3 Levels of Product Training for growth

prodtraining2

 

You have crossed the initial milestone of proving your product has seen some initial success, covered the MVP and now its time for growth…what is one key ingredient for growth ?

You are the rockstar founder or product manager…you have the urge to be omnipresent in every customer discussion or support call…you do a good job on this…but it’s a major deterrent for growth as you become the bottleneck…

The best solution for this problem is to put together a strategy for your product training.  Based on interaction with a startup growth entrepreneur’s request I had put few things, and sharing that in this post.

I plan to cover 3 levels of product training that I have personally learnt or done over the years to make products scale and be successful, the examples are more relevant to B2B but some of this can be used for B2C as well….

The analogy i have used here is of movies

Level 1 : Trailer – Targeted to people that engage with the Decision Makers who buy the product

Level 2 : Movie – Targeted to people that interact with users of the product

Level 3 : Making of Movie – Targeted to people that interact with administrators or consultants that configure, implement or support the product

Lets look at each of them in detail

Level 1 : Trailer training

This training is usually provided to Sales & Marketing teams who have the responsibility to engage and influence the decision makers, to buy the product. Certainly while the content stays high level , I have come across 3 questions to be covered in this training, that will help Sales to effectively position the product and get the interests

The three questions

Why buy ?  – This question establishes what is the real need for the product. What is the real problem that the product solves and why is it important for the customer

Why me ? – Having established the need to buy, the next question that needs to be answered is why me, why your product vs. other choices available in the market, what are differentiators, how is your product better in solving the problems and other objection handling

Why now ? – Assuming the need is established, and the fact that your product is the best fit, the next convincing part is the timing of the buy. The “why now” training should facilitate content that will help the trainee to engage with establishing the urgency, to get the decision to be made in a realistic time.

Coverage of the content

The content should cover the following to help with the above three questions

  • Benefits – the benefits of using the product , to improve the process, derive top line or bottom line savings or any others
  • Customer case studies – this is an amazing content to help sell. How are other customers using the product, their experiences, quotes, videos and other documents
  • Competitors – its important to know your competitors and how your product differentiates from them, this is an important area of coverage in your training
  • Unique differentiators – the product may have 100s of features, but there maybe certain ones which are the outliers or differentiators, there should be specific focus to highlight these in the training
  • Pricing and ROI – how is your product pricing done, what are the flexible options, what is the discounting policy, how do you combine products , how do you optimize revenue opportunity are some of the things that should be covered. Creating presentations and videos to explain the pricing with examples would be an important tool. In addition you also should have ROI templates that can help sales to justify the ROI for the customer, using relevant metrics that is aligned to the product’s benefits
  • Short demos – 2 to 3 minutes – This is the eye catcher demo (The Trailers), as its typically done to the decision makers, the demo should highlight the most important capability and it should also try to cover the overall value proposition of the solution. Remember this is the main tool that can help sales to create the initial interest or close the opportunity for approval.
  • Role plays – This is another extremely successful way to train people – the role play enacts how a customer facing person engages with the customer, bringing in relevant questions and dictate the engagement style to bring out answering the 3 questions
  • FAQs – you know answers to several questions, but its important that this knowledge gets out. A Frequently Asked Questions document or video should be a must have.

 

Level 2 : The movie training

This is to do with the actual product in more detail on how the users would use them. So this is essentially a training that is usually provided to Sales Consultants , Partners and Others who are likely interacting and engaging with the customer users – both during pre-sales as well as post sales.

Coverage of this training

  • Product feature functionality – going into details of the features and functionality of the product, focused towards customer users
  • Use cases – talk about different use cases that the product solves, every product may solve 100s of use cases, so its important to highlight different usage scenarios
  • Benefits in detail – while you cover the benefits already in level 1, this could further explain the details with more deep dives and examples
  • Product differentiators vs competition – detailed product differentiators, on various facets of the product and how this can help especially to cover the functional scenarios
  • Detailed demos (like the actual movie) – 30 minutes to 2 hours focusing on end user functionality
  • Role plays to explain usage of the product – detailed role play videos or depiction of how customers will use the product or how you can convince the users, for them to become influencers

 

Level 3 : The making of the movie training 

The third level of the training is for the people that engage administrators, implementer, partners and consultants. This covers variety of areas and really detailed and deep dive into the “how to aspects”. This is usually done to consultants , support staff and Business/IT administrators. This training is for mostly people who engage post sales, but essentially they should also have good understanding of the level 2 training, before getting here.

 

Coverage of content

  • How to configure the application, security, data, master data etc
  • How to trouble shoot
  • Detailed functional and technical architecture
  • How to demos or videos – detailed 2 hours to a day or even multiple days
  • Technical FAQs

 

So as you can see, if you can create the above training content and start training, it will certainly help you in your growth endeavors.

Offcourse you will also have to keep updating these content as you enhance your product.

Product Training , these days can be delivered in different formats – in person, webcast or through videos. But its essential for you to understand the importance of this and make it as a priority if your goal is growth

 ProdTraining1

Payment Bank + Technology = Faster Profitability

Something very exciting is happening in India.Several Payment Banks are about to launch their operations with a dream to provide banking & transaction services esp. to millions of rural and semi urban un-banked & under-banked households. This is expected to greatly boost domestic remittances, rural savings & reduce dependency on cash.

One of the most important questions these banks is how to achieve profitability faster & sustain it while maintaining a low cost structure & capturing volumes.

Using modern digital technology is the answer.

There are 5 ways technology can help a payment bank not just to be operationally efficient but also establish a competitive edge:

Mobility: Total number of mobile phone connections in India crossed 1 billion (1003.49 million) mark in Oct 2015. Out of this, 902,26 million connection were active. 42.39% are rural subscribers & 57.61% are urban.About 1 in 5 uses a smartphone (220 million) and rest use feature phones.This strengthens a key assumption that each & every prospective customer has a mobile phone & he/she will consume most of the banking services on mobile. So, the offering has to be mobile:

  • USSD based for feature phones & app based for smartphones
  • Easy to use & secure
  • In local language
  • Integrated with the ecosystem of Bank Mitra (banking correspondents), Aadhaar enabled payments (AEP), Aadhaar enabled KYC, digital wallets, real time payments (IMPS).

The recent introduction of Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a very welcome step by NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India).

Analytics: Customers’ data is a gold mine. Their transaction behaviour (deposits, withdrawals, subsidy receipts, categorised expenditures) makes a case for offerings that are truly “personalized”. For example, if a customer has incurred expenses in a hospital, they can automatically be offered a health or a life insurance product. The schemes launched by PM Modi cost Rs 12 (for health) & Rs 330 (for life). If a customer regularly receive say subsidy payments, they can be offered a long term savings product e.g. Atal Pension Yojana. The amount can be directly debited and is totally paperless for customer.

Analytics tools (SAS, R etc) combined with “small data” harnessing abilities will make it possible.

In UK, the banking regulator is encouraging Open APIs which in simpler words means encouraging bank to open up data vaults to fintechs and others who can offer useful products to the customers. BBVA Bank (US & Spain) has made customer data available through APIs. (Note: I assume customer has consented for data sharing).

Cloud Computing: Cloud solutions offer unparalleled scalability, flexible pricing models (you grow – we grow) & tight security. If data privacy concerns can be handled, there is a strong case for using cloud when compared to investing in a private data centre.

Automate Business Processes: More and more back office processes need to automated reducing dependency on human resources. The digital offerings have to be such that they are fully integrated with bank’s core processes and leverage the modern work flow solutions.

Referral Engines: Though the payment banks can’t lend, it doesn’t mean their customers do not need credit. These banks can refer the customer to other ‘full service banks’/NBFCs and earn commissions. Value added data like banks opinion about the customer, risk profile, transaction patterns, income potential can fetch additional revenue for the payment bank. Smart referral engines can be deployed that share info, calculate and track commissions.

India needs these payment banks to succeed & sustain in order to achieve a true Financial Inclusion and bring the Bharat under a financial umbrella.

India’s IT sector’s tech prowess and their ability to innovate/execute is what the country needs the most.

Jai Hind.

Guest Post by 

Customer Purchasing Insights For eCommerce Software

SoftwareSuggest is an online software discovery & recommendation platform. We provide free consultation on software and help SMEs select the right software for their organization. As a part of our business, we collect customer requirements, which when analysed can serve the industry with deep insights. Our learning for the eCommerce industry are presented in this report.

Below mentioned are the major takeaways:

  • There has been a hike in the number of organisations opting for online eCommerce solutions for their business. According to our findings a whopping 80% of the total are first time users.
  • A good number of e-commerce software buyers are located in Delhi, Maharashtra and Karnataka region.
  • We discovered that organizations prefer buying SaaS based over installation based software. The data suggest 69% prefer SaaS based.
  • The spread and depth of functionalities of software is the most prominent factor influencing the purchase decision of the software buyers.

Let us have a look at the fascinating figures that we discovered.

1.Industries turning up to use eCommerce software

industries using ecommerce software

We found that 35% of the software requirement was from apparel industry and next position is occupied by food and grocery item business (i.e. 20%). Rest is shared by miscellaneous industry like electronics, footwear, etc.

2. From which state maximum requirement was generated?

According to our observation, maximum eCommerce software buyers are from Northern region with Delhi (16%) being the kingpin in the list. Next place is shared by Maharashtra (12%) and Karnataka (13%). It can be a good decision for eCommerce companies to invest their resources in these region.
state wise lead distribution

3. What do the users prefer- SaaS based vs Installation based?

There has been a drastic shift in the number of users who prefer using SaaS based software when compared to server based software. It has been found from our data that 70% users prefer SaaS based or online software over the server based software.

User preference- SaaS based v/s Server based

4. What all features a buyer looks for in eCommerce software?

Nowadays, software buyers look for the product which can help them facilitate their customers in smarter way. With the advancement in technology, they look for sundry features which are stated as follows:4

5. What is the preferred budget in which buyers purchase the software?

For SaaS based, it has been found that on an average 50% of software buyers look for an ecommerce software between ₹1000 to ₹3000 per month. Around 18% buyers are willing to spend ₹3000 to ₹7000 per month. Only 7% can spend above ₹10000.

budget criteria for SaaS based sofwtare

For server or installation based, it has been discovered that 80% of software buyers prefer buying in the budget range of ₹50,000 – ₹1,00,000. Around 10% prefer buying in ₹100000- ₹150000. Remaining can afford up to ₹150000 and above.

budget criteria for server based software

6. New users v/s Existing users

new user v/s existing users

Around 20% of the software buyers are the existing users who reach us due to following reasons:

  • They are not satisfied with the services provided by their software providers
  • Their software does not have the latest features and they want to upgrade their software

In regards with the changing market conditions, there has been a hike in the number of retailers opting for online stores for their business. We discovered that around 80% of the software buyers bought software for the first time.

7. What is an average number of products showcased by merchants using eCommerce software?

average number of products showcased by ecommerce merchants

The data which has been collected by our team revealed that 17% of merchants prefer showcasing around 100-200 products on their website. And 21% of merchants prefer showcasing between 200-1000 products. Only 8% showcase above 1500 products which is quite less.

8. Time taken to decide on ecommerce solution

Our findings suggest that for a large percentage of software buyers, it takes around 3 to 5 weeks to decide on a solution.

time to find ecommerce solution

9. Number of demos before buying a software

We found that maximum software buyers usually take around 3-4 demos to decide on a solution.

no. of demos before buying

10. Factors influencing purchase decision

A software buyer looks for multiple features before purchasing any software.The depth and spread of functionality of the software is one of major factors. Have a glimpse at the other factors.

factors influencing purchase decision

The report has been generated from the data being collected by SoftwareSuggest team.

You can give your valuable thoughts about the report in the comment section below.

Also, find the list of eCommerce software solution with software demo, comparison chart, and many other values to help yourself select the right software.

Becoming Cash Flow Positive In SaaS Business & Growing Revenue By 3 Times In 3 Months: The ShieldSquare Story

In Q1 2016, we saw our hard work payoff. We achieved some notable milestones. We became cash flow positive and our annual revenue rate (ARR) grew by 3 times in 3 months. We expanded our customer base to 68 countries (with over 90% of the revenues from outside our home base), and doubled our team to 50. Our Average Revenue per account (ARPA per year) has doubled to $10,000. Above all, we pushed ourselves to become one of the top 2 bot prevention vendors across the globe!

This is quite an achievement, and I’d want to share some of my learnings on what worked, and how we got there.

Who Are We?

We are ShieldSquare – a startup based out of Bangalore that has come up with a world-class solution to fight bad bots that scrape content, spam forms and engage in various forms of site abuse. We started off in late 2013 with a founding team of five incubated at Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, Bangalore. We worked hard on building the product and refining it by working with early customers till the first half of 2015. We launched ShieldSquare for the global market in mid 2015 and started getting good traction. We decided to shift gears and accelerate the business growth for the year 2016 and this is how we went about doing the same.

Expanding To Outbound Lead Generation Channels

We initially focused on a low-touch approach in getting leads via inbound channels. With the right keywords, and after a lot of optimisation, we became the No.1 in search ads. We started getting a good number of leads, and this also helped us secure a top global financial portal as our customer.

However, as the average deal sizes through the inbound approach were small, we kickstarted our outbound marketing campaigns with aggressive sales targets. We launched personalised email marketing across different verticals, analysed the technologies our prospective customers were using and focused on them. This helped us reach out to the Europe and US markets, and win marquee customers – still keeping it a low-touch approach.

Incentivising Customers To Opt For Longer Duration Plans

We wanted to have a win-win situation for our customers (lower total cost of ownership) and us (cash flow and predictable business growth). We removed monthly subscriptions, and started providing significant discounts to customers that opt for annual subscriptions. Why? Because we believe that the the cash paid today is many more times valuable than the same amount paid after a year. If the valuation of the company increases by 5 times over 12 months, the cash being realised now is 5 times more valuable than the same amount realised after 12 months. We now plan to expand this strategy to incentivise customers that go for 3-year subscriptions.

Then Came The Growth Hacks!

Our regular efforts resulted in regular leads, but we wanted higher conversions with minimal touch.  We  launched a few growth hacks that are first in this industry, to increase our conversions. Our free-forever diagnosis plan helped our prospects try, and experience our product with no upfront commitments. Our free tools  ScrapeScanner and BadBot Analyser  provided reports that enabled our prospective customers understand the need for ShieldSquare and prioritise it internally.

scrapescanner free tool

Wise Investments To Achieve Growth

One way for businesses to reach positive cash flow is to get the team to work 2 times harder, cut costs, and the like. But our team was already working 2 times harder and our costs were tightly managed.   Another way—the more sustainable way—to reach positive cash flow is to grow revenues! We chose this path for becoming cash-flow positive!

  • Growing revenues require building solid sales, marketing and product teams, and we invested on growing our teams across functions and bringing in passionate talents to drive these teams.
  • There are certain things that might seem unimportant, but rather carry great value. Our employees at Bangalore enjoy free breakfast, lunch and snacks, while the same will be implemented soon for our folks in the Chennai, who are already beating the heat with the free tender coconuts we offer twice a day.

It’s Ok To Say “NO”

In business, priority is everything. 20% of the activities we do contribute to 80% of the results. Here’s how we prioritised things to be more productive:

  • We steered our focus away from activities that are of less or no value to our business, like attending feel-good/networking events. Rather, we reached out to our advisors and mentors whenever we needed guidance and advice.
  • We have restricted ourselves from meeting prospects until we qualify them. But we keep engaging with various players to get better educated about the market, trends and customer requirements.
  • As we were focusing on building the business and not raising funds, we have politely refused the calls and meetings from VCs who wanted to know about the business. Yet, if any of them insist on learning more about the exciting things happening at ShieldSquare, we invite them to our office to meet the team. This really works as only those who are serious will come to our office to have a conversation, while the others drop out.

Strong Foundation

We have promised ourselves that we would never compromise on the core values that took ShieldSquare to the global audience. It would have been impossible for us to be in the global top 2 position in our space, if not for the following:

  • A world-class SaaS internet security product that caters to  the problems of customers
  • Self-serve platform that requires minimal effort to integrate
  • Strong 24×7 support processes to help our customers
  • A great onboarding experience for customers using diverse tools

The aforementioned are the key learnings from our own trial and error experiments as well as interactions with our awesome customers and advisors. The key takeaway from these learnings would be to believe in our own instincts instead of reinventing the wheel.

The overall experience of developing a stellar security SaaS product for the world was amazing! As it turns out, the feedback we get from our customers are equally overwhelming, and yet it reminds us of the fact that the journey has just begun, and we still have a long way to go.

Guest Post by Pavan Thatha, Co-Founder & CEO of ShieldSquare, one of the fastest growing Saas Security company globally.

 

Cracking a niche B2B market without funding: Valuefy’s Story

Valuefy was started in 2010 to empower fund houses to make informed decisions better and faster. Vivek Singal, a B.Tech from IIT Bombay and Sharad Singh, an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad worked together at Fractal Analytics, an analytics firm, before starting Valuefy.

On choosing to build a product like this, Vivek shares, “When we chose our niche, which was a B2B product for such a specific market, at the time when eCommerce was growing, it took a lot of faith. It was a slow journey, but definitely a profitable journey. Our clients have been very sticky and we are collectively helping manage over 100 billion dollars worth of funds at this point.“

Cracking B2B market without funding: Valuefy

Here are some excerpts from a conversation with Vivek:

Where did the story of Valuefy start?

VS: “Whole science around the portfolio management is a very niche play. Valuefy has been serving Indian players so far. To give you an idea, we are servicing 2 of the top 3 fund houses of the country. We have cemented our place in an Indian market.

We picked up analytics as a domain since number crunching was our forte, coming from our experience with Fractal Analytics. We were intrigued to find the frameworks and algorithms that helped the fund houses make decisions. We wanted to understand if there was any tool that they were using to decompose their performance, analyse returns, and understand what are the drivers.

There are some large global organizations that were working in this area, but they didn’t seem to respond to the change in technology to create more sophisticated agile tools. So they were placed as a middle office tool, but not a decision-making tool.“

What were your major road blocks in your journey, and how did you overcome them?

VS: “First off, it is very difficult to do a product strategy in this kind of a market. Our clients are very comfortable with excel as a tool where they can manage their reports on an ad-hoc basis, even though it can only give 10% of the information. Our study says that 60% of a fund manager’s time goes in understanding and processing the data which leaves them with very little time to analyse the performance and the portfolio. The problem is that they are so used to it, that it is very difficult to break this pattern and bring the adoption of technology amongst the fund managers.

Second, when we started, the markets were not favouring our product. We realized that the bigger clients were more open to it. Also, we think the international customers would have been more open to the product but the markets were slow.”

What goes into marketing such a niche product?

VS: “

  1. We have created a global advisory board. It includes people who have experience in the domain, people from our competition, also, people from the academia who are helping us with it.
  2. We have formed some key partnerships with global conglomerates. It helps as a marketing platform as well as a distribution channel.
  3. We started as a hosted product, but we have grown it into a SaaS based model, which has made it simple for us to integrate with the global companies and this will help sustain our global expansion.”

What is your advice to people who want to startup? 

VS:”

  1. Identify the market correctly. We served the Indian market for a very long time. While our market was global, we spent a lot of time on Indian markets first. So you will need to take the decision and define your market.
  2. Get the connect to the market. While you may be good at creating something, but a venture needs both a good product and good marketing and sales. So plan accordingly.
  3. Keep faith in your journey until you decide that you have given a fair chance to it.

People become a pendulum between deciding whether revenue generation is more important or increasing the valuation is more important. While valuations are sexier, I think if you want a sustainable growth and a strong business model, revenue generation helps create that solid foundation.”

Valuefy has definitely established that B2B businesses focussing on revenue generation and profitability can create a sustain an enviable growth. We wish Vivek and his team all the luck in their journey.

Write up the Business Plan !

Most of us have read the famous story about Jeff Bezos’s cross country trip from New  York to Seattle. Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994, writing up the  Amazon business plan on the way. Jeff’s important advise for startup company or any   company is to write up the business plan.

CrossCountryJeffBezosadvise

Now if Jeff Bezos has done it, and become one of the most successful entrepreneur in the internet era, why not just do it ? By writing it down, you will certainly get a lot of clarity and reference point for what you want to achieve….

Here are some thoughts of what and how should this business plan be written to become a continuous reference point for your startup and growth story. The examples and references of this is more on Software Products in B2B (Enterprise) based on my own experience of writing business plans and working with startups whom I have mentored, however many of this can be relevant for Software Product in B2C (consumer) as well. Also this business plan should be ideally written by founder or a product manager…

What it is and some guidelines?

  • It’s an internal and confidential write-up – Don’t confuse it with presentations and business plans to be shared with people who will fund this – that should just be a subset of this
  • Is reference plan, and should be revisited frequently to change
  • Prepare it in word /excel, bit free form with text (power points constraints you)
  • Prepare atleast 3 scenarios – aggressive, best estimate, conservative plans
  • Do it for 1 year (short term – in greater detail), 3 years (medium – bit higher level) and 5-10 years (long – very high level) – Remember Bill Gates quote “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”
  • Write it free form, and then organize it later, go through several iterations, review, review and review

Start with a summary:

Like an executive summary, this is the place you start jotting down the highlights of your road ahead – covering Introduction of yourself and the team, your idea, product space, history and market definition (presuming you have researched it), clear USP & value, challenges & risks, and overall KPIs that will come out of the rest of the business plan. The summary is most likely to change once you have written the rest of the plan.

Customers & Personas:

Who are the users, what are their current problems and how does your solution solve this problems.

Who pays for the software, what are their challenges and what are their company /career goals that the software would help solve

What are the financial/non financial benefits for the customer based on using this product or the cost reduction using the software, measured by productivity etc. Can there be a customer ROI estimated

Market:

Define the market category and market size ie today, and in the future that you want to focus. Try to break down into 2 – 3 levels of hierarchy and in a multi dimensional way by Business type /Geography / Revenue potential of customer/Size of the customer or any other business context.

Define the share of the market you would like to achieve of the market size, on key market segments in 1/3/5 years. What’s the customer IT spends planned for solving such problems

Market is the most key aspect that is going to drive you to successful product, so understand the potential market, research and put it in there

Product:

Now on to the product – write up about the product, to cater to the above market opportunity, with lot of details and value propositions, differentiations and what problem it solves.

Whether the product you are planning is a pain killer, vitamin or vaccine

Product priorities and use cases – focus is the key, focus on the key market, focus on the design and so on and so forth…

Product Roadmap – at level 1 (vision), at level 2 (product category ) , at level 3 (feature /function level). Product roadmap is your product in the growth face

Competitors and other players in the market, and what they have today, in their roadmap or what they are trying to do. Your differentiation against each of them,plans to differentiate. If you don’t know it, some tips for this are here

When will your product be available , the minimum viable product and is there enough time to get the baby out ?

Monetization:

How do you plan to monetize your product, don’t build a plan that ignores monetization.

Revenue and Customer Goals – Quarterly, yearly and medium/long term goals, subscription revenue including projection of drop offs etc.

Pricing model description – different options to be considered, domestic vs international, subscription based vs fixed etc

Risks , probability and dependencies to achieve these goals

Technology:

Explain the technology used for the product, how it would scale, Ux differentiations, clear differentiations due to tech architecture, performance, simplicity, implementation effort. Important this is not technical architecture , so keep this high level.

Talent:

What the skills required to sustain the business – development, design, sales, customer support, channels marketing etc. Challenges & risks associated with this.

Identify gap in availability of talent.

Layout if its important for you to relocate to be successful, due to availability of talent. Place is super important for success – what are the options – what are the pros and cons.

Customer support & feedback:

What is the strategy around customer support & feedback, how product roadmaps are affected by feedback. Level of engagement required initially and as the product matures.

Past learning’s from customers, what went right and what went wrong. How was it addressed?

Challenges of remote support and how it was addressed /planned to be addressed

Draw your effort, cost and cash flows:

You don’t have be finance person – its like putting forth your personal finances, or just google for templates  – put together your estimate of people cost, server /cloud Operating costs, sales & marketing costs, other infrastructure cost – space/communication/support/software etc,  any other expenses required to do scale the product. Link this with your monetization plan, to ascertain your overall profit or loss over the years.

As you see above, there is a lot that can be written up – as you write up in detail, your thoughts on what you are setting forth gets clearer….

But don’t worry if what you plan is not exactly how it’s all turning out to be in reality…..but its important to have a plan, adjust it for reality…

NYCtoSeattle

So now pack up and start off on your cross country trip from Mumbai to Bangalore, to write your Business Plan in Bezos style  !!!

 

 

#MadeinIndia Time & Attendance Management Software to Enhance Productivity

Let us start with a simple fact, no one can dispute over the countless benefits technology has brought us. It has allowed us to improve, perform and connect our resources beyond imagination!!

Whether you work in a company or run your own business, time management is always on top of your mind. By properly managing time, the organization can know the amount of work allocated to the employees, how long the employees spend in doing unproductive tasks and how many of them are doing over-time.

MadeinIndia time & management Management software

With this, organization can easily calculate their employees productivity. Moreover they can pre-plan their agendas and finalize company’s work schedule.

But, what if your time management software also facilitates the feature of attendance management? This will be an added advantage as the origination can keep an eye on the regularity and punctuality of an employee. Because, if company has a comprehensive and authentic time and attendance management softwares, it can easily organize the work with proper synchronization.

Here is a list of “#MadeinIndia” Time and Attendance Management Software to consider.

Timereckon: It is a web enabled time & attendance management software that can be seamlessly integrated with any payroll system. In case of time records processing, it provides an Enterprise web – based solutions. Moreover, it has comprehensive security layer which is accessible to supervisorial or managerial level only. Timereckon also allows integration with HR, Finance and Payroll Professionals so that they can automate the entire attendance and leave management process. It helps in generating extensive reports and has a large database for maximum storage.

Cost: Contact Website.

Timecheck Software: It is an enterprise grade web based solution with strong features to simplify Time and Attendance management process. Moreover, it provides immaculate solutions for improving business productivity. It integrates with payroll software and ensures on-time payments of salary. It provides intuitive dashboard and flexi-mode options for overtime management and terminal configuration.

Some of its value added features include visitor management integration, Bi-lingual support, user group management and work order management.

Cost: Contact Website.

ZingHR Time and Attendance Management Software: This time and attendance management software ensures that organization can keep track on various employee activities, irrespective of their locations. Moreover, it measures time spent on creating business policies and has a user-friendly dashboard. Thus, the organization can propel its productivity and utilize all its resources.

Cost: Welcome- 7250/month

Power- 9250/month

Business- 14250/month

Turbo- 19250/month

Timemate: It provides an organization the facility to reduce the processing time of employee time sheets and decrease human errors in it. In addition to this, it provides biometric time and attendance system which can seamlessly integrate with many hardware devices. Timemate has various solutions such as fingerprint scanning, swipe cards and hand-on punches which provides authentic attendance report. Moreover, it facilitates graphical representation of events & schedules and it allows the access of attendance reports via internet.

Cost: Contact Website

TimeSheet: Managing time spent on each job by a particular employee can be a daunting task. Therefore, Timesheet software is used as it is highly customizable & can be used by organizations of all sizes. Moreover, it gives enterprise-class time tracking solutions at very affordable prizes. It makes comprehensive reports of time management of employees at a rapid rate. It also provides a “to-do” manager to keep track of small and personal tasks. Some of its top-notch features include auto-locking of time sheets, intuitive dashboard & comprehensive reports with minimum data entry.

Cost: Independent Consultants: Rs.500/user/month.

Startups- Rs.400/user/month.

Growing Businesses- Rs.300/user/month.

Big Business House- Rs.200/user/month

Zoho:Attendance Management is now a breeze” this is the tagline used by Zoho attendance management software. Its time tracker helps organizations to regularly monitor team’s efficiency thus improving their overall capacity. Its timesheet helps companies to analyze employee’s activity and how much time has been registered on each activity. Zoho time sheets are facilitated with hierarchal structures and customized time-log templates. Timesheets also records Log-billable hours and makes sure that the employees are paid for their over time. Moreover, it enables organizations to record all work related items cohesively at a single click.

Cost: Free up-to 5 users.

Standard: Rs.2340/month up-to 25 users.

Premium: Rs.4500/month up-to 50 users.

Enterprise: Rs.5940/month

Adrenalin: It enables the organization to have a 360 degree view of employees working hours thus provides authentic analysis of their productivity. Adrenalin provides accurate data collections of employee’s information which is the crucial step in attendance management. Along with this, it helps to redefine attendance capture mode through integration with external time capturing devices. Moreover, it provides various reports to monitor attendance, regularity and sign-in / sign-out information of the employees.

Cost: Contact Website

Time productivity is the key to success of any organization. With this, it is imperative that it should be managed properly. Moreover, the above mentioned time management software amalgamate with other features such as payroll and attendance management thus providing additional facility to the company. Optimizing and synchronizing time dwells well if managed properly. Therefore, use these software in order to enhance your organization’s productivity.

Moreover, if you are looking for free and open source time and attendance management software you can check it out here.

BPO Talent To Be Groomed For Inside Sales In SaaS India

With ongoing expeditious advancements in communication, social media, cloud, mobility and related technologies – sales is on a continuous path for digital transformation. This is going to place inside sales teams at a strategic position in sales and marketing process, in terms of significance. A shift is being observed from field sales model to inside sales model which is attracting field sales guys towards inside sales jobs. Therefore, the Inside Sales industry is moving towards a revolution worldwide.

Inside Sales Teams to Play a Greater Role in Sales

Inside sales is quite strategic to India’s GDP growth. Indian BPO industry alone contributes 1% of India’s GDP where professionals are majorly involved in B2C processes including inside sales. IT/ITES and software companies have been early adopters of Inside Sales process for B2B leads generation. With digital sales transformation happening for the digitally dependent buyers, the inside sales teams are going to play a greater role in sales process, as more tasks of the marketing and field sales teams have come under the scope of Inside Sales teams.

SaaS India – Early Adopters of Inside Sales Technology

SaaS, Technology and Professional Services companies in the western world are the first ones to acknowledge a digitally connected buyer by adopting Inside Sales Technology. The traditional businesses like manufacturing companies in US are exploring how Inside Sales tech may add value to their sales process.

However, in the Indian market, mainly SaaS industry is at the forefront on trying their hands on advanced Inside Sales Technology for accelerated sales. The others in the technology industry are going to follow this trend in near future in India. Traditional industries are going to take some time to change their sales processes as their buyers are slowly becoming internet savvy for business purchases.

Inside Sales to Play Significant Role in SaaS India

As per Google Accel SaaS Report 2016 – SaaS India is expected to grow to $50 billion in next 10 years while Indian SMB SaaS is expected to rise from current $600 million to $10 billion in the said period.

SaaS_projection.png

Source: Google Accel Report – SaaS India, Global SMB Market, $50B in 2025

SaaS industry has a strong need for inside sales professionals. As per the report, strong workforce in the BPO sector gives access to talent pool of around 6,20,000 Inside Sales professionals, out of which 1,20,000 are inside sales ready and 5,00,000 are skill ready.

Workforce-1.png

Source: Google Accel Report – SaaS India, Global SMB Market, $50B in 2025

I personally believe that 6,20,000 from the BPO sector, who are assessed as ready for SaaS as per report, need to be groomed for making them sales skill ready as only telecalling skills don’t make a professional acceptable for Sales Development Rep’s role in SaaS Sales.

Inside Sales Talent – A Key Challenge for SaaS India  

SDRs are expected to understand the Sales Processes. They should have the knack of using Inside Sales Tools like Social Media, Email, Phone, CRM and other smart selling tools. The working environment of B2B Inside Sales teams is significantly different from BPO scenario, where the reps are much more controlled, the jobs are temporary, the performance metrics are more around calls numbers and talk time, the customer engagements are very short lived, and end consumers are served with products & services.

This vast difference would require a complete psychological shift in the skills of a BPO professional who aspires to work in the SaaS sales space. They would need to be trained on Inside Sales function from scratch to be helpful, empathetic, B2B marketing and sales process oriented, B2B product/services domain expert, and digital sales intensive to successfully become an SDR. SDR will progress to become an account executive with quota around end closures and finally managing SDRs.

Aspirants looking to fill Inside Sales Talent Gap

There is a need to align the professionals by training for B2B Inside Sales function to serve the evolving SaaS industry in India.

I am associated with AA-ISP, American Association of Inside Sales Professionals as the President for India Chapter. The mission of AA-ISP is to advance the profession of Inside Sales. AA-ISP Gurgaon and Noida Chapter is supported by Inside Sales Box to create an ecosystem for Inside Sales professionals for businesses.

If you are a BPO/ Inside Sales/ Marketing and Sales professional or a Technology Entrepreneur, who is aspiring to stay abreast with best IS practices, discover digital sales tools & technologies, and explore jobs and business opportunities locally and globally – I welcome you to be a part of AA-ISP India.

A payment gateway that onboards you in less than a week: Razorpay

If you are a startup looking for payment gateway integration and the process adherence is killing you, Razorpay might save the hassle.

Founded by Shashank Kumar and Harshil Mathur in 2014, Razorpay is positioned to provide you with a payment gateway solution within a week’s time. Shashank shares that his inability to find a gateway to accept international payments and the enviable ease with which it could be done in US, drove him to start Razorpay.

Here are some interesting bits from iSPIRT’s interview with Shashank:

What triggered you to start up?

SK: “My co-founder and I know each other from college days. After we graduated, we kept working on side projects, mostly for fun. For one of our side projects, we wanted a payment gateway to accept international transactions. However, it had a bunch of requirements like we should have a proper office space, past operational record as a company, fixed deposit of over 1 lakh, and more. Even after fulfilling those requirements, it would take 1 to 3 months for activation. Overall, we had a negative experience. We went online and found that most people, mostly startups, shared a similar experience.

There were 2 issues. First, it was a technical challenge. But more importantly, it was a startup challenge. The gateways, at least at that time (2013), were not ready to serve the startups. The issue needed to be addressed with a fresh mindset. We thought we could do something about it.”

RazorpayWhat has been the role of the accelerators in shaping your journey?

SK: “We started from Jaipur to save cost and were working from home initially. Soon we started looking for co-working spaces and came across Startup Oasis, which had come up as an incubator and a co-working hub. Other startups there were also our target market. So we got a lot of first had feedback on our product as we grew. The team at the incubator also made a lot of introductions for us.

When YCombinator happened, they changed our entire thought process on how the company needs to work. They helped with our initial launch, raising money, hiring, managing ESOPs, etc. Also, people took us more seriously now since we were a YC company. We were thinking in terms of how big the space is and taking care of our core business, while the accelerator helped us with the other roles.”

What was your most prominent roadblock?

SK: “We went and talked to multiple banks for offering payments. However, since we did not have any prior experience they were averse to us. Given the failure rate of startups I think it is understandable, since they are accountable for everything. Slowly things are changing, but even now it is very difficult for banks to take early stage startups seriously.”

What would be your advice people who want to startup?

SK: “Pick up a problem that you yourself have experienced; that is the perfect place to start solving. If you become your own target market, it helps. Once you go deep into the domain, you will realize if the problem is big enough for you to solve it. It should be a problem that your network or peer group is facing so that you get your initial set of customers and are able to validate your product.

Have set timelines. It helps to know what you want to do. When we started, we had zero domain knowledge, but our vision was very clear. Once that is clear, one can define the current situation and set future timelines. It will take time to achieve whatever you aspire, but you need to put those numbers on paper first. Figure the knowledge gaps and put timelines against them. If one approach does not work, try something different and see how you get to it. The idea is to not get stuck and keep moving on instead.

It would be great if you could get a mentor at an early stage. Even otherwise, there are a lot of resources online that might help. The idea is to understand what problem exactly are you trying to solve, and then creating a framework around it. It gives a very reliable structure to be able to solve the problem.

Apply to accelerator programs. There application process itself will push you to answer questions, you thought you already had answers to.”

After having raised a round of funding, Razorpay has been aggressively growing in the market with encouraging customer response. We wish them a long and sustainable growth.

Getting loans for SMEs is now simple: Getfiscal #FinTech

Getfiscal was started in May 2015 to help SMEs manage their cash flows and simplify the process of raising loan. It already has about 100 costumers on the platform, and has helped raise loans worth over 1 crore. Before starting up, co-founders Aditya Tulsian and Baskar Ganapathy, were a part of the team responsible for launching Intuit’s accounting and tax software in India.

Here are interesting excerpts from the conversation with Co-founder and CEO, Aditya Tulsian, who shares what it takes to quit a good job and startup.

Why Getfiscal?

“When we took Intuit’s software to Indian SMEs, we found two things:

First, Indian businesses are not looking for full-fledged accounting software. They want a simple way to manage the basic cash flow – the money-in and money-out.

Second, whenever the business wants a loan, it is a big problem. In India the entire cash flow is being managed on excel sheets. It is cumbersome, time consuming. The amount of effort for a bank to underwrite a loan for 10 lakh is the same as that required for 10 crore, which made the banks completely ignore this segment. That’s where we wanted to create a simple but robust platform to help SMEs manage cash flows, and then use that data to enable an NBFC or a bank to give out a working capital loan.“

GetFiscalWhat was your inspiration behind leaving your job and starting up?

“For me, both my father and my wife have their own businesses. I was closely involved with them, right from forming their company to managing their finances. So it only seemed natural.

Second, we felt that the opportunity was so phenomenal, and both Bhaskar and I had spent enough time in this ecosystem in India, that we could quickly go in, use our knowledge and experience and create a business out of it.”

What do you look for in new hires?

“We are a team of 11 people at this point. We look for 2 things:

  1. We look for passion in the idea. The person has to believe in the idea because the journey is going to be anything but easy.
  1. We are looking for a person who is willing to learn. Though different flavors of this have been done across the globe, the approach that we have taken, where product led financing is the key, that is, we bring the small businesses on the platform and then help them get a loan; this has not happened. Therefore the team needs to constantly have a learning mindset.”

How difficult or easy is it to onboard the SMEs in India?

“Very clearly, they have a genuine problem of managing everything on excel. Excel though flexible, in the end is manual and very error prone. So we see a lot them adopting our platform, even if they do not need a loan.

We are solving for the entire value chain of financial management, for today, when one wants to create an invoice, he manages it on one excel sheet, and then tracks it on a different excel sheet, checks the status in the bank and then gives all this data to the chartered accountant who then files a tax. So there are multiple platforms that have to be touched for a single invoice. So the pain point itself is huge for them.

The other thing everyone losses their sleep is for money, and we are helping them get a loan. So it is simple logic to adapt it.

Now, onboarding has 2 aspects to it: mind set and migration.

To address the mindset issue, we are targeting SMEs who are less than 4 years in business, because that is where the adopters lie.

For migration, we provide a 5 minute mapping, where you can upload your existing excels. For majority of the existing software, you will have to go out and adopt their invoicing format, but not so with us.”

What tips would you share with the people who are looking to quit their jobs and start up?

“Everyone has his or her own journey, but here is what I think it takes:

  1. You have to have passion for the idea. If you don’t believe in the idea, there is no point in working on it. The passion can be for any reason; it could be for the huge amount of money, or it could be for the pain point, or you yourself feel the need for it.
  1. Before you start off, you have to think about a team. While working on the idea, also look for a team. They will help you not only when the chips are down, but they will also complement you. Only then you can go out and create a business, knowing that even if you are not there sometimes, things will be taken care of.”

The idea and its implementation so far looks very promising. We wish Aditya and his team, all the luck in their endeavour.

List of 11 #Madeinindia Applicant Tracking Software

Applicant tracking systems are great for HR professionals and recruiters. Even though there are disputes about their effectiveness as they target keywords more than candidate skills, it greatly helps recruiters to minimize the size of talent preposition without wasting their precious time and energy. Statistically speaking, ATS has saved over 20% of companies’ precious time during the recruiting process. Moreover as per careerealism “75% of large companies uses ATSs to review a resume before a recruiter sees it”. By seeing the above stats you can easily analyze how ATS is a must for every organization in this highly competitive business scenario.Indian Applicant Tracking Systems

To simplify your talent pool acquisition, here is a list of some of the Top Indian Applicant Tracking Software (In no particular order):
Resumefox: It is an innovative and easy to use recruitment software that saves the hiring time and cost by a whopping 70%. Moreover, through its comprehensive modules an organization can simplify its recruitment process by a great deal. Here are some of its notable features.

  • It helps in building searchable resume databases with zero manual efforts.
  • Reformates multiple resumes at one go and has a strong duplicate resume detection system
  • Generates comprehensive and insightful reports in real time
  • Creates recruitment life cycle and offers detail analysis of employee until joining.

Price:

  • Lite: $699
  • Standard: $899
  • Enterprise: $1199

TalentRecruit:  TalentRecruit is an end-to-end solution that integrates and automates your entire recruitment processes. It helps your company grow by streamlining the recruitment process and reduces operational cost with increase in recruiter’s efficiency. It is highly customized so can fit in any organization. Some of its most enterprising features are:

  • Provides candidate screening and evaluation facility
  • Enrich with facilities such as candidate sourcing, resume management, tracking candidate progression, etc.
  • It provides advanced search algorithms to locate the right candidate.
  • Has an efficient and agile management of jobs and candidates in order to reduce the “Time to Hire”

Price: Rs 1000-1500/user/month

99ATS: It is a web-based recruitment system that helps organization to stream line and manage their recruitment process. Moreover it has easy migration and avoids resume duplication. Here are some perks :

  • Has built-in bulk email to reach out to maximum number of candidates.
  • Imports resumes one by one or in bulk from external resources and organizes with the applicant tracking system.
  • Has comprehensive and reliable social media integration which helps in providing jobs and requirements at one click. (Learn More: How ATS Systems Integrate with LinkedIn)
  • Provides an authentic resume extract facility which by parsing extracts accurate information about the candidate.

 Price: Contact the Website

Zoho recruit: It a Saas based online recruiting system software. Moreover it helps staffing agencies and recruiting departments to track job openings, resumes, candidates, etc. quickly and efficiently. It provides features such as:

  • Automatically captures and import resume information from email attachments, outlook inbox, etc.
  • It lets the recruiters to post job opening on popular sites such as CareerBuilder, Indeed, LinkedIn, etc.
  • Manages candidate activity effectively from one location inside Zoho recruit.
  • Provides facilities like event management and candidate source tracking.

Price:

  • Free edition- Rs. 0 for 1 recruiter
  • Standard edition: Rs. 1500/recruiter/month
  • Enterprise: 3000/ recruiter/month

RecruitPro 360: Highly customized, RecruitPro 360 enhances recruitment process, synchronizes workflow and increases productivity. Moreover it provides high level automaton process which makes the recruitment process burden free and less time consuming. Here are some of its notable features

  • Provides intuitive user interface and automated resume import facility
  • It has comprehensive internet search and match capabilities.
  • It has a sophisticated tracker which tracks the candidate in an unique and user friendly manner
  • Has easy to use data migration facility with zero data entry

 Price: Contact the Website

Talentpool: It helps in executing better joining ratio by quality and streamlined recruitment process. It empowers front line users with better profiles, getting real time visibility of resumes and track key metrics. Take a look at its features:

  • It helps managing multiple sourcing activities, including marketing campaigns to access more candidates.
  • Imports candidate resumes from job portals directly into its centralized database.
  • Works seamlessly with agencies to manage vendors thus reducing time spent by recruiters on candidate status update.
  • Provides effective and authentic duplicate resume detection.

Price: Contact the Website

employAstar: It’s a cloud-based applicant tracking system that gives a 360-degree view of client, candidates, requisition, etc. Its cloud-based solutions are focused shrinking efforts and time of the recruiters while the process is going on. Here are some of its most enthralling features:

  • Provides email alerts and approvals so that organization can send automated emails to their corresponding candidates.
  • Has quick and advanced resume searching technique.
  • Facilities effective vendor management system.
  • Provides easy and integrated platform to simplify the process of corporate internal hiring.

Price: Contact the Website

Adrenalin Recruitment Management: It is the most effective hiring platform which facilitates in tracking of individual skills and transforms recruitment into more simple and effective process. Moreover it effectively manages employee talent thus solves employee retention problems. Some of its noticeable features are:

  • Provides intuitive interface which requires minimal training which makes it easier for candidates and recruiters to operate.
  • Has an unique feature of marking out ideal candidates as per company requirements
  • Provides seamless integrations with job portals and consultants with a single click.
  • Has comprehensive requisition (official order) management and secure data access.

 Price: Contact the Website

TalentCube: TalentCube emphasizes on making the recruitment process simple, easier and cost-effective for organizations. Moreover with the facility of mobile apps, it completes a one-stop solutions regarding recruitment for its users. Take a look at its features:

  • Provides comprehensive sourcing of candidates which reduces the “Time to Hire” scenario by 30-40%.
  • With an extensive social media campaign feature, organizations can connect with their candidates and improve candidate experience.
  • Reduces cost of Hiring with integrations with job boards, social media, email campaign, etc.
  • Has a user centered design which provides complete analysis, user feedback, prototype structure, etc.

 Price: Contact the Website

iHIRING: It is a cloud based assessment platform with in-built applicant tracking system. Moreover with iHIRING candidate assessment can be done in all possible formats viz. code simulation, running text, video and audio. Here are some of its salient features:

  • Provides large database storage so as to maintain the records of past candidates for future referrals.
  • Has IP address blocking facility which prevents unsolicited or unwarranted candidates from accessing published assessment.
  • Provides intuitive dashboard which allows the recruiter to view the entire running process and control hiring process in real time
  • It is the best deal and a comprehensive solution for corporate or in-house HR teams

Price: Contact the Website

Talentnow: It is designed with a view to manage the entire recruitment cycle of job creation to candidate finalization with minimum human intervention. Moreover it is a boon for direct employers, staffing companies and permanent placement agencies. Some of its notable features are:

  • Automatically imports resumes from third party job portals, social networking websites, etc. with almost zero data entry
  • Reduces portal cost by building your own resume database
  • Implements different workflows for different jobs and increases workflow efficiency.
  • Provides team/user-level dashboards of activities to track performance, revenues, usage of resources, etc.

 Price: Contact the Website

For most staffing agencies and recruiting companies, analyzing optimum keywords for candidate search is been a tedious task. But with the increase in usage of comprehensive and authentic ATS systems not only candidate search but also the “Hire to join” time has come down to a great extent. Storing databases and automating the recruitment process has become easy and less time consuming. Moreover before buying any ATS Software you should check this amazing Applicant Tracking Software Buyer’s Guide by Greenhouse, Inc. If you are looking for an open source ATS Software you can find it here.

A corporate wallet to simplify business payments and expense tracking: The Happay Story

B2C wallets like Paytm and Mobikwik are known well enough. The B2B wallet story, however, is still in its nascent stage. Happay is that wallet which helps companies manage their expenses through employees, using corporate wallets.

Varun Rathi and Anshul Rai were classmates at IIT Kharagpur. They worked for 2 years before they started up. After toying with different business ideas, they zeroed in on payments, and thereafter, quit their jobs.

Happay started as a platform for splitting payments or transfer money through its wallet. However, the team, even with over 2 lakh registered users, was unable to find a good revenue model. They pivoted to address B2B payment management hassles. They have tied up with Ratnakar Bank to issue corporate cards which double as expense management system for the company. The companies can issue these cards to all their employees, and, at the back end, track, or even cap the permissible amount for each card.

Here is an excerpt from Varun’s interview with iSPIRT:

Why did you Startup?

VR: “I come from a business family and so, I think I inherited the urge to start something of own business. It was different from a typical Marwari business, because I wanted to make a technology business that was scalable”.

Why did you choose to address payments?

VR: “The payments market in itself is globally very large and scalable. So even if you solve a small problem in payments, it can go big.

Last 5-10 years have seen a lot of sourcing through wallets. So we thought this was the problem we should solve. Our solution was quite a hit between students and young professionals. However, there was no strong revenue model. Also, we had to go to all vendors and get them to accept those payments through our instrument, which was proving difficult.

On the other hand, a lot of businesses would come to us looking for payments solution. There was no product that would address their issue. So we decided to pivot.”

You decided to pivot from B2C to B2B. What were your major challenges?

VR: “First biggest challenge was to unlearn whatever we had learned and focus exclusively on talking to customers which we didn’t do with the first product.

The first product seemed more intuitive to the team, as we ourselves were the customers. This time around the team talked to over 1000 customers to understand their problems.”

As for aligning the team, Varun shares, “Our team was very young, with no one with more than 2-3 years of experience. So they were open to learn new things. Besides, it took us 9-10 months, to come up with the new product. This gave enough time to the team to align themselves.”

Next challenge was in terms of requirements of the business. “With a B2B product, we realized that businesses needed handholding at every step. Where we scaled to 2 lakh registered users with just 5 members in the team, this time around, we ended up hiring for different teams, taking the number of employees to about 100.

We hired the first person that could give a demo to the customers. Then we needed someone for lead generation, as the product does not automatically reach the target audience. Even after a customer is acquired, we needed to hire for relationship management and customer support. The customers even after signing up would not take the next steps themselves.”

What are the challenges in coming up with an expense card? Why have other expense management companies not done it?

VR: “ Getting such a card and its integration in place, is a difficult process. It requires a license, partnership with the bank, a certification with VISA, and a strong technology team to support all of it. It takes about a year to complete just the processes.

We were in the business of payments, from the start. So our initial aim was to develop applications over the payments platform. We first solved the payments problem and then later on built expense management software over it. Other players made the software and started selling it. They never had the intention of going deeper into the payments problem.”

How is scaling a B2B business different from a B2C?

VR: “There are both pros and cons. B2B is slow and time taking but steady. There are some safe landings in between, so I cannot go down all of a sudden, as is the case with B2C. I can become an overnight success in a B2C product, with maybe some good PR but that can go away in a second, as it is very fragile and there is a lot of competition. In B2B, customers don’t sign up that fast, but they give you time. Once you have their trust, even if something is not perfect, they give you a month or 2 to make it right. That gives more stability to the business.”

What are the 3 things you wish you knew before you started?

VR: “Launch soon: One mistake we made was not launching the product soon. We, like most other companies, were trying to build a perfect product. But the sooner you take it to the customer; the steeper is the learning curve.

Talk to your customers: We assumed what our customers needed and built the product around it. Customers don’t know what they need till they see it. So let them see it.

Making the team will take time: Time required in hiring and nurturing team is very high. It takes almost 50% of our time. We didn’t account for it from the start and this has come across as a major learning.

What is your advice to other people starting up right off the college?

VR: “Understand the market first. If you start fresh out of college, you can take more risk. In terms of technology, you can stretch your limits, as you don’t have any responsibilities. But scaling brings problems. Hiring, building and managing the team and responding to the market needs more finesse. Understand the market so that you have at least some idea of how to respond.”

Corporate wallets address a very crucial bottleneck in managing expenses in an organisation. We wish Varun and his team at Happay, all the success.

 

Making SMEs loans a breeze with Capital Float

Typically, choosing to finance the SMEs looking for working capital loans, is not easy. First, the SMEs have smaller ticket size. Then they expect quick service and have high operational costs associated with it. ProductNation interviewed Shashank Rijyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja who started Capital Float in early 2013, a digital finance company that serves the loan requirements of SMEs in India.

Shashank having worked with McKinsey and Bain, has a background in creating, and packaging financial instruments. Gaurav on the other hand had grown and sold his family business before they met at Stanford as classmates.

“We were looking to address financial inclusion. We observed how the fin-tech space was being disrupted in US and China, and saw the huge opportunity in India. With 48 million SMEs, second just to China, with 50 million, India needed lenders who would tailor their offering to the needs of the customers. The rate of interest by the banks was much higher than expected. Also, the loan disbursement ate up a lot of time. So this need was largely catered to by the informal sector”, says Gaurav.

Registered as an NBFC with RBI, they started with an instrument for invoice financing (building loan product against invoice of blue-chip companies). The duo gradually evolved their products to provide working capital loans for SMEs. They developed underwriting models which address the specific scenarios of the SMEs.

“There are 2 broad categories of sellers coming up on eCommerce portals. First are those who sell on platforms like Zovi and Myntra, where the sellers are also the manufacturers. Other category includes retailers who sell on sites like Snapdeal and Paytm. They generate a huge demand for loans available at short notice periods with minimum hassle. That is where we found our sweet spot”, shares Shashank.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

How did you overcome the problems of traditional lending?

SR: “Firstly, our experience came in handy. My in-depth knowldge of micro-financing, packaging and selling loan instrument meant we could build the right services. Gaurav with his experience of running a business out of India, knew how to deliver the services we wanted to build.

Secondly, we met with our customers to understand what their problems really were. To a small business owner, every hour spent off the floor is an hour wasted. We came up with innovative methods like allowing same day approvals and providing loan facility over phone and laptop. These businesses needed greater accessibility and straight-forward procedures. They wanted someone who could understand the value of their time.

Third, and definitely the most crucial point was that we adopted trial and error method. Like any startup, we didn’t know exactly how things would work. We were building our instruments in-house. So we had to fail fast and experiment quickly. With agile methodology, today, we can deliver new loan products in 2 weeks. A bank would take about an year to do the same.”

How is the policy environment evolving in India, with respect to your industry?

GH:  “The Mudra banks for refinancing are a welcome move. With 950 million Aadhar numbers issued, allowing eKYC, is it much easier to issue loans. The Digital India initiative to create better internet connectivity will help us reach a much larger customer base.”

They are leveraging the Indian stack to refine their instruments and are growing with it.

How difficult is it to get payback of loans?

SR: “SMEs are the most financially aware and responsible segment, since they always manage their finances tightly. Also, our screening process mitigates high risk customers, allowing us to cater to the needs in minimum possible time frame. So that’s not much of an hassle.”

What would be the 3 lessons you have learned from your journey?

GH: “1. Perseverance – One needs to believe that the idea would work, when no one else knows if it will. It is important to stick to that optimism and keep trying to find the exact fit.

  1. Strong fundamentals – From the first day, the business needs to know where its money will come from. The cash flow should not be dependent on where one is, in the funding cycle.
  2. Rounded team – Build a great team if you want to build a great product. A strong team stands by you to make it possible.”

What would you say to the entrepreneurs starting up fresh out of college? 

SR: “There is no right time to startup. Whenever you get passionate about a problem and see a large market for it, go for it. Here are my 3 tips:

  1. Address a big problem. If you go after a problem which is not so big, it may not be worth all the effort. India provides huge opportunities with really major problems that need to be addressed.
  2. Maintain discipline. Whatever you do, think big and build for the long term.
  3. Understand your responsibility. As you grow your team, you need to realise that families of your employees are getting dependent on you. It is essential that you take your decisions wisely.”

What are the mistakes you wish you did not make?

GH: “We were too slow in the start. We should have been aggressive, and believed in ourselves more. We thought people might not accept a technological solution. We have realized however, that technology has to lead the change in society. Invest in constantly being disruptive and you will definitely make a difference.”

We thank Shashank and Varun for sharing their insights on the FinTech sector and wish them the best for their journey.

Does Mobile Only strategy point to lack of Design Thinking?

The runaway success of Indian e-commerce show is driven by the single biggest attraction of hefty discounts available almost on all products! More than any other value proposition of e-commerce such as more choices, convenience, 24×7 availability, payment options and faster deliveries, the Indian customer was lured to e-commerce by the sheer scope for discounts she would not get elsewhere! The intense competition over market share among the e-commerce players ensured that there is always a counter offer for any blockbuster offer from one player. The eternal discount chasing customer is smart enough to sense this opportunity to compare prices of every item on offer with other vendors and settle on the maximum discount offer. While this was the modus operandi of the average online buyer, e-commerce players were sweating out on how to better their offer by attempting to do enormous scales that would only push their quest for profitability farther and farther.

Gme Changer or - Image_1As the dog fight continues to grab market share, e-commerce players are trying to outdo one another by introducing newer business models and innovations; the latest being Mobile Only format. Though there have been many successful experiments that defined the online buying culture in India such as Cash on Delivery, easy hassle free returns and EMIs, the latest experiment’s success is not pronounced yet, while many of the digital enthusiasts are upbeat about it.

Sorry, Mobile Only -Image_2Here comes the Mobile Only strategy!  While all the arguments for Mobile Only strategy evangelize the potential of the native app technology and innumerable values it promises to the marketer, an honest assessment of the anticipated compromises on the side of the customer is yet to come i.e what possibilities it takes away from the customer in order to cut short longer sales cycle.  Ironically, the deterrents for marketers to sell more are also the very value drivers for the consumers to buy more!

What is undisclosed about the real motive behind the Mobile Only strategy? Is it just Customer apathy?

During the years Indian e-commerce players took their baby steps to entice the buyers, this space also spawned innumerable deal aggregators and price comparison sites in empowering the value hunting customer to gleefully snap the best deals in the online space because of customer’s sheer capability to compare and choose across multiple vendors offering products of same specification. While online customers enjoyed this newfound freedom and capability, e-commerce players dreaded this unfettered nature of competition. This had made e-commerce players’ life a nightmare and the only possibility to woo customers was to settle for lowest price and provide faster delivery – both demanded extreme back-end efficiency and truckloads of money to operate at wafer thin margins; if not at loss.  Every e-commerce vendor had been eagerly looking for an effective way to fortify his customer from being weaned away by a better offer from competition. In these circumstances some enthusiasts find the Mobile Only format a perfect antidote for limiting customer’s newfound capability.   Lets look at how the Mobile Only format plays out!

  • In a Mobile Only format, the ease and speed of operation make the customer blind to the loss of the market options- i.e. to compare and weigh the market offers and to arrive at his maximum discounted vendor decision!
  • Deprived of option to compare the customer would be less confused about product choices with other competing products – the bliss every marketer longs for.
  • Customer decision cycle will be relatively short and quick compared to an open market situation like many players offering competing and comparable products as in the case of web.

Thus, effectively marketers are trying to cage customers to the controlled environment of their app and subtly cut off customer from the open market and invisibly condition and constrict his buying behavior for the benefit of the marketer, hoping that customer would fall in place as per their design!

However, what boggles the mind is the unpredictability as to how the customer would react to this stealth move by marketers!

The Mobile Only format yet to sink into the customer mind!

Hostile UX- Image_3
The inevitability of Mobile Only customer experience

Despite all hype around personalized content spiced with data analytics, the user experience remains the single largest bottleneck for going Mobile Only format. A large section of online users, especially those who have access to PC still consider viewing the products on large screens and doing one’s own market study before placing orders. A lot of online buying is driven by such consumer behavior born out of web format capability, but this turns out to be a huge challenge in Mobile Only format as SEOs are still at nascent levels in indexing app pages effectively to provide actionable comparison. Moreover for the user it becomes quite tricky to compare different sites considering the smaller screen of mobile device, while for the marketer app based approach opens up plethora of possibilities. That brings us to the cross roads in deciding how to navigate between marketer opportunities versus customer centricity?

The behavioral profile of online buyer and the Mobile Only format – a case of mismatch?

  • One of the main characteristics of online buyer is his appetite for best deals with maximum discounts available across vendors.
  • He also derives satisfaction that the deal is actually the best by comparing it with other offers. Therefore he is a value hunter and much less brand loyal.
  • Similarly, the app only promotions may not entice the buyer as buyer may feel the buying experience to be incomplete without going through this essential buying process or may remain non impulsive to respond to a targeted notification in the app.
  • The idea of enhancing personalized buying experience and brand building may be misplaced here, as there is a mismatch between vendor offering and customer expectation.
  • Majority of the mobile Internet users have been using online buying just recently and are yet to realize the compromises they have to make while on a Mobile Only format. Eventually they would conclude that the benefits of web may outweigh those of the Mobile format.
  • When the buyer realizes that marketers are effectively limiting the possibilities of the buyer, the disenchantment may lead to a lot of anguish in the minds of customer and eventually she may look beyond Mobile format.

While we have so much pointers to customers’ buying process already on the table, a complete disregard to customer behavior and expectation will have serious implications in winning a pie from the increasingly discretionary customer participation. On the one hand all the leading e-commerce players claim that 70% to 80% of their total orders come through their mobile platform; on the other hand they admit that 25% of these orders are originally discovered in PC platform and the mobile platform was used only at the clinching stage of order execution. Hence ignoring this huge market will be destroying the value they have hopefully awaited over the years.

Thus, only time will unfold whether Mobile Only format is a game changer in delivering value or a big value destroyer? The early reports suggest that Myntra had mixed response to their app only strategy. Interestingly Myntra’s parent Flipkart has put on hold Flipkart’s app only format originally scheduled from 1 September 2015. In the just concluded Big Billion Day sale in October 2015, Flipkart continued the web format and was heavily promoting the app platform by offering app exclusive launches and additional discounts on app based purchases indicating that despite all the best efforts to push consumers to app only format there is considerable volume coming from web format and marketers cannot ignore consumer preferences.

Going by Flipkart’s main competitor Snapdeal’s founder & CEO Kunal Bahl’s admission, Myntra’s app only strategy has greatly helped Snapdeal’s fashion business ever since Myntra shut down the website from May 15, 2015.   Is Myntra’s case a straw in the wind vis-a-vis the Mobile Only strategy? Industry is watching this space very keenly for more signals!

If Mobile Only is overkill, what is the right balance?

Given the growth of Indian Internet users at YoY growth rate of 32%, the 375 million users (as per IAMAI November 2015) augur well for e-commerce players. More than 60% of these 375 million users are mobile Internet users and the share of mobile Internet users are set to grow at faster rate given the continuous reduction in smart phone prices and more and more 3G & 4G network availability. Apparently, this paradigm shift in net access point very much endorses the idea of going Mobile First strategy. However the Mobile Only strategy is self-inflicting to all categories of products especially for high involvement category products. Categories those are low involvement and completely transaction based and used frequently such as taxi hailing services, bill payment services, travel booking sites, event ticket booking and restaurant services may have a case to go Mobile Only at the risk of losing a small portion of their business, as even those category demands multi channel access points simply because of heterogeneous customer behavior.

Mobile Only, does it sound lack of Design Thinking?

According to IDEO’s President and CEO; “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Where does Mobile Only falls short in integrating needs of consumer and requirements of business with possibilities of technology?

Understand your customer really well: There are many reasons cited for going Mobile Only such as better maintainability, cost savings, huge data mining capability which in turn can power data analytics driven marketing functions like greater segmentation, contextual targeting, user engagement and rapid personalization at scale. While all these are the possibilities for the marketer to embrace the new format, the same possibilities turns out to negate the possibilities of the consumer that is essential for a sustainable growth of ecommerce category. Mobile Only enthusiasts seems to be missing the plot by ignoring customer decision journeys to understand what motivates people and what puts them off and apparently loses opportunities for creating delightful experiences.

Empathize your customer with customer advocacy: While more and more businesses are waking up to the real world business need of ‘empathy’ mapping by putting the customer at the center of problem solving equation, the Mobile Only format looks highly skewed towards the marketer. Apparently we are still not finding a holistic reason for Mobile Only format apart from the ulterior motive of customer confinement, rather born out of customer apathy or total disregard for customer preferences. Building this wide gap requires rallying customer advocacy and customer centric empathy across all functions of business to deliver value and keep customer experience as the most important metric.

Device Option- Image 4Design to delight: Instead of Mobile only format, to fully capitalize rapidly growing net users the e-commerce players should repurpose all the touch points rather than limiting to only mobile touch points. Marketers should offer all options of net access points including web along with mobile, with all screen options and continuously reexamine the new touch points of value creation.

It is very important to explore all the digital channels for effective customer outreach when we are talking about bringing in all the 375 million net users to meaningful online purchases. A deep understanding of customer experience across all channels is just the starting block of the long process. To assume that customer’s interaction with a brand can be effectively managed only through an app (in an app only ecosystem as envisioned by Mobile Only enthusiasts) seems like an incomprehensive view as customers preference to multiple digital channels such as web & mobile advertising, email, search engines, social media and video are increasingly playing a decisive role in customers decision journey.   To capture the multiple touch points of customer interactions every e-commerce company should aspire to capture a comprehensive view of its customers, by implementing mature systems for collecting and organizing those deep insights. It is all the more important for ecommerce vendors of high involvement categories to provide a feel of the product through multiple and large visual interactions that is closer to actual physical experience to reassure the expectations of the product to user. Such affirmative and inclusive measures would increase the adoption of ecommerce at even faster rate.

The need is to remain attuned to customer decision journeys and understand how to use new capabilities to serve customers better. This is possible when marketers prioritize to understand each step of customer’s purchasing journey and design and deliver best experience across all formats. Every marketer’s goal should be to continuously discover efficient frontiers of value delivery without undermining superior user experience essential for occupying the numero uno position in customers’ mind space.