Why the CEO of OrangeScape thinks you should go to #PNgrowth

Orangescape is one of India’s first true product companies. KissFlow, their workflow automation software for small and medium sized businesses was one of the first successful products made out of India. This makes Suresh Sambandam, the CEO of OrangeScape, a visionary who saw what was coming long before any of us even had an idea about it. As Suresh himself says, it was a slog for him and the core team for the first year or so, working more than 18 hour days and trying to get things right and providing as quick customer service as possible. He was constantly learning because his team had to do everything themselves.

When asked what would have helped him most when he and his team were trying to get to crtitical mass, he is prompt in his reply – peer advice. If he had known that someone had already tried what he was doing, maybe he would have discarded the plans that were not working quickly, in order to focus on the things that actually were.

In this short video from #PNgrowth, Suresh talks about his product, its awesome launch, and its struggle to go from recognised, profitable product to something more, something special, something customers want to use.

This is where #PNgrowth comes in, he says, a platform to bring together India’s early stage software product companies. In collaboration with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, iSPIRT’s #PNgrowth initiative aims to get the people who want to learn, and the people they need to ask in a room, and give them the perfect space to learn and grow.

You can learn more and apply for the program here.

49 Not Out ! Excerpts from Product Nation’s 49th Round Table on selling SaaS products to US customers

Pune… the city of life. It’s a place you can easily fall in love with. Fun loving yet grounded folks who talk sense. Light drizzle, clean roads and a young city full of aspiring students who want to change the world. So when Product Nation announced it Playtable in Pune I latched on to the opportunity. Avinash and his iSPIRT team have been doing some wonderful work over the years in leading the way for SaaS startups. The topic itself was close to my heart ” Nuts and bolts of selling to US market for B2B SaaS companies” and when you have the ‘Google of B2B SaaS marketing’ Suresh Sambandam conducting it, you don’t want to let it go. Google coz if you have a query he has the right answer. Over the years Suresh has done some real hardwork in taking Kissflow to 10000+ customers and he has fixed all those nuances of SaaS selling by getting into depth of it.

SalesSo on a pleasant Saturday morning , 30th May to be precise, we a bunch of 15 entrepreneurs and few aspiring ones gathered to know how to make it BIG by earning in dollars. United States is by far the biggest market for SaaS companies and if you get it right there you will make it BIG one day.

We started with basic introductions and brief product details. It’s really heartening to see how enterprising the current generation is. We guys today are proud to be entrepreneurs or employees of startups. It shows you can take risks, think outside the box and are not satisfied with status quo. I can surely see that the next gen of aspiring entrepreneurs will come from those who work with startups. And why not. If you can make a startup successful, you surely can build one for yourself.

Our workshop focused on B2B SaaS startups. How can you sell your B2B product to US customers sitting out of India? Yes, selling to them without even meeting them.

B2B selling has traditionally been about relationships, face to face meetings, getting to know your customers, value selling and all. But, cloud computing has totally disrupted the market. In fact it has expanded the IT  market globally. Today millions of SMB and mid market clients can  afford to automate their marketing, sales, operations etc using cloud solutions on SaaS model. And if your product can add value to their business they care a damn as to where you are based. I think we should thank the first generation B2B SaaS Startups like Zoho, Freshdesk, Kissflow, Druva etc who have built the trust and confidence in US customers that world class solutions can be delivered from India. We the 2nd generation now need to ensure that put our best foot forward in terms of quality of product and support when we reach out to them.

The views I’m sharing are a glimpse of insights given by Suresh and interactions during the round table . In between you’ll see important tips from suresh which I’m calling it KiSSTiP 🙂

To understand the process best we looked at it in a logical flow.

  • The Product
  • Market fitment
  • Pricing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer success

The Product first – In SaaS marketing you need to have a good working product. Unlike face to face selling where you can do with ppt selling and bit of account mapping, SaaS needs the working product first. In fact you can use your product as a marketing tool building in features to engage, upsell and cross sell.  The important point is how do you position your product amongst three below :

  • Category Creator
  • Novel Approach to an existing well understood category
  • Low cost alternative

SaaSThe group agreed that a combination of 2 and 3 would be ideal to reach the right set of customers. Being a category creator – someone who creates a new market needs a lot of investment and F2F interaction. But low cost should not be confused with cheap. We need to build solutions with world class quality at minimal cost thereby passing the benefits to the customers. That creates high value product for them.

Next comes the market definition. Suresh shared the segmentation based on number of employees into SOHO(1-10), VSMB(10-50),SMB(50-500),mid market (500-5000) and enterprise (5000+). The sweet spot for SaaS marketing lies in the SMB and mid market space. In terms of who decides on buying your product, in SMB whosoever may be evaluating, the founder or owner will somewhere get involved before the purchase. As we move towards mid market and then enterprise customers, the line of business (LOB) guys have a larger influence apart from IT team who might get involved. Also which geography to target and what languages to support. US and English are big enough to start and one should look at other countries probably in growth phase.

KiSSTiP ! 

SaaS startups should focus on ONE Country, ONE  language first to ensure they remain focused.

Now that you know what your product market fit, how do you reach out to the US clients and get them to buy your product ? The process of customer acquisition was simplified by Suresh in four steps

  • Marketing
  • Product engagement
  • Sales
  • Customer success

While the nitty gritty may vary by the type of solution, the role of marketing is to get people to sign up for a trial or free account. Unlike B2C , in B2B the customer has to see the product demo. This is where the product team steps in to ensure the solution and get the customer engaged and use your product during trial period. If the customer is not using your product during trial, he probably won’t buy it. Once the product team ensures a good product experience, the sales team steps in to ensure conversion. Sales team can dived into ‘hunters’ – ones who get the customers and ‘farmers’ ones who nurture the relationship to upsell and cross sell. The customer success team ensures that the customers realise value from your solution. The metrics and handover points for each team needs to be meticulously set and communicated.

KiSSTiP ! 

The support queries from customers during early days of engagement should come to sales team and not support team as it is an opportunity for you to grow the relationship. But seller should get the issue fixed first and then engage further.

TwitterWe discussed the marketing process in detail including SEO and Adwords,  social media, content marketing, blogging. The importance of google and the traffic it generates is immense so SEO and Adwords are an important piece but the two need different specialised roles. The role of marketing is to get enough leads digitally. These can be through organic search- Google, Yahoo, Bing etc). While google still dominates the majority of the US market, those targeting elderly citizens might want to reach out via Bing as they still have a lot of elderly crowd there. SEO requires identifying your keywords as per the target geography and product. It needs meticulous tracking of keyword ranking every 2 weeks. Fact is if you are not on FIRST page of google, its not worth.

Till you get enough of organic crowd in, AdWords can fill in. Adwords is all about number crunching and reaching to an optimum cost per lead. Ashish and his Sokrati team shared their insights on managing adwords as that’s their area of specialisation and promised to conduct a detailed session later some time. Suresh shared insights into digital ROI metrics for AdWords. On an average you can get a signup for $10-$25 for search ads and $2-$10 for display ads. However the conversion seems better for search ads as these are real customers searching for specific requirements whereas in display ads are shown on sites which might have these customers as one of their target audience.

We discussed social media marketing – LinkedIn and Twitter and content marketing (blogging, case study creation etc) in detail. The group shared its experiences on getting leads from Quora and forum discussions. The internet now days is getting really crowded so you need to figure out which group is giving you the returns rather than spraying your messages across all over. Content marketing can be a differentiator in this crowded digital world- the quality not the quantity matters there. Suresh shared how his team publish two customer experience blogs every week where they share live feedbacks from actual customers. Retargeting helps you bring the same vistors back to your site and improve the ROI on your existing marketing spends. While content creation is important, content publishing is as much an important task. We discussed tools like Outbrain and Taboola for content distribution. Talking of tools, the groups discussed a host of SaaS tools that can be used by startups to more efficient like Pipedrive, ChargeBee, Intercom, Mixpanel, Google Analytics etc.

KiSSTiP ! 

Suresh shared his 10-80-10 principle for creating quality content. If total expected time for writing a piece of content is 100, spend 10 on briefing the content writer in the beginning, let them write for next 80- spend 10 on final review. The fact is the best content writers wont be able to understand your solution and market to the extent you do. So a 10 % briefing time can save them a lot effort and set them in the right direction.

We discussed the important aspect of pricing which also brought us to the discussion on Freemium Vs Free Trial. Majority of the group went in favour of Free trial over Freemium as they felt that the customers didn’t see value in fremium. While there is no thumb rule for this, solutions where SaaS products can get self signup can still look at Freemium to upgrade them later. On pricing, different team members shared their views on their basis of pricing. Some did it bottoms up on cost plus model where as others looked at the competitive pricing.

Pricing is an important aspect so ensure you keep taking feedback from your early customers and incorporate that feedback.

Finally, the most important aspect of execution is measuring the key metrics. As your team grows you need to push a dashboard of metrics which alert you on any activites that are going offtrack or to scale up things. Conversion Ratio, Conversion through Paid vs Organic, Organic Traffic by Source, Signup Trend Paid vs Organic vs Source,Paid traffic by Source, CPS for Paid and Overall, A-ARPA trend 12 months, etc are some of the important metrics.

All in all, I must say, it was one the most informative and engaging workshops I ever attended. It was a crash of 2 years of learning compiled into a 8 hour workshop. What if we were to pay for this workshop ? How much would we be willing to pay? Marketing strategy workshop $300, Leadership training $1000

Product Nation RT on Selling SaaS product to US – Priceless !

Kudos to Avinash for oranising, Sokrati team for being a great host and Suresh for conducting the round table. At 49 not out, half century is round the corner for Product Nation round tables and I’m sure in for a long innings. As long as they bat with us, we are sure to win in the end !

Roles and Responsibilities of Startup Founders.

Roles and Responsibilities of StartupThis is the 2nd in the 5 part series on ‘How to Sell in the US Market from India’. I had attended the Round Table organized by iSPIRT and here I attempt to capture the important points from the discussion. (You can read the first part here)

One of the topics of deep interest for the participant was on clearly understanding the role of the Startup Founders and where should their time and focus be optimally spent in order to achieve higher success.

As with the format of the Round Table, 15 startup founders shared their ideas which were wonderfully facilitated by Suresh Sambandam, CEO of OrangeScape. The founders spoke from their own experience as well as tapped into the practice of other successful founders. Here are the key learning from the discussion.

Be Prepared to Spend 16 Hour Workdays.

The Startup Founders are the ones who are the most passionate about their firm and they have everything riding on the success of the firm. It is they who believed in the fundamental business idea. One of the fundamental requirements is for the founders to set the right precedent by investing the bulk of their time on the business. This adds confidence and motivates the rest of the team members to work hard as well.

In the early days, it requires someone who knows the vision, the product as it stands today, the message that need to be communicated to the market, listen to customers to understand the buying process and also get the feedback from usage from existing customers via support. This means spending time with engineering/product, marketing, sales and support. This is where having more than one co-founders help a lot. But if you weren’t the blessed one then you have to pull it all yourself. Be prepared to spend 16 hour workdays across all these 4 functions.

Change your Work Timing

Remember that you are selling to the US Market and hence you need to adjust your working hours to match theirs. Your sales sales days typially starts like 6pm or 7pm India time and go on till 2am or 3am. This is a very crucial time that you need to spend. As a founder/co-founder you are essentially figuring out sales process. This is of paramount importance.

All Startup Founders Should be ‘Chief Sales Officers’

Sales is quite obvious. A business idea might be great but it amounts to nothing if the revenues don’t flow in. It’s very important for the founders to lead sales operations and spend a lot of time prospecting, pitching and listening to what customers are saying during the sales process. Having someone hired for this job during very early days doesn’t help at all, as it requires more connecting the dots w.r.t. to vision and product. Iteratively, the founders have to figure out the companies and the decision-makers profiles within the company. The more you are able to pin-point the decision-makers, the better are the chances of sales closures. This is called as ‘Ideal Customer Profile’.

Founders should do support a lot during early days!

While its a general trend for most startup founders to wear the Sales Head hat, most founders don’t pay enough importance to support. That’s usually relegated to a team member. Suresh Sambandam strongly reiterated that the founders do hands on support job just like a regular support person. This needs to be done with the attitude of NOT as a CEO, not as a founder, but just like a regular support person. This is important early on, to receive first hand feedback that is vital for the improvement of the product. Other startup founders who attended the session also felt that there is a strong correlation between support and sales. Better support results in happy customers which results in better up-sell and better reference leads. In fact, some of the founders felt that the support personnel must be paid on par with the sales staff in order to send a strong message that the company takes its support seriously. After the early days, while support team will grow on its own path, it is important for one of the co-founders to have direct ears to what is going on in support.

There is an excellent blogpost on Freshdesk that is worth reading.

Hire People Smarter than you

The first set of people can make a big difference to the success of a startup. The founder should directly be involved in identifying and interviewing the candidates. It’s critical for them not to let the ego get in the way. The best founders identify people who are way smarter than them. It’s also important for the founders to elucidate the vision of the company and narrate the company’s growth plans. By being highly involved in handpicking each and every employee, the founders can build a solid team with complementary skills needed for the success of the startup.

Nuts and Bolts of Marketing & selling SaaS products to US customers from India for First Timers

In innumerable brainstorming and “gyan” sessions with friends, mentors and experts, one of the most stressed focus area is getting product market fit as soon as possible and then follow it up with scaling sales.  I think most early to mid stage entrepreneurs are instinctively aware of this but struggling with “Hows”.  So when I saw this playbook promising precisely to explain how, I grabbed a spot. I wasn’t disappointed. Suresh Sambandam is very down to earth and spoke earnestly and in detail about different steps he took while selling the OrangeScape’s product KiSSFLOW. Attendees who themselves run early to mid-stage companies and Kishore Mandyam of Impel CRM chipped in with their stories and inputs. Here is the detailed enough capture of the same.

The relevancy of this session is greatest to Early and Mid-stage entrepreneurs going from $0-5K MRR to $50K MRR selling to US MSB. This session is NOT meant for discovery or product market fit but I have inserted the discussion at the end.

The blog is organised as below Product Market Fit / Pricing as step 0; Followed by Inbound Sales and Marketing and then finally Outbound Sales and discussion on tools.

2014-11-15 16.37.05Product Market Fit

The absolute first step (may be zeroth step) in Sales process is getting the product market fit. You know you have a Product Market Fit with a B2B Mid-Market SaaS product when unknown folks start buying (Inbound sales is picking up traction). Unfortunately in cases that were presented at the session, the discovery process of the product happened organically based on another product that they were building.

However the generic solution for early stage product discovery goes like this.

  • Create a landing page with a “notify when ready”.

  • Create a SEO/Adword campaign for getting early adopters. You need to be very clear about the product category and fine tune your Adwords to exactly match what product aspires to solve. There are usually two approaches to any product i.e Disruptive Innovator or Faster Better Cheaper. So Adwords need to be in line with these

  • Once people signup engage with them and partner with them to fine tune the product.

To put succinctly Bring-> Engage->Convert->Succeed; As you can clearly see from this model, “Marketing Comes Before Product” or as Suresh puts it bring the horse to the water.

Pricing and “Freemium v/s Free Trial”

So which model suits best for a SaaS product? Is there one preferable over another? Very subjective topic but the thumb rule seems to be for SMB / Mid-market SaaS Free Trial is a best method to go.

Models aside, what matters most to the conversion is the post-signup engagement and the price factor. Faster conversions are dependent on many factors but one of the key factors is pricing. If pricing is within the decision-making authority of the midlevel managers, it is easier to convert. The discretionary spending seems to be around about USD 5K. Keeping the price low per user and making minimum unit purchase of say 10 users per bundle works quite great.

Inbound Sales

WebSite – Suresh firmly believes that Website is a core asset for a B2B SaaS company and hence should not be outsourced. He advises to have a minimum team of Web Developer, Creative Designer and Automation Engineer.  This would help perpetual A/B testing in short cycles..

Couple of nifty tricks to make the whole experience frictionless is to have a one click signup. Visitor should be able to experience the main software within few seconds. The other participating companies in the round table have used various  techniques to authenticate emails like SMTP Ping, email pattern matching, etc.

It is also important to closely monitor the users interaction with the website, capture it and feed it back to the Engineers to close the gap and arguments between Sales/Marketing and Engineering. One of the recommended tools in this category is FullStory.


Lot of interesting debates on this; discussion ranged from how get the right keywords for searches and what optimization works and how to track the metrics. Suresh again firmly believes in having a dedicated SEO guy and focus on defined key words. They manage about 28 keywords and track them very meticulously. Some thumb rules and objectives again are

  • Do it Slowly but Steady
  • Don’t alert Google
  • Build Backlinks (Naked and Anchor)
  • Improve Google Crawl Frequency


It is preferable to have one dedicated person with number crunching and finance background. This will help track the cost per signup for search ads

Content Generation:

While it is important to have this come from founders, it is very hard to find time for the founders. One technique employed by KiSSFLOW is to hire fresher from visual communication background who has a grammar nazi attitude and give a very specific target like 2 +2+2+1 per week (2 blogs published 2 interviews done, 2 assured interviews for next week and 1 research post). He also uses 10-80-10 formula for the content itself where beginning 10 and ending 10 percent are reviewed in detail by founders.  One of the other key points stressed was to have self ads in each of the content which leads to signup.

Outbound Sales

Contact DB

Obviously the most critical first step here is having a database of all the companies and the decision makers that you want to reach out. Linkedin Premium works best. This is how Suresh does it. He uses Linkedin DB to create a list of all target companies and then assigns the task of creating the contact details to an online consultant who was discovered on Elance. It usually works out to INR6-INR10 per contact. There are other dbs one can purchase directly from companies such as Data.com, Discover, rainking and slew of others.

Once contacts are obtained it is very important to use direct emails as opposed to using mailchimp, constantcontact, etc as most of them will not land in inbox. It also helps to be as personalized as possible.

Sales DNA

It is absolutely essential for the founder to set the tone of sales.  For US be ready to pull night shifts continuously.  Although it is the founders calling, it is good idea to assume the persona that appeals to US clients say Bob and position one as a sales manager. It is also important to make the sales hire to listen to the call handling to build on this.


Not all channels are suitable for SaaS and one needs to do some trial and error to figure out the best channels. The channels include Events, Road Shows, Reselling Partners and Referral/Affiliate partners, may work well but Orangescape has ignored them.

Metrics, Tracking, Tools

Meticulous tracking is critical and many tools are available to manage and measure the process. Some that are being used by the roundtable companies are listed below.

Metrics to track

Metrics to Track

Suresh SambandamTools

These are the various tools used by the KiSSFLOW team and other participant companies who attended the roundtable



Very hard to summarize such a detailed session, but one parting thought stands out. Attention to details followed by automation and customization seems to be the way to go.

20th #PlayBookRT at Chennai: Sales war stories from 2 SaaS start-ups

An interesting discussion on the theme of ‘Sales’ happened last weekend at Chennai (Orangescape office) as part of the iSpirt round table. Shashank N D from Practo and Girish Rowjee from Greytip gave engaging presentations on their journey and the ~20 participants responded enthusiastically with several interruptions (read questions :)). [Note: A similar discussion in Bengaluru was covered earlier here]

Sales Stage - PractoShashank wooed the audience by starting off with his story on the origins of Practo – when his dad had to undergo a knee operation and wanted to get 2nd opinion from another doctor abroad, he couldn’t send out the medical records electronically. Thus began a singular journey of using emerging technologies such as cloud and mobile to enhance patient experience.

Here are some key ‘Sales’ takeaways from his presentation:

  • Golden Rule: Never build something without making a sale. Practo always got a buy-in from existing or potential customers before actually building new features. This was true even in their early stages.


Selling and Coding should be the only activities.

    • Practo benefitted heavily from referrals. They did Zero cold calling and focused on delighting existing customers. The doctors who became customers of Practo were so happy with the product that they were happy to evangelize it amongst their peers
    • It is important that the founders bring on the early adopters. At Practo, the founders got the first 50 customers and in the process achieved Product/Market fit (took about an year). While this number may vary for each company, it is important to note that dedicated sales or marketing should be brought on only after this stage.
    • Shashank also talked about evolution of the sales team over the years. While founders are the best sales persons in the initial stage, it is important to bring P-salesmen (P for Passionate) at the next stage followed by R-salesmen (R for regular) for mass adoption.
    • While product-market fit was the focus during the first phase of going from 0 to 50 customers, the next phase focussed on sales culture. Bringing on P-salespeople, providing free trials for instant gratification of customers, value based selling etc were the highlights
    • Zero discount policy: Practo followed a strict no-discount policy. This actually helped them reduce bargaining behaviour and enabled them to be seen as high-value. But in the ensuing discussion on this topic, most agreed that this is based on the type of product, target market etc. Selling to large customers may not be possible without discounts.
    • ‘Instant Gratification’ was a key customer psychology aspect that Practo focussed on during its sales cycle. Practo provides a feature where the doctor will be able to send an SMS alert to the patient within 30 seconds. This feature became a star-attraction of the product and improved sales
    • Practo was one of the first companies in India to sell a SaaS product offline. Some blogs even mentioned that this was start-up graveyard but it eventually did work for Practo.
    • As a matter of principle, Practo did not focus on doctors/hospitals that did not have computer infrastructure. This gave focus to their sales process. Also, they did not target general physicians and focused on specialists such as dentists, dermatologists etc. Thus targeting really helped them
    • To set up appointments, Practo initially had their own salespeople calling as well as had an inside sales team (with many women!). But what eventually worked for them was to create territories and assigning salespeople to specific territories. Salesmen were then made responsible market intelligence, cold calling etc. Usually the salesperson has to wait at the hospital to meet the doctor in person (like a medical rep) for the first time. But subsequent meetings were all setup through follow-up calls and prior appointments.
    • Medical reps couldn’t deliver as salespeople. They did not have the mind-set to challenge the doctors. At Practo, the smarter and tech-savvy sales guys were more successful as they were about to demonstrate the value of the product/technology to the doctors.
    • After various experiments, Practo had a clear separation of hunting salesmen and farming salesmen. Also most sales guys sell one product.
    • It is important to incentivize salespeople to get maximum yields from them. They have now established something called ‘flyers club’ where top 3 performers can go to a destination of their choice on an annual basis
    • All new salespeople undergo a 1 week training program and are instilled the Practo way of sales. But they have observed that it takes nearly 3 months for them to reach an efficient state.
    • There was an interesting discussion on a question on reselling partners. Majority of the participants concluded that resellers cannot solve your sales problems. What they can do is to magnify your sales success story. Resellers also bring in warm leads and act as influencers.

Shashank from PractoInterestingly and rather ironically, the session concluded with a note that start-ups should not target other start-ups as customers except as early adopters or reference case studies!!

Product Management related takeaways from Practo:

  • Practo spent inordinate number of hours with doctors. The idea was to understand user behaviour, just seeing them go about doing their work, how they interact with the software etc.
  • Practo had an interesting philosophy for feature prioritization – their order of importance was product vision, customers, employees and finally investors! Thus even when customers gave multiple feature requests, only those that aligned with the vision got implemented
  • Practo has lot of focus on analysing product usage, customer data etc. They built in-house tools (eg: epicentre) to monitor usage. Even during early stages when they had just 3 developers, one of them was purely focused on tools. Shashank calls it their ‘secret sauce’ for success.
  • They had a 30% conversion rate for face-to-face trial to paying customer.

IMG_2567The presentation on Practo was followed by a short session on Girish’s entrepreneurial journey with a few nuggets on sales related topics. Unlike Practo, Greytip did not have field salesmen and they went the online sales route for their payroll management software. It took them 2 years to realize that this model will not work well in India – not because of any issues on their side – but the market just did not buy without salesmen. Girish added that many of the emails that they send out are never read by the payroll in-charge. In fact, Greytip realized that CEOs may be more interested in such payroll software but the payroll head did not have the vision or mind-set to think of such possibilities. Thus began a journey of attempting to educate the target segment and build credibility in the process. Greytip also built relationships with payroll processors. Since the competition in payroll processing was cut-throat, their pricing was in fact determined by the market.

IMG_2568The following links were highly recommended during the discussion:


Guest Post Contributed by Karthik V, a software product enthusiast with degrees from IIT & IIM

M&A is critical for the Product Startup ecosystem in India

Small $20-30m M&A transactions are the lifeblood of Silicon Valley. Over 400 such transactions happened last year. Israeli companies accounted for over 20% of these transactions. India had only a couple of transactions to speak of. This has to change of Indian has to become a Product Nation. 

iSPIRT is focusing on this issue through its soon-to-be-announced M&A Connect Program. The M&A Connect Program team – led by Jay Pullur and Sanjay Shah – was in Silicon Valley last week for listening meetings with various stakeholders. As a part of this exercise they hosted a long brainstorming session with more than a dozen M&A heads of serial acquirers ranging from Facebook to Vmware.

One other listening meeting was with about 20 Indian product entrepreneurs camped in the Valley. I was privileged to attend this meeting. It was a delightful 3.5 hours discussion. There were three set of issues that were discussed. One set of issues related to improving discovery of Indian startups. It turns out that addressing this is not as simple as doing a SV delegation or getting TechCrunch coverage. More than that is needed. The second set of issues related to the regulatory friction of doing small M&A deals in India. The third set of issues were about improving the readiness and preparedness of product entrepreneurs.

There was active participation by all the attendees. These included:

  • Indus Kaitan,Bitzer Mobile
  • Suresh Sambandam,OrangeScape
  • Manjunath M Gowda, i7 Networks
  • Asif Ali, Reduce Data
  • Vamshi Mokshagund, Credii
  • Rohit Nadhani, Cloud Magic
  • Madhur Khandelwal, ShoppingWish –
  • Kumar Rangarajan & Satyam Kundula, LittleEye Labs
  • Deobrat Singh, Gazemetrix
  • Rajan Arora, SchoolAdmissions
  • Bharath Mundiapudi, Orzota
  • Annkur P Agarwal, PriceBaba
  • Srikanth N, Arktan
  • Jay Pullur and Vijay Sundaram, Pramati (they hosted the meeting) 


I was most impressed by the dedication and passion of the iSPIRT team driving this effort. Their selfless commitment to making a difference was heartwarming. I could sense that most of us attendees felt the same way. The self-help community that iSPIRT is creating is truly inclusive and impactful. 

If you are product startup interested in exploring a possible M&A exit in the future do watch for more details about the M&A Connect Program. Try and become part of this. Given what I heard in the meeting, I’m sure that this new Program be game changing for the ecosystem.  

CIOSE selects 8 #MadeInIndia product companies to showcase on global platform

CIO Strategy Exchange (CIOSE) has selected 8 companies from India from the #MadeInIndia tag to showcase them on a global platform. Its director Ernest M. von Simson reviewed many applications that were submitted and chose 8 companies to showcase when he is here in Bangalore. The eight companies are Kreeo, Cloudpact, OrangeScape, i7 Networks, C2il, ArrayShield, Anoosmar, and FieldEZ.

CIOSE received many applications from early stage technology startups to those who have spent few years in the industry, with exciting ideas across Big Data, social networking, Analytics, healthcare, education, mobile applications, security, etc., during the one week period starting January 31, 2013 until February 8 2013. The final 8 were selected after several rigorous rounds of screening by CIOSE. 

The demo from these selected companies will happen in Bangalore on Februay 26th and 27th in iGate premises. 

Here are the selected companies and their product details:

  1. Kreeo: Due to information overload, inefficient information discovery and ineffective management of knowledge and learning.  Despite the best of tools from biggest of vendors organizations are not able to significantly enhance knowledge worker productivity.  Kreeo’s innovative “Collective Intelligence” framework and product uniquely combines the power of social computing, PaaS and Big Data in a unified framework (winner of Nasscom Emerge 50 2012 in Innovation category) is used by companies like Standard Chartered Bank to evolve to next level.
  2. CloudPact’s Marble Enterprise: CloudPact Marble is an award winning, unique enterprise mobility platform, with the world’s best cloud hosted mobile application development IDE, smooth enterprise connectivity, security and comprehensive management tools. We help our customers mobile enable their enterprise and extend their business frontier to very edge of mobile reach.  We provide mobility solutions across industry verticals which can be deployed in public clouds, private clouds and also dedicated, traditional IT infrastructure.
  3. OrangeScape: Cloud has disrupted the middleware market with Platform as a Service. All larger enterprise are evaluating PaaS offerings currently. However, there three key capabilities enterprises are looking a) Private Cloud Deployment b) Productivity with greater price performance c) Specialized for B2B Apps. OrangeScape Visual PaaS elegantly address these 3 key requirements when compared Generic PaaS offerings. OrangeScape is featured among the Global Top 10 PaaS companies in research reports of Forrester and Gartner.
  4. i7 Networks – PeregrineGuard: i7 Networks enables enterprises to “say Yes” to BYOD by providing an agentless paradigm for discovery and access control. Our premier offering in this space – PeregrineGuard – enables an intelligent, non-intrusive, clientless way of detecting all devices that are trying to connect to the corporate network. By the use of proprietary algorithms and sophisticated fingerprinting techniques, we extract highly granular information like device-type, device-class, OS, version, user of the device, etc; this information is used to provide device based differential access to corporate assets and to make sure sensitive data is provided right access to the right device type. It integrates with EAS and also provides authentication via AD and also denies access to all jailbroken/rooted/compromised devices. Only those devices that pass the company’s baseline configuration and are registered via EAS are allowed to connect to network for further access.
  5. C2il’s inciseEAM: inCiseEAM Asset life-cycle Management system takes the power, performance and possibilities of Asset management to an entirely new level. Built on a single software platform, inCiseEAM Asset life-cycle Management framework delivers a comprehensive view of all Asset types — production, facilities, transportation and IT — across your enterprise. This holistic perspective allows you to see all your Assets, as well as identify all the untapped potential within them. You gain the knowledge and control you need to closely align your organization’s goals with the overall goals of your business.
  6. ArrayShield’s ArrayShield IDAS: This product addresses the growing threat to enterprises from advanced malware/Trojan based attacks that steal the credentials and attack the enterprise in real time. By protecting the critical organizational data from advanced malware attacks using innovative two factor authentication, enterprises can minimize their security risk and protect their organization data and brand. Globally, Two factor authentication is now being considered as a must have much like anti-virus or firewalls. As per Gartner, 2FA market is expanding by 30% globally and many of the current 2FA mechanisms are flawed like that of hardware tokens, sms based solutions. Hence ArrayShield is uniquely positioned to capture the 2Bn$ global market that is growing at 30% CAGR.
  7. Anoosmar’s Vaultize: The current CIO challenges: 1. with the rapid consumerization of IT and proliferation of consumer solutions like dropbox in enterprise, enterprise IT is looking to control the data loss that might happen through these cloud services 2. traditional file sharing is too cumbersome for roaming users endpoint data (e.g. laptops) is hardly backed up and encrypted. Traditional backups are geared for structured-data (application data) and not unstructured (files) Vaultize provides a unified platform for file backup, file sharing, endpoint encryption and mobility. Vaultize offers this through public cloud, appliance or private-cloud/on-premise. Vaultize’s at-source encryption together with de-duplication helps enterprises adopt cloud based backup and file sharing by eliminating concerns about security, data privacy and compliance. The patent-pending technology secures data even before it leaves endpoints. 
  8. FieldEZ: is an On-Demand mobile based solution that makes managing mobile workforce such as field sales or service teams very efficient and easy. With features such as call management & scheduling, enterprise collaboration, time & location reporting, integrated bar code scanning and payment options, FieldEZ provides valuable field insights to management and boosts the productivity of field personnel while making a positive difference to their work.  It works on common feature phones and smartphones, with a highly responsive user interface, robust security, ease of configuration and web-services for integration. It can work as a standalone Field Service / Sales Management solution or provide the “last mile” mobility to incumbent backend systems.

ProductNation and CIOSE take this opportunity to thank all the participants and like to congratulate the selected 8 companies.

Domain knowledge is key to building successful B2B products

Suresh Sambandam is the founder and CEO of OrangeScape, a company he set up along with colleague from Selectica, Mani Doraisamy. OrangeScape provides a Platform as a Service (PaaS) to build domain rich solutions, easily and fast. The company recently launched KiSSFLOW, the first workflow-as-a-service exclusively for Google Apps which seamlessly integrates with Google mail, docs and contacts. In the first of a two-part interview for pn.ispirt.in, Suresh talks to us about what inspired him to start OrangeScape, what factors he feels are important while starting up and when to recognize the deciding moment of whether to give up or continue.

So many people from smaller town today who are getting into the business today — for example you have people from Udupi and Agra who are foraying into the business. What about your story –you yourself hail from Cuddalore, a Tier 3 city so where did it start for you?

I believe that there are two sources of ideas. One is typically a B2C idea – and this comes from your common encounters. You yourself are consumer, and you encounter different problems as a user of a product. You get frustrated and you think about building new products or solutions to solve this frustration. This is where you can see a lot of younger people like college kids or graduates getting in to the game – if you carefully observe most of these products you’ll see more B2C products because the founders would have been users themselves who were faced with a particular problem and then thought about solving it. These don’t really require very deep domain knowledge. On the other hand you can take OrangeScape which is a B2B product that’s complex, as B2B products tend to be. This is because it takes someone who’s been in the area to understand the dynamics, gain deeper knowledge and figure out the gaps and challenges.

Personally, prior to starting OrangeScape I was working for a company called Selectica which is a US based company that was one of the leaders in business rule engine space. At some point Selectica sold the Division I was part of, to Accenture, and we saw that as a great segue into the problem of how can we democratize application building process? That is a deep domain knowledge we got exposed due to our intensive work at Selectica in an adjacent area. So all this experience and knowledge helped the core team generate the idea and we decided this was something we should address and go after.

So essentially there are two key factors that started the OrangeScape story. One was the experience that you gained from the previous companies you worked at, that helped you identify scope for improvement. The other was the core team, which is obviously fundamental to getting out on your own. What other factors would you say are important when you’re starting up?

India is slowly moving from services to a product building country. OrangeScape takes this thinking to one more level of sophistication which from product to creating sophisticated technology /platform. As I said before, to know this side of the tracks you need a lot of domain expertise. You need to know the problem and go after that. Second, of course the team is the most important thing. We had been blessed with a great team starting with my co-founder Mani that stayed on course for a longtime on this journey. Thirdly, I would say to some extent the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ plays a role here. Initially, we didn’t know how big the problem we were going after really was.

It was only after years did we realize that this is problem that an IBM or Oracle would go after, not a startup. But then if I knew all that when I started off, there are chances that we would have given up. Sometimes you don’t know everything about the problem, but then you take chances. And then you need to stay put on the path and committed. You have to be convinced about the problem and pursue the solution. So all these things need to come together for you to go in the direction that you want to.

When you do you decide that you’re making it or breaking it? What is that deciding factor? Where do you decided ‘enough is enough it’s time to get a day job’, or ‘hey, we’ve cracked it’?

The defining moment depends on your assessment of how big the problem you’re trying to solve. If the problem that you’re trying to solve is big enough for you to stay put on your course, then that’s a pretty strong deciding factor. I don’t think many people realize that it took SAP 15 years to go from product concept to launch and in the last ten years, they’ve been doing good business. Now cloud is disrupting their business, that is a different story. SAP was convinced that the problem they were dealing with was big enough and this inspired the vision for them to stay on course. So this is one aspect that determines whether you should hang up your boots or not. I would say that if you’re going after a small a problem then after some years you may decide to give up, but if it’s bigger then this may not happen. The other aspect is that if you’re meeting progress and you’re doing reasonably ok (not significantly, but you’re definitely progressing) then again this gives you the motivation to stay focused. If none of this is happening, then that may be an indicator that you may have to move on.