22nd #PlaybookRT – Solving a customer’s problem in a way your competitor is not doing, is the most memorable thing for your customer or partner.

The Pune Round Table on Lean Sales (26 Oct 2013) could not have had product leaders with personalities as different as Kailash Katkar @QuickHeal and Pallav Nadhani @FusionCharts. In this difference lay the magic. The magic at this Round Table was in full force. Thank you Kailash for hosting us all.

Round Tables are not about story telling. It’s about getting to know specific challenges of the group and correlating that with real experiences of other folks, especially the leaders who have experienced similar problems first hand. However, this Round Table would not be complete without some inspiration from the growth trajectory of Quickheal and Fusioncharts.

Entrepreneurial Discoveries:

Kailash Katkar, QuickHeal:

Kailash started off as a calculator repair engineer, and later was the only one in Pune who could fix broken ledger posting machines. The seeds of Quickheal were sown when they gave away virus prevention software for free. For him, the approach of always being close to the customer’s problem led to one solution (product) after another. Kailash was never a sales guy and when traditional channels refused to carry his ‘Indian’ product, he offered it to computer repair shops and the rest of his distribution story is history.

He realized that even an STD call to Pune was a large enough friction for channel partners to call them at Pune. Meeting with customers and partners helped establish local sales offices, a centralized helpdesk call center, even local feet on the street for support and much more.

Lesson#1: he always pushed his product as a service (we will clean it for you) and demonstrated value, rather than trying to push a box.

Lesson #2: always remained close to the customer, designed service organization around what customers wanted. Today, commands a price edge over security products from MNCs, and now selling in 50 countries.

Lesson #3: solving a customer’s problem in a way your competitor is not doing, is the most memorable thing for your customer or partner

Pallav Nadhani, Fusion Charts:

Pallav’s journey as told was equally mesmerizing. You had to see how starkly different his approach was from that of Kailash. He went for low touch sales, mass marketing, and the direct online route. This worked because his target was an educated customer and they used content marketing to the hilt.

Fusioncharts moved from a developer focus to a corporate IT department focus. This is the typical customer discovery process that any young startup goes through. Theirs is a classic tale of using LinkedIn, online forums, data visualization experts etc to talk about them and promote the brand.

So fierecely were they branding driven that they even changed the name of the product when doing a new major version. The Obama administration and many such examples did not just help them, they used it to their advantage, and relentlessly.

Fusioncharts started giving away source code to build trust, and even contributed to open source. Yet they never played the ‘cheaper product’ game and even commanded price premiums. Of course, to do this you have to position the value of things like source code, support etc and do the ugly duckling design. More importantly, you need to keep experimenting with price to find the sweet spot.

Kailash & PallavLesson #1: Pricing is a competitive weapon. Higher price is not a disadvantage and don’t let sales people tell you that. (Compare with QuickHeal, today sells some versions at a higher price than MNC products).

Lesson #2: Consciously went after higher value customers (corporate IT) who could be relied upon for assured recurring revenue.

Lesson #3: If you price well you can share decent margins and build a good product. Use different prices for different markets if the situation demands, and always try to sell a customer the highest possible version they may need. There’s always scope to reduce the price paid by offering lesser.

Common threads:

Sell to retail or Enterprise:

  • Start selling to retail customers, gain credibility and then move to Enterprise.
  • Enterprise customers would have less churn and provide opportunities to cross-sell other products as well as to other teams in the same enterprise.
  • Many retail customers / channels eventually move to enterprise so you can sow the seeds for larger deals even when you work the retail market.
  • Create several SKUs, the idea being to let the customer find the price level / functionality level that works for them (I’m not paying extra for something I don’t need).
  • Create sales teams for each type of customer (Fusioncharts – for selling to Enterprise, selling to Developer. Similarly at Quickheal, separate teams sell to Enterprise, Retail and Online). This helps the team align to the sales process for that market and talk the language effectively. Quickheal has separate teams for renewals.
  • Created a sales bible (Fusioncharts) which was the rule book for all sales folks. This helped in establishing a credible sales process and limiting discounts to the extent allowed by company policy.


Branding and PR:

  • Always do your own PR. Keep it so simple that the common person (your mother?) can understand.
  • Your PR should either inspire people or make them angry (agitatated?). It’s no use otherwise.
  • Build relationships with the press, constantly pitch to them and help them with information in general. Ask them what they’re working on and if you can help. They’ll be happy to get any help and will remember when you need them.


Sales and Marketing:

  • Use automation tool for customer communication (Infusionsoft / Marketo / Salesforce)
  • Smaller channel partners are preferred (Quickheal) as they have personal relationships and quick on payments. Large partners usually try to dictate terms and tardy on payments. Fusioncharts has used a similar strategy of tying up with smaller channel partners in overseas countries.
  • Maintaining relationships with channel partners is extremely important as they carry a high emotional quotient. Wish them on the festivals which are important in their country. Talk to them, meet them.
  • If necessary, tweak your product or do something special for that market. This generates huge buy-in from the channel partner as they see your commitment.


Among other things, the specific issues got discussed around:

  • Closure strategies
  • Market awareness
  • New geographies
  • Building / ramping sales team
  • India as a market
  • Funnel management
  • DIY or DIFM
  • Customer Engagement
  • Influencer marketing
  • Building your Service Organisation
  • Leveraging customers
  • Positioning


Each of the above is probably a session in itself and the experience sharing was the easiest way to get insights into how these are situations and not problems.

Both Fusioncharts and Quickheal are hugely successful in their own areas, even though each have completely different markets and selling strategies. The amazing part was when :

–       Pallav remarked that he’s learnt a lot from Kailash’s method of being in touch with customers every single day and being out there in front of them.

–       Kailash appreciated the way Fusioncharts has leveraged content marketing and driving a successful marketing team through his vision

The other folks around this round table were Avinash Sethi (Sapience), Ulhas Ambergaonkar (Mauris), Vishwas Mahajan (TiE Pune), Anup Taparia (TouchMagix), Satish Kamat (JBT), Sandeep Todi {me} (Emportant HR) Varoon Rajani (Blazeclan), Dilip Ittyera (Aikon Labs), Sagar Apte (CarIQ), Aditya Bhelande (Yukta), Sagar Bedmutha (Optinno), Girish (Shunya), Arnab Chaurhuri (Xcess), Avinash Raghava (iSPIRT Product Nation), Sarang Lakare (IntouchApp), Ranjeet Nair (Germin8), Pallav (Fusioncharts), Kailash Katkar (Quickheal)