My first SaaS experience and boy, amazing amount of insights and learning on what it takes to build successful SAAS companies based in India. Below are some of my notes and what I learned and observed from the entire day.
What a way to spend close to 18 hrs amidst some of the most inspiring and motivated people – Entrepreneurs and Founders .
We went in as a startup that has its product at a MVP stage figuring out a Product Market Fit.
SAASx in its 4th edition is curated and managed and executed by a bunch of volunteers with a passion to “GIVE Back” to the ecosystem and enable budding entrepreneurs learn quickly from success SAAS entrepreneurs and thrive in the industry.
We had a SAASx bus from BLR to CHENNAI, and the journey started off by a 3 hrs introduction session of each startup and their asks from the fellow founders, this enabled starting conversations with the right people. This was held at Minjar Cloud Solutions office.
We reached Chennai the next day. The event was held at Intercontinental resort and hotel at ECR Road Chennai, had the leading SAAS founders and entrepreneurs from all over the country attend the event. The audience had over 150+ founders and investors all eager to learn and share their views on what is working and whats not working in today’s digital world.
Some of the key themes of discussion
Money on the table – Take it! – As a bootstrapped startup if there is a market or customer opportunity to make money in alignment to your product, do take it as its critical for cashflow
Focus vs Diversion – Several early stage founders had this dilemma on retaining focus on their key market & product vs diversifying to other allied sectors (where they need only a portion of their product with customisation etc), Stay focussed and learn to say NO. A key difference between gaining momentum and problem discovery. If the pond has enough fish, then continue to FISH there before you venture to a new pond. Think of Winning big in One Market and/or Sub-Market.
Co-Create products with one of your large clients. Sell First build later in such cases. Find that 1 client who believes in you and willing to wait
Niche Vs Generic – Figure out what you are building. Are you in a niche market bottom up or top down. Very important if in niche market to win big and having the ability to integrate with generic solutions to sustain and win through collaboration. Amit from Interview Mocha had some very interesting points to share and seek answers to their growth plans
Product is either Revenue Focuses or Operations Focused – Understanding this helps in messaging, positioning, pricing etc
- Website Communication – Home page – Get the messaging right for the Customer to get your message in 3 seconds.
- Have right Call to action
- Simplify the Signup Process
- Avoid Tech Jargons, Keywords for Non-Tech users
- Do basic search on Competitors website
- Have SEO Keyword analysis to enable the revenant content to be ranked higher
- Website homepage messages should always be an Emotional Appeal message or Functional message
- Use tools like Hotjar/Zarget to understand where the users fall off
- If you are collecting email id, use Frrole/Full Contact to get mobile numbers for follow up calls
Some of the key questions a startup should find answers
- Who is my customer
- Who could have been my customer
- What characteristics of my customer makes them like my product
- If Im successful, who will come after me
- How do i Protect my business
Selling into US from India
Arun from Zarget shared his experience of selling in the US regions from India from 2003 to 2016. Few anecdotes and examples of how a single sale of USD 1.2Mn to a Customer gain 3x as the the customer kept changing jobs and kept buying the same product each – Advantage of Enterprise Sales
Transforming from SMB to Enterprises
Zenoti focused initiatively in India market and later pivoted to the US (still selling in India). Now they sell their Wellness management SAAS Platform to large wellness brands in US.
Founder doing Sales and getting all the basics right before scaling sales. US sales very different than India Sales as customers were mature to know what they want and open to experiment.
In the initial days, the founders visited several high brand wellness centres and used their services to understand the service levels, customer satisfaction levels, customer support, how data is managed, loyalty programs etc, which enabled them to understand the market, customer pain pants, workflows and more.
When reaching out to clients, they used these data points based on their experiences to the CEO’s and pitched Zenoti’s solution to solve those challenges. Invariably the CEOs would respond within a few hrs of receiving this email.
Zenith’s solution was a fully integrated system and the most expensive solution in the market. Yet the customers would buy as the competitor Mindbody would be suited up only for non-enterprises
Enterprise sales timeline 3-4 months, while data migration from existing systems was overlooked and often ran into challenges
Data migration strategy key for enterprise SAAS products and have them thought and defined over as it impacts the sales and pricing models.
Market triumphs everything
Amazing journey share by Srikrishna-Hotline on how they built a a product that was way ahead of its time and how HOPE (every entrepreneurs best friend) kept them alive which finally resulted in their acquisition by Freshdesk.
Girish from Freshdesk chipped in with some key insights and shared a key view point – In a commodity market, Innovate and create differentiator
Fresh sales is now pitched against Salesforce. For a customer evaluating solutions, its very important for the Product to be in the “Consideration Set”, else you would just loose out. Once you pitch yourself against the competitor you become a relevant alternate. Breadcrumbs of Salesforce is also worth $100mn!
This one was one of the most passionate and an honest experience share by a CEO of a fast growing company, a startup that has made great progress and still believes that they have a long way to go and have just scratched the surface
- Always hire people who look up to their role
- Focus on the problem and not on person
- Prioritisation is the most important job of a Product Manager
- Feature based Team/Squads for executing the prioritisation
- Global Eagle List – Master List of priorities
- Unless its someone else’s job, it never gets done
- Everyone on the team should hold a “Key to Respect” for others to respond in an organization
- Sailing Sales without Scaling Engineering
- Squads give agility, Tribes give wisdom
- Making Biryani – The art of celebrating great Craftsmanship in every department, team that aligns with business goals
- Getting a leader to settle down
- Finally – Which Cow, which Ditch – Give time for a new leader to settle down and help them manage one cow and one ditch at a time
ZERO-ONE mn($) in 9 months – Synup
- Lessons learnt from 1st 18 months critical for the next 9 months to achieve $1Mn
- Smart use of SEO against the Leader
- Usage of google knowledge box for SEO as well
- Figure out the threshold to HIRE Sales Rep against the leads you have to manage your business
- Synup figured out the magic number and helped in their Sales
Almost everyone was living their dream or were about to start their journey in building world class SaaS companies from India. Single agenda on everyones mind was How to Sell, to US/International, How to Grow from where they were, How to Scale, How to manage the org in scale
The evening ended up with a great dinner beach side sponsored by Zarget.
A day well spent at Chennai, Heart and mind goes out to all those involved in making the entire Saas Ecosystem Thrive through knowledge and embracing the new!
Cheers to these few and many more who worked hard – Avlesh, Shekhar, Krish, Suresh S, Girish M, Prasanna, Avinash, Arvind P, Rajan, Kesava, Pritesh and many more behind the scenes
Guest Blog post by Bimlesh Gundurao, Aguai Solutions