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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Customer love

In this blog post, I will write about one photo. This photo,captures the result of all our hardwork in trying to keep our customers happy. In a B2B scenario, it helps if you can feel the pain of your customer's business. Then only can you provide the right service. This does not mean we have not had brickbats from customers.

We do.

Everyday.

But we understand. And we try to improve. And sometimes, good things like this photo happen. And we feel our spirits lifted.


The bald man in the center in K.Guru Murthy. Our delivery head. He is the guy who gets the most brickbats.

But this is not the opening of our office. This is the opening of the new office space of Big Basket.com. One of our customers. It was extremely gracious of them to offer us to cut the ribbon and declare their office open. They said they wanted us to do it as we have been part of their journey since the beginning and we have been part of their bad times and good times.

We feel humbled,but this justifies all the night outs and the hard work that team Ozonetel has put it.

Now back to more hard work and pleasing more customers. We just hope we live up to their expectations.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Playing around with Gmail API

After recently being elevated to the post of Chief Innovation Officer at Ozonetel, the pressure was on me to come up with something innovative soon :)

So, it was all too well that Google announced the Gmail API at Google IO around a week back. I quickly scanned through the API and found that it was reasonably well documented and with easy to use endpoints to play around with my emails in Gmail.

To test the functionality of the API, I decided to build a Gmail alternative using the API. I wanted to see how much of a functionality of Gmail I could recreate. I wanted to see if I could build something, using which I could perform my daily email operations without using Gmail directly. Turns out, it is possible to do exactly that using the API. So, in this post, I will give a brief description of how I achieved that. At the end, I will list some innovative ideas that can be built on the Gmail API.

1. Authorize
The first step was to get the right authorization tokens to use the Gmail API. I created a new project at the Google developer console and enabled the Gmail API and got the required credentials.

The next step was to develop a simple program which would authorize my requests to Google services using OAuth2. A simple Google search directed me to https://code.google.com/p/google-oauth-java-client/wiki/OAuth2 and using the code samples it was pretty easy to set up a simple authorization servlet to get the credentials(access token and refresh token)

2. Querying Gmail Service
Armed with the credentials, it was pretty straight forward to query the Gmail API to get the email details. Using the code samples provided at https://developers.google.com/gmail/api/overview I created a simple helper class to search,get,send and delete(CRUD) emails. You can find the helper class at github.

3. Creating the front end
Once the backend was done, the front end plumbing had to be done. A Google search for "Bootstrap Gmail Layout" gave the code snippet at http://bootsnipp.com/snippets/featured/gmail-inbox
Using the Bootstrap layout and combining that with Angularjs, I created services in Angularjs to access the CRUD services in the backend helper class.


And we are done. By reusing code samples, I was able to hack together a simple Gmail replacement in a couple of days. This is completely functional and I use it daily as my Gmail client.

Ideas
While working with the API a couple of ideas sprung to my mind. Just listing them out here in case anyone wants to work on them. In fact, I will go one step further. Since I personally believe that Email is a major communication tool ready for disruption, if any student startup wants to work on any of the below ideas or any other email API idea, we will provide free mentorship at Ozonetel. Please send me a mail at chaitanya@ozonetel.com

1. Gmail Ticketing System
Making use of labels in Gmail, we can create a simple ticketing system. As soon as an email comes, we can mark the email as Open. Use the Gmail API to list all open emails. On replying to the support email, we can remove the UNREAD label and Open label and add Closed,Pending or Resolved label depending on the context. So basically, we use labels to move the email ticket from one state to another until it reaches a logical conclusion.
Since Gmail allows an email to have any number of labels, we can think of different combinations to achieve our goals. For example, we can add an agent name as a label to assign a ticket to the agent and move the ticket from one agent to another.

By the same logic, we can even build a CRM system on top of Gmail. So then your CRM sits in your inbox.

Checkout the working version of the Gmail Ticketing Protoype(not working right now). Go ahead. I am not storing any credentials and everything will be reset everyday. The code for this will be open sourced in a couple of weeks once I clean up the code(Updated: Code available at https://github.com/nutanc/gmail_tickets). This is very basic right now with almost no error checking. Just built as a proof of concept.

2. Gmail Alerting and response system
Since most monitoring systems send an email on an event, it is trivial to develop a program which queries Gmail for a mail with a particular subject and then take action when such an email exists. For example, you could use KooKoo to make an outbound call and alert you about the event. You can also create a intelligent out of office message system.

3. Email Analytics
Where do you spend most of your time? Who do you mail the most? What do you mail the most? When do you get the most mails?

4.Task Management system on Gmail
Build a task management system like Asana on top of email. Use labels to assign emails to projects and teammates.

5. Call and listen to your mail
Mashup KooKoo with Gmail to have a simple voicemail feature. All mails to your email account become your voicemail :)

Email is the lowest common denominator for non tech savvy people. Everyone now knows how to send an email. They may not know how to tweet or how to 'like' a page. But they can certainly email. Now, with API based access to email a lot of existing systems can be disrupted to work out of email. Ticketing, CRMs, Social messaging etc.

In case you are concerned with getting associated with Google and its APIs(they do have a bad history of removing APIs), you can also check out the new kid on the block, InboxApp, which provides an email platform for you to get your work done.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ozonetel Powers Hindustan Unilever's mobile radio KKT at Cannes

Kan Khajura Teshan from Hindustan Unilever (HUL) to the Hindi speaking belt is run on Ozonetel's Cloud Communications Platform. Kan Khajura Teshan (KKT) is a mobile radio playing 18 minutes of entertainment content in Hindi. The content has jokes and bollywood songs, which is moderated by a radio jockey. The content is refreshed every Monday of the week. KKT Mobile radio has its reach even in media dark areas where there is no FM radio or television. KKT has 15 million subscribers and is getting a million unique visitors logging on, on a daily basis. KKT resides on Ozonetel's telco grade multi-channel Cloud communications platform, which is the technology partner. The success of running KKT seamlessly has got HUL to bag three awards at Cannes this year (2014).
How does Kan Khajura Teshan work: A listener calls on 1800-30-0000-123, the call drop being a missed call, where the caller's number gets registered on Ozonetel, which then calls back the listener playing the 18 minutes entertainment content. The 18 minutes can be used at one time or multiple times over the week. Ozonetel's platform is intelligent enough to recognize the caller and plays the content from where it was dropped earlier on.
Ozonetel Impact - Ozonetel is a communications platform on the cloud which means that HUL KKT had to make no capital investment to maintain, manage, upgrade any technology - this lead to 40% reduction in operation cost and 15% increase in brands awareness among the target audience. The teams sitting in the HUL corporate office have access to an easy-to-use dashboard giving them live feed and a customizable analytical report, which further helps in planning.
KKT was also the proud winner of the Golden Lion at the Cannes festival. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-06-18/news/50678922_1_lowe-lintas-hindustan-unilever-north-india.

Friday, April 18, 2014

How many sales people does it take to have a Million dollar year in India selling to Indian customers?

10

That's the answer, up there. The rest of the blog post is going to be gyan from me with some links of our products interspersed hoping some of you click and visit our websites :)

Gyan Start:

Well each company will have a different number. But for our products which primarily concentrate on voice products and contact center solutions selling to businesses, this is the number which has worked.

For a long time, sales was a process which was alien to us. We first got Rajiv on our team. He has been phenomenal so far in setting up the sales process etc. He started off by hiring the right sales guys in different circles. We followed a top heavy approach. Get the best sales guys with good salaries. It was risky at the time for us as we were facing a cash crunch and it was tempting to go for low end sales guys and take in more numbers. But we wanted to showcase a professional outfit to our customers and we chose to get the best guys to represent us. After all, in many ways, the sales team is the face of your company on the field. Now slowly we have a pretty well defined sales process and a sales team slowly building.

Learning:
So hiring a dedicated sales team was the most important thing we did for this venture. It's always a tough call to make as you have to invest upfront in setting up the sales team. We spent around 40-50 lakhs before we started seeing sales trends from the sales team. But from our experience we would say it was well worth it.

What did we do differently?
Well actually, nothing special. We have just followed the time honored principle of doing direct sales. Identify an opportunity, assign a sales guy to make a visit, do a pre sales demo, follow up and close the deal. I guess, at least in our domain, India is still predominantly an offline market. Our customers are online, but they seem to compare the products online whereas most of our sales are happening offline. We do not track our website analytics diligently. We have also not done any AB Testing and I would be the first to say that there are 100 ways in which our websites can be optimized. We have just not concentrated on that. So far our emphasis has been on trying to reach customers directly and sell to them face to face. Lot of people say that will not scale. But its been working out fine for us so far. This year, we may look at all the new age growth hacking techniques. But for now, we are just happy to build a business the old fashioned way :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Indian VCs(or atleast the ones I have dealt with) and Learnings

Updated: Removed the confrontational sentences as that were written in the heat of the moment and were not adding any value to the post and were written just to get it out of my system:

Based on some bad experiences with Indian VCs, following are some pointers on dealing with VCs.

In one instance, we specifically asked a VC if they were in talks with our competition. We did not want to talk if they were speaking to competition. They gave in writing that they were not. But after our discussions, it was clear they were in fact talking.

In another instance, VC was said he was interested but actually was just using us to get data points about our industry. Finally he used those data points to help his portfolio company to get direction.

Well, there is no point in naming names or crying hoarse. To take something positive out of my experience, I am listing some points you need to remember when dealing with VCs.

1. Don't tell them your client list. Especially the prospective list and the big client list. There is no point. VCs are looking at your overall traction. They are not looking at one big name. Even if it makes sense, try to avoid naming the client. Because chances are, if your deal does not go through and they end up funding your competitor, tough luck. Thats the first customer they are going to poach :)

2. Keep an eye on funding stories. If the VC ends up funding both your customer as well as your competitor, well, you are in hot soup :). Just hope you have a good relationship with your customer. Let me assure you, since the VC knows he is your customer and he has invested in your competitor and your customer, the VC will try his best to push your competitor's solution to your customer.

3. Don't tell them your secret sauce. Every company has a secret sauce. Whether it is your sales strategy, or your marketing ideas or your killer product feature. Don't disclose that until you are funded.They don't need to know this at this point of time. Once they invest and are on board you can reveal that. Right now, they just need to know that you are on a path to success.


I know that none of the VCs accept an NDA and hence you are at a disadvantage. But try to play your cards close to your chest. Try not to reveal too much unless you are asked for it.

It is also ok to ask the VCs if they are also evaluating your competitors and put that in an email and let the VCs respond over email.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cloud Telephony for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

After the recent launch in Gujarat and Rajasthan, we now enter central India by making our Indore data center completely operational. From this data center we will be able to service Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh

So people of MP and Chhattisgarh, you can now sign up for KooKoo, and choose local numbers for your businesses. In case you are interested in call center solutions, check out Cloudagent and give a call at 1-800-200-0820 and our sales guys will get in touch with you.

Ozonetel, by far, now provides the most comprehensive coverage in cloud telephony in India. Our complete coverage is captured in the image below.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Virtual Numbers and Gatekeeping services

Recently I saw a post on the Rise of GateKeeping services

The author makes valid points from a customer perspective. But as they say, there are always two sides to a story :)

Since a lot of companies are using KooKoo to provide a telephony experience to their customers, I thought I will list out a couple of reasons why gatekeepers may be good, especially if done correctly.

Disclaimer: This will be a little biased post as we provide services to a lot of these "Gatekeepers" :)

1. Monetization: As Sinha mentions in the comments of the above post, in India, lead monetization is very very hard. Businesses in general do not want to pay up for leads and these numbers provide a provable lead generation model for these businesses. The more money the companies make, the better service they can provide for you.

2. Quality control: The example given in the above article takes an example of a clinic. If we take personal examples, most of the times I call a clinic I end up just getting either a busy tone or no one picks up the call. Same is the case with restaurants. Thanks to new services, I am now able to reach them more reliably and they are able to reach back to me. In fact, these gatekeepers can go one step further and rate the clinics and restaurants on their responsiveness also. That will give a better experience to the end customers.

3. Extra service: Not all businesses have the wherewithal to run a support center. So these gatekeepers provide add on services to these businesses which will help in improving customer experience.

That said, I agree with the above article that customer experience is paramount. The gatekeepers have to be extra careful and think through their interaction mechanisms and make them as much meaningful as possible to the customers. In this case, I think Zomato does a good job as they clearly state that this service(the extension number) is provided by Zomato so that the customer knows that the phone number is not the restaurant's number.