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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.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Wake Up Indian Customer

Many theories have been put forth on how to improve the startup ecosystem in India and how we have to move away from a services country to a product country. And just like everyone, I have a theory. I don't think the main trigger for us to become a product country is in having more incubators, more angels, more mentors, more VCs, more funding, more exits etc. Of course, they all help. But the main trigger, according to me, is the CUSTOMER.

As long as we the customers are content with the products and level of service, businesses will not innovate. They will not push the boundaries as they think the customers are happy. Customers have to speak out and demand a higher level and Indian businesses will deliver.

  1. I want faster delivery of the goods I ordered online and I want to track the delivery. I want more items to shop online. Tell that to the ecommerce store you bought the goods from.
  2. I am not happy that I have to wait for the doctors endlessly. I want to setup appointments. Tell the hospital next time.
  3. I am not happy that I have to tell my name and details every time to a customer service representative. They should know me and my problem. Tell that to the manager.
  4. I am not happy that I have to wait at restaurants. I am hungry. I should be able to book a table online. Tell that to the manager.
  5. Next time, I want to order food from home and have it delivered. Tell that to the restaurant next time you go to pick up your food.
  6. I want to be able to check out a venue and its costs without wasting petrol and traveling to so many places. Tell that to the banquet manager.
  7. I want to research the best school for my kid online. Why are the school details not online. And I want my kid to have access to all learning material online. Tell that to the school management when you go for admission.
  8. I want good electronic devices to monitor my health. Tell that in a retail store.
  9. I want my car to be serviced and home delivered with payment at home. Tell that at the service station.
  10. I want technology to improve my life. Tell that to yourself :)

P.S: There are solutions provided by Indian startups to all the problems mentioned above. It is upto the Indian customer to educate the Indian businesses about their need.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tools used for monitoring KooKoo

When you are managing 100s of physical servers across 12 data centers across the country and when developers are hitting your API more than 20 million times in a day, you will need tools to help you out.

We use a lot of tools to monitor KooKoo and Cloudagent and the following is a list of some of the tools we use. Hope others will find the list helpful in their own monitoring needs. These are very common tools and nothing extraordinary, but they get the job done :)

1. Nagios: The most important tool. We have created more than 20 custom plugins to monitor our custom telephony infrastructure.

2. Munin: Has been invaluable in helping us identify resource usage especially when some rouge processes started hogging up the resources.

3. Snort: Has been responsible for identifying attacks in our networks.

4. Monit: Monitors all our main processes and brings them up automatically when they go down.

5. Linux commands: top,htop,ntop,ps,iostat,pmap,netstat,wireshark,ngrep,traceroute etc

6. Apachetop: A small tool to monitor our web servers.

7. RRDtool: For monitoring time series data.

In addition to these tools, we have hacked together more than 30 small Perl scripts which do a lot of clean up and monitoring activities.

We also have 5 web applications which collect timing data, log information, error information etc and display them graphically.

We hope to release these scripts sometime soon on Github.

And if all these scripts and tools fail, we have the most important failsafe, people.

We always have system engineers monitoring different parts of the system 24/7 365 days of the year.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

KooKoo Year In review - From 0 to $1 Million ARR in 3 years with Indian Customers


ozonetel
It's that time of the year when we do our yearly review. Exactly 3 years back, we started our foray into Cloud telephony by launching India's first cloud telephony platform KooKoo at the Unpluggd event. So maybe the title of the blog should be "From Unpluggd to $1 Million ARR"

This third year has been a milestone year in many respects for us. Especially the last couple of quarters. In the life cycle of every SaaS product, there comes a time, when it starts taking off. And that is the whole reasoning behind the hockey stick growth philosophy. We have been plotting our own hockey stick revenue growth points on the hockey stick curve :)
Major Milestones:

1. $1 Million ARR 
Given the fact that we cater to only Indian businesses(no dollar revenue :( ), we thought this milestone would take much longer. A lot of VCs said the Indian market was not big enough. But we were pleasantly surprised at the rate of adoption of cloud telephony by Indian SMEs. All our clients are Indian and all our revenues are from within India. So in a way, we have answered the query 

"Is it possible to do a million dollars in SaaS revenue catering only to the Indian SME segment?" 

and the answer is Yes :)
(You can also add "And with no VC funding" to the question)

2. Profitable
Being a bootstrapped company, this was a very important milestone for us. We adopted various innovative techniques to raise money for our startup and finally by acquiring some marquee customers, we moved from being idli profitable last year to being profitable this year. This year, we may even end up paying taxes to the Government :)

3. Customers
People say that it is difficult to find an early adapter crowd in India. Luckily for us, our experience has been different. We have found that Indian businesses are always willing to try new things as long as there is a value add for them. We found a lot of takers for our cloud call center, Cloudagent and Cloud PBX, BizPhone. We added a lot of marquee customers this year. Some of the big names include Redbus, Housing.com, Zovi, Principal India, GetIt, Shaadi.com, TripAdvisor. In fact, we are proud to power the communications and call centers of most of the well known startups and established enterprises out of India. Can't disclose all the names, but think of a startup and most probably KooKoo is powering their communications ;)

We also, successfully transitioned Voicegain customers onto Ozonetel(A first in the nascent cloud telephony space in India.)

4. Metrics(Approx figs):
  • 4-5 million call center minutes handled per day
  • 20 million API hits/day on the platform
  • 30,000 agents on the platform. This includes intelligent as well as dumb agents
  • Million dollars ARR in Revenue
  • Coverage in 12 cities
  • 21+ verticals served
5. Most Fun

6. Thanks
A special thanks to the whole product ecosystem in India. A lot of people have provided guidance and advice without which we would not have been here.  A special mention to Hyderabad startups. A lot of people don't know about it, but the startup ecosystem is very much active and big things are happening here.

Obviously, the biggest thanks goes to our customers for giving us the opportunity to serve them.

7. Next year goals
  • Going International. We have already started the process, news will be shared soon.
  • Multi channel communication.
  • Pay a tax to the government ;)
Hacker news discussion here, https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6625674