Inspired by the vision to help small businesses make better use of technology, Ambarish Gupta gets talking about how his Cloud Telephony product Knowlarity, fills a crucial gap in business struggling to use costly and cumbersome technology to improve productivity. In a world gone all mobile and integrated, Knowlarity’s hardware free, web based solution, frees you from the traditional PBX machine and lets you communicate seamlessly on the move, even integrating with your CRM and ERP systems, thereby fetching you prospects, business and the extremely crucial customer analysis information.
Getting business to use technology and improve productivity
Q. What was your vision that inspired you to launch Knowlarity?
I wanted the regular mom-and-pop businesses in India to become better by using technology. These mid-size business form the bed-rock of Indian economy contributing to more than 10% of Indian GDP and employing millions of people. I have a degree from one of the IITs. If these business could use technology and improve their productivity by even 10%, our vision will be fulfilled.
The problem with technology adoption however is that the Indian business owner is not very tech savvy and does not always feel very comfortable about using complex software. We solved the problem by designing all our products to be accessible over telephone. With close to universal telephony penetration in the business sector, this is a very powerful solution. Our virtual office product – SuperReceptionist makes office phone super intelligent and powerful. Another product – SuperFax allows business owners to receive faxes as PDF documents on email and not worry about owning a fax machine.
Q. What is Knowlarity’s product positioning?
We are a Cloud Telephony company targeting SME in emerging markets. We want to be super hassle free. We want to be simple and intuitive. We want to remain inexpensive so that a large number of SME can use our products. Above all, we want to use technology to help Indian SME improve their revenues and decrease cost, thus improving their bottom line.
Q. What problem did Knowlarity help solve for its customers? What were the existing products lacking?
At the most basic level, our products replace office PBX system. You remember the big black machine that a receptionist in any office has? Somehow hooked to a telephone? That is called a PBX machine. When someone calls to the office, the phone rings, she can pick and route the call to employees inside. If you open an office, you need one such machine.
This is a very cumbersome hardware to handle. It is very difficult to configure. It is expensive with cost approaching to 1 lac for a regular offices. It also ties you down – the calls are forwarded to your desk phone when employees are increasingly becoming mobile. It also has no integration with your enterprise softwares. Your office phone is where every single one of your new prospect and customer calls. All the logs should go to your CRM or ERP system for very important customer analysis. It can never get done with such systems. SuperReceptionist solves the problem. It does not require any hardware. You come to our website and get a phone number that you can configure on the web. You can upload an mp3 greeting saying “Welcome to your company. Press 1 for sales and press 2 for support” for example. You can configure it over web to forward the calls to your mobile number when people press 1.
You can avoid fixed expense by using it as per-use system – paying every year of use. It also integrates with your CRM system – Salesforce.com or freshdesk or sugarCRM come pre-integrated. It makes telephony super intelligent and useful for your business.
Q. How different is it from its competing products, if any?
We get competition from companies that have built their products over Asterisk – an open source system. These are on-premise systems that have problem with stability, scalability and are really expensive when you calculate the total cost over a period of a year. We differentiate by providing advanced telephony applications that are hassle free, pre-integrated and are really inexpensive to use.
Q.What was your biggest struggle with bringing Knowlarity to market?
Indian business are difficult to sell to and the technology adoption is pretty slow. We struggled in maturing our processes to sell at scale. It took time but we are able to do so now.
Q. What was experience of the core team that worked on the product?
The core team is composed of people with deep experience in technology in general and in products in particular. Bipul – the CTO – worked in technology industry in Silicon Valley designing embedded device products. He is IITK CS 1999 batch. I started out my career with a product company in Valley named Electronics for Imaging after graduating from IITK in CS in 2000. Pallav – the other founder – also an IITK EE 2000 batch worked from NVDIA chip manufacturing company in valley.
We wanted to build a product that Indian businesses can derive real value from and use with ease. We developed the technology in-house to make sure that the product remain really easy to use. I am happy to say that we seem to have had reasonable success in achieving that
Q. How does the product help start-ups/companies?
Cloud technologies are god-sent for status companies. Our products scale as the companies scale, do not require up-front investment and are usable from a simple browser. SuperReceptionist gives startups an office number that they can print on their business cards. It is really important for startups to keep track of customer inquiry and publishing mobile number as your customer care number can really hurt there credibility. With an office number, the startups can look like a big and established company. Also, with a log of every call going into their CRM system, startup companies can kick-start their customer engagement processes right from the beginning.
We love startups and provide them free services as well. For example, you can have a free conferencing service from us by giving a missed call to +91 9650 235522. You will receive your conference ID and PIN in SMS. We want startup companies to get started with least possible hassle.
Q. What are your learnings in doing business in the SMB market in India and would advice would you want to share with startups?
SMB markets are not easy markets to build large revenues quickly but at the same time these are really un-penetrated markets. There are huge opportunities available. I think startups should build SaaS products for such un-penetrated markets. They should take it to the customers quickly – even when it is not fully cooked. When there is real pain and real need even a half-baked product will be taken with open arms by the customers.
Q. What are the future plans for Knowlarity?
Knowlarity wants the enterprises in the emerging markets to be able to use the advantages of cloud telephony to the fullest. We are looking to consolidate our position in India and grow in the international markets.