By: Sudhir Chowdhary
India still has a long way to go to replicate the success of Silicon Valley or Israel—especially in terms of tech startups. However, 10,000 Startups is an ambitious attempt by Nasscom to scale up the startup ecosystem in the country. As part of the second edition of Innotrek programme, the IT industry forum took a group of Indian tech entrepreneurs to the Silicon Valley with a view to forge relationships and enable them to learn from their counterparts in the valley. The founders of some of the promising startups talk to Sudhir Chowdhary about their success stories and out-of-the-box thinking to make it big in the marketplace.
It offers a cloud-based work platform, which requires no installation of server, or software and customers can get up and running instantly at an affordable monthly subscription fee. All apps are integrated, social and mobile in nature.
* Origin of the idea: Before A2Zapps, co-founder and CEO Kantanu Kundu worked with Salesforce and before that, with Peoplesoft—with over 15 years experience in enterprise software and cloud products. Co-promoter and president Dipanjan Purkayastha spent over two decades in various leadership roles at leading IT majors, building $100 million-plus businesses in the enterprise tech space. They realised there was a significant gap in the enterprise tech space, especially for SMBs, who want powerful and nimble yet affordable automation that help them remain competitive. A2Zapps was founded to address this gap. The objective of creating A2Zapps was to build a mobile-first enterprise cloud ecosystem that helps businesses use all the work and collaboration automation they need, within hours and without coding in an affordable manner.
Present business: A2Zapps’ Cloud OS formally launched in February 2014. “Within 15 months, we have hit a $1 million+run-rate and 3,000+ users. While we have customers across education, manufacturing and media, we are increasingly focusing deep on the retail sector, with key products around brick and mortar as well as e-commerce businesses,” says Dipanjan.
Recent breakthroughs: With the Cloud OS, A2Zapps helps businesses automate their employees and partners (B2B) as well as their customers (B2B2C). It has bagged a multi-year contract from one of India’s top media houses, to help build their top digital consumer product. This product is projected to add 2 million+users to the A2Zapps platform within the next 12 months. A2Zapps has launched the A2ZTab, a tablet that boots directly to its Cloud OS.
Future business outlook: A2Zapps is in the pre-launch mode of its MobifyStore product, which is a e-commerce-in-a-box offering for firms that want to quickly establish an online retail experience for their customers as well as vendors. MobifyStore, which runs on the company’s Cloud OS, helps businesses open a simple online shop or a complex marketplace, within hours, with integrated payments, logistics as well as a full-scale back-end ERP. Going forward, A2Zapps targets adding 5 million users on its Cloud OS, at a revenue run rate of $10 million, by FY17. “Given we are able to fuel our growth at the correct juncture with the right inorganic inputs, we should be in sight of the $100 million revenue mark by FY18,” he says.
A full service marketing data management company providing solutions to enable B2B marketers reach their audiences more precisel.
Origin of the idea: CEO & co-founder Santosh Abraham informs that prior to LeadEnrich, he was heading the data practice at parent company (QEDbaton). QEDbaton has been helping B2B marketers with demand generation and marketing data related services was one of the core offerings. “While consulting customers on marketing data, we observed the following key challenges by our customers:
Dumb in-house repository: In-house marketing data with pockets of intelligence spread across multiple marketing apps working in isolation, not making sense at individual capacity.
Unavailing external data sources: Access to every possible data source in market, but huge amount of efforts required to deep dive and identify the net new data for a campaign.
High data acquisition costs: Huge amount of investment in the form of time and money required to get the right data for a campaign LeadEnrish realised a strong need of solution that could act as a single source of truth as for customer marketing data needs.
Present business: LeadEnrich is a marketing data platform that enables B2B marketers to reach their audiences more precisely.
Recent breakthroughs: Total enterprise customers are 25-plus and total projects delivered are 800-plus.
Future business outlook: Santosh Abraham says, “We understand that a static format for unified customer view is old-school and doesn’t equip the marketer to analyse their marketing data with various data sets and intelligence on the prospect accumulated across the organisation. LE 360 would be a fully customisable 360 degree view of the customer that would allow the marketer to score and activate prospects more efficiently.” He adds: “Marketing teams of the future would be technically equipped to design their own marketing clouds and build integrations across platforms if required. Our strong robust enrichment engine and easy to connect framework would provide a strong technology backbone to the marketer to build their own marketing cloud with their in-house data source, LE partner ecosystem and marketing apps of their choice.”
Faircent is a marketplace set up with the objective of connecting borrowers & lenders enabling them to lend and borrow money. It eliminates the high margin which intermediaries such as banks and FIs make on transactions
Origin of the idea: Vinay Mathews, founder & COO, says, “The idea germinated when my co-founder Rajat Gandhi in 2011, observed that a colleague who wanted to buy Royal Enfield motorcycle and did not want to pay high rates of interest, posted it on his Facebook seeking contributions from his friends and family to buy the motorcycle. This got us thinking and we thought can we do it on a scale? And build an exchange where friends, family and maybe complete strangers could help each other? More we thought about it, it occurred that it could be a win-win situation! People who borrow would save on interest and people who lend would earn additional interest rates.” Thereafter, the two partners set out to build the platform and team which could deliver this value proposition to borrowers and lenders. Today that dream is a reality.
Present business: In nine months of its launch, Faircent.com has over 8,500 registered borrowers and 2,500 registered lenders. On the company’s platform, lenders have committed over R2 crore to lend. “Borrowers are seeking on an average R2 lakh of loans. Top two reasons for borrowing is to pay off their high costs credit card debt and wedding event,” says Mathews. On the other hand lenders are looking at returns of upward of 13%. Average interest rates on the site are 17-18% and Faircent.com has disbursed nearly R90 lakh in loans.
Recent breakthroughs: Faircent is witnessing a phenomenal traction especially on the lending side. “It seems we have unearthed a latent need. What started as trickle of borrower and lenders registering today we are getting 100 borrowers and 50 lenders registering everyday. Our target is to do over 2,000 registrations a day,” informs Mathews. Faircent is felicitating loan disbursements 30 cities across India, which no financial services company has been able to do in its first 6 months of operations.
Future business outlook: Mathews says, “We have been in revenues since our first month of operations. Our current focus is to scale up loan transactions; we are targeting over R5 crore of loan origination in the first year of operations. And in the third year of operation our objective is to achieve over R500 crore of loan origination on the Faircent lending marketplace.”
Enables businesses to multiply advertising revenue from their website
*Origin of the idea: Co-founder Ankit Oberoi says, “My co-founder Atul Agarwal has worked with a lot of user generated content (UGC) websites and monetised them using ad networks like Google AdSense. He would often run various a/b tests (sometimes called split testing) on those websites and use that data to improve the advertising revenue. This was a time consuming process which required a lot of technical knowledge. We realised that there was no tool to automate this, so, one day Atul had an idea about how we can apply machine learning and artificial intelligence to increase ad revenue for publishers.” Brainstorming followed for days over the idea, and finally the two partners settled on a minimum viable product that was AdPushup.
Present business: AdPushup has built a SaaS platform for web and mobile publishers which allows them to test and optimise their advertising layout for higher advertising revenue and improved user experience.
Recent breakthroughs: “We have recently entered public beta and are optimising about 200 million impressions, monthly,” says Ankit.
Future business outlook: Before the end of the year, AdPushup plans to start optimising 2 billion impressions, monthly.
A breakthrough technology that complements today’s hi-tech buildings by enhancing energy efficiency, datacentre reliability, comfort and analytics
Origin of the idea: Anil Gupta, one of the founders, was an executive vice-president at Patni Computers, before its acquisition by iGate. Global real estate of over two million square feet was one of the functions in his group. In his early career, he had worked for five years at California Energy Commission in US and gained significant domain expertise in energy efficiency. With this background, he noticed the wastage of energy at Patni office buildings, the opportunity to do better, and lack of solutions in the market. Patni used to buy diesel by tanker-load of 12,000 litres each; every time he approved such a PO, it used to bother him that there was no solution to help reduce diesel consumption. Finally, from his role as VP and Head of India Engineering Centre at Sun Microsystems, he was aware of the revolution being brought by small footprint computers, sensors, wireless technologies, and cloud computing After iGate’s acquisition, he exited Patni, brainstormed ideas with potential customers for over six months, found two other co-founders, and this team began development to create an innovative solution to solve unmet needs.
Present business: SmartBuildings finished version 1.0 of product in Jan 2015. The product has been well received by customers and domain experts. SmartBuildings has three billed customers, twelve employees in Bangalore, and is cash flow positive.
Recent breakthroughs: Excellent validation by potential strategic partners and investors in Silicon Valley where SmartBuildings visited as part of Innotrek 2015.
Future business outlook: “Our goal,” says Anil Gupta, “is to deploy SmartBuildings solution in at least one million sq ft over the next year, sign up at least three value added resellers and find suitable partners for Series A funding. We see good interest in the US via partners in Silicon Valley. We also see opportunities in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. ”
Gupta firmly believes that energy conservation in commercial buildings takes less capital than building power plants. “Conservation is more environmentally friendly than even solar or wind. Conservation needs no land. And it materially reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Our intent is to take this vision to large scale globally,” he says.
A search and discovery platform providing comprehensive information on extracurricular activities and hobby classes for kids
Origin of the idea: Prior to starting FindURClass, Rina Nathani was a director with KPMG Advisory in New York. “I relocated to India with KPMG a few years ago to help them set up some of their offshoring practices in Delhi. Moving back to India was not easy, working full time, running a house and managing my two beautiful daughters consumed my every waking minute,” she says. “In the daily hustle and bustle, I realised that I needed to do something to help me de-stress. In addition, my kids were getting frustrated being stuck at home. When I set out to look for activity classes I realised how cumbersome and tedious the process was. It was at this point I jumped off the corporate bandwagon to do something about it—and started FindURClass.”
Present business: Findurclass.com is a search and discovery platform that makes the entire process of finding the right activity or hobby class for your kids easy and hassle free. “Our value proposition is that we not only aggregate information on all good educators hyper locally but also we curate them for safety, security, hygiene instructor quality—things that are important to parents when making the decision about joining a class. Our vision is to be a trusted informational resource for parents,” she says. “We launched our new platform on March 16 this year with over 7,000 classes and summer camps listed online for Mumbai across our 10 categories—art & craft, sports & adventure, fitness & health, cooking, dance, music and singing, beauty & fashion, photography, languages, film and acting.”
Recent breakthroughs: In a short span of time, FindURClass has already reached 15,000 visitors per month. “We have also been asked to run summer camps and extracurricular activity programmes for a few leading and upcoming schools in Mumbai,” she says.
Future business outlook: The future of the business is bright, says Rina. “Our trip with Nasscom has opened many doors and garnered interest from investors in the valley. We plan to scale nationally to tier 1 cities in India with half a million classes in the next 9-12 months.”
A content marketing platform that delivers rich content via virtual display windows and interactive products & services catalogues to help businesses influence local searchers
Origin of the idea: With the onslaught of e-commerce in the past few years, chains with brick & mortar stores have been on the back foot with many wondering if the digital era would result in the end of offline retail. Their typicalresponse has been to open their own e-commerce store giving up on their unique offline network advantage across the country. There was no solution in sight that helped such stores attract consumers from the online channels.
Sujit Thomas Zachariah, founder & CEO, says, “Given our domain expertise in local search marketing, I and Rakesh Raghuvanshi decided to put our heads together and come up with a platform that would help attract consumers. Nifty Window was born as a result of that effort and encouraging us was plenty of supporting data showing that this concept with proper strategy and execution can be disruptive in helping offline brands turn the tide.”
Present business: Nifty Window is a hyper-local discovery and omni-channel conversion (online-to-offline and offline-to-online) driven platform for brands with brick & mortar presence. It leverages brands’ offline assets and drives online consumers to nearby offline stores.
Recent breakthroughs: Zachariah says, “Though it has been just 12 months since launching our Nifty Window SaaS (software as a service) platform, iconic brands across several categories are already leveraging their offline network assets using the Nifty Window platform for acquiring new customers online. Examples include Domino’s Pizza (F&B), Unilever (FMCG), Harley Davidson (Automotive), Kansai Nerolac (Home Improvement), Future Group etc.
Future business outlook: Interest in Nifty Window platform has been extremely strong and many new brands are being added each month. “As testimonial on our impact to topline business growth, few of our client brands have requested usage of our platform for their international markets as well,” informs Zachariah.