The next 25 #PNgrowth companies – the second shortlist is here!

We now have the list of the second batch of #PNgrowth companies and this time, we have en even more eclectic mix of domains and products. And since we have also just announced the final agenda for the three day residential workshop that will launch #PNgrowth, the buzz we feel has only intensified. The program is now being over-subscribed many times over, and we request you to apply early if you don’t want to be disappointed.

25-founders-collage-2nd batchIf you still don’t know what this is about, jeez! Anyway, you go here, and if you want to apply, here, better late than never.
So here we go, the net 25 companies, making a grand total of 50!
  • Anil Mantoo of content marketplace Contentmart
  • Ankur Kumar of Employee Recognition engine Rewardtrunk
  • Anup Sahoo of Technology Search Engine Ideapoke
  • Nitin Purohit of Big Data Analytics firm Aureus Analytics
  • Chennapanaidu Darapaneni of events site Meraevents
  • Gautam Garg of QR code company Scanove
  • George John Vettath of HR and Payroll software Kserve
  • Kartik Poddar of Movie site Fropcorn
  • Khadim Batti of interactive flow builder Whatfix
  • Kiran Menon of enployee engagement app Tydy
  • Mahesh Subramaniam of video delivery company Strmesy
  • Milind Katti of account management software Demandfarm
  • Nikhil Soman of gaming company Playblazer
  • Prateek Pands of mobile safety company Appknox
  • Pratik Munot of talent management firm Jombay
  • Rajiv Nag of translations manager Readmylanguage
  • Sandip Panda of cloud security company Instasafe
  • Seshu Karthik of deals app Thankbunny
  • Siddharth Deshmukh of website builder CMSbudo
  • Sudarsan Ravi of HR referral engine Ripplehire
  • Sumanth Raghavendra of presentation builder Deck
  • Sunil Bodke of employee dashboard Cadashboard
  • Tushar Bhatia of talent management Empxtrack
  • Abhishek Kumar of school management software Schoolmitra
  • Pavan Thatha of web safety company Shieldsquare
Congratulations to the startups who’ve made it. We’ll have the next list up soon! 🙂


Making your sales engine succeed in North America

Like many other technology entrepreneurs in India, I am the founder CEO of a software product company. We make a Global Human Resources SaaS product EmpXtrack and have over 300 customers in 20+ countries.

Many of us face challenges to scale up our US Sales and explore options such as relocating to the US, hiring a US based sales team, offering free trials, converting the product to a freemium model, an inside sales approach etc.

We recently faced this dilemma too. To find answers, I requested introductions to a number of successful software product entrepreneurs who were selling in the US market. Wanted to understand what they were doing differently such that we could replicate that. My discussions with them are documented here and hopefully it will help you in your product journey too.

Does direct sales work?

This largely depends on the ticket size.

Since our deals are roughly in the $8-$12K range per year, here is the maths behind this:

  • Cost of a local sales person: $150K (including commissions)
  • Cost of travel: $50 – $100K
  • So for a single person team, you spend approximately $200-250K per year.
  • No of deals required for break-even (@$10K / deal): 20 – 25 or 2 per month.
  • No of deals required if your sales cost is 25% of the total revenue: 100 or 8.5 per month.


  • It is virtually impossible for a single sales person to close about 8 deals per month
  • The direct sales model can only succeed if you have much higher ticket size ($100K or so)

If not direct sales, what else?

For smaller deals, inside sales (selling by phone) is the only approach. The following is required to make this succeed

  • A strong lead generation capability
  • A strong qualification capability
  • A strong closing capability where the sales team can close deals on the phone.
  • A knowledgeable support team that can assist the customer during implementation.

If you have all of these, there is no looking back! If not, refer to the next question.

What are CEO/founders responsibilities?

Everyone who I spoke to said that the key responsibility of the founder was to build teams that could address each of the points above.  “At a startup stage, you are perhaps the only one who has indepth knowledge of your product, how you want to target and acquire customers, how much you can discount, what extra features can be added, how much to deviate for an implementation and so on”. Hence, you need to be intimately involved in every facet of the sale.

Some interesting thoughts I heard were

  • You need to be involved in every conversation, communication and implementation till you reach a certain scale (aka a few million dollars of revenue). You will discover how many things were going wrong once you do that.
  • You need to talk to customers. “I still talk to important customers and was the first person in my company doing that”, was shared by 2 entrepreneurs.
  • You need to write marketing collateral, give demonstrations, build proposals, negotiate, close, provide support and do all customer facing activities to understand the challenges being faced by your teams.
  • You constantly need to mentor your team members and provide them feedback. They need it. While you may have rockstars, it is very unlikely that there may be a huge number of them.

So for all of you entrepreneurs, focus on customer facing roles and continuously mentor (and monitor) your teams! This is your only job.

How to do lead generation?

  • The best and cheapest leads are inbound. Create great content and use SEO aggressively to attract potential customers. This takes time and should be a part of your product development cycle and never to late to start if you are not doing it already.
  • Use PPC, paid directories etc. to generate more leads.
  • At a certain point, the cost of acquiring the next lead (through SEO and PPC) may yield negative returns. Around this point invest in a cold calling team.

What kind of people are required?

  • Key trait: Aggressive selling capability with very strong communication skills. Should be focused on closing. Hunters!
  • Pre-sales team: That can qualify, provide customized demos, research contacts, create great proposals and solutions. These can be added when you are sales teams are reaching their limits.
  • Qualifications: MBAs not required for sales and may not work out. IIMs/IITs not affordable! Graduates with a hunger to succeed are a must. Available in plenty from BPOs and other IT Services firms.
  • Experience: To start, 2 mid-level hires with background in US sales (with 5 – 8 years of experience) and build teams of freshers below them as the next layer. Mentor everyone continuously.
  • Approach: Each team should compete with the other

What kind of changes are needed in the organization?

While you may be a company in India you have to operate in the US time zone – both physically and mentally. This includes not only the sales team but also the executive management (Founders included), the pre-sales team and the support teams.

The R&D and implementation teams may still work in the day-hours but they will have to follow a rotational shift model of working at least 1 week per month in the US time zone.

Do I need to raise money?

Completely your choice! While two entrepreneurs that I talked to raised VC funding at an early stage, three did not. Once your product is developed, it takes very little to sustain new release cycles. Implementation teams should pay for themselves.

Since your sales team is based in India and you are generating leads efficiently, you can control spends and be very efficient to maintain a positive cash flow. So you can bootstrap to success.

We have sustained ourselves for 7+ years, have positive cash flows, are growing on a YOY basis, are profitable, own our own premises and have over 75 FTEs and have done it by bootstrapping.

Can we succeed by selling in India first and then going to US

Unanimous view: Unlikely for a B-B product!

India is a very cost conscious market where decision making is long and value for technology is low. Assuming you are replacing a head with your product, at best the value for the same in India will be between Rs 3-7 lacs. Compare this to about $60K cost anywhere else in the world and there is a much higher value for your product.

I know this is controversial, debatable yet unfortunately true!

Do I need a great product

Yes you do! Especially if you want to sell in the US market. The market is big but very competitive. ‘Great’ can have many different interpretations such as value proposition (read price), capability to customize, integration with other platforms and so on.

Whatever your edge may be, you need to repeatedly send across the message in all your communication, aggressively work on sales and you will find customers.

Does this model apply in other regions and geographies

Mixed thoughts. Some people are doing a good job in APAC and are getting their feet wet in ME but I could not identify a pattern. Some things unique to the US

  • US is very-very big. Small ticket buyers understand that their vendors cannot travel for small deals. Hence the purchasing is geared towards non F-F channels.
  • US firms are more experimentative and willing to bet on startups.
  • The country has consistent rules with a common language.
  • Value for automation is high.
  • US has a positive feel about Indian technology and India in general.

So let us all work hard to make India as a Product Nation. Please share your thoughts.

I am grateful to Aneesh ReddySuresh SambandamKetan Kapoor amongst many others for their helpful insights and sharing their experiences and to Avinash Raghava for his introduction to all the great entrepreneurs.

SaaS #MadeinIndia Products – HR & Recruitment

This post and the one’s following this are attempts to improve the coverage and knowledge of Indian made Product companies who are solving issues with their SaaS type solutions. This is not a comprehensive list, and if there are some companies whom we have missed and should be in this list, please feel free to email us or drop in a comment and we will add it to the list, this hopefully will turn into a Crowd Sourced list of companies in the HR & Recruitment space.
Some of the HR & Recruitment based Products with a SaaS twist and the #madeinindia component in an alphabetical order:
1. Adrenalin – Adrenalin is a business-critical Human Resource Software. It provides critical tools such as HR software solution, payroll software solution, HRMS software solution, performance management system, attendance and training management software solutions.
2. Ascent Payroll – Employee Self service, Payroll Software.
3. Cynergis – HR Outsourcing, Payroll & HRMS software which has been around for over 10 years, and also has a major SaaS play involved.
4. Employwise – HR software for integrated employee life-cycle management delivered as SaaS.
5. Emportant – provides Internet based HR and Payroll Management software. Based on cloud technologies, it provides highly reliable and worry free software environment that you can just use without any other software management overheads.
6. EmpXtrack – EmpXtrack is a software product of Saigun Technologies Pvt. Ltd.. The company has been focused on HR solutions for the last 10 years and is a CMMI Level 3 company implementing best software development practices since inception.
7. Fluous – PowerApps – Adaptive HR Systems is the premier HRMS solution being by both large and growing organisations.
8. Greytip – Greytip Software is a leading HR & Payroll software solutions company. They offer a wide range of HR solutions (from on-boarding to exit) for customers big and small across industry verticals.
9. Hackerearth – Help you hire programmers for your companies.
10. HireCraft – Talent Management is a tool to help you manage all your employees and talent via this product suite by HireCraft.
11. Hire Rabbit – HireRabbit helps you design a beautiful career site on facebook, boost your referral recruitment, automate manual social recruiting activities, and provide metrics that matter!
12. HR Mantra – HR Mantra provides SaaS based Employee Self Service, HRIS, HR & Payroll Software on the Cloud.
13. Jombay – the smartest way to find jobs in India on the next generation job portal.
14. KServeHRMS is a flagship product with of Kallos. The HRMS product is known for its unique employee self service centric model for integrated HRMS software
15. MinervaHR Suite – A product from TenXLabs designed to house all information pertaining to every employee in an association from Recruitment to Retirals.
16. Mettl – Mettl is an online assessment and testing platform to measure, analyze and improve people skills. It is ideal for companies who want to run multi-competency assessments for their prospective hires or existing employees. We focus deeply on the science of assessments and combine it with advanced technology to deliver highly valid and reliable tests.
17. PeopleWorks –  A flexible, robust, customizable, and seamless cloud based solution for efficient management of the HR lifecycle of every employee in the organization.
18. Recruiterbox – Recruiterbox is the easiest way to receive and manage job applications to your company. It is more efficient than email and simpler than any other recruitment software. They are Bangalore based, but have been getting great traction outside and within India for their product.
19. Saral Paypack – Payroll Software for managing all your employees in one place, SaaS based web platform.
20. Shawman Software – From recruitment to retirement, the entire gamut of managing human capital is supported by HRMS.
21. SumHR – SumHR is a HRMS product, automating all HR requirements with a Free Employee & Leave Management system product integrated as well.
22. Synergita – Software for the people, performance management and continuous feedback.
23. Talentpool – Talentpool is a recruitment software for HR Departments of companies. It helps them streamline their recruitment processes, meet hiring targets and get instant reports to track performance.
24. Valuehire – A complete workflow automation solution for recruitment agencies and
companies of all sizes.
As mentioned, if (and we must have) we have missed out on some companies, either yours or another you know of, and would like it to be added to the list, please comment below here, or email us.
Our Goal is to create a great compilation of SaaS Product companies made out of India and hopefully get more businesses to try using these products as well compared to other counter-parts.
The next list of SaaS Product companies made from India, will have special focus on Social Media Tools. Watch out for that in a few days.

#PNMeetup – Delhi (15 December 2012) Pricing for Enterprise Sales

The event was kicked off by Arvind Jha starting out with a round of introductions. It was quickly realised that the community was well represented and people coming from Noida, Gurgaon and Delhi was heart warming to see. Arvind then went on to describe how diversity is important when you are running a business. Different regions, different customers and hence different pricing make it a much complex environment. It is in this scenario that choosing a good pricing model becomes important in accordance to your business model and scaling needs. Arvind then went on to invite Tushar from Saigun Technologies to share his thoughts and take the meet forward.

Tushar started out speaking on the relevancy or the need of pricing. The context here was clearly set when he announced that the discussion here is setting up ideas on enterprise pricing which is a whole different ball game as compared to consumer pricing. Factors like evaluation of potential customers, kind of money received from them, directing sales teams, consistency and setting a value to the offering brings in the need of pricing. He then went on to speak on the various challenges in enterprise pricing such as long decision cycles, decision matrix complexity and competition, no matter how good or new the idea is can never be neglected. A great example he shared was the case of Saigun’s HR product which is different to an HR manager and to a CEO. An HR manager would see it as tool which would reduce his work and a CEO would see it as an investment and in turn happily show a few pink slips to some of his HR managers. Tushar also spoke lengths and breadths on total cost of ownership of the product as well as the brand image when setting up your price. A cost is not just determined by the development cost but the service associated with it, the tenure of such a service is an important consideration. One cannot afford to give service away free. Brand becomes important in case when you have an established player in the market already. A SAP can price its product at 2 million but it is fairly practical to say that only SAP can. This is because of the trust and recognition it has built for all these years it has been in existence.

Tushar then spoke on the key parameters to a pricing strategy. Geographic focus and segregation of the offering based upon location always helps. The inclination of the pricing strategy to the company’s overall business strategy is another parameter one should look at. The case of virgin market and mature market were discussed to great detail by all participants. Tushar also shared that apart from his experiences the book written by Nagel on Strategy and Tactics of Pricing has helped him a lot. By this time the crowd appeared to really appreciate the thoughts of Tushar and his experiences. He then concluded with a short brief on the need to do discounting and how discounting eventually becomes a strategic view more than just being operational. He was applauded by all and then Arvind invited Tarun Anand from Semusi to take center-stage and share his thoughts on selling to enterprise customers, in his case, telecommunication service providers or telcos.

Tarun started off with his encounter with an Indian telco. His product offering took off on Nokia’s platform and with Middle-East customers. The product was well received and this is when Tarun decided to launch it in India too. The subsequent agreement with an India telco major pushed the product to India. However, moving forward it became clearer when the telco abruptly changed requirements and priced the product to almost 1/5th of its competition. There were cases of non-payments and violation of contract agreements with the telco as well. The rationale given here was that the product is new and there are not many takers for it. But when Tarun checked, the product had sufficient number of users as well as sufficient number of dropouts. It is here when it becomes important to choose a suitable pricing model, the two he suggested were full user pricing (FUP) and promotion pricing. In this case, eventually he rebranded his product and sold it through the app store which gave him a much better insight to the actual customers of his product.

After Tarun it was Prashant from Signals who was invited to take center stage. Tushar started describing pricing techniques for an app store. The question of whether the product should be transactional priced, free, in-app pricing or ad-based was put forth by him. The even bigger question that needs an answer first is to go free or to go paid for your product. This question really gets answered by a research on ‘when the user is actually ready to be monetised’. Tushar then went to describe the price decision matrix which was split across quadrants of short life span, long life span and instant realisation, realisation after a period of time. Games, Social network apps, Dropbox and VAS were examples spread across these quadrants. So the eventual decision is to place your product in one such category and accordingly accept the price model that comes with it. Another very critical talk by Tushar was on choosing a price point, the baseline (99 cents), the maxima ($1.20) or the median (between 99 cents and $1.20) for your product or app. If one goes by baseline, then the app store owner has no incentive to give your app the preference in his listing even if you have greater number of downloads. So he suggested that it is always good to keep your product priced at maxima and then slowly move towards baseline pricing depending upon the realisation value of the product. Tushar concluded his talk by adding some avoidance measures when choosing an advertisement based model.

It clocked 5:30 PM and refreshments followed in the form of tea and samosas along with flowering of ideas by everyone in regards to the overall feedback on the initiative and the format of the initiative, ways it should be carried out in the future. Finally everyone joined in to celebrate Avinash birthday and cut a cake which was the most pleasant surprise of the day. Sign of great things to come from this emerging community of product leaders.

Post Contributed by Charles Cherian

Conversation with HR Solution Provider, Saigun Technologies

Editor’s note: EmpXtrack is comprehensive, global HR solution and the product of Saigun Technologies, a startup launched in 2002. We interviewed Tushar Bhatia, Saigun’s founder and president, about the modern elements of an HR solution as well as the challenges for startups in identifying the right target market and funding product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. Please describe your product’s differentiation among the other HR solutions available and how it addresses today’s business problems.

Tushar Bhatia: Our EmpXtrack Platform is an integrated HR automation solution that covers the entire HR lifecycle and is perhaps the most comprehensive HR automation product in the market.  It is very modular in nature. EmpXtrack contains 18 modules in four different categories (performance management, human capital management, strategic HR and recruitment).

Besides completely automating HR processes and mundane transactions, EmpXtrack provides: data analytics for quick decision making. Another critical differentiator for our product is that it is compliant to the local regulations in all the geographies we operate in. The solution is also designed to ensure complete accuracy in HR transactions.

Our aim is to enable our customers to innovatively meet their talent management needs and hence we continuously build innovative components in our offerings. What is the story behind your company name and how the company originated?

TusharBhatia-smallTushar Bhatia: The name Saigun is a combination of the names of my daughter and my wife. I worked for several companies in the United States but always had the urge within myself to start my own business. So in the early 2000s I returned to India and started Saigun. Initially, the focus was on offering services, but gradually we started looking for a scalable business model. In 2004-2005 we started focusing on products and, with my prior experience in HR automation, this area was the obvious choice. Is your product for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) or for large enterprises? 

Tushar Bhatia: Saigun and our product have been evolving very strongly over the years. Initially the company’s focus was only on SMBs, but now we also service larger organizations as well. The product is available in a SaaS (software as a service) model, which works well for SMBs. For enterprise customers and government agencies, we also offer the solution behind firewalls in a perpetual license model.

One of my favorite books is Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, by C.K. Prahalad. The book says that there are significant opportunities available in targeting smaller companies. Most companies focus on larger customers. However, my focus is on smaller companies as well, giving them a world-class product at a reasonable price and being profitable as well.

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