Pixel Jobs – Product review of a job portal by designers for designers

Pixel Jobs Image

Pixel Jobs, designed by the talented folks at Sparklin, is a refreshing look at the boring world of job portals. The problem to solve was simply, “How to get a job post seen by the best creative talent?” An old fashion job-board served as a physical metaphor to yield a clean, simple and inviting job portal cheekily named – Pixel Jobs. It has nifty filters to make searching easy and a straightforward form that allows you post a job in a few minutes.

Pixeljobs Screenshot

 

 

On April 3rd, Avinash and I had freewheeling chat with the young founders of Team Sparklin – Gurpreet Bedi and Himanshu Khanna – on the hows and whys behind the product. 

How did it all began? Are you trying to become Cleartrip for the job space?

“Pixel Jobs really started based on internal need of hiring the best designers. Sparklin started a Facebook group last year to reach out to the designers through personal networks and within a short time close to 1200 people had signed up. That clearly indicated a need for a specialized job site for designers. There are already sites for coders, so why not for designers. This is purely a niche product,” on the why.

“There was a concern on excessive moderating to ensure the postings to be creatively-relevant and accurate. I had to overly moderate the Facebook group for the first couple of months. But then everything kind of fell in line. The relevancy and quality of postings sort of improved on their own. Very little moderation was required. That’s when an open job forum became a viable next step. We still moderate but only for completeness.”

So what is the initial marketing strategy?

“We have deliberately taken a slow approach towards marketing this portal. First, we want to ensure that the platform is robust enough to handle large volumes. Second, by only allowing a selected well-known companies in the creative domain to post (for now) will increase the quality and credibility enough to not warrant a serious marketing push,” elaborating on the initial word of mouth approach.

How is the product going to evolve over next few months? Semantic search, LinkedIn connect, company-based hosting, additional views, etc. are some gaps.

“This is only a version 0. We are improving the product on a daily basis. All these features and many more are in the pipeline and you will see a gradual improvement over next few months. For instance we are working on an Android app to launched soon and targeting companies to use Pixel Jobs to host jobs on their sites. They can just use our embed our code with their branding on their site. There is a big need for this. For example, some of our clients already have a job board on their site but prefer to here.”

Even though the initial version is impressive, there are some user experience improvements to consider. For instance, extending the card metaphor by not going to the next page for a more fluid interaction (too many new windows), introducing category tags as alternate searching mechanism (search only for graphic designers), making search more central to the experience, introduce shared vocabulary (minimal difference between UX Designer and UI Designer), personalizing content based on previous searches and making it easy to follow-up on interesting jobs.

“We agree with all these points. Most of these are being worked on currently. For example, in the Android app you can favourite your job and city. Only those jobs will then be shown by default. These will help personalize your experience. Easier to do this on Android for now and eventually we will introduce them on the web as well.”

How do you plan to distinguish the experience between job seekers and posters?

“This will be a very important strategy once we build some traction and gain volume. For now the obvious focus is job seekers which will help drive better companies to the portal.”

Why is there a disconnect between brand Pixel Jobs and the URL (jobs.pixelonomics.com)? This could split the brand between Pixel Jobs and Pixelonomics. Better to build a single brand for consistent messaging.

Without elaborating on this too much, “We will merge these very shortly under a new brand name in the next release. We could also launch series of boards across other verticals as well – mobile developers, etc. under the same brand.”

It will be hard for the creatives to search on cluttered and difficult to use popular job sites from now on. 

The dream of developing Enterprise Software Products from India

ProGen Business Solutions is a software products company with core focus in the Business Intelligence (BI) & Analytics space. The DNA of ProGen is built around R&D and Innovations, which drives the team to deliver State of the Art & High Quality BI Products that can add value to the customer organizations. Rahul Sharma, Founder & CEO of Progen talks about his joruney of building an Enterprise Software Product from India.

What is your Story? What inspired you to be an entrepreneur? 

I wanted to  create a Global Enterprise Software Products company from India that would challenge the market biggies and create a brand for Indian Products in the Enterprise Software Domain which is today largely  dominated by MNC products. 

Why and how did you start your company? Why this Area? 

The dream of developing Enterprise Software Products from India was the primary reason for starting ProGen. A True “Made in India” product that can deliver “Value for Money” to customers motivated us to take this road less travelled by Indian IT companies. 

The company was started as a garage set-up in Hyderabad with initial seed capital secured from like-minded individuals/friends who believed in the strength that India possesses in developing global software products. The initial team size in 2009 was 5 members, which has now grown to 25 plus. 

We selected the area of Business Intelligence (BI) & Analytics because of (i) a growing market demand (ii) Gaps in existing offerings with an opportunity to innovate both in terms of functionality as well as delivery (iii) Product Development expertise in the BI Domain.

Delivering superior value proposition through our simplified yet powerful BI Platform ‘pi’ has helped ProGen create a niche for itself. This is evident from the fact that within a short span of 1 year, customers across 4 countries trust our BI Platform for their daily & strategic decision making needs. Our customers include market leaders in their respective segments across diverse industry verticals such as: Airports, Travel, Pharma, FMCG, Retail, Distribution etc.

What is your product’s differentiator from the competitors? 

Our biggest differentiator when compared with established MNC offerings available in the market is our Product Design Approach. Unlike MNC vendors who conventionally follow a technology oriented design approach, we focus on a customer centric design approach that incorporates an Agile Product Development Philosophy. 

The approach has yielded tangible results in form of a simplified yet powerful BI Platform, which is as efficient and feature-rich as any of the contemporary product offerings from the established MNC players and is available at a cost much lower than other products. 

What is the biggest challenge ProGen has faced so far? 

Selling a “Made-in-India” Enterprise Platform to customers in India. 

Like any start-up company it was a challenge for us as well to sign the first few customers and being an Enterprise Product Start-up accentuated the problem further. It was extremely difficult for us to convince our customers about buying a business software package from a start-up that would eventually become the part of their organizations DNA in strategic and operational decision-making. There were multiple scenarios where business users at customer organizations had a buy-in on the value proposition from the Product but the IT Department was not willing to take the risk by engaging with a virgin product and it was frustrating for us to lose deals after months of sales efforts.

Rather the interesting point to note here is that the IT Teams in the prospect organizations still ask us ‘which Global Company’s BI software are you representing’. This reflects the acceptance level of Indian Enterprise Software Products among Indian customers and is indeed the biggest challenge that we face ALWAYS 

How did you address the challenge? 

The challenge was addressed through our Channel Partner Strategy.

Signing up channel partners for a new product in the Enterprise Application domain turned out to be as challenging and difficult as acquiring new customers but the mileage that a good partner brings to the table goes a long way in building the business. 

Similar to customers, channel partners also look for engaging mostly with established product brands or for companies from outside India. 

Channel Partner strategy requires lots of hard work in identifying and working with those partners who are open to align with new product companies and see the product as an opportunity to add value to the customer ecosystem. Our initial few partners sensed this opportunity and took the initiative of introducing our BI offering to their customers or to the prospects they had. 

Who is your customer? 

In today’s world, data is growing at a rapid pace across all types of organizations irrespective of their size and industry vertical. BI as an application is a need of the hour across customers and verticals. Being a company in the platform business our customers are not restricted to a specific vertical or size and they are scattered across verticals such as: Airports, Travel, FMCG, Retail, Contact Center, and Pharmaceuticals. 

Our target customers can be basically classified as “Value-Conscious” organizations that are not “Brand-Conscious” and are looking towards a Product that is a combination of “Rich Features” and “Value for Money” 

What’s been your success mantra in expanding to emerging markets?

1)     Keep your Product Simple

2)     Clearly Communicate the Value Proposition

3)     Trust your Channel Partners 

What are your future plans? 

In the next Financial Year (2013-14) we target to increase our customer base in India with a growth focus on Middle East and Australian/APAC markets and augment our BI Platform with new product features/modules that are currently under different stages of testing and development. 

In the Medium term we plan to expand to other global markets and release our BIG DATA Analytics engine integrated with our BI Platform. 

Plans of providing a SaaS/PaaS based cloud offering in the BI Domain to customers in the Matured Markets of USA, UK, and other parts of the World is also in the pipeline and official release on the same will be announced in the coming months. 

What have been your BIG lessons – personal, professional and otherwise? 

Running an Enterprise Products Business in India is a mix of “Loads of Patience without losing Focus on R&D” coupled with right amount of aggression and perseverance. 

Overnight success in Enterprise Products domain is unheard of and one should be prepared enough to face the challenges presented by different phases with each phase demanding different approach and strategy.

What would you like to tell someone, who is struggling or planning to start a product company?

            • Get the right team in place and plan for a strong resourcing strategy
            • Stay Focused on your R&D Mission
            • Don’t get lured by the early revenue opportunities from services that may dilute the product vision
            • Raise Sufficient Seed Capital (if you plan to) that can cover the cost of your first commercial release and also considers for first 2-3 paying customer acquisition cost depending on your Sales Cycle. Early dilutions should not be seen as a threat and should not stop you from raising bigger money (if it’s available)
            • Work hard to get Testimonials and References from your initial customer

 

How Visual Website Optimizer got to 2,500+ paid customers through great content and rigorous A/B tests

Last month, I promised to bring you stories of how Indian startups took their products to the world and got the inside scoop on how WebEngage used educational content and live demos to get to 7,000 users in less than 15 months. While I have been slow in bringing more stories to you, this one should more than make up for it.

In this post, I bring you the story of Visual Website Optimizer in conversation with its founder and CEO Paras Chopra. Visual Website Optimizer is an easy-to-use A/B testing tool that allows marketing professionals to create different A/B tests using a point-and-click editor (without needing any HTML knowledge). It is one of India’s fastest growing startups and has got to 2,500+ paid customers including the likes of Microsoft, AMD, Groupon & Airbnb using great content and rigorous A/B tests.

Let’s get started.

How did you get the initial buzz going for your product? 

Paras: Initial buzz was entirely product driven. The concept of visual A/B testing was non-existent then so the product was radical in that sense. A/B testing existed, but it wasn’t this easy.

Did you have marketing built into your product, and were you marketing your product as you were developing it? Or did it all start only after you had a finished product?

Yes, we detected successful A/B tests and requested for a case study from the customer automatically. The case studies gave a lot of buzz. First MVP was done in a month and after that product evolution and marketing started simultaneously.

Did you have a marketing plan in place when you started?

No, I did not have any plan. It was very organic without any plan whatsoever.

Who do you pitch your product to in a company?

Marketing analysts. Our target customer is a person who actually does the A/B tests.

I remember you mentioned on your Mixergy interview that you didn’t want the world to know that you were a one-man show to begin with. Was it difficult to look like a credible company that way? And was that an even bigger issues being an Indian product company?

No, it wasn’t difficult. As long as they were getting a good product and quick service, the customers didn’t care to verify whether it was a one-man show or a 100-people company. Interestingly, many people still don’t know we’re an Indian company.

As Visual Website Optimizer grew, how have you scaled up your marketing? Increased frequency in terms of content? Bigger campaigns? Targeting higher-value customers for your enterprise plan? Also, how have you scaled up your team to take care of these activities?

A bunch of things. Increased frequency from one post per week to two on our blog. Parallel guest posting. Making guides and dedicated landing pages for SEO. Comprehensive retargeting. Started PPC and display to measure ROI. I don’t think marketing should aim to target higher-value customers. They probably need a lot more offline interaction, so marketing works on nurturing them currently.

On the people side, we scaled it by bringing in additional super-smart people. Including me, right now we have a team of three. We’re looking to expand it by adding three more people. Yes, now we have a plan and going forward clearly defined roles in content marketing, generalist tasks, paid marketing and design.

What marketing channels have you used? What has been the most effective for you? Why have they been so effective?

Most effective has been our own case studies and comprehensive guest posts in prominent publications such as Smashing Magazine, SEOMoz, CopyBlogger, MarketingProfs, etc. We also nurture our user base by regularly sending them case studies and use cases.

What about paid channels? How do you go about choosing the right ones? 

We’re still learning on this, but the key is to explore new paid marketing channels that haven’t been exploited yet. All good paid marketing channels dry up ultimately and ROI dwindles. So you have to be on the edge of exploration. That’s how markets work.

How do you measure the success of your marketing campaigns? Do you compare them to your other campaigns? Industry benchmarks? Or just get an overall feel whether they are successful or not?

The only metric our marketing cares about is number of free trials. I believe that once free trial is generated, product should speak for itself so revenue should be a function of product if free trials are from the intended audience. Shares, visits, etc. are all fluff. We don’t obsess about them. We do compare all our activities to see which one gives most bang for the buck and most volume.

How do you use VWO to improve your own conversion rates? What are the top 2-3 biggest successes you have had from A/B testing?

We conduct many tests. Some examples:

http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/headline-test-increases-clickthroughs/

Behavioral targeting: http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/behavioral-targeting-case-study/

Heatmaps: http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/increase-conversions-using-heatmaps/

http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/left-vs-right-sidebar-which-layout-works-best/

Right now, five different tests are running on our website :)

Apart from the A/B tests, what other numbers do you look up on the website? Funnel drop-offs, bounce rate, what else do you look at?

Navigation paths and traffic sources with highest conversion rate.

I love the blog you have. How did that get started? And how do you measure its impact?

I love writing. Have written a book on Nihilism, so I can write whole day long :) Impact, was measured in terms of traffic to blog and then conversion of that traffic to trials.

What kind of community do you have around your products? How do you keep them engaged?

We have a very lively community on Twitter, GPlus, Facebook and our blog. We have 3000+ followers, 2000+ blog readers and remember that A/B testing is a niche. In terms of content, again case studies with actual learning work best. Just numbers without flesh doesn’t work.

What about partnerships and integrations? ClickTale, Drupal, how have they helped you increase your reach? How did you go about getting them?

Yes, partnerships increase reach if done properly. For commercial companies like ClickTale, they approached us. For open-source like Drupal, we simply developed modules.

What about your personal brand? Have you built that and used it to take the word out about your products in turn?

Yes, I think so. My blog and interviews such as on Mixergy help a lot. Our bootstrapped story helps a ton too.

What about the marketing team? How big is it and what roles do each of them play? What do you think is an ideal marketing team for a tech startup?

Ideal marketing team is: content, paid, generalist and designer.

We have a lot of good products being built in India but very few go on to become blockbusters. Where do you think these startups are faltering with their marketing? What advice do you have for them?

I think they do a very poor job on using the content effectively. My advice would be to product great content consistently, share it with influencers, build a brand of the company around content and eductation and just keep scaling that up.

That’s some great advice Paras. Thanks a lot for sharing them and being an inspiration to the Indian startup community at large.

Dear readers, what did you think of the interview? What else would you like to know when I talk to more successful startups about their marketing? Let me know in the comments.

Reblogged from PokeandBite.com

Andy is a mobile robot platform that uses a Smartphone at its core.

Andy is a personal robot enabled by the intelligence of an Android Smartphone or any Android device. Personal or hobby robots till date have been unaffordable due to the high costs of the hardware involved. Abheek Bose, Andy’s creator shares the journey of building Andy and the factors that influenced its development.

What happened earlier in your career that led to your founding Andy?
Abheek Bose: We were always keen upon entering the educational and personal robotics sector but the challenge was keeping the price points low, especially for the Indian market.

After attending a mobile conference on advancement of smart phones, we identified an opportunity to utilize them and build cost effective robot systems for education and personal use 

What is Andy and how does it add value to consumers?
Abheek Bose: Andy is a mobile robot platform that uses a Smartphone at its core.

On strapping the phone onto the Andy base, the entire phone becomes a part of the robot:

  1. Andy is therefore now equipped with sensors like Camera, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth Compass, Microphone, Touch Screen just to name a few.
  2. Andy is also highly programmable where the user can either program Andy or simply download apps on the phone which make Andy execute various functions
  3. In short, Andy is a robot with very sophisticated features yet highly affordable on an individual basis (Typically such robots costs between $2000 – 5000 while Andy is below $120)

With Andy, students and hobbyists can now afford to own their personal robot, hack and develop various applications as well as share them with one another. Users of lower age groups can actually learn the concepts of computing and engineering using Andy in a more interactive and entertaining way.

What is your target market?
Abheek Bose: Anyone in the age group of 14 to 25 years is our target user group. Andy falls in the personal robotics market currently estimated to be around USD 1.3 billion.

What is your product’s differentiator from competitors?
Abheek Bose: If you really look at the differentiators, they fall into two categories, Technology and Strategic. As far as technology differentiators are concerned they are:

  1. Andy uses the Android Platform which is open source, well supported and maintains a strong developer community around it.
  2. The hardware schematics and software developed are open source and we are providing an SDK to enable the target user group further.
  3. Andy already has an initial developer community involving top educational institutes like IIIT-Bangalore, VJTI Mumbai and IIT-Bombay. This community is also growing rapidly with more engineering colleges and schools enrolling into our developer program

Operational and Strategy Differentiators
Andy supply chain is well established and streamlined with the necessary arrangements to go for mass production.

We have finalized with the suppliers for all the components including chassis, electronics, batteries and other peripherals and the process is also set where we can order in lots and receive the same in our office within 2 – 3 weeks time. Andy distribution involves various channels partners including Robot training companies (education) as well as large retail formats (consumer / personal) to maximize reach.

We have currently the following partners in the educational / community development space

  1. Gade Autonomous Systems, Mumbai
  2. Open Robotics Club, Indore
  3. VJTI, SRA, Mumbai
  4. Andy design has also been registered with the Registrar of designs to prevent copycat products.

What is the biggest challenge Andy has faced so far? How did you address the challenge?
Abheek Bose: Out of the many close contenders, the biggest challenge was to streamline operations.

It was critical that the suppliers of Andy parts were reliable, assured  high quality and also within the target budgets.

The challenge was addressed (and we are still improving this) by trying out various suppliers during an early prototyping phase and creating procurement processes as well as conducting quality tests for the same.

Online portals like AliExpress and EBay were very useful to select the correct suppliers.

How has the recent Mentor program from Mindsphere helped your company? What mistakes/pitfalls has it helped you avoid?
Abheek Bose:Mindsphere has been absolutely crucial in Andy’s development. It is because of MindSphere’s involvement that we could complete the product launch from concept to the beta prototype in just 88 days!

Mindsphere has been involved in all aspects of the product development cycle since the conceptual stages taking on a crucial role in

  1. Prototype development and design ergonomics
  2. Market research, exploration & preparation (Go to market strategizing)
  3. Operations Management and Processes
  4. Project Financials and Budgeting
  5. Pricing Strategies
  6. Distribution Planning

What do the next 12-24 months hold for Andy?
The next steps with Andy would be to concentrate on Sales, Distribution and Community Development. In parallel we will also be working on next generation design and product improvements.

Abheek is Andy’s creator and oversees the development as well as the business of Andy. Abheek’s mechanical engineering and software development roots are responsible for the Andy body design as well as the base software. Abheek also manages the overall business growth of Andy and looks into new partnerships, markets and users. Abheek when not hacking on Andy, loves to play around with gadgets, listen to music and recently taken a liking to reading Dilbert! Abheek is also a big foodie and loves trying out new places to experiment.

CollateBox: Cloud-Based Software Simplifies Small Biz Collaboration

Small businesses with growing lists of data are the ideal customer for U.S.-incorporated CollateBox, a software product of India-based WOLF Frameworks. Sunny Ghosh, co-founder and CEO, describes CollateBox’s value proposition and the factors that influenced its development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your product and how it provides business value for your customers.

Sunny Ghosh: Companies collaborate on lists of data with a lot of people, internally and externally, for different projects. But organizing and keeping track of these growing lists is a nightmare — from scouting mailboxes to finding the latest spreadsheet version to collect validated data.

CollateBox is a simpler way to collaborate on a list without creating and emailing multiple copies of spreadsheets. It lets users collect data from multiple sources, organize and securely share parts of a growing list with team members. And there’s no software to install; everything works online in a secure cloud environment and can be used for any business process.

CollateBox also helps companies set up processes to maintain a workflow and keep data organized, saving precious time and money. Users can also view instant notifications and summaries on every record of their data with the added ability to comment and add attachments. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your market and typical users of CollateBox.

Sunny Ghosh: CollateBox is best suitable for companies and teams with 100 people or less. It is suitable to any business scenario that involves growing lists of data. HR managers use it to work together with HR executives to qualify a list of new recruits. Companies can use it for sales leads, automatically assigning prospects to the sales team as a new lead is qualified. A marketing coordinator can use CollateBox to maintain a single list to coordinate email campaign dates with the marketing team.

Other examples of how small companies use our product include: tracking production updates and sharing it with top management, allocating service requests to support agents and visualize a summary of service statuses, and an operations manager can use it to recruit new partners using online forms and automatically collate all data in their CollateBox account.

SandHill.com: How did your company and CollateBox originate?

Sunny Ghosh: We founded WOLF Frameworks in 2006 with an aim to democratize computing by introducing savings of more than 60 percent in time and cost and with zero technical coding skill for developing and delivering new business software.

Our first WOLF product was an Online Database Application Platform. Launched in 2008, it helps database architects and application developers to rapidly configure and run all sorts of online applications without writing a single line of technical code — even for firing complex business logic. We netted over 40,000 end users during out first 30 months of business.

A year later, our Platform as a Service product was being used in more than 20 business applications. In 2010 WOLF bagged the Information Week Silver Edge Awards at INTEROP and was named GARTNER Cool Vendor Award for Platform as a Service worldwide.

In 2011, we ideated on DBMonk, which was incubated by VertExperts LLP for early validation.

DBMonk renamed to CollateBox Inc. and was incorporated in October 2011, in the state of Delaware, USA. We released the minimum viable product for selected users in 2012 and subsequently had more than 10,000 user registrations. In 2013 we signed up our first set of paid customers for CollateBox and released version 2.2 for more than 1,000 users.

Read the complete post at Sandhill.com

The day Zest.Md picked on smartest brain for inputs at #PNMeetup

I met Avinash a few weeks back to share details about zest.md, and to discuss some of the challenges which we are facing. Avinash, helped me to understand a lot of issues better, and invited me to be a part of the #PNMeetup to discuss it with a larger group. To be honest, I was apprehensive initially, but seeing the conviction with which Avinash said that it would help us, I agreed and I am so glad that we did go and share our challenges at the #PNMeetup! 

Zest.Md is a SaaS platform which provides with medical practitioners with a solution to get started with online consultation process, using their own website. One of the key challenges which we shared with the group was on how to drive initial engagement with the medical practitioners who sign up. Another aspect which we discussed was around pricing. Currently we have a single price solution, and we were in the process of considering Freemium model – what should we keep in mind while designing Freemium so that we don’t end up losing paying clients. 

#PNMeetup was a great experience it was very refreshing to be amongst people who have been involved with various stages of product development, themselves. It was a very different space than the other entrepreneurship events that I have been in, almost everybody here was currently running an online product company, and they understood dilemma and the criticality of the decision around such questions. 

I had attended along with two other members of my team, and the one of the greatest reaffirmation was that, there is no single answer or a single point of view when it comes to even simple questions pertaining to a product. Many a times we, as young start-ups, tend to get bogged down or keep changing paths based on feedback from a single person. Being at #PNMeetup gave a reassurance that it is justified that we were so concerned about our decisions on these questions as they are not so straightforward, and at the same time the forum was a great place for us to take feedback from a group as a whole, and it helped us to identify the range of possible solutions from which we could chart out our own solution. 🙂

Thanks Amit, Devendra & Avinash for helping me in the presentation and briefing you provided and for the opportunity.  I really liked the venue and seating arrangement, and I feel that the ambience was instrumental in creating an informal atmosphere where people could exchange frank and honest opinions.  

P.S.: The highlight of the day was meeting up with Amit Ranjan, co-founder Slideshare and to see him share his thoughts candidly! 🙂

My name is Vinayak and I’m the Founder & CEO at Zest.md. 

How Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Kathapurushan became a Software Product Entrepreneur ?

From being the protagonist of an Adoor Gopalakrishnan national award  winning movie to a graphics trainer, from a book publisher to a printer, from services to products, our guest today has been there, done that. Meet Vish, the MD of Logical Steps.

ProductNation: Hi Vish. Welcome to Product Nation. Let us begin with your story.

Vish: I was born in an entrepreneurial family. My family ran a printing press in Kerala. So I grew up living entrepreneurship and also picking up skills to run a printing press. Childhood was exciting, as we were always creating something. As far as my education is concerned, I enrolled for an undergraduate Physics program at the Moscow State University. University had some of the finest minds in Physics teaching the subject. But, the 1991 coup cut short all this excitement. This brief stint while I was in Moscow, made me realize that college education does not prepare you for life. Though, I was not keen to go back to college, it was family pressure that saw me write three years physics papers in one shot. All this for a degree from the University of Kerala, Trivandrum. Isn’t degree everything?

It was around the same time that I got introduced to computers. My father had made investments into offset printing and desktop publishing. I soon found an entire computer science department to myself, right from laser printers to 486 machines. I learnt everything from scratch. It was time for my first fling with entrepreneurship. It was an MS-DOS pocket reference manual. Using a microsoft reference manual as the guide, I printed out some MS-DOS reference manual copies and handed it over to a local bookshop for sale. Surprisingly, the book shop came back for more. Simultaneously, I also ventured into Desktop publishing training, as the printing industry was moving in that direction. These experiments gave me the confidence that I could do something on my own

ProductNation: When did you get the time to do the Adoor Gopalakrishnan movie? And why do you consider it your first product experience?

Vish: Adoor Gopalakrishnan is a family friend and I had done a small role in one of his earlier films. He talked me into playing the lead role in a film called Kathapurushan. It went on to win the National Award in 1996. He knew about my background in printing. So, during the film, I got involved into many aspects of the movie production – recording audio, printing of collateral and special books. And working with Adoor Gopalakrishnan, who cared about every little detail and to experience his passion and leadership. I consider that experience extremely precious and a sort of first in making a product.

ProductNation: Which were the other movies you did?

Vish: No, I went back into computer training with a company called Tandem. Tandem, which was based in Trivandrum, sent me to CDAC Pune for a course called DACA – Diploma in Advanced Computer Arts. As a trainer, I was to learn this course and come back to Trivandrum to teach. At this course, I was the only one from a non-arts background, as the others were all from JJ and similar schools. But, I topped the class and got a break into advertising with a Kirloskar group company – Pratibha Advertising. One of the noteworthy projects that I did while at Pratibha was a digital kiosk that was showcased at the first Auto Expo in New Delhi. I quickly realised that digital advertising in India at that time was still very early. So I packed up my bags and went to Singapore for a teaching assignment with a University. But, I ended up joining a digital marketing company there. It was here that I spent close to five years till the dot com bust in 2000 consumed it. During my stint here, I got in depth experience into e-learning.

ProductNation: Is that when you started your current company, logical steps ?

Vish: Yes. I came back to India, after the dotcom bust. And that is when we started Logical Steps. We began by supplying learning content for television. We were paid 10% of the contracted amount. That is when I understood the trouble of doing business in India. So, I went back to Singapore to source business and keep the business running. It was challenging. I was using my salary to finance the business. I was not keen to close down and let go of my staff who had picked up extremely useful skills. So, we kept going. It was during this that we got a chance to service AIG for one of their projects. So that is how our services business started.

ProductNation: What happened to e-learning, then? And the platform? How did you start silver bullet?

Vish: An opportunity came up to create an e-learning engine for the US Market in the area of Medical Entrance exam called MCAT. A doctor who was considered the guru of MCAT had already created a large amount of content plus created analytics metrics to appraise students. We were given the project to create a platform that could provide all of this. This project gave us tremendous exposure to learning frameworks and gave us the idea to create a product on our own. That is how the idea of SilverBullet came up.By that time, I had also realised the limitations of a services business. So, we were all set for a product pitch in late 2010. While we built the platform quickly, content became a challenge. So we had to invest resources in training teachers to address this issue of content. This consumed our resources and it was our services business that was feeding silverbullet. It took us some time to adjust to this new reality, as we were dealing with an individual customer, unlike a corporate entity as in our services business.

ProductNation: Let us talk about silver bullet? Any learnings that you would like to share.

Vish: Silver Bullet is an online learning system for engineering and medical entrance examinations in India. There have been tremendous learnings. Unlike servicing a business, in this case, it was a B2C online product. It took us some time to figure out our Go-To-Market approach. We felt schools were the touch point, but it wasn’t so. Then we tried facebook, and it wasn’t the touch point. The most profound insight came from my 10 year old daughter, who frankly said that students are not interested in adding more studies to their daily work. She went ahead and said that no one would like to put themselves into trouble by opting for a Free Trial. How true? Students are already overworked. In all this, we figured out that it is the parent who is the touch point. And the parent was in a totally different world and a world that wasn’t online. The only way to reach them was through traditional media. It was then, that we checked out the media budgets of other online learning companies and found that they spend 19% to 20% of their revenue on ad budgets that run into crores, it is a totally different league. And that is how these companies are reaching out to parents. Parents are more than happy to add to the kid’s collection of material to consume.

ProductNation: Interesting, allow us to end this interview, with a difficult question. Looking back on your career, it is easy to see that you have been all over the place. How has it helped you in approaching your product business?

Vish: [Laughs] The product business is much like the movie business. If you see, my experience in diverse areas has given me ideas and the aptitude to create a wonderful product. Whether it is design or delivery, content or its packaging, all my earlier experience have served me well in developing Silver Bullet.

ProductNation: Wearing two hats at the same time i.e. services and products. What would you prefer? And what challenges do you face, while doing so?

Vish: Product without a doubt. It is something that you can own. But, when working on a product, especially when you are just starting off, managing the internal aspirations of the team becomes difficult.

ProductNation: Thank you, Vish for talking to ProductNation. We wish you all the very best in living up to these challenges.

Q&A with ERP Ecommerce Company, InSync Solutions

InSync Solutions Ltd. provides ecommerce solutions for online retail businesses. Many software services companies in India are evolving to products companies. Atul Gupta, founder and managing director of InSync Solutions Ltd., describes how InSync made this transition. 

SandHill.com: When did you launch InSync as a services company, and what led to the switch to a products focus? 

Atul Gupta: We launched in October 2005 in Kolkata, India. At the time it was the only prudent career choice for me, as I was unwilling to work as an employee.

InSync was made to be a service company targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs). But after four years we realized we couldn’t build a sustainable business with services. There were too many challenges. So we changed direction in the winter of 2009, switching our focus to products and incorporating the learnings we had gained up to that point.

SandHill.com: Did you also encounter unanticipated challenges when you started out as a product company? 

Atul Gupta: Once we changed gears and became a product company things started to fall in place. The challenges we have encountered since then are not related to building great products and delivering them to customers; our challenges since then are related to non-core activities of running the company. 

SandHill.com: What steps have you taken to overcome the challenges of an entrepreneur dealing with running a company? 

Atul Gupta: Having a strong management team / leadership team is very important, and it is equally important that they bring in unique skills on to the table. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your products and their differentiation in the market. 

Atul Gupta: Our Flagship Product is SBOeConnect, which integrates SAP Business One ERP and Magento eCommerce. SBOeConnect has gained good traction in the market so far. We have acquired the business of more than 100 Magento merchants globally with 95 percent customer retention, which means the customers benefit from our product.

SBOeConnect is the number-one choice for an ecommerce platform among SAP Business One users. Our market focus is on SAP Business One ERP users in the retail industry.

As to differentiation, no other ecommerce solutions have the capability of back-office ERP, and none of the ERP systems so far have been able to come up with a compelling ecommerce solution.

Businesses need to use multiple systems to be functional. We help businesses keep their investments in multiple systems intact and yet be efficient by integrating these systems.

Read the complete interview at Sandhill.com

LurnQ: Indian startup that’s building a personalised MOOC

Update: Some readers have asked for information about MOOCs. A (MOOC) massive open online course is an online educational resource that is available for open access via the web. MOOCs originated around 2008 within the open educational resources (or OER) movement. For more, refer to the Wikipedia link.

Online learning is undergoing a paradigm shift and this Forbes article is a pointer of the shape of things to come. Coursera, Khan Academy, Udacity, Udemy etc are growing into large public platforms and likely to give competition to universities and colleges in the years to come.  

LurnQ is an Indian startup that is building a personalised learning management solution which can aggregate and curate content from the web. The key part of LurnQ replicates an experience that everyone is familiar with – using a user’s preferences to aggregate content from the web and display it like a Facebook newsfeed (see screenshot). This is a smart strategy and takes advantage of the the benefits of recognition (rather than recall).

The LurnQ platform consists of different applications that are bundled together into a SaaS platform. The core of the platform is a repository of web content from established MOOC sources like Coursera, Udacity, Khan Academy etc. There is a learning app that displays content in multiple formats – video, slides, multimedia. And a teaching app that gives teacher the capability to put together a course.

The site has over 5000 registered users and is growing socially over 100% every month via Facebook (without ads). They also run a student ambassador program. And here’s a list of LurnQ lessons if you want to check them out.

For monetization, LurnQ is aiming Freemium. The core consumer product will remain free at all times  for learners and teachers. A premium version will be available for private or closed community deployment by individuals and organizations. Pricing details are still in the works.

For targeting growth, LurnQ plans to extend the Student Ambassador Program and drive teacher side adoption through special initiatives aimed at teachers. On the application front, they want to focus on viral features (follow lessons, users, Invite friends etc). Also possible is the route of content partnership with conferences. Mobile apps are planned at a later stage to drive on the go consumption across devices.

LurnQ looks like a refreshing idea and a spin on what others are doing in the MOOC space. The first challenge they face is getting to a threshold for their user base. The adoption of the newsfeed as a core experience is likely to help in viral growth. Though the homepage is a logged in experience and departs from the design pattern that characterises Web 2.0 user generated content platforms… this might prove an impediment to quick user acquisition.

Here’s wishing them the best in their efforts.

Profit from Price, Always – The Bootstrapped Story of RateGain

This is part of our “Podcast with a Product Entrepreneur” series. Do check out the 30 minute podcast!

His first fling with business was a video game exchange, while at school. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, the question was never about the “Why”; it was only about the “When”. A computer science and finance graduate, his stint with Deloitte saw him starting up with a technology consulting business that later led him to this technology product idea.

Meet Bhanu Chopra, the Founder and CEO of RateGain – a B2B price comparison SaaS product for the travel industry –  as he talks about starting up, go-to market strategies, the CNBC Award, challenges and some priceless advice for all software product entrepreneurs.

In business, Bhanu has demonstrated tremendous agility by making quick decisions. His initial idea of a price comparison website focused on the US market, quickly morphed into a B2B offering, given the challenge of marketing to US out of India. Then by licensing technology and acquiring a few beta customers, he not only validated the idea, quickly, but also generated revenues for reinvestment.

Bhanu advocates a Go-To market approach built on two parameters:-

  • Power of a Brand built on thought leadership, where Bhanu humbly accepts being “late in the game”
  • Sales Structure customized to the channel and prospective customer personas

 

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/79810846″ params=”color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

 

Straddling across the hospitality value chain with RateGain, Bhanu sees tremendous opportunities for existing products as well as newer products on pricing optimization using Big Data and predictive analytics.

Also an angel investor, Bhanu recognizes the tremendous passion amongst product entrepreneurs but highlights the imperative to persevere and think about the global market. While the team is critical, he concedes that team building would always be a challenge for product companies in India, given the latency of IT services in influencing engineering talent.

We conclude the interview with Bhanu mentioning two of his favorite product companies – Google and ….. – an awesome data visualization company that is just about to IPO on NASDAQ. If you haven’t guessed the name, do listen to the podcast.

In discussion with the Founders of Qualitia

Today there are proven automation tools in the market from  HP, IBM as well as open source tools like Selenium, Webdriver but the success does not lies in just investing in to tools but putting right strategies, best practices in place.

Qualitia is a one of its kind platform which intern leverages these tools as an execution engine while enabling users to adopt RIGHT strategies, best practices, where in now test automation designing, test automation development and even detailed reporting happens in Qualitia. We interviewed Rahul Chaudhari(MD & CEO) & Sudhir Patil(Founder Director) about the company’s product development journey & their advice for startups.

Q)    What was the Vision with which you launched the company ?
Vision is to empower the manual test engineers to contribute to test automation worldwide. Which has been a job of the technology resources till today, but we see a larger opportunity to empower the 90-92% of the QA community who come from the domain background or functional knowledge background and empowering them to drive test automation way faster then any traditional way of automation. Test automation challenges are primarily attracting resources who were good in development technologies and then making them work into testing. Bridging the gap between domain and technology expertise to dramatically reduce the turnover time in test automation. This will empower the SME’s manual test engineers that are the existing strength of every company to drive automation themselves. Also to reduce the maintenance effort and cost  of enterprises to help them to invest into test automation.

Q)    How will the product help startups to scale up?
In terms of startups where the focus is primarily development and they realize the importance of test automation, some barriers exist primarily:

  • The competencies required to drive test automation.
  • The Cost of commercial licenses. 

We therefore provide the solutions through Qualitia where startups can get the licenses on subscription model at around 23% of cost of their QA resource with 200% increase in the productivity leading to huge savings for a Startup from day one. 

Q)    Which are the important markets which you are looking at?
India contributes the maximum of users, where as US contributes 60% to the buying space worldwide. Therefore a balance needs to be created between them therefore both are important markets for us. 

Q) What is the next 1 year roadmap for the company?
We would look to drive success stories in the markets/segments identified and anchor  customers in these markets. Since US is a mature market where we have been present for the last 2 years we would like to build on the success realised
 by customers there.  The target is to grow the revenues in double digits. 

Q)    What advice would you give to new startups?
For any product – The idea and its research is important keeping in mind ability to take the product to the market. Time is of the essence. Therefore it is very important to ensure that the fructification of the product on real time is very important. 

Q)    What has been your go to market strategy?
Identifying the focus clearly, and slowly expanding the market.

Guest post by Nakul SaxenaNITEE


EmployWise: Improving the ROI in employee lifecycle management

Effective employee lifecycle management is acquiring importance from a talent acquisition and retention perspective; from an employee satisfaction angle; as well as from a compliance and regulatory viewpoint. Many organizations, especially SMEs, are discovering to their dismay that the pile of unstructured employee data they have accumulated is a ticking time bomb. They suspect they are paying a price for poor record maintenance and employee management, but are not sure of the exact cost, or its implications.

The impact of poor employee lifecycle management could vary, but often includes an inability to quickly sift through granular employee records and performance metrics with any degree of confidence. This leaves organizations open to violation of immigration norms, wrongful termination charges, industry and local jurisdiction compliance penalties, productivity loss, fraud through inaccurate claims, growing recruitment costs, loss of assets and brand reputation through poor separation processes, etc. The problems become complex when the business grows from single proprietor to multi-unit operators across geographies.

But what’s an SME to do? Human resource management takes years to be codified. Processes around HR management (compensation and benefits, leave, attendance, travel, expenses, reimbursement, performance, hiring, learning and development, separation) and workflow can have gaps and leakages for years without being noticed. Replicating them across units with any degree of accuracy and consistency is a frustratingly uphill mission.

The problem is so large that it has drawn a number of entrepreneurs to try and solve it using technology and automation. With newer business models such as SaaS, pay-as-you-go technologies like cloud and anywhere-anytime access over mobile channels, the solutions are not only looking good, but are increasingly becoming affordable.

Which presents the single biggest problem to entrepreneurs trying to solve the problem: what’s the differentiator? Why should an organization opt for Solution A over Solution B, C, D….Z?

Sumeet Kapur, CEO of EmployWise an employee lifecycle management solution, took the long route to the answer. “Human relationships are very different from handling materials,” says Kapur, “People have names, not product codes. Human beings have memories and you have to treat each one as a segment of one.” EmployWise took this core philosophy and engineered it into their product. An early version of the product was launched in 2004 as Kapur and his team realized that India was turning into a service economy and employee lifecycle management would gain increasing attention. By 2008 EmployWise was officially launched. Today, the 9 modules of the product appear easy to use, can be integrated with existing HR management technologies (SAP, PeopleSoft etc) and giving instant access to best practices in a hosted pay-per-use-per-employee-per-module SaaS model.

At the moment EmployWise uses SMS to stay mobile, making it unnecessary to deploy fancy smart phone apps. In an Indian context, especially in relation to SMEs, this may appear to be a wise strategy – but one that is unlikely to remain a strength for long. Smart phone costs are coming down and SMEs have very compelling reasons to opt for mobile technologies. Mobile banking, communication, inventory management, sales tools, even mobile credit card payments etc are becoming affordable for SMEs over smart phones. Why would they want to remain with clunky SMS for HR? EmployWise must address this quickly if they are to remain relevant in a scenario where smart phones are already dominating.

The advantages of software products such as EmployWise extend to the ability to have one source of truth, they obviate the need for secondary data entry for analysis, empower employees through a self-service model, reduce the HR : employee ration to as much as 1 : 400 and allow companies to benchmark practices with those of their peer group. The last really depends on the density of customers EmployWise has within any given industry. At the moment, the company has 75+ customers – many from technology — and handles 32,000 employee records. The number is adequate to provide reasonable insights, especially in the technology sector where 40 to 60 per cent of the investment is in people – and where managing them well can produce quick ROI.

Product development is stimulating

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is wasting time. Vision with action can change the world.” Joel Author Baker. Abhiraj Malhotra is “Technology Head & Evangelist” – SchoolPad at Chalkpad Technologies Pvt. Ltd. 

Abhiraj is a passionate software developer and an entrepreneur, whose vision is to infuse productivity into organizations towards a positive change. His interest is in web technologies, web application development, and user interface designs. The Malaysian hockey federation recognized Abhiraj’s work and appropriately awarded him for designing and developing Hockey Champions trophy 2007 official website. This is an astonishing achievement! Today, Abhiraj’s flagship product is “Assistwindow.” 

The content of this interview has the potential to increase your organization’s productivity. Read on….

Please tell us your story that inspired you to be an entrepreneur.
Even when I was studying in school, I loved programming in C++. It not only helped me learn more but I was also able to dabble and learn the intricacies of programming. My passion to write computer programs blessed me with the much needed exposure to solve real-time problems. When I was studying 11th grade, I designed my first website. I kept enhancing my knowledge in programming through continuous learning. My first breakthrough in freelancing was the development of a matrimony portal in ASP 3.0, alternatively known as “Classic ASP” – a popular web development language then. 

I continued to succeed in my programming endeavors, and I was not only reaping financial rewards, but these successes were fuelling my entrepreneurial dreams. Infosys recruited me as a software engineer at my B.Tech campus interview in 2008. I served Infosys for two years. In pursuit of my entrepreneurial dream, I am now a partner in a scholastic organization in Chandigarh. 

Please define “Assistwindow” in less than 25 words.
“Assistwindow” is an online and internal Q&A platform for knowledge sharing & organizing. “Assistwindow” provides meaningful answers to seeking members, thus increasing organizational productivity.

Why and how did you start your company? Why this domain?
Product development is stimulating; hence I migrated to developing products for schools. I simply love my work. In my present work tenure, I enlightened myself in the usage of B2B (Business to Business) technology tools. My present journey also enlightens me much about business and client servicing from which I continually comprehend the multidimensional facets of user experience and product knowledge. 

My team has grown to a strong and dedicated seven member team over the last two years, and as a result of which my products are being developed successfully. During this journey, knowledge sharing was one of the management concerns that I reckoned could directly impact productivity. Since I derived tremendous value out of Q&A platforms such as “Stackoverflow” and “Quora,” I planned to construct an internal Q&A platform. Consequently, “Assistwindow” came into being.

“Assistwindow” is an online Q&A platform for sharing & organizing knowledge within an organization that provides relevant and meaningful answers to seeking members. Members of staff in an organization can answer questions raised by their counterparts anytime and from anywhere. The knowledge that is continually being built is grouped intelligently, and hence can be retrieved quickly. This results in an enhanced productivity for an organization since staff members avoid disturbing each other to gain answers and clarity.

When we deployed “Assistwindow” internally, we realized its tremendous value for internal knowledge sharing for B2B (Business to Business) organizations. This platform will facilitate greater productivity in an organization, since it empowers the staff to enhance their time management skills. 

What did you choose the name “Assistwindow?”
Those who seek knowledge require ‘assistance,’ and ‘window’ is primarily construed as an entrance of life (light and air). Thus our product derived its name “Assistwindow.” 

What is Assistwindow’s key differentiator?
The two core differentiators of “Assistwindow” are its simplicity and efficiency. It is a terrific value offering for it delivers its promises to increase clientele productivity. 

What is the greatest challenge AssistWindow has faced thus far? How did you overcome that challenge?
Our biggest challenge is to connect with people who need such a product. To overcome this challenge, we invest in social media. We share our experiences and learning through our blog named “Business, Web & More…” 

Our blogs have attracted people’s attention. Our recent blog titled “How Plans Kill Productivity” on “Hacker News” received 5000 unique hits within 5 to 6 hours of its publishing. 

Who are your potential clientele?
Our potential clientele are single or multi-site B2B (Business to Business) organizations with a need for internal knowledge sharing.

Organizations in the manufacturing and services verticals can also deploy “Assistwindow” as a personalized Q&A platform for their clients. The questions clients raise about the product and the answers received from the manufacturer will be grouped and reused as and when required. 

What are your future plans?
Our objective is to expand the reach of “Assistwindow” for it to serve our potential clientele. Moreover, any product of such a genre should be continually fine-tuned to keep abreast with the constant advancements in clientele need and technology.

What has been your moment of glory?
Our moments of glory will always reside in customer satisfaction on account of their enhanced business productivity through “Assistwindow.” 

What have been your personal and professional learnings thus far?
Consistency and patience is my primary learning. Nothing big can happen overnight, and one needs to be consistent with his time utilization for any meaningful achievement. 

I have also learnt not to work ad hoc. I desire planned routines of all the tasks that I like to accomplish. The tasks could relate to work, hobbies or even setting apart time to relax and restore my body. One needs to maintain a mix, for one cannot pursue a single objective always. 

I like to discuss any situation, for I believe courteous discussion will provide clarity to any situation 

Finally, I love writing, since writing helps me to think deep, and deep thoughts are vital to success. 

What support would you like?
The only support that will satisfy me is to expand the reach of “Assistwindow” as a tool to improve the business productivity of many more organizations.

Q&A with Communication Platform Waybeo Technology’s CEO

Waybeo Technology Solutions was launched in December 2009 and was selected by Nasscom as one of the top 15 emerging, innovative companies in India in 2012. Its product, BounzD, is a global inbound communication platform enabling instant voice assistance to customers using a variety of mobile devices. In this interview, CEO Bushair AP discusses aspects of staying focused in the journey of product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation  

SandHill.com: What was the vision you originally had for your company? 

Bushair AP: We are a young team who is a part of a movement to change how the world communicates in the new age. Our team was formed out of our never-ending passion for creativity and social contribution. We all were fascinated by the revolutions in the communication sector. Our first attempt was a global group-messaging platform, which we developed for our early European customers. This was much before we formally launched Waybeo as a company. This opportunity opened up our vision to create products that we believe will attract millions in the future.

BounzD is a stepping-stone to achieve our vision of a well-connected world without any barriers like cost and geography. Once integrated with an enterprise’s online channels, end customers would be able to connect businesses with just an Internet connection without being charged across the world.

We work with large-scale and midsize enterprises in India and abroad that have online channels as a major way of customer acquisition. We handle their voice communications with potential customers and provide business insights and analytics. Our global plan is in beta stage and releasing this month. Waybeo is based in Trivandrum with offices in Mumbai, Delhi and California.

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name? 

Bushair AP: The name Waybeo was derived out of our ambition of going way beyond by exploring an inspiring way of entrepreneurship.

SandHill.com: What differentiation and business value does BounzD provide to your customers? 

Bushair AP: We connect business and potential customers across the world within seconds. Besides being cost free, we have made it easier to connect with a business located in any part of the world. Our product has helped our customers improve their customer acquisition, sales cycle and cost of sale.

We have helped various companies in industries such as hospitality and realty to reduce abandoned calls by 30 percent and achieve an increase in online visibility. Many of the large enterprises in India have told us that they “felt” their Web presence after taking our services. In the hospitality sector, we have reduced contact center cost-to-sales ratio in a drastic way. And the business insights we provide though our analytics has helped various realty segments to plan contact sector operations and customer support services.

SandHill.com: How did you determine the right pricing for your product? 

Bushair AP: We reached out to a limited number of customers with a cost-plus-margin model. From limited early innovators, we moved to value-based pricing, which had improved profitability. The business dynamics of our customer segment had to be learned during this engagement with early innovators to have a better pricing. The key realization of how much value we create for our customers had to be quantified during this period. Value-based pricing involves understanding of business dynamics of a customer’s model, customer revenue generation checkpoints and behavior of end customers.

Read the complete article at Sandhill.com

Now Get Your Daily News through Contify

Contify is India’s leading business news, content and information provider with interests in managing databases; publishing news stories; and syndicating content from reputed publishers to global databases. We recently caught up with Contify’s CEO Mohit Bhakuni to understand more about the product and his journey so far. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

How did it all start?

Founded in April 2009 by two Indian Institute of Technology alumni in a small basement-turned-office and 1 lakh INR, Contify has grown into an 85-people strong multi-city operation in a short span of three years.

What is Contify’s proposition?

Contify positions itself as the easiest source to receive industry specific news underpinned by sound concept based search. It licenses content from publishers and uses advanced technologies to provide functionalities like faceted search and filtering to provide relevant content to the readers.

How are you funded?

Contify’s parent company is Athena Information Solutions Pvt Ltd.  Athena is the largest licensed content syndication company in India. In addition, Athena generates revenues from services business by providing content related services to few international clients. Contify product development is funded by the profits generated from Athena’s business operations.

What is the vision for you company?

To become one of the most respected products for industry information in India.

What are your key offerings?

Contify is a comprehensive news and information database aggregated from over 100 publications, which gives users access to insightful business content with its smart ‘filter-based’ search platform. Contify also has a strong in-house editorial team, which covers information and reports news on a range of industry verticals including banking, finance, energy, retail, automobiles and pharmaceutical, as well as key government policies related to India’s business environment.

How is Contify different from exiting platforms?

According to Mohit, Contify provides a unique value proposition to its clients who are looking for industry news in a cost effective way. It also focuses on small to medium sized businesses that have limited bandwidth or financial resources to source such aggregated industry information.

What is your biggest challenge?

The team is consistently working on coming up with ways to enhance user experience. One such example includes de-duplicating of stories across publications to provide only unique articles that are relevant to the users.

What does the future hold?

Mohit suggested that Contify is also building customised features for its clients to enhance their experience. For instance, it recently introduced widgets directly on the website to allow users to receive customised news.

Our view is that with intense competition in the news aggregator space Contify is likely to face stiff challenges from the incumbents and in order to build a sustainable advantage it will have to continuously innovate through additional product features such as analytics that can demonstrate value for money to the clients. 

Post Contributed by Abhimanyu Godara