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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Innovate or Perish

Most startups follow a set pattern. Get an idea, build product,find product market fit, sell.

The problem happens afterwards. Most startups, once they find their niche and start selling, they stop innovating.

You have to keep innovating to be relevant.

You have to innovate on optimizing your product.

You have to innovate on use cases.

You have to innovate on new features.

Invest in an R&D department in your startup. It will pay for itself very soon.

We built our own telephony hardware. We then built a telephony platform. Next we moved up the stack and built a cloud contact center. We are still innovating. We have now ventured into speech. Cos' we know, the moment we stop innovating, we stop becoming relevant.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ozonetel year in Review.Scaling from $1M ARR to $6M ARR

This chapter in Ozonetel's life is called scaling. Moving from the surviving phase to scaling phase is deeply satisfying. I do this blog post generally during October. But I held out as we had couple of big announcements to make and I wanted to include them in this post. So here are our major milestones of the year(in no particular order):

1. KooKoo powers Hindustan Unilever's mobile radio platform KKT. This was a huge win for us which proved the efficiency of the platform. It tested our scalability to the limits what with more than 50,000 hours of content getting consumed every single day on the platform. After that entry, we now power campaigns for a lot of brands like Wheel, Lifebuoy etc.

2. Ozonetel featured in the Deloitte fast 50 coming in at 18th. This was validation of our revenue growth. Last year we closed at $1M ARR. This year we will close between $5M-$6M ARR.

3. Zoho Partnership. Ozonetel is the only Indian company which has a phone bridge integration with Zoho CRM. We hope to see this partnership grow this year.

4. Yantrasoft Acquisition. To improve the platform capability, Ozonetel acquired speech tech company Yantrasoft. The speech technology is getting integrated into the KooKoo platform and the speech services will be fully enabled on the cloud. Watch this space for some really cool speech applications we are going to release soon.

5. Missed call world record. Ozonetel platform, KooKoo has powered the world record for "Maximum missed calls received in 120 hours". This was done by HUL for their Kan Khajura Tesan project.

6. Taking cloud contact center main stream. Slowly but surely contact centers on the cloud has gained acceptability because of Cloudagent. BPOs like Rural Shores, Suma Soft and enterprises like HDFC Life have opened up in adopting the cloud for their contact center solutions.

There have been a lot more achievements like crossing a billion calls handled on the platform. Our happiest moment was when a favorite customer of ours who had gone to competition for some reason, came back to us within a couple of months.

This year was hard on the personal front for a lot of our employees. Three employees lost their father. Many others dealt with other personal issues which always seemed to come at the wrong time. But as a team we survived. This was especially true, when for a couple of months in the middle, there was a point when all founders had some or the other personal issue and were not able to fully contribute. But the team got together and delivered on the promises made to customers. That was the time, I think we realized we had grown from being a startup.

Sorry for being a little emotional there. But now we have the next year to think about. Next year, we are gonna travel the world :)

Ozonetel Loves Zoho


At Ozonetel, we are constantly on the lookout to improve business communication on the cloud. So, it gives us great pleasure in announcing integration with one of the best CRMs in the world, Zoho. If you are a company who is using Zoho, then it now becomes all the more easier for you to use Cloudagent as your contact center software. The following is our press release


Ozonetel Announces Zoho CRM Integration with CloudAgent  


Combined solution allows businesses to provide enhanced customer management and reach customers anywhere in the world without the need for expensive equipment or set up costs 

San Francisco/ Bangalore, Wednesday, November 12 – 

Ozonetel today unveiled its latest integration with Zoho CRM, one of the leading CRM players in the market.  The integration provides businesses with a cost effective, enhanced customer management solution. Businesses are looking for plug & play solutions, which work seamlessly without installing any software or hardware. The Ozonetel platform integration with  and Zoho CRM are provides an immediate, market ready solutioning a solution in at a fraction of the cost of other providers one tenth of the cost with  immediate go-to-market. The joint solution also provides a unified view of distributed call centers across cities or countries with simple integration points and no little overhead, sresulting in  leading to increased productivity and cost savings. 


Cloudagent for Zoho CRM is set up with no IT spend or expensive equipment – and can be used with customer’s existing telephone systems. CloudAgent runs in any web browser and can be set up in minutes, operates out of a internet browser and gives a plug and play experience 


Ozonetel CloudAgent for Zoho CRM 


The cloud-based  telco-grade multichannel (voice, email, chat, sms) platform seamlessly integrates with Zoho CRM. This works best for customers looking for an integrated way of intelligently handling both incoming and outbound telephony calls. The combined offering gives call center agents the tools to view important customer information in real time as a call comes in. 



For sales agents making outbound calls, the integration allows them to click a phone number from within the CRM system and call directly without leaving the CRM providing both productivity gains and a simplified workflow to maintain accurate prospecting data. 



"We are seeing more and more demand from our customers for CRM integrated telephony solutions," said Ian Wenig, Vice President Business Development at Zoho. “CloudAgent for Zoho CRM offering makes our users more productive, increasing the value of their deployment. We are very pleased to partner with India's first cloud communications platform provider and look forward to working together with our joint customer base” 

“Communication is paramount for businesses across support, sales and engagement divisions. It is imperative to have seamless and non-intrusive access to communication tools for business productivity. The integration of our cloud communication suite, Cloudagent, into Zoho CRM is a step in that direction. Now businesses can perform all their communication activities from within the Zoho CRM in a non intrusive way”, said CSN Murthy, CEO and Founder Ozonetel. 

About Zoho 

Zoho is a comprehensive suite of online productivity, collaboration and business applications for businesses of all sizes. Over ten million users rely on Zoho apps. Zoho’s productivity and collaboration applications include Email Hosting, Document Management, Office Suite, Project Management and more alongside a host of business applications ranging from CRM and Campaign Management to Customer Support, Accounting and more. These applications are offered directly via Zoho.com or through hundreds of partners in the Zoho Alliance Partner Program. For more information about Zoho, please visit http://www.zoho.com/. 
Zoho is a division of Zoho Corporation, a privately-held and profitable company. With U.S. headquarters in Pleasanton, CA and offices in Austin, Chennai, London, Tokyo and Beijing, Zoho Corp. serves the technology needs of millions of customers worldwide. For more information about Zoho Corp., please visit http://www.zohocorp.com. 

About Ozonetel 

Ozonetel was founded in 2007. It launched CloudAgent in 2011, a telco grade CaaS (Communications As A Service) platform in the cloud. The platform currently has over 500+ enterprises class across 20+ verticals supporting them in sales, marketing and customer support functions. Ozonetel also has over 4000 developers using its APIs on the platform.  The service from Ozonetel is available in India, North America and 65+ other countries. For more visit "http://www.ozonetel.com" or call 1844 2908 698 (Toll Free in NA)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

What is a good sales target for a sales person in SaaS in India?

Unfortunately there is no fixed answer. Problem with SaaS is that there are too many moving variables. LTV,Churn,ARR,ARPU etc. So its really hard to come up with one fixed number. So based on our experience and our product the following is a number we have come up with to set targets for our sales organization.

0.8x(x is the sales person's salary)

So, a sales person should pull in 0.8x worth of MRR every month. Or 9.6x worth of annual contract values every month. This is the number from which they start getting incentives.

So for example a sales rep getting around 18 lakhs salary should pull in around Rs.1,20,000 MRR every month. If he pulls in 30,000 MRR(0.2X) he will be just covering his base salary. If he pulls in 75,000(0.5X) he will be covering the organization costs. And only if he pulls in anything above that will the company move towards profitability. And only when the company is profitable will the sales get an incentive.

Obviously there are a lot of assumptions made to arrive at this number. We are assuming the LTV to be around a year and churn is also very low. You can find a spreadsheet with some numbers here. You can modify the variables to fit for your organization.

Just open SaaS Sales Targets and play around with the values to see the numbers. You can also download it and modify it as you see fit.

Since we started a sales organization a couple of years ago we have been experimenting with different variables and this is a good rule of thumb to follow for setting sales targets. Please comment on what your experience has been. Is our model too tough on sales guys or too easy. Hopefully we can all come out with a comprehensive model for sales in SaaS in India.

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.