was either booked or the job was too far away,” Seva Call president Manpreet said of his brother. “There was a disconnect between the what, when or where.”

Described by the Washington Business Journal as an “algorithm-based answer to the Yellow Pages,” the web service is a more efficient way of connecting customers to local businesses ranging from computer repair to massage therapy.

The site asks customers to specify the type of service they need, when they’ll need service, their area code and how they can be reached. Seva Call then calls several businesses which fit the customer’s criteria, describes the situation and asks if they would like to speak with the customer. Finally, Seva Call connects the businesses with the customer, who can then decide between the several service options.

“A small business owner would spend $20,000 to $30,000 on advertising, or he can spend $10 a call, which is very simple,” Manpreet said.

The company, which began “full development” last fall and launched this June in Washington, D.C., raised $1.3 million dollars in venture funding. Prior to working for Seva Call, Manpreet was a senior equity analyst at a D.C.-based investment management firm.

Manpreet said the decision to leave the firm was difficult but necessary after accepting venture funding.

“I realized if you’re going to take money from other people you have to be fully committed to what you’re doing because you’re working for them now,” he said.

During the course of its development, Seva Call has hired several interns from Penn. College junior Michael Alexander, who interned this summer, found the company on PennLink while searching for marketing-related jobs. “They’d assign you your task and trust you to figure out what needed to be done,” he said of his experience. “There was a lot of independence and agency that they gave the interns.”

Xi Zhang, a 2010 College graduate, said interning for a small company provided more opportunities for learning experiences. “The smaller a business is, the easier it is for someone to see what the roles are,” he said. “In a bigger place, you [work in] a smaller section and you do that really well but you don’t get to see the big picture,” Zhang, now a member of the Seva Call team, said.

2011 College graduate Christina Andrews, who worked with Seva Call in 2009, said working with the start-up has helped her in the business world, particularly with marketing and branding. “The first step we had to take was getting contractors and service providers to enlist in our service, which was difficult given that we had no credibility in the marketplace yet,” she said.

Andrews said the company is a better version of an existing model. “[The founders] took Angie’s List’s business model, saw where inefficiencies are, where gaps are and perfected them,” Andrews said. “Even if there’s a dominant player in the market, there’s still opportunity to perfect what they do,” she added.

Manpreet said the company plans to launch an iPhone and Android app sometime this fall.

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