In conversation with the Founder of RippleHire – Sudarsan Ravi, participant – @Intech50 2014.

RippleHire is a SaaS-based employee referral product.

Tell us about RippleHire – your journey so far…

We help companies automate their talent sourcing by leveraging their employee pool.

We spent our first year working with the ecosystem getting feedback and crowdsourcing problems on hiring. Only then did we begin our sales process and that too with the top global brands, so that we get the right folks to get the product experience and results right.

The journey has been challenging and exhilarating – full of the regular highs and lows that every entrepreneurial journey has, along with the crazy experiences and insights that come with building a global company.

RippleHireWhat challenges did you face during the course? Any learnings from that? 

It was initially tough for us to go after brands like Adobe, McAfee, Capgemini. Convincing them to be among your initial customers was not easy. People love social proof and we will be eternally grateful to our first set of customers who have co-created this innovation with us and helped provide the social proof.

If I were to do one thing differently, I would focus directly on global customers.

Do you think that getting access to/finding investors is difficult in India? 

I don’t think getting access to investors in India is difficult at all. We have always believed that investment is a by-product of building a good scalable business. Our focus as a team has been about building a product that adds value to our customers (the real proof came through when they paid).

I always recommend startups to not focus on building a business for investors but for customers. Do take the inputs that the investors give you on the space and the approach. Factor that in. However, build the business to add value to customers.

Our approach has meant that we have always received inbound interest from investors. So, I think getting access to investors is definitely easy if you focus on building a good business.

Why did you consider participating in InTech50? 

We wanted to get validation from Indian and Global CIO’s on our concept. It was wonderful to have multiple CIO’s stop by our booth post our presentation and share their hiring challenges.

It was a great way for us to get feedback on RippleHire. Not only that, it helped us bag customers too.

How has getting shortlisted for InTech50 helped you? 

Being recognized as one of the top 50 innovative software companies coming out of India helped us a lot from our sales standpoint. People in India, and globally, take you seriously especially when the validation for the software comes from CIO’s.

We have also grown by 10X in the past year.

Who were the people you connected with as a result of InTech50, and can you give us a few specific examples of what those introductions translated into? 

We were able to get feedback from multiple CIO’s and introductions to prospects like Happiest minds and Ascendum through this platform. Ascendum signed up RippleHire as a customer as well.

What advice would you give to other emerging companies as they plan their scaling up?

Every startup is different and has different challenges when it comes to scaling up. I think it is important to get the following right when it comes to scaling up –

  • Your customer support and product experience should be consistent. Think of a Pizza Hut. As they scale customers, it is important that the Pizza quality stays the same.
  • Scaling well is about putting the processes in place that the experience stays the same. Getting this in place requires thinking of your engineering, sales and support teams in the form of units. Once you get one unit right in your support engine, scaling is about replicating that unit.

One recommendation I would give out to the InTech50 participants this year is that – research the sectors that are of interest for you. Hiring in our case is sector agnostic. It would have helped us if we had picked three sectors and focused on attendees from that space.

The Kayako culture – Startup lessons in building organisational values

How leaving our values unclear started breaking our culture at Kayako, how we fixed it and what we learned.

In the early days, a startup’s values and culture — the essence — is very much a reflection of the founding team. These values don’t need to be documented, they usually just are.

As new people join the team, the essence will transfer by osmosis. It’s in the air. The essence will be picked up through the sheer amount of time a small team will spend working on tough things together, and will evolve as new people contribute their own ideas and styles.

As the team grows larger and as things move faster, you can no longer rely on your values being passively picked up by others.

In this post we’ll talk about:

  • The problems we faced not capturing our values sooner.
  • What makes great company values great.
  • Our first attempt at capturing values using a “Mars Group” (fail!).
  • Our second attempt at capturing values (success?).
  • How we are applying and scaling our values today.

“We were late capturing our company values and the cracks started to show”

At Kayako, there’s now 145 of us. Three offices. A large remote team. Distilling our essence and finding a way to articulate it is something we should have done a long time ago.

We started to feel the pain of not distilling our essence into a clear and repeatable format in various ways, including:

  • Inconsistencies in style and attitudes between teams. With the absence of a clear and constant articulation of our core values, teams would incubate their own traits, which would trump the company’s.
  • Speaking a different language. With these inconsistencies, we realised friction emerging in how we communicated with each other, whether that’s how feedback was given or how feedback was taken.
  • Other people hiring the wrong kind of people. Without a crystal clear definition of what our values were, we were not equipping people to be able to hire consistently for values across the company.
  • Recognitions and rewards started turning opaque. Without a crystal clear definition of what our values were, it became less clear why certain people were being recognised, rewarded or promoted.

At this stage, these issues were starting to impact our performance.

But if we left it unchecked? Our work would become less fun and less meaningful. We wouldn’t be able to attract and retain great people. We wouldn’t be able to build a great company.

We needed to get everyone back to our roots and capture the core essence of what made Kayako, Kayako. ASAP.

Values for your values: What makes great company values great

We’ve all seen company values before. Some we respect (Moz, TAGFEE). Some revolutionize something (Zappos). Some are so empty you can only laugh (guess which company’s values included the word Integrity?).

But what makes some company values effective, and others not? Why do some company values turn into a religion, but some end up as little more than wall decoration?

We spent some time researching and talking through this question with others. We found that some of the best and most effective company values had the following traits:

1: Values should be memorable and concise. If your values aren’t memorable or concise, they’re already handicapped. Values should be easy to communicate, easy to remember and will then be easy to incubate.

2: Values should be what you do, not just what you say they are. It doesn’t matter what you write down — the only values truth is in what you do, day in and day out. Not just what sounds cool or what looks good on the wall. We really like Netflix’s definition of what makes a true company value:

Actual company values, as opposed to nice sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted or let go.

Values should be lived and breathed in the literal sense.

3: Values set expectations. Values make clear who will get hired, and for what. They make clear who will get rewarded and promoted, and why. Values are like APIs for people and culture, and in that sense make communication easier. They ensure compatibility and fit, set clear expectations of each other and remain consistent as you scale.

Values are like APIs for people and culture. They ensure compatibility and fit, set clear expectations of one another and remain consistent as you scale.

4: Values should be weaponizable. As we grow, there will be various demons any startup will face: glut, inertia and complacency. Our values should arm everyone with the weapons to fight these culture-rotting forces before they set in.

We picked up a nice anecdote from the book How Google Works about how Google’s weaponizable values are used on the ground:

[Eric Schmidt] was in an executive meeting in which they were debating the merits of a change to the advertising system, one that had the potential to be quite lucrative for the company. One of the engineering leads pounded the table and said, “We can’t do that, it would be evil.” The room suddenly went got quiet; it was like a poker game in an old Western. […] A long, sometimes contentious discussion followed and ultimately the change did not go through.

We found that some of the best company values were great levellers in this respect. Google’s “Don’t be evil” value is felt deeply by its employees, who use it to check their moral compass when making decisions, and who are empowered to call others out — no matter what their pay grade (prepare to be called out using your own values.)

Values should act as a touchstone that helps everyone keep a check on whether they are doing the right thing the right way. As Rand Fishkin from Moz puts it, “[our values are] an architecture for decision making.”

Without getting too tactical at this stage, another thing we noticed was that the best weaponizable values were written in a way that they could slot into day to day vocabulary, like in the Google anecdote above, or like our favorite example from the Atlassian values:

Don’t #@!% the Customer.

This ability to use the values verbatim increased the likelihood that they would feature on the ground, in conversations and in slide decks.

5: Values should be strong as hell. Startups grow, and hopefully grow fast. New people will join with their own quirks and cultural backgrounds. New stakeholders with their own agendas will be added. New customers will be won, bringing new demands. New priorities will be loaded onto the company’s agenda.

These are really powerful forces. Without a strong set of values to build your company culture on, these competing forces will start to chip at your company culture.

Startups will go really tough times — it’s almost a statistical certainty. When reading Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things, it seemed like Ben’s startups had it tougher than most. But it was their strong cultural foundations and value system that saved them (and boy, did those folks’ values have to be strong.)

What makes values strong? We generally found this links back to 1: Values are what you do, not just what you say they are. Strong values come through in the company culture built on top of them. Values are strengthened by how much trust and confidence the team has in those values. Without trust or confidence, values are empty words.

6: Values should (mainly) be motivational. Great company values motivate people to go beyond, to step outside of a comfort zone and to accomplish something different, just as much as they prevent something or head off a bad force. Together, all of a company’s values differentiate you from another company.

There isn’t much point in documenting the kind of things good people will default to doing anyway. However, there are some exceptions: Google didn’t really think anyone would be evil, but acknowledged the forces of running a huge business and maximizing profit may start to compromise instinctive good values, so while “Don’t be evil” mat not necessarily be motivational, it was there to head off potentially distracting forces in the future.

Capturing our values: Attempt one

We followed a commonly held ‘best practice’ for our first attempt: form a “Mars group” and get together in room (in retrospect, we don’t feel this practice is best — read on).

With a few founding members and a new senior hire, we kicked off an exercise to paint a picture of where we would like to be in the next 1–5 years.

To capture our company values, we then asked ourselves this: What kind of traits will get us there, and what kind of traits would hold us back?

Or in other words, what does a high performance culture look like to Kayako?

We ended up with a long list of opposites: the positive traits that would help us fulfil our vision and achieve a high performance culture, as well as the antonym of those traits — the things that would hold us back.

Our thinking was that we would assess this world of traits, and draw from it a set of values to reinforce the good traits and prevent us from straying into bad ones (good traits -> ??? -> profit!).

To make sure we were being representative of the whole company, we invited a cross-section of the team (~20 people in total) to prioritize the all the traits that they felt were either most true to us today or most needed.

Surely, this would give us a fully representative true essence of Kayako today, the essence that differentiates us?

Not even close.

Acumen, ownership, embracing change, curiosity, clarity, transparency, courage and passion.

Meh. Shrug.

We couldn’t disagree with these values. They’re generally true, they’re generally positive. But they didn’t hit any of the things we had identified as what makes great company values great. They didn’t resonate. They didn’t connect. They didn’t wake us up.

We managed to create a set of flat, lifeless and generic values. But how, with so much of us put into the process?

We identified three missteps:

  • The death-by committee approach. Great company values need raw passion, focus and emotion. By its nature, a committee compromises on all of these things. It turns out the “Mars Group” approach didn’t work.
  • Focused too much on our current problems and not on our ambitions. We were too busy firefighting to really see past problems and see what could be. As a result, we were all focused on the negative things — things that needed to fixed, right now. We compromised on ambition and as a result, they weren’t motivational.
  • We got too wrapped up in arguing what we were true to today, and what we weren’t true to. We spent a lot of time debating whether we could include values we weren’t particularly true to. We weren’t 100% transparent, so could we really make “transparency” one of our values?We realised it doesn’t matter, and in fact the values should guide everyone to be the kind of company you want to build, not just how things are today.

These were obvious missteps in hindsight — we had set ourselves up for failure. Time to rethink.

Capturing our values: Attempt two

This time, we did the opposite of a committee approach. We gave one person ownership of capturing our values. This was a leadership problem and needed leadership, not a committee.

Rather than getting everything on the wall — every possible positive value we currently do or would like to exhibit and narrowing things down from there — we took the time to sit back and really observe. Observe how we worked. How we problem solved. How we faced difficult situations. How we interacted with each other. What was there when things really worked out OK.

These are the questions we looked to answer, thinking that the answers would themselves capture our values:

  1. Why do people stay with Kayako and refer their friends to us?
  2. What are the traits and values we have been looking for — even if we weren’t actively aware of it — in people when hiring?
  3. When things haven’t worked out, why and what were the traits and values that were missing?
  4. When we’ve promoted people, why those people over others?
  5. When we really nailed something, what kind of values and traits were coming through?
  6. What kind of company do we want to be in the future?

We came up with lots of answers. Whatever came to mind when specifically answering these questions (ideally with plenty of colorful adjectives), we jotted down in a Hackpad.

We ❤ Hackpad. We haven’t found a better tool for thrashing something out and iterating on raw content

This process took about three weeks; enough time for enough scenarios and milestones to come up and go by, enough time to reflect and unpick things. I’m sure that if we were a smaller team, we could have accomplished this much more quickly.

These answers became our working collateral. The full universe of traits, behaviours and adjectives which we would now funnel and distil into our core values.

We iterated on these answers, reducing the various phrases into better, more concise phrases. With each iteration, we kept asking why: why did this trait come up? Why was it so material to success and tried to dig deep into the root.

Chris Moody blogged some key questions to ask when deciding whether avalue is worth capturing (or if it is more apart of your company’s vibe):

– Is this aspect of the company important to our long-term success?
– Does this aspect need to be maintained forever and is it sustainable?
– Does this aspect apply to all areas of the company and to all employees?
– Will establishing this aspect help us make important decisions in the future?

If the answer to yes is all of the above, you might have yourself a new value. If not, you’ve probably just observed a vibe in your company.

This process needs one person — ideally a founder, someone with your company’s core values in their gut — to be an all-absorbing sponge, and to take time out alone to reflect and apply a bit of creativity.

This really is a process of staring at a bunch of phrases and adjectives for a while, until a lightbulb lights up.

We distilled this language down into what became two of our values: Make it happen and Go big or go home.

We continued to iterate, simplify and refine the language we captured in our Hackpad. Shuffling things around, bucketing different phrases and traits together, etc.

We invited some select people to comment directly on the Hackpad with their interpretation of them after reading these early drafts. This was a very different approach to what we tried originally — we were getting feedback, but we were not forming committee. We continued this process until we got a consistent interpretation, which matched our original aim with the values.

We continued this process until the values clicked with all of us.

Here is what we came up with.

The Kayako Values

For each value, we chose not just a short memorable sentence or word, but also language describing how those values might be played out in real life.

We were inspired to use this ‘real life’ documentation of values style by the beautifully simple Buffer culture deck and the Genius.com “ISM”s. We felt it was important to provide real, concrete examples like this so that these values would be delivered clearly and with our ambiguity, across languages and functions.

Check them out on Slideshare:

Launching our company values

The first thing we did was prepare a slide deck, and not just because that is what the cool kids do. We needed to deliver these to the company and they needed to be delivered to everyone who joined Kayako.

It is critical to have editorial control over how the values were documented, paced and presented (to an extent). There needs to be a sense of occasion to them, if we are in agreement that the values are one of the most important institutions in your company.

The next thing we did was dedicate a company all-hands to these values.

Kayako All Hands
145 people. More than 10 locations.

Step by step, we took the company through the mental journey we had been through to capture these. The observations that we made, the lightbulbs that went off, the ideas we threw away and the ideas that made it in, and why.

We took everyone through how we were already demonstrating these values today, and where we had work to do.

For us, the process was just as important as the output. We wanted to take everyone on the same journey (just with a few shortcuts which we discovered along the way).

Results so far? It is too early to tell. We know that everyone is excited, we are on the same page and that’s enough to get going with.

Scaling culture with our values

We don’t anticipate the fundamentals of our values changing much over time, but we are not freezing them.

There’s a reason why we put a v1.1 at the end of “Kayako Values” (probably the same reason why Buffer has a v0.4). We may iterate on the language over time, but what we are really eager to do is capture what we learn as we reach new levels of growth.

For us at Kayako, there is catch-up and a bit of a course correction to do. We can’t sprinkle values like pixie dust and say job done. The job has just started. As a founding team, we are going to put a lot of effort into coaching others about these values: getting them in to every day vocabulary, getting them into our goal setting and feedback processes. Bringing everyone back onto the same page, and ensuring our values are being consistently lived and breathed.

We would like to start capturing more of the Kayako culture and Eau de Kayako in a similar way to how Netflix did with their culture deck and how Valve did with their handbook. We think these make magical and tangible on-boarding tools.

We’ll also be looking at how we can incorporate values into our recognitions system. 7geese, a goals and feedback management tool, has an interesting take on recognition-via-values.

We are also exploring ways of really weaving in these values to our everyday surroundings. We really like the idea of creating some artwork to capture some of the values, like Facebook does. We don’t want to spoil them, though. There is a fine line between powerful and cheesy.

The most important thing we have to do, though, will be letting our values dictate how we we hire, promote and let go. There is no better communication or embedding of values — everything else discussed in this section is just micro-optimization by comparison.

Key takeaways

  1. Do this sooner rather than later. You don’t have one shot at this, so create your Values 0.1 sooner rather than later. Leave it too late and people will start to fall off the same page. It is critical you hire with aligned values at all stages. The longer you leave it, the easier it is to defer, smaller issues like the odd ‘wrong hire’ will start to compound and ultimately, the harder it is to revisit.
  2. Too many cooks spoil the broth. This will vary from team to team. It seems obvious in hindsight, but for us, trying to approach our values by committee was a terrible idea. It took that collective thinking and discussion process and then time and a single owner to flesh them out creatively.
  3. Follow up and give your values some meat. Earlier, we identified that great values are what you do, not just what you say they are. Values and leadership in general won’t work if people don’t believe. The only way people will believe in our values is if we live and breath them: hire by our values, let go by our values and reward by our values. Anything else is a bullet in the head for your values.
  4. Get wordsmithing help. This is a skill that is difficult to master — if you can, get the help of an expert when it comes to the final stages of refining the language in your values.
  5. Get someone to own it. Give this to the person who believes in this the most and will find the time to make it happen. It really does need creative alone time to get it right.
  6. It doesn’t matter if you are not 100% true to your values today. Your values should be ambitious. They have to paint the picture of the kind of company you want to be in the future, just as much as how things are today. Of course, don’t call a value a value if you can’t back it up at all (see #3).
  7. Don’t muddle your values and your vibe. Chris Moody already put this brilliantly. Unfortunately we came across Chris’ post after we made the misstep of capturing too many things as values (and we struggled to narrow them down).

Resources that helped us

We cannot give enough credit to the following companies, authors and speakers that inspired us with their own cultures, values and advice.

This post was originally posted Medium. Follow the Life at Kayako series to learn more about working at Kayako, our values and our culture.

Redefining Email Collaboration: The Grexit story!

Innovation comes from myriad sources – in this case Niraj and his team has come up with an innovative product to tackle the common organizational challenges of email overload (often leading to lowered productivity) and lack of easy cross-functional collaboration tools. In this article, we speak to Niraj, Co-Founder of Grexit about his background, motivation to start-up, and his experience and learnings from his startup journey.

grexit-home

PN: Brief Introduction of Co-founders, their background

Niraj – B.Tech in electronics from IIT Kharagpur, 2002 batch, initially worked with Mentor Graphics writing compilers in C/C++ till 2007. Then he started his first venture mobicules.com – which ended up being a 30 people services firm building apps for customers mostly in the US. In early 2011, Niraj moved on to start GrexIt.

Nitesh – B.Tech in CSE from IIT Kharagpur, 2007 batch was first employee to join Niraj’s last venture mobicules.com right out of college. Nitesh started GrexIt together with Niraj as a co-founder in early 2011.

PN: Niraj recalls about his motivation to address the challenges in workplace-collaboration 

“Collaborating effectively with the team and with customers was a problem that we had faced right from our days running our previous venture. While we had used a lot of collaboration tools, getting everyone to adopt to tools was a challenge. The communication was all on email, and we thought what if we can build a system that lets team stay in email and still work efficiently without any confusion.”

That led to the first iteration of GrexIt. It was tool that would let users save email conversations into a shared email repository. It was a great way to store information about projects, customers, job applicants etc. in a central place.

PN: One of the essentials while starting up is having a strong founding team – the one rightly aligned with addressing the problem in hand. Niraj shares his thoughts on his founding-team and initial days of the product. 

Nitesh and I had worked together for 3.5 years when we decided to use GrexIt, and we felt we could work very well. So putting together the founding team was not a problem at all. We also joined the Morpheus accelerator, and we got a lot of friendly advice from the people at Morpheus. We just focused on building a high quality product that worked flawlessly. We were hardly thinking of anything else.

We raised a round of investment from Citrix Startup Accelerator and Vijay Shekhar Sharma in late 2011. That helped us go faster on the product. In mid 2012, with a deeper understanding of the market, we pivoted to our current product, started charging for it, and started getting customers.

PN: In the software product startups, technology is the quintessential central-brain in the startup. Niraj speaks on the importance of tech and the critical-role it plays in his startup.

Tech is the lifeblood of our business. Our 6 people team, including founders, is all tech oriented. Our product helps businesses run on a day to day basis, because it helps them manage projects, customer support etc., and so it is very critical for them. Having a strong tech team is important to ensure that the product keeps working and scaling well.

We have been able to attract a very good team, mostly because we have the kind of work that would excite good programmers, and because we have received very good international coverage. We also make sure that we have a work environment that gives talented people the opportunity to do their best. We have no fixed timings, you can work from anywhere you want, and we don’t have a leave policy which means we don’t restrict the number of leaves you take. We have learnt that putting faith in your employees creates reciprocal goodwill too.

As I mentioned earlier, our product version 1 which we released in 2011 was a system that would let users move email conversations into a shared repository. We started getting paying customers for this in mid 2012, but then we figured out that instead of letting users create knowledge bases, we need to build something that will help them completely solve business problems like customer support and project management.

That led us to our current set of functionality, and when released that in 2012, we started getting new users for this rapidly. That was a strong signal for us to pivot to the new functionality. 

PN: Neeraj speaks on marketing the product, getting initial customers and on-boarding them with the product:

We started getting initial customers through Google organic search and from the Google Apps marketplace. As it turned out, what we had built had a very good fit with a certain segment of users who were looking for collaborative solutions on top of Gmail. They could discover us easily through search, and started signing up for trials.

We worked hard on engaging them through email and our chat support. User feedback helped us a lot in fine-tuning and improving our product. By the start of 2013, we had a very strong product, mostly because we got excellent feedback, and worked on executing it fast.

PN: Scaling up – “Don’t add programmers – add servers

We have a saying at GrexIt – “Don’t add programmers – add servers”.

We have been able to support the growth in customers base by scaling and enhancing the product without increasing our team size much. We recently launched another product – Mailflo.io – based on our learnings from GrexIt, and we still have enough bandwidth to maintain and enhance two products.

Going forward, we plan to keep our dev team extremely lean, and hire mostly in sales and marketing profile.

PN: Niraj speaks on current challenges and how the team is successfully tackling those challenges.

In first year – getting users to sign up, engaging them, getting feedback, and iterating fast enough. And – being able to deal with the frustration when not enough users were coming in and we were feeling as if we were in a vacuum.

Now – Scaling the customer base. Hiring a high quality marketing team that can do world class inbound marketing.  We also provide free trials (through our online page) so that customers can try out the product once before making the purchase

PN: Niraj shares his view on one thing about his startup which he wished, should had been done differently in past

In 2011, we spent a good amount of time trying to sell to very large organisations locally, ran into a lot of roadblocks, and lost a lot of time. If I were to do it again, I’d focus from day one on selling to SMEs globally, and not to large organisations locally. The dynamics of SAAS are very suited to selling to SMEs globally, and every SAAS company should work on cracking this piece of the market first, IMHO.

PN: Neeraj shares his views on ecosystem in India and the changes he looks forward to. 

Since we started, the ecosystem has evolved a lot. There are lots of SAAS/cloud startups around trying to sell globally. That’s heartening. Its also great to see a lot of seed/angel rounds happening.

Foundations: How starting a #Startup is really like… #Recruiterbox

linenStarting a startup is an exciting and also a challenging journey, right from putting together the Founding team, building a great product, persisting during times of roadblock, engaging the users, thinking long-term and so on. To help the fellow entrepreneurs, we have been speaking to recent entrepreneurs about their startup-journey, growth path and their learnings. In this series, we spoke to Raj Sheth, CEO & Co-Founder at RecruiterBox, about his motivation, decision to startup and his experience so far.

“Recruiterbox provides a one-stop portal to track applicants in one place with its online recruiting and resume management software, applicant tracking systems, Careers site management and Collaborative Recruitment”

What is your background, how did you decide to startup?

To give a background, I did my Bachelors from Babson college, US –  the place had a very entrepreneurial culture and the first startup I tried was a food-delivery startup in my college. After my college, I was working with EMC US for 3 years when I started realizing that I’m getting used to this habit of monthly paycheck. I wanted to solve a problem with a good product. Yes, startup isn’t easy, you aren’t going to make money in initial months – yet we decided to take this journey. Recruiterbox is my 3rd startup.

Could you tell us about the Co-founders and team?

Girish Redekar and Raguveer Kancherla are the two other Co-founders who have been instrumental in building the RecruiterBox product. Both are from IIT Madras and they were working with ZS Associates before they went on to work with HSBC and GE Genpact respectively.

Could you tell us about your Product, and how you chose this problem to solve?

All three of us have worked in large companies, and what we have seen largely is the compliance kind of products in use with little flexibility for end users. For hiring, we saw it to be based on emails, with big file attachments and separate XL tracking. In contrast, products like LinkedIn provides an easy way to share profiles through their online network portal. We wanted to build a product which would help recruiters to easily track applicants, manage resumes and the entire process seamlessly.

Tell us about the initial version of the product and its growth henceforth.

Initial experience I’d say was exciting, painful and challenging. We explained to an initial set of customers – they were happy with product – but the challenging part was scaling from say 10 to 100 customers. We incorporated RecruiterBox in US, and we had our initial customers in India as well, we used PayPal to accept payments. We had challenges in our initial product e.g. in billing, before we reached a stable product.

The co-founders had a very clear roadmap for the product – they took customer inputs and at the same time, clearly prioritized the right set of things to be added to the product in the given time. Also we interacted with head of recruiting in major companies, to gather their inputs and make the product better.

How important is Tech in RecruiterBox, and how did you go about acquiring tech-talent?

Technology is more important than anything else in our product Startup. Customers pay for a good product, so it all comes to better product right? in terms of how easy it is to understand the product, how usable, how robust, how secure. It should stay up all the time, should have useful functionalities and so on.

Having said that, acquiring tech-talent is one of the difficult things. You need people who can build better tech product, more so than as a service. There is a lot of time spent on hiring tech-talent, grooming them and getting them on board and this is one challenge faced by most product companies out here.

What has been the biggest challenge in this startup journey so far?

In the first year or even then, growth is the biggest challenge. Product is something in your control, you know what you have built, and what you are going to do further with customer inputs. But sales growth is a challenging one to crack. And we do many things like getting organic traffic from Google, email-marketing, Adwords, online-advertising, paid-Ads etc. And today we appear right at the top in Google organic search results, when you search for the keywords ‘recruiting software’ – this shows the quality of our product.

Ours is a B2B product and we get a big proportion of traffic from Google. For easy onboarding of our B2B customers, we offer online sign-up and free trial. And most customers eventually choose to buy our Product by paying online even without any intervention from our Sales team. We reach out to all customers signing-up and help them through screen-share, video-chats etc. Now with more advanced features being rolled-out, we look to expand with dedicated Sales-team to provide initial hand-holding.

What are your views on the startup ecosystem in India, and what would you advise the aspiring entrepreneurs?

Speaking of networks and VCs, I’d say there is a much better ecosystem now in India, than say 4 years ago. There are active networks, one just has to reach out to right people. Also Bangalore and Silicon Valley are quite well connected in terms of networking – you have to reach out.

Speaking of funding ecosystem, there is a lot of action these days in India as well as here in US. I’d advise aspiring entrepreneurs to focus on building the right Product in initial days rather than spending time on valuations. People wouldn’t easily invest in just an idea right? Learn to code, focus on building a Product which would address the problem out there, and things would slowly fall in place.

How Foradian has established its position in school management software with an innovative product

Kerala based, Foradian Technologies that began as a web development and services company, soon emerged to be one of the fastest growing firms in the field of school management software. What came as a small software requirement to store school records and procedures soon caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala, which deployed Fedena in all their schools under the Project Sampoorna. Founded in 2009, the company has a rapidly rising business and a global presence in 200+ countries that uses its solution.

In an interview with ProductNation, Arun Raveendran, Cofounder, and Director, Foradian Technologies, says, he is upbeat about the future of the company. Foradian has already recorded profits. Moreover, with fresh funding early this year, the company is ready to expand its operations to markets like USA, Canada and the UK. 

ForadianWhat was the mission behind forming Foradian Technologies?

Foradian was established in 2009, by 8 childhood friends who met at various points in their lives. Formed in a small town in Kasargod, Kerala, we wanted to do something different from our peers and decided to start a company. We had no concept plan for a product or which market to cater to, just a dream to be entrepreneurs.

What were the driving factors to build solutions for school education market?

Foradian was started as a web-development services company. During the course of the work we came across an educational institution that wanted to implement a school management system. In our search for an available school management solution, we realized that there was a huge gap in the market as the only available solutions in education software were from big players and they were costly. That is when the idea of developing Fedena School ERP software came into force.

What was the technology adoption scenario in schools before you entered this market?

It was very narrow as it still is. Schools, especially in India, were not very comfortable with the idea of having paperless records and procedures. It’s not the same now. Schools want to adopt technology as it is the right thing to do.  But still there are managerial challenges in making the teachers use it.

How will specialized solutions change the education sector?

Specialized solutions can enable the education sector to deliver a lot more than what they are delivering now. A school with online ERP system can perform tasks like: collaborating with parents anywhere and anytime, go paperless, plan timetables and examinations months in advance, inventory management and a lot more. Technology in any sector is a tool for solving business problems as well as an enabler of progress, so is the case with education sector.

What is the potential of this market and who are the players who are leading in it?

Fedena being a flexible product can be customized to cater to all geographies, types and institutes, irrespective of size. Therefore our market is huge. There are millions of schools, colleges, universities, evening schools, learning centers, etc. worldwide, which makes it a very big market for us. Most of the big players in the market, who offer ERP solutions to education institutes, do not offer specialized products but only a modification of a general ERP product. Also, their solutions are expensive. This gives Fedena an edge over them as we provide a specialized education technology product at much lower cost.

Tell us about Project Fedena and Ruby on Rails (RoR)? How successful did it prove to be?

Project Fedena is the open-source version of Fedena Pro. It comes with only the core modules. In the initial deployment of Fedena, we realized that every school had different requirements and required extensive customization. For scaling up the product, we were required to offer one product that fits all. In 2010, Project Fedena – a free, basic version of the product was rolled out. The basic version of Fedena was free and whoever wanted a customized product had to pay a fee.

We decided to go with RoR because it is developer friendly. All our technical employees were beginners and it took them only 2 months to start coding in our system. Since RoR is widely used nowadays, we get fantastic support online. Also there are plenty of plug-ins and gems available for specific requirements.

What is the story behind creation of Fedena? How did you get the funding? What were the challenges faced in developing and marketing the product? 

Foradian was started as a web development and services company. Fedena was developed after a school raised a requirement for school management software. Soon, Fedena caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala which deployed Fedena in all their schools across the state under the Project Sampoorna.

Foradian received a funding of $2 million earlier this year from William Bissel of Fab India who had a very keen interest in the education sector and saw the potential in us. The funding came at the right time as Foradian, which was already running into profits now wanted to expand its reach in countries like USA, Canada and UK.

Were you able to breakeven with Fedena? How early? What were the challenges faced in selling the software product? Do you sell direct or through channel partners?

It took us about 2 years to break even. The main challenges faced by us were need for customization and limited usage. Every institute is different from the other, so are their requirements from their ERP software. Therefore we started Fedena ecosystem which consisted of many resellers, IT professionals and developers. This ecosystem helped us provide customization and after sale services to all our institutes.

Most management information systems are difficult to learn and configure, so many schools don’t use them. Fedena was designed to be easy to use. It is so user friendly that anyone with a basic knowledge of computers and email should be able to use it within 10 minutes.

What is the company’s turnover today? What’s your next project? Have you explored the overseas market?

Last year we closed around $1 million. We are also under the process of launching Learning Management software called Uzity. It is a global university where you have the ultimate freedom to teach and learn anything you want in any pace you prefer. It is still in testing phase.

Fedena has a global presence. Currently Fedena is being used in 200+ countries.

How favourable is the eco-system for development of software products in India? What is needed to make it more conducive?

Software industry in India is booming. The eco-system for development of software products has gained momentum. There are new pro-active policies by government being introduced to enable the incubators and accelerators and also to impart skill development which will make the work force in this industry more employable.

As a product development company what learning would you like to share with others? What are the highs and lows of product development?

The high side is that you get to introduce innovations in the industry. Once you find a scalable model for your product you earn high profits, high margins. There is a chance of explosive growth with a disruptive product, like it happened in our case.

In contrast, product development can sometimes run into high development costs like R&D, human resources deployment etc. You can sometime run into dead ends where you spent a lot of time, effort and money on product development and the market doesn’t respond to your product.

A through market research is a must before you start developing a product. Best approach will be to find a gap in the market and develop a product that fills that gap.

Is the team still managed by the ‘eight childhood friends’ or has the equation changed?

We are 6 full time Directors now, handling various verticals of Foradian.

Tell us about how you started Tintumon.com and how it ended up being so popular?

Tintumon.com, a social networking website for Malayalees was launched as a leisure pursuit project and it went viral. The user base of Tintumon.com grew radically and was soon reported by all popular media in Malayalam. It was celebrated as a cult by the youth of Kerala.

You have received numerous awards and accolades. How would you describe the journey so far?

Even though Fedena is a simple yet powerful product, it got the right kind of attention from the tech world. Awards bring a sense of confidence that we are on a right track and that has greatly helped us in moving forward.

Our journey so far has been very rewarding and fulfilling. There is a new challenge everyday and it is this challenging nature of entrepreneurship which makes it so exciting and worthy. Fedena as a product has gone places and with the funding in the picture we are at a very exciting point in our journey and we wish to make the best of it.

HackerEarth: an online technical sourcing and assessment solution – Sachin Gupta, Co-founder. #PNHangout.

HackerEarth is a Bangalore based start-up which helps companies hire programmers. It was started in 2012 by Sachin Gupta and Vivek Prakash, both of whom are alumni of IIT Roorkee. HackerEarth provides solutions for the technical recruitment space – one is an online assessment tool which is used by organizations to assess both internal and external candidates. Another solution acts as an engagement platform for companies when sourcing employees. With respect to internal candidates, companies typically use HackerEarth to conduct online challenges to assess their employees’ abilities. On the other hand, when we consider recruitment, there are primarily three stages during recruitment – sourcing where you source candidates, assessment which involves psychometric assessment, technical assessments, etc. and selection which is obviously where the candidate is selected. Our focus is primarily on stage one and two and our approach to these two stages differs from that of a typical recruitment agency. Our approach is to conduct an online hiring challenge. It is like an open test that we conduct on our community of developers. People come and participate in these challenges and based on their performance, we shortlist candidates. Since we began we have conducted numerous challenges, so we now have a large user base whose skill sets we’re aware of.

The test, or the challenge, as we call it, gives us a good understanding of a candidate’s programming proficiency. If they have performed well in the challenge, we know the candidate is good. We then aggregate their coding activities from online sources like StackOverflow, GitHub, etc, combine all this data to understand their core skills/strengths and we match it to a company’s requirements.

When we began HackerEarth, we were keen on working with early stage start-ups but we quickly realized that even if we give them good candidates, the number of hires wouldn’t be very high. So we decided instead to focus only on series A, series B funded companies. At that time InMobi, was a marquee client for us. Later on, Practo, FreshDesk, came onboard and we were able to fulfill their hiring needs too. We found great success in working with growth stage startups. Once we’d established some presence in the market we realized that the SaaS assessment tool could be sold to larger corporations too. Companies like Symantec and Citrix became our customers because our tool because of the time it saved them in assessments. Also, the product was much more stable and much more mature by then.

On the non-hiring front, we conduct exciting programming challenges which engages the developer community. We have a big following now. In addition, all the users on our platform are high on quality, high on skill sets and this in turn made sourcing from HackerEarth very effective.

Obstacles overcome:

The three main challenges that we have faced since we started-up are:

  1. Selection/Identification: As our company has expanded over the last 20 months, the most recurrent challenge that we have encountered is identifying our focus and priorities at different stages. If you can do this, you can actually build a very good company. When it was just the two of us, our challenge was to identify a MVP. We had interacted with a lot of people but there has to be a point where you need to sit down and start working on a product and in spite of this you will always feel that you don’t have enough information. You need to rely on your gut instinct and know why you entered that market or why you are building your product. Combine this with the initial user survey that you did to come up with an MVP and then proceed.
  2. Sales: Another big challenge for us was sales as both of us co-founders have a technical background and we had very little connection to the industry and even lesser knowledge of how to sell. In addition to the MVP we also needed to identify who are our target customers were because in many instances, potential customers expressed interest when we discussed our idea with them but their responses when we spoke to them after having built our product was very different. In our case especially, since we are a B2B solution in some sense, it was very important for us to identify our customer set as we were going after the entire technical hiring gamut. So we had to be extremely choosy. Now that HackerEarth has grown, we have a strong client base, revenue has been coming in and people are becoming more aware of HackerEarth. Building a good sales team was very important for us.
  3. Scaling: After a few successes, we realized that we needed to expand our customer base and accelerate in that direction. User acquisition is one of the most pressing things for us because we are essentially a marketplace as we have developers on one front and recruiters on the other side. It is similar to a chicken and egg problem. If you don’t have developers, you don’t have recruiters and if you don’t have recruiters you don’t have developers, so we have decided to focus more on getting developers to our platform and this is currently a challenge that my team and I are tackling.

Metrics is a must

Being a tech intensive company, the first thing that I would absolutely look for in a Product Manager is how driven the person is with metrics – you should be able to define what numbers you should be tracking, what are the time lines, you should be able to understand the sales figures, etc. By using tools like google analytics, he or she should be able to use a CRM to track sales, they should be able to use analytics to see how users are performing, they should be able to work with mix-panel and other tools to understand how users are interacting with the product and then be on top of these numbers because personally I believe product management is about tracking these numbers and making actionable decisions based on them.

HackerearthSecond is someone with actual previous hands-on experience with technology. If they still work with technology that is even better because sometimes, say you want to build a hack for marketing or you want to implement a small feature that your customer requested which typically would take say half an hour of work and you don’t want to disturb your team, you can go ahead and implement it yourself. So this is hands on technical skills, if not current, then at least experience with working with technology in the past.

Third is having domain knowledge. So somebody who has worked with programmers, somebody who can understand what programmers want and also understands recruiting because at the end of the day, the problem that we are solving is recruiting. We are helping companies hire programmers better. So if I can’t understand the pain point of a recruiter then I would not be able to build a product for them.

In addition, I believe that some sensitivity towards design is required. HackerEarth is a very design sensitive company. So the product manager also should understand what good design is. I don’t really expect them to create good designs but they should be able to understand what is good, what is bad and then work with the designer. One of the challenges of being a PM is actually working with the designer because designers tend to form a certain view point about certain things, so they are very passionate about what they see and sometimes what they see or what they feel or what they think or believe in may not actually translate to what the users want or what the business wants.

At the end of the day, being a product manager doesn’t mean you know everything. You could be wrong but to be a good product manager you need to be someone who is really passionate about solving a particular problem.

#PNHANGOUT is an ongoing series where we talk to Product Managers from various companies to understand what drives them, the products they work on and the role they play in defining the products success.

If you have any feedback or questions that you would like answered in this series feel free to email me at appy(dot)[email protected](dot)com. 

 

SaaS Based CRM & Lead Management Software from India

Main reason behind choosing a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) & lead management software is to cut down the sales time and add to the quality of client service. With a well equipped CRM & lead management system, customer relations would improve and the process of customer tracking is going to get efficient. Due to this, one would notice that the number of delays would be less and sales visibility would improve manifold. With all the sectors in India such as health care, financial, retail and pharmaceutical considering CRM and lead management systems, it gets imperative to know about the various available options.

  1. CRMNEXT: CRMNEXT is a responsive software designed to satisfy numerous goals like enhancing customer contentment and loyalty, affording your sales, management, marketing and service providing teams with thorough easily accessible information, manage, track and focus performance indicators like profitability, customer share, market-share, revenues and cross-market reports. This software is used in finance, banking, insurance, mutual fund, telecom, pharma, retail and multimedia sectors.
  2. Dquip: This lead management software would be of great help in lead acquisition, routing, prospecting and closure. The features that make it a wonderful pick are ability to add leads online, lead delegation, lead tracking, reminders via SMS and email and detailed reporting. Dquip lead management software consists of cloud as well as clients online servers.
  3. ImpelCRM: This software not only covers lead management but goes beyond touch marketing too. This is a Cloud + Mobile CRM that promise to help in many areas such as lead generation, order processing, collections, inventory management, and customer support. Striking features of this software include field reporting, e-coupon management, inventory management, email integration and advanced reporting. This is available in both mobile and web versions.
  4. Kreato CRM– Kreato CRM is a comprehensive cloud software solution that manages multiple aspects like managing numerous leads and inquiries, marketing campaigns like SMS and Emails, SFA(Sales Force Automation) – account conversion, generating analytical reports, arranging, planning and tracking customer support tasks and communicating with customers via inbound and outbound calls. The other notable features are business apps and integration apps.
  5. Lead Prime: This simple to configure and highly integrated software comes in a ready to use mode. It is going to make it possible to track down the leads, would provide timely alerts and help bring improvement in the lead conversion ratio.  Some interesting features that set it apart from others are, ease of use, fully automated processing, customizable, and easy to integrate. Lead Prime is available in both web and mobile versions.
  6. Leadsquared: This comprehensive lead management software would help one in areas such as lead acquisition, verification, routing and sales closure. Some of the features that add to the worth of this software are website visit tracking, lead scoring, email tracking, activity history, advanced search, dynamic and static lists, reminders, task updates, and social profile support. Available via SAAS model, this software surely promises to bring in efficacy in the order tracking and routing processes.
  7. Sales babu– Sales babu is integrated CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software that is hosted on cloud. Being on cloud offers the advantage that it can be operated from anywhere in the world. The data can be accessed, stored and analyzed irrespective of your location. The perks of using this software is that you can monitor the employee’s sales leads, check whether they are achieving the targets and likewise analyze and predict sales, implementation of strategies and carry out the successive planning. You can also sort qualifying leads, acquire a large amount of customer related information, collect the inquiries and manage various contact details of customers.
  8. SalesWah – Saleswah is specially designed for small and medium scale businesses and comes at affordable rates. The main highlights of this software are that it is user-friendly, innate app that has excellent functionality. Striking features of Saleswah include: easily operable by all and doesn’t need technical help, digs into customer interaction history and tells you where to focus, lets you customize your logo, email, time an currency settings and integrates data across Google apps and Microsoft Outlook.
  9. Winds CRM – Cloud based Winds CRM is mainly designed to grow organizations and is useful to both the sales and management teams. It performs a plethora of activities like managing multiple solutions like lead, clients, contacts, tsk management, team organization and product analysis, information and reporting. In the sales department it performs these functions: it helps tract leads that are created, qualified and promoted via numerous pipelines, sales staff can enter relevant information, update and track relevant opportunities thus making the entire process transparent, generating invoices against sales order and automation of the invoice generation proposal within seconds. In the marketing sector, Winds CRM is used for search based marketing for cross selling among customers and manage and orchestrate different campaigns to increase the output efficiency.
  10. Zoho CRM– A complete eagle-eye view about your entire sales cycle is provided by Zoho CRM. The key areas in which it makes your managing simpler is by automating the data so that you can lay emphases on selling, tracks your sales activity by displaying the sales cycle thereby helping you align your goals and strategies and it is mobile responsive. Add-ons include: connecting with your customers from within your CRM account, synchronizing your CRM account with other applications to increase the scalability of your business solution and you can integrate Gmail with CRM.

Any of these CRM and lead management systems can be considered after evaluating order processing, customer relation and order tracking needs. Depending on the business process, any of these variants can be put to work.

For any more queries or confusion about the SAAS based software, feel free to contact us.

 

7 #SaaS Based Software for Managing Apartment & Housing Societies

The urban population is increasing by many folds every decade. Higher standards of living, greater exposure, fatter salary packages and attractive lifestyle is making youth migrate from villages to cities. In metro cities the ration of population to the land available can never be balanced. Leave aside sprawling mansions, in metro’s even owning a small flat is grim and a luxury that not all can afford. However, with the space crisis increasing by leaps and bounds, more and more sky scrapers and high rise buildings are coming up to accommodate the ever increasing population. In every housing society, there are volunteers who manage various sections like accounting, expense payment, calculating interest, etc. However, with the daily travel pangs and work pressure, it becomes increasingly tedious to manage the above said functions. This is where we come to your rescue with a list of seven SAAS (Software-as-a-service)  based apartment management and housing society softwares to make your life easier.

ApnaComplex

ApnaComplex, a SAAS software us built by Hyderabad based Gokul Singh. This ERP software is targeted for gated communities and housing societies.

This software manages four aspects:

  1. Accounting – It has two flavors, one for layman user and the other for auditors and accountants. The data can be entered by any person who knows basic computing and the back-end converts it into double entry accounting.
  2. Expense and income management – A record of all the members who have paid dues, not paid and how much money they owe all these details are stored in the software.
  3. Communication – Any changes in the current management system are sent to the members immediately by Email and SMS.
  4. Billing – This software performs three major tasks book-keeping, balance sheets and income-expense statement.

ApnaComplex offers the following striking features:

  1. All complex data of the residential society can be managed from one place
  2. Make all operations transparent and therefore prevent arguments among owners and residents
  3. All process are managed professionally by software and no dependence on any person
  4. Reduces the overall personal efforts

Many residential complexes have embraced ApnaComplex which comes at nominal monthly rates. It is advantageous for tenants, owners and the complex management team.

CommonFloor

CommonFloor App was built with an intention to bring all residents of a society together with the help of technology. The best highlight of this SAAS software is that you can be solely in charge of all the accounting and financing part and the entire system is transparent. Volunteers who take up housing responsibilities are very busy and CommonFloor is built keeping this in mind.

This software satisfies three goals:

  1. Brings the residents close in this age of technology where people are always on the go – Discussion forums to ensure that all residents are satisfied or have any issues with the management, notices that would land in your inbox every time a change is made, events and meet ups and directories to remain connected to fellow residents.
  2. Transparent accounting – Payment gateways, expense vs income tracker, seamless account management and audit ready account reports.
  3. Save time by great efficient management – Vendor management, complaints and issue management, SMS and Email broadcast and management of verification of new members.

India’s first real estate portal has more than 10 lakh residents using this software. Moreover, apart from the monthly or yearly payments, they do not charge any extra bucks as transaction fees.

ApartmentAdda

A great software can be available to the public at very reasonable cost of a few hundred rupees. ApartmentAdda has proved this statement right and is also able to generate profits. This online housing society accounting and management software has 1.8 lakh active users. The Target audience for this app are Co-operative Housing Societies, Resident Welfare associations and Apartment Owners Association. Its main aim is to boost communications among residents, facility management and accounting personals.

Why people find this app very user-friendly?

  1. They offer complete end-to-end accounting solutions and have a vigorous online ERP system for handling residential complexes.
  2. Important details like dues and actionable buttons are displayed at the top part of the page.
  3. News feed layout – Visit the news feed page and you’ll come to know about the latest developments in your society. All members can contribute and a like button is added so that you can shower him/her with your likes.
  4. Conversations section – Community conversations can be carried out in this section. Subgroups where you can have conversations with neighbors and share photos is a noteworthy widget.

ApartmentAdda offers the following advantages:

  1. Automatic maintenance billing
  2. User gets due reminder SMS’s
  3. In case of any problems you can always contact the Helpline
  4. It is possible to view and publish various reports

Go ahead and try ApartmentAdda, its cheap and has surplus advantages which would make your housing management easier. This Single Page Responsive UI is very simple to use, extremely user-centric and offered at the most reasonable rates.

SocietyRun

A one-stop destination for managing financial and accounting matters for housing societies, resident associations and gated communities. SocietyRun is a hassle-free and easy software for management and accounting of housing societies and apartments. This software facilitates enhanced communication between the members, sharing of pictures and documents, raising their voice on various issues, keeping a record of bills, dues and payment, decreasing paperwork and having transparency in all transactions.

Services offered by SocietyRun include:

  1. The society members can share their opinions, pictures and thoughts by polls.
  2. It allows members to buy and sell things.
  3. Check for dealers and service providers.
  4. Enhanced communication – Online communication via emails and offline by SMS and the sharing of announcements, documents and photographs is possible.
  5. There is a special activity point section wherein the members can recommend fellow members for their accomplishments.

The perks of using SoceityRun are:

  1. Social networking tools are available
  2. There is a special notice board where admin, committee member or office bearer can add notices
  3. All relevant information about members like their address, emergency contact, blood group and parking information are stored in the database
  4. Affordable
  5. Needs no external hardware or software

Apartment Sathi

Apartment Sathi is a multitasking software. Advancement of technology has given rise to software’s that perform a wide range of tasks for which previously manpower was needed. It is a SAAS catering to the overall needs of housing societies. This software manages the accounting and auditing essentials of landlords, industrial estates, builders and developers. It works on computers and mobile phones with an internet connection. Customers can opt for any package from Basic Product, Premium Product and Gold Type Product.

Advantages of using this software:

  1. Communication application: In order to boost communication between community members, there are activities like forums, residents address book, noticeboards, events calendar, website for your apartment, instant polls, vendor information, admin support and document storage.
  2. Management applications: Apartment Sathi makes managing your society easy as the software manages key tasks like admin users, creating a landing page for your apartment’s website, managing users, storing maintenance contracts, notices, staff records and admin files, event manager and issues, assets and complaint tracker.
  3. Accounting applications: In order to give you peace of mind, Apartment Sathi takes care of financial matters like payment gateway, income and expense tracker and managing cash flow.

A plethora of services offered by the SAAS Apartment Sathi makes it one of the most widely used in apartment management and housing society software.

Societyhive

This is the age of speed where everyone is always on-the-go. People living in flats do not even know who their neighbors are. Societyhive was built with the aim of bringing people closer and bridging communication gaps between them.

Societyhive makes a difference to your community by:

  1. Service providers: The main advantage of connected societies is that the local service providers know that all the members are connected and well informed. In case of any fraud, their reputation will go down and they would be kicked out of the society. So service providers offer their best services at the most reasonable prices.
  2. Always stay in touch with your roots: By bridging the gap between people, you can always increase communication, sit and solve problems and help the fellow members.
  3. Collaborate and celebrate: Societyhive draws your attention to the children of lesser God and gives you an opportunity to help them. It’s said, the best use of wealth is when it is used to help the needy ones.

Services offered by Societyhive:

  1. A private website is provided where information about all members is stored. In this way, no person with a fake profile can enter your society.
  2. Manage your society by making it safer, happier and a fun place to live. Accounting and billing information is stored here. You can meet like-minded people and raise support for social causes.
  3. There is an advice section where you can ask fellow members for advice regarding all issues. Looking up for recommended service providers was never so easy.
  4. Societyhive provides multilingual support.

Society123

It is a SAAS catering the financial needs of housing societies. This software manages the accounting and auditing essentials of landlords, industrial estates, builders and developers. It works on computers and mobile phones with an internet connection.

Advantages of using Society123:

  1. Simple operation: Log on into your account, assign the tasks to the software and it’ll do everything.
  2. Different user accounts like Administrators, Managing committee and Vendor staff can be created that allow them to access the accounts at different levels. By this method, no unaccounted person can log on and make changes.
  3. Completely accurate information is made available at all times to the members.
  4. The entire process is automated, hence there is reduced administrative work.

Society123 performs the following tasks:

  1. Bill generation
  2. Automatic bill delivery via e-mails
  3. Bank reconciliation
  4. Alerting the recipients of pending bills by SMS
  5. Calculating accurate interest rates as per the society norms
  6. R&D section
  7. Parking allotments
  8. Managing tasks, meetings, registers, tasks, complaints, compliances, circulars and events

Society123 aims to reduce your tensions and make sure that you never miss any payments.

The main aim of all these software’s is to bring in a transparent management and account handling system that is solely handled by technology and all users can have access to all system related information.

Does your housing society have a SAAS apartment management software? If the answer is negative, we advise you to check the following seven SAAS software’s and buy and install one today itself. You can also talk to our Software Analyst to find which software fits your requirement best .

Appointy: Building a Marketplace of Services

Appointy_logoAppointy is an online scheduling software for small and medium sized businesses to help them grow exponentially.  Today, you can buy a movie ticket, flight or train ticket online. But what about your Salon, Spa, Doctor, Dentist, Hot Air balloon ride or even your pet groomer? Appointy is helping these businesses start scheduling online and fill their open times by reaching their customers faster. The company is founded by Nemesh Singh (CEO) along with home grown 4 key team members.

Introduction

In the good old days, if you needed a haircut, you would walk down to the nearest salon, wait for a while if you happen to go on the weekend, and get the service you desired. Need to see a doctor? No problem – there is one near the market, you go there and wait for your turn, and get treated. Needed a tuition? You talk to a few friends to find a good teacher, go there to register yourself for a year, and you are all set.

Things have changed over the years:

  • Service consumers like us have much less time and patience to wait for the service to be delivered
  • ‘Talk to a few friends’ has gone away as a reference mechanism because living close-by doesn’t mean knowing each other
  • Services (at least in developed economies like US) have become very expensive, service providers have proliferated, and perhaps most importantly, Internet has penetrated most lives.

So today, if you need a haircut, you search online for businesses in your neighborhood, you look for the one with best references/recommendations, you call up to make sure you will have 0 waiting time when you arrive, and you use your smartphone to entertain you if you do have to wait.

Need a doctor? You go to one or more sites that specialize in doctor search and use their recommendations and appointment engine to book a slot online.

Need a tuition? You will look for one that offers trial classes, you will compare prices in addition to credibility of the teachers, research their past results (which are all available online thanks to user generated content), and only then purchase the services – and you do all this without leaving the comfort of your home.

As you can see, in good old days, you bought the service at the time of consuming the service; you walked in, waited in line, got a haircut, and made the payment. Or you walked in, waited in line, got a prescription written by the doctor, you made the payment. Today, you buy the service (you may or may not make the payment at that point), and arrive to receive the service only when it is your time, thus cutting all the waiting time. Buying the service and consuming the service now happen at different points in time.

If you are a business that sells services to consumers – doctor, dentist, career coach, salon, spa – this behavioral change is very impactful. It means that people want to complete the first part of transaction (buy the service, or at least buy the right to get a service by booking an appointment) without arriving at your business – they will transact through phone, mail, and other technological means rather than being physically present at your business. Technology is disrupting the service purchase, and it increasingly resembles a product purchase.

The act of purchasing a service is usually called ‘book an appointment’. I think this is a very misleading description – it hides the commerce part of the act. Given the fact that the business sets aside a slot of time to serve you when you ‘book an appointment’, this in fact should be no different than ordering a printer on Flipkart or Amazon, or ordering in your nearby BestBuy (if you are in US) and driving down to pick it up from the store.

Appointy offers online scheduling for small and medium sized businesses. Here is a better way of saying this: Appointy is the platform through which small and medium sized businesses sell their services. They have helped their clients sell services worth $350M so far and do about $2M sale a day.

Today, Appointy handles 15K appointments and signs up 70 new businesses every single day and this number keeps growing rapidly. They have about 60K businesses using their platform for their scheduling needs, and they are on almost every major street of US.

Appointy works seamlessly on devices and web – experience on mobile has been specifically designed to fit that form factor – to support their clients who increasingly want to do things on the go.

The Product

The story

It is interesting how the appointment product, that Appointy sells, came about. They have been building an appointment tool since 2006, as plug-in to popular CMS platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.). This was in response to the need for a scheduling page for many businesses who used these CMS to create their website. Idea was to give it for free, and generate revenue from consulting and development projects from these clients.

It didn’t have much traction initially. When Appointy created another product – a free plug-in to add Facebook ‘Like’ support on a site – they used this plug-in to advertise their scheduling plug-in. The Facebook plugin saw 10K downloads in no time, and the word spread about their appointment tool too.

During 2010-2011, the company went into a financial crunch as the development projects dried up. While looking for other sources of revenue, they realized they had about 20K businesses using Appointy, for free!. They had continued to enhance the software based on customer feedback, and it now had a healthy adoption in the market. They also started noticing the mails from some customers enquiring about paid plans – businesses wanted to get better service and support and they were willing to pay for it!

Company pivoted and made Appointy their core product. They created paid plans and started actively developing the product for multiple verticals, while keeping it a generic product.  And rest, as they say, is history!

Features

Appointy boasts of a rich feature-set, including features like easy scheduling without keyboard, drag and drop rescheduling, real-time notification of information like Facebook or Linked-In, online payments at the time of booking,  staff management, weekly customer satisfaction report to  build online reputation and intelligent CRM with powerful marketing tools to reach customers faster, etc.

Appointy is way ahead of its competitors in terms of feature richness, serving around 100 verticals. Here is a look at some of them.

Customized Appointment Site for business

For a business, it is very important that any add-on software like Appointy’s blends into their offering and not create a disruptive experience for the customers. Appointy allows their clients to either have a standalone page for their appointments (via a subdomain under appointy.com) or embed it in their existing site. It also allows them extensive customization of look and feel to ensure exact match in terms of colors, fonts, layout, etc.

Since people can come directly to the subdomain to subdomain directly, Appointy provides options for creating it like a mini product page with lots of business information.

Appointy embedded in a website

Flexibility in configuring availability by business

A business requires a flexible booking system so that it can optimize the slots available with each of its resources (people or machines). Appointy allows the business to configure different available time slots with different resources, and allows various granularity of slot sizes. It also allows a rich integration with personal calendar for the staff so that they can see all their appointments in 1 place.

Setting flexible hours for staff

Google Calendar Integration

Rich Business Management features

Appointy collects lots of data about business performance. It provides the clients with this data via a rich dashboard for quick review of business performance, and a number of reports. Whether it is analyzing the footfalls in the business compared to last month/year, analyzing this month’s revenue, categorizing customers to analyze trends, you can perform all these analyses through Appointy.

Dashboard with monthly appointment data

Customer Management

Given that Appointy manages all the appointments, it has huge amount of data about customer behavior before, during and after service delivery. Appointy offers a rich CRM layer to help their clients leverage this data. The intent is to help the client grow their business. Creating a last minute deal for the slots going empty, driving a loyalty program by giving special discounts to highly active customers, or collecting feedback from the customers when they are visiting the business or through emails, Appointy allows the business to drive customer engagement and create an extremely positive experience for their (clients’) customers.

Creating Deals Through Appointy

Differentiators

There are many appointment scheduling software in the market. However, there are 3 areas in which Appointy differentiates itself from the competition:

Focus on helping clients grow their business

This is part of their strategy and this shows up in the way features are designed and conceptualized and the way data is used to create business opportunities.

Complete CRM system

They are very focused on helping the business manage their customers right from within Appointy and they are successful in doing so.

Data Analytics Platform

Appointy collects lots of data around business performance and customer interactions and provide a platform for their clients to make data-driven decisions.

Development Process

Team

They are a small team of 10 people, most of whom have been working on it since the product was conceptualized. The product is built on Microsoft technologies – .NET & SQL Server. Each person has an expertise in one technology but can multitask at the same time, and as Nemesh says, “jack of all trades and master of one!” Since it is hard to get good people in the small city they are located in, they have outsourced their support and onboarding.

Product management

To identify new feature needs, they rely on customer data analysis, trial users’ behavior, and feature requests from existing customers. Since their support team engages deeply with the customer, they play a major role in surfacing the customer needs. They rank all these new requests and rank them to come up with most requested features every 3 months, and design it in a generic way so that it works for everyone. Idea is to keep the out-of-box experience simple, but allow rich features to those who need it, without cluttering the experience of those who don’t.

They focus on usability of their features a lot. They measure end customer behavior (using MixPanel and Totango) and analyze the data to come up with improvements, which they test with their customers and roll them out. They also borrow ideas from well-known products out there in calendaring space so that they can provide familiar and high-quality experience to their clients and their customers.

Release management

Their pace of adding features has changed over the years. Five years ago, they would add about 200 small and big features a year. Now they add about 20 features in a year. This is not only because there are no more glaring feature gaps, but also because customers get confused when large number of features are getting added at a rapid pace. This is also the reason why they have moved to a quarterly release rhythm from a monthly release one. To aid the customer in wading through multiple features, they added “settings search” page, similar to what Chrome offers for its settings.

A typical feature will be conceptualized, built and staged in their test area, go through some beta testing by select customers, and rolled into the next quarterly release.

Market

Reach

It is a large market that Appointy operates in. There are 26M SMB in USA alone. Appointy supports 100 verticals (lifestyle and health primarily) which is about 10M businesses. 9M of these still use pen and paper for their scheduling needs.  Appointy’s strategy is to focus on the remaining 1M (and growing rapidly) business since they understand online scheduling. Today Appointy is on almost every major street of USA.

They have about 60,000+ registered businesses globally and are growing at the rate of 5-6% month-on-month. Appointy believes that their product is their strength. They haven’t spent a dollar till date on Sales & Marketing!

Their biggest competitor is pen & paper scheduling. A few others are Bookfresh.com (Acquired by Square now), Mindbodyonline.com ($23 million funded company), Appointment-plus.com and Genbook.com. All of them offer similar services. MindBody is interesting because their strategy is to convert businesses that use pen and paper to come online and start using online tools like those for appointment. So they work with a different customer segment than Appointy’s.

Product Vision and Strategy

Currently, Appointy have about 60K businesses signed up. The goal is to get this number to 250K by 2 years and 1M businesses by 5 years, primarily by totally focusing on helping their clients grow their business and becoming their partner in business creation and development. Today, they create service revenue worth $500K for their clients in a year. They want to help the businesses grow 20-25% in a year by bringing new customers to them.

Couple of ways they want to achieve this:

  1. Local directory service (City Pages) with appointment facility – If someone needs a haircut, they can go to Appointy directory and look up the best one that meets their needs and book it there and then. This creates an alternative source of customers for their clients.
  2. Help businesses sell open times – Every service slot going vacant is a revenue opportunity lost. Appointy intends to create solutions that can allow open slots to be sold and revenue generated. Creating last-minute deals is one service that is offered already, they continue to work on more.

They keep exploring alternative revenue sources too. For example, aggregating all the commerce transactions through a single payment gateway can help get lower transaction costs for their customers as well as get an alternative revenue source for Appointy in terms of per-transaction fees.

The Road Ahead

Appointy has come a long way from where they developed Appointy as a free plug-in. They still have a long way to go. There are a few things they need to focus on:

  1. Position the product better – The product has lots of potential to be used in a wide variety of ways – calling it a scheduling software severely restricts these possibilities. Appointy needs to reimagine the product positioning.
  2. Change the playing field –This is related to previous point: they need to get out of the ‘appointment booking’ vocabulary and get into ‘services marketplace’ vocabulary. They need to talk about and think of themselves as an e-commerce company, à la Flipkart of Services.
  3. Get access to talent pool – They also need to make sure they have access to a large talent pool. They have a huge opportunity in their hands, and they need to leverage it quickly. Sitting in a small city, this may be hard to accomplish.

Local services marketplace is heating up, Amazon, eBay, startups are buzzing with activity. Even though these are different kinds of services (hire a painter for your house for 3 days), it is the same space that Appointy operates in. If Appointy (and other online scheduling software companies) don’t play in this market, they can be disrupted by these services marketplace. Time is right for Appointy to change its game, and a huge opportunity awaits them.  Good luck for a bright future ahead!

ClinchPad is rethinking the sales tool for small enterprises.

Delhi has stereotypically been the startup city of deals and hustlers. Infamous for people who tend to prize their ‘contacts’ and somehow this fits right into the grand scheme of things that the online sales CRM ClinchPad is based in the capital city.

About

Started by Cheenu Madan, ClinchPad is a SaaS based product aimed at small teams and organizations to help effectively channel and manage their sales lead. Part of the GSF Accelerator ‘13, the name ClinchPad ( Clinch + LaunchPad ) simply stands for ‘grabbing a deal’

Product

On using the product, the landing screen greets one with a card like interface stacked one below the other. For the keen eyed observer it is definitely reminiscent of Trello ( the organizational tool ), but that is not a bad thing. The interface does aid usability especially for a desktop environment. With a pipeline layout which lays emphasis on leads. The user begins by moving their contacts between the various  stages of the sales ( beginning from a prospect going all the way to negotiation & closing ). The sales incharge can add meta data to the lead in the form of to-do, collaborators, value of the sale and in the end mark it as won/lost. Enough points for future benefits of individuals and their teams.

ClinchPad integrates with Google and in an attempt to get rid of the cumbersome methods currently used, one can upload their csv/excel sheets with the product. According to the team the ‘reports’ and the ‘summary emails’ are one of the most popular sections which help the managers to scan through their team’s effort faster.

The product is simple to use with a basic learning curve. Certain sections like the integration with Google need more visibility and we personally discovered it only during the walkthrough with the team. In a mobile-first world, the offering on that front also seem a little weak. But the ‘summaries section’ mentioned above and the ‘apps timeline’ mentioned below make up for it now.

Users

ClinchPad is currently being adopted by a diverse set of people such as the freelancers, marketing agencies and real estate firms amongst other, with a unifying theme that they are involved with sales in one form or the other. Though the Western audience remains the prime target group, the product has seen adoption from smaller Indian cities.

pipeline-new

Pricing

At the heart of any SaaS product lies the pricing. ClinchPad boasts of a genuinely enticing onboarding plan. The service is free-to-use for the entire team as long as the number of leads and the usage are within the limits of 100 and 250mb respectively. On the paid side the plans go from as low as $9/month ( 1 user and 2gb storage ) upto $99/month ( 33 users and 20gb storage ) all the while offering unlimited leads.

Competition & Timeline

ClinchPad is in no way the only company trying to crack the CRM sector. Even in the products catering to small and medium enterprises the competition from names like Pipedrive & Highrise along with the desi Zoho and its suite of products is there.

A less known fact about ClinchPad is that they already have an iPhone app in place, much less publicized though. The core focus for the coming months for the ClinchPad crew is to push out their apps by covering more platforms and changes to their web app.

The value of a sales tool lies in the integration it brings to the fold. The team is already in work to integrate the ClinchPad with some of the most popular business offering out there. One shouldn’t be too surprised to find it being a part of our favorite online form builder to email marketing service in the near future.

We’d love to know your experience with the product. For those of you who have not yet invested in a sales tool, the free plan for ClinchPad is great way to feel things out and experiment with it. If for nothing else, their blog is worth a special mention!

The Emergence of a Product Nation

In the last ten years, IBM, perhaps the world’s most iconic maker of the personal computer did two things that made people sit up and take notice. First, in 2004, it sold its PC division to China-based Lenovo Group in a deal valued at $1.75 billion. Then, around nine years later, it sold Daksh, its voice-based BPO to Synnex Corp. Both sales had one glaring similarity: They both involved flogging commoditized businesses with increasingly low margins and a questionable future.

growth_rateToday, both the computer hardware business as well as the voice-based BPO business is in peril. Computer sales have flattened while smartphones and tablets are experiencing scorching growth rates in excess of 150% in Asia. Meanwhile, the BPO business continues to face the twin challenge of rising costs in India and new, competitive destinations like the Philippines who continue to place more downward pressure on prices for voice services.

IBM’s experience is a crucial one to internalize, as the kind of upheaval that has taken place in the PC industry and the BPO one is going to inevitably rock the foundations of yet another which leverages cheaper labour as its core competitive advantage—namely, software services. The one harbinger of this change: The rise of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), also known as ‘the cloud’ that has revolutionized how we use software today.

Much like India churned out world-class software services firms in the 1990s and 2000s, it is already proving to be a major generator of globally competitive SaaS companies across all spheres—in the enterprise space, the B2C arena as well as those targeting SMBs. These are companies with small teams and unique products sold under their own brand—strikingly dissimilar from their IT services predecessors that have dominated the technology space so far.

In other words, these are companies that have climbed up the value chain where their core offerings are not so easily disrupted by a cheaper wage rate. Here, the elegance of the product, the stability and novelty of its solution and, most importantly, the unvarnished benefit that allows the customer to become infinitely more efficient for as little a cost as possible through enterprise software is what is making this revolution a reality. And India, with its legions of technology graduates, a vibrant app developer community and a coterie of battle-hardened entrepreneurs is pushing the envelope even further. Suddenly, a 40-member team can churn out a platform or a service that can compete on the global stage with the likes of an Oracle or an IBM.

This is a brave new world for buying and selling things. For one thing, the internet has become a dominant channel used to either sell products or attract and engage new customers. This means that marketers need to widen their net through plug-and-play IT solutions that are at their fingertips rather than waiting for their IT department to weigh in. They now have to deal with new ways of managing customer relationships, orchestrating cross channel marketing, and implementing digital advertising

Then, there is the aspect of nimbleness. Winners and losers today are determined by solutions that have as quick a time to market as possible, with unlimited scalability and access to reports on the mobile. Enabling this imperative are sophisticated tools to mine and analyze volumes of data arising from these activities to improve decision-making. Therefore, embedding technology in every business process is more than just an effort to stay competitive—it’s a basic survival ploy that allows for faster turnaround, better customer service and improved monitoring of the health of the organization.

pay_asTill now, though, being able to do all of this meant heavy in-house customization and up-front capex spends. The ‘pay as you’ go and ‘rent versus buy’ approach of SaaS has upended that reliance on customization, making even the most complex operations available on the net and easily integrated with other tools and apps for a fraction of the price. A company can now also try as many tools as possible rather than be handcuffed to a single one.

In a product revolution sweeping the country unlike no other, the makers of many of the world’s most innovative products are right here in India. Whether it is the collaboration space, enterprise applications or business intelligence in the cloud, for the first time in India’s history, software products are being made for the global audience and widely appreciated and used by global consumers.

Here’s a snapshot at some of the players who are leading this charge:

 

MyParichay – Find jobs by leveraging your network

MyParichay is India’s Largest job search and career network on Facebook. The company consists of a dedicated group of successful entrepreneurs, HR professionals, and computer scientists that want to capture the spirit behind a Parichay (an introduction) from a known person to transform how people achieve their career potential and companies find the best quality talent. The company’s technology prowess and deep understanding of the industry have encouraged several corporates including Genpact, 24X7, IBM, PWC, Grollier, Airbus, EXL Services, Cognizant, Yahoo India and Convergys to adopt MyParichay solutions. MyParichay has two product lines; one a social job board for job seekers, which is an internet consumer product and the other a set of social recruiting management products viz. Employee Parichay and Company Parichay for employers and recruiters. Here we focus on the social job board for job seekers, their B2C product.

The Company

Every job seeker knows that it is much easier to get an interview call when your resume has been referred (or at least forwarded) by an employee of the company, than if you post it through regular job boards or company’s website. However, it is not always easy to find out who amongst your friends and acquaintances can help refer you within the company. Most people still rely on regular channels of job search, which continue to yield poor results.

MyParichay (like other companies in this space) intends to solve this problem of discovery by allowing job seekers to discover their connections (Facebook and LinkedIn for now) within the companies where they see a relevant job opening, and allows them to request them to refer their resume.

It is a social recruitment platform that believes in the power of a ‘Parichay’ – the Sanskrit term for introduction. It was established in 2012 and is co-founded by Ranjan Sinha and Vivek Sinha.

Considering that 6 out of 10 job seekers are only on Facebook and that according to a study by ERE.net, chances of finding a friend increases by 54X when applied through a friend, MyParichay brings the power of social network to Job seekers. Their target segment is 21-30 yrs. which spends a lot of time on Facebook and uses Facebook as both a personal and professional network. They offer a job board for job seekers larger than Naukri and Monster combined! Their job seekers app is in Facebook’s Top 10 business app.

The Product

MyParichay allows their users to sign-in using Facebook (the only sign-in option) and look for jobs in companies, hence acting like a regular job board with a large number of job openings posted. You can add your Linkedin network to your MyParichay account to leverage your connections on LinkedIn. Every job search result is tagged with a list of people from your network who are connected with this company and can potentially refer you. The site then allows the user to apply to these companies by requesting their friends to refer them, thereby increasing the chances of an interview call significantly.

(All pictures and names have been blacked out in screenshots below for privacy reasons)

myparichay1myparichay2myparichay3myparichay4Technology

Their proprietary ConnectedJobs technology is built on a combination of Java, Python, and various Open Source projects. They use a combination of NoSQL and SQL data stores and use AWS. Their website is Android and iPhone friendly today and they will continue to invest in improving the website experience on handheld devices. They are also planning to bring to market a native android app that leverage key capabilities of mobile devices, such as OTT messaging and geo location, to deliver a unique social experience within the career enhancement context.

Differentiators

Their biggest differentiator is the size of the job pool that they have, and which continues to grow. They have tie-ups with various other job boards and thereby act as an aggregator of various jobs out there. They also have tie-ups with various large companies, which allow them early access to the jobs.  They continue to sign job board partnerships around the world and will announce three significant partnerships this quarter; they are also building their own job crawler.

Another advantage of social recruitment solutions like MyParichay is that by using social networks, they provide transparency whereby both job seeker and employer can learn more about each other, much before serious discussions have started. With its B2B solution, MyParichay closes the loop on referrals by both making it easy to refer (for employees) as well as making it easy for companies to track these referrals using MyParichay’s system.

Market

While job portals proliferate in India, hiring good talent remains a tough problem for organizations. Referral continues to remain best channel for good hires, but referrals account for a very small % of total available profiles. Hence it is not surprise that recruiting through social media (and hence job search through this channel) is a hot area, and MyParichay is positioned well. They have signed up some marquee clients and continue to do well in that area. They have 24M+ profiles in their database and continue to sign-up 12000 profiles a day (more than Naukri’s 11,000 a day). This demonstrates the traction they have in the market.

Among their competitors in Social Recruitment space, Career Sonar is best known, with very comparable offering. In addition, traditional job boards are their competitors, as well as their potential partners. Ranjan Sinha, Co-Founder, says, “Apply Button is our competitor, not the job portals.” They recently signed up a deal with Shine.com (HT Media has a stake in myParichay) to allow social bar on Shine.com site, essentially replacing ‘Apply’ with “MyParichay Apply”.

The Road Ahead

Recruitment has always been a social process. Good companies and roles are found by word-of-mouth, good hires are found through referrals and from passive pool of candidates (who are not looking for jobs). Interview process is more about knowing each other and liking each other than comprehensive evaluation of capabilities (which is anyway impossible to do in the short interview window). Job boards traditionally have made it a transactional activity where recruitment has primarily become a resume collection program. Social recruitment tools offer a much needed push towards making hiring social again.

MyParichay is uniquely placed in this space with a product that has excellent traction in the market and which offers some very good capabilities. Here are a few areas that they will do well to focus on as they go forward in this space:

  1. User Experience: Experience of their web site is decent but need to be at par with other consumer products their target segment is used to – it looks more web-like and less app-like.
  2. Relevancy of connections: Currently, I need to choose who do I go through if I have more than one connection who can refer me to a job. Clearly, with more data at their disposal, myParichay is (or should be) in a better position to recommend the person I should go with to have the best results. This will make the process more effective and seamless for the job seekers.
  3. Job Search vs. Recommendation: Job Search is going to be obsolete concept, given that many roles names and job definitions continue to evolve rapidly to fit a globalized world’s new requirements. Given that myParichay knows my profile details, it should be able to recommend jobs for me based on elements of my profile and my online behavior.

MyParichay is in a growing segment and has carved out a good position for itself, and they seem to be on track for a fast growth. Future seems very bright for them.

Billbooks is helping ease the invoicing for the freelance economy

It has never come as a surprise that the best startup solutions and most passionate entrepreneurs are the one who end up solving their own pain points. For Sagar Kogekar founder of Billbooks the journey began with the advent of his startup Webwingz which he started at the age of 18 years, engaged in client servicing. He would be able to provide and do the client work but the part about billing was always a hassle. Invoicing and billing like most people was done in Word by him.

Soon Sagar realised the potential in the market. Rather than jumping head first into developing the solution Sagar took his time and did his research to find the niche he was targeting. By 2012 he had gone full time into developing Billbooks as a product with his team. Billbooks was his take on creating an online invoicing solution for small and mid-sized businesses.

On signing up for the first time the user is gifted three invoices to try and experiment with the product. Irrespective of the package a user takes, all the features are uniformly accessible on the platform. Which is a big plus. The pricing model begins from as low as $10 per 20 invoices upto 60$ for 200 invoices. With no monthly rental and expiration of the recharge, the user is free to use the invoice credit as and when he wishes.

The product is aimed at North American and the European markets with language customization in five languages to tap the local clientele. Sagar claims the user base to be in the early hundreds with nearly 10% of them being paid customers of the product. To say what an ideal Billbooks customer looks like would be an exercise in futility with diverse occupational users ranging from a video jockey based in Spain to a wood artist in Australia to a piano teacher in the US being proponents of the product. The unifying factor being the freelancer or the small enterprise economy.

Billbooks is not without competition and claiming otherwise would be unjust. The space for online accounting softwares even those with a focus towards SME is a crowded one. Solutions from big names like Zoho and Intuit, and products like Freshbooks already exist in the market. With many of them offering more utility in the form of mobile products at a slightly higher price point. But the USP of Billbooks would lie in offering a simple approach to a more professional looking billing solution for the freelancers and helping keeping track of partial payments, scheduled reminders and giving free estimates. The service should be an ideal product for people with extremely limited invoice requests a month and their model actually encourages that with no expiry on the invoice credits. 

In the coming months of the product timeline we can look forward to having native mobile products for the Android and iOS ecosystems in place for Billbooks. Features like the Freshbooks import option are already in place making it a breeze to get new users onboard and be up and running on Billbooks quickly.

You can show Billbooks some startup love and sign up to let us know what you think about the product! But the fact remains there is a niche that Billbooks fulfills and Sagar is happy building a product for that.

Corporate Trainings are now Fun and Digital, thanks to MindTickle

MindTickle – ranked by Business Today as India’s coolest startups – is a gamified social learning platform founded by four enterprising men, who are were so passionate about games that they decided to make it their vocation. While the three were hard at work, we managed to draw Mohit out for a quick chat. So here is Mohit Garg, CoFounder MindTickle.

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

Mohit Garg: Thank you, productnation for this opportunity.

MindTickle has four cofounders – Krishna Depura, Nishant Mungali, Deepak Diwakar and myself.

I am an electrical engineer having studied and worked in the US. While in the states, I had a chance to work at some great software product companies like Aruba Networks. My experience with a software product company straddled the entire spectrum, when it comes to business outcomes. Not only was I witness to an IPO exit, but one of the companies (x) raised $100 million only to go down under. Such has been the intensity of the learning.

The four cofounders of MindTickle have been friends and work colleagues. Krishna and I were batchmates at ISB, while Krishna, Nishant and Deepak were colleagues at PubMatic.

The genesis of this idea came from our combining our personal interest with a market opportunity. The four of us had been hacking away on weekends to create quiz based games. In fact, our quiz based games for IIT Mumbai Mood Indigo and few sponsored contests that were integrated with Facebook were immensely successful.

Since all four of us were passionate about creating high engagement oriented digital products, the combination of corporate training and gamification just looked perfect. We had observed that corporate internal training programs were time-consuming, with very little excitement and no connection to business outcomes. Then one day in 2011, all of us decided to get started with MindTickle.

ProductNation: Interesting, tell us about the name, how did you guys crack it?

Mohit Garg: We wanted to pick a name that is appealing and fresh, yet has enterprise appeal. So we put down a framework to score many names and we got MindTickle.

ProductNation: Mohit, please tell us about your customers and your future plans.

Mohit Garg: Some of the World’s finest brands are the customers of MindTickle. Ebay, SAP, Yahoo, InMobi, MakeMyTrip all have experienced high engagement rates and consequently improved business outcomes with the products from MindTickle.

While technology companies in the market have understood the importance of engagement when it comes to corporate training programs, the traditional real economy companies are also realizing the importance of high engagement delivery. A dominant young workforce is also a driver in this shift.

Most of our enquiries at this point in time are from the US market. We have a sales team in the US as part of our business development efforts. And we continue to invest in that market which is a priority.

India is also tickling with opportunities and we are very excited about it. It is not just the Indian arms of technology giants that are taking interest, but even the domestic organizations.

ProductNation: MindTickle’s moment of glory, what comes to your mind?

Mohit Garg: We have won the GAward for the Best Use of Gamification in HR (Enterprise) in the World for two consecutive years in 2012 and 2013. That has been the proudest moment till date. We came trumps ahead of formidable competition that included startups as well as large investor backed companies.

ProductNation: What have been your big lessons – personal and professional?


Mohit Garg: On the professional front, first, there is too much focus (at least in India) on overcoming weaknesses. My experiences have shaped me into believing now that a successful professional career is more about playing to your strengths. Second, the power of being disciplined and diligent is often underestimated. Once you start any business you will find low hanging fruit in doing a better job than your lazy competitors. Therefore, often market share is a vanity metric, one should focus on how to develop a mind share among the customer segments that matter.

Third, there is a good chance that 10 people across the world are thinking or working on the idea that you just came up.

Have the tough conversations early in any relationship, things which could be sticky later are best addressed while there is little contempt in a relationship… “Familiarity does breed contempt” from what I have observed. Lastly, all said and done, speaking direct and clearly will provide better results with less heartburn and confusion in the long run.

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

Mohit Garg: Product entrepreneurs should dream big and not be scared of competition or large existing incumbents. Market leader in a marginal niche is worse than a contender in fast growing and large market.

One has to take a very realistic view of the size, location and maturity of the target segment, especially in B2B. One should design experiments to validate those hypothesis and quickly focus on early adopters as opposed to going after large horizontal markets at least initially

Many product entrepreneurs take the market as a given. In my opinion and experience, the market risk is generally bigger than the product/technology risk

If possible and if you can pull it off, get professional money early. You can be more aggressive with your business plan, invest more for long term, and stay focused. Moreover, investors on the board forces a discipline which is really valuable in the long run. Having to worry about having enough to pay the bills and salary every month may sound romantic, but its only as romantic as war

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

KeyMails is making the email smart for Outlook users!

Still believe email is small and dying a slow death in the world of IMs, tweets and Facebook messages? Just have a look at the massively viral ‘Every Second on the Internet’ and scroll till the end to get a visual realization of how big a part of our life email still is. Email is still the first choice for internal communication and chatter within a number of organizations owing to its ubiquitous nature and presence, not that it was intended to be used that way.

A number of startups are now building tools to help users get more out the email ranging from helping you get the social media information to turning your inbox into a to-do list in itself. But it is no wonder that the biggest peeve with the email has been its overload. With independent researches confirming the belief held for long that the overdose of email has severe effects on productivity costing precious man hours and increased costs.

With the latest Gmail update the users found the presence of the tabbed inbox easily helping filter the signal vs noise between social media, promotions and genuine email content. But Bangalore based KeyMails is looking to provide a similar level of productivity for the Microsoft Outlook users. Keymails is a plugin for Outlook helping users to prioritize the email and the best part it becomes efficient over time based on the usage patterns.

What is KeyMails and how does it work?

The KeyMails team is reinforcing the belief that for a large number of corporate users the desktop/laptop is the device where the emails get done with. Thus the plugin keeps all of the information on the device itself and doesn’t send anything on the cloud. Options like the ability to archive a mail till a due date along with being fully functional offline makes it an impressive tool for Outlook 2010 users.  

KeyMails works within Outlook system by creating a separate folder which implies that the user is still using the familiar Outlook interface thereby reducing the learning curve. By default the system prioritizes the mails based on the previous usage patterns but moving on the user can upvote/downvote certain users or domains to affect their priority ranking in emails for the KeyMails folder.

But why email and why Outlook?

Pankaj Kulkarni is the founder of Colimetrics the parent company behind KeyMails and he has been in the corporate world long enough to understand the email usage tools and patterns. According to him there are enough corporate Outlook users out there to keep them busy in building more efficient tools. With such a big market, building tools for them just is the right place to be.

Users & Funding

KeyMails had a public launch in June of this year and right now they are working on adding more users. The current user base befits a product newly launched but they have seen individual beta users come from organizations ranging from Viacom to Infosys to even the White House.

The venture is partially self funded by the co-founding team of Pankaj and Phaniraj with the money coming from the sale of their previous venture S7 Software Solutions and venture money coming from investor Yogi Kandlikar, who also happens to serve as the teams resource in the Silicon Valley.

Product timeline

Pankaj promises that what the user sees right now is just a sneak peak of the things to come. In the coming months they would be focusing on marketing campaigns and documenting content to help make the on boarding process a breeze. 

The short term goal for KeyMails is to introduce a freemium model of the product to get the user a taste of the product which is currently priced at US $25/year or US $3/month with a 30 day trial period. Apart from this Pankaj emphasized on the long term vision of building a host of services and tools around and email and productivity itself. Which would begin with email diagnostics and team collaboration to knowledge management, to help document recurring issues in the organization to help the staff.

On one hand desktop users would find boon in the tool built by Colimetrics on the other lack of multi-device or mobile support could be a bummer in certain regard. But then no two email users are alike head on to Outlook and give your productivity a spin on KeyMails!