Episode 81 / September 6, 2020

Inside the mind of Baskar Subramanian, Co-Founder, Amagi Corporation

hr min

Episode 81 / September 6, 2020

Inside the mind of Baskar Subramanian, Co-Founder, Amagi Corporation

hr min
Listen on

Baskar’s journey is very similar to what classic Product-driven Tech entrepreneurs have, i.e. a college drop-out built several tech solutions from an early age, founded a fast-paced startup growing multi-folds over years. He co-founded Amagi Media Labs, in 2008 with the intent to revolutionize global content delivery & monetization of the Media Industry.

Amagi is one of the few startups which experienced constant growth even in the Covid-19 circumstances and has no plans of slowing down its growth engines anytime soon.

In this podcast, Baskar shares his experience of building tech solutions and his learnings from being a Tech entrepreneur for over two decades.

Notes –

01:09 – Enabling end-to-end global virtualization of content delivery and monetization in Media Industry

03:22 – Major emerging trends in Media & OTT platforms for broadcasters

08:50 – Evolution of OTTs in the US and how Amagi helps them as a one-stop-shop!

11:59 – His journey from dropping out of IIT Bombay (during MTech) to starting Amagi?

21:12 – Transiting from an Advertising sales model to a Technology platform

25:44 – Growth in Revenue from 2012 to till date

28:35 – How was the fund-raising experience being in the Media industry?

32:32 – What’s his end goal with Amagi? Going Public, achieving a $200 Million ARR or something else?

36:34 – What are the processes which helped him as an entrepreneur & the company to grow exponentially?

38:25 – How “letting go” is a very crucial part of the growth process?

40:36 – How being open, vulnerable, and accepting your mistakes openly within the team can help a company grow?


Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:04

This is Siddhartha Ahluwalia, welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur podcast. Today we have with us Baskar Subramanian, co-founder of Amagi. Baskar has spent the last 16 years in building technology companies. He is an MTech dropout from IIT Bombay, graduated from GCT Coimbatore specializing in computer science. And ever since he has been proud to build technologies fitting business needs, looking to build businesses leveraging high tech. Welcome, Baskar to the podcast.


Baskar 0:36

Hi Siddhartha.


Siddhartha 0:37

Baskar, just to give our listeners a brief about Amagi. Amagi is a leader in cloud-managed media technologies, managing content delivery and monetization for some of the largest broadcast and digital-first media companies across the globe. The company runs a managed technology platform that enables content owners and broadcasters to virtualize all of their content management, payout, delivery, and monetization needs, so Baskar, help us understand in more human terms, this is very technical. What does Amagi do?


Baskar 1:08

Okay. So if you look at any market, which has kind of moved from traditional on prem infrastructure to a virtualized infrastructure, we’ve seen multiple industries be it banking, be it retail, be it eCommerce, essentially, the transformation that’s happened with traditional industries have been touched by software and cloud technology to move their operations on to a public cloud or a private cloud infrastructure. Essentially, the same thing is happening in media businesses. So we are a media technology company. What we do is work with anybody who touches content in their businesses, it could be content owners, studios, production houses, TV channels, Ott platforms, anybody who has any sort of content and they want to deliver it and monetize it anywhere across the globe. Amagi provides them an end to end infrastructure, a platform obviously a software rich platform, which runs on public cloud infrastructure provides them an ability to run their operations completely in a virtualized fashion without having to have any sort of real estate or on prem across their whole ecosystem. That’s essentially, if you look at it in a layman’s language, what we are trying to accomplish in the media business, very similar to what’s happened on the traditional business, we are doing that same transformation happening in the media business.


Siddhartha 2:27

And the content, which you talk about is only video content.


Baskar 2:31

Absolutely. Absolutely. So we are talking about media here. So it’s largely when I talk about media, it’s really audio and video content. And primarily, this is really premium content. So we do not work with user-generated content. We work with premium content across the globe. So be the lights of studios who are traditionally building movies or high-end episodes, and content, which would typically you would see on any sort of paid or free platforms, but not the user-generated content Type. That’s exactly where we work.


Siddhartha 3:03

So most of the Ott platforms in the world depend on you for entire software management.


Baskar 3:11

Yeah, there are multiple things we do and look at it from a platform standpoint, there are two large emerging trends that feed actually playing on. One that’s happening is looking at traditional broadcast TV channels and networks. Obviously, the front end of the business has changed dramatically, thanks to Ott thanks to it’s not that everybody is watching on cable and satellite and this kind of transforming very fast into a complete IP based approach wherever you’re watching it either on mobile devices, connected TV platforms when that transformation happened. The broadcasters also started looking at it because the economics of the business changed dramatically. Their overall way of working and operational elements had to be changed as well. So there was a huge backhaul change that is happening and which, or at least as a consumer, you wouldn’t see that happening and from a transformation standpoint. But what we see is all the broadcasters worldwide are looking at all of them. It used to be a lot of big ions, servers and hardware and data centers and satellites, and fiber. Everything looked very high Capex intensive sort of model that has evolved over time. What Amagi and when we started and what we saw that a transformation is happening is essentially all of these people are changing the whole infrastructure. They’re re-looking at the whole thing, say, Okay, my business models are changing dynamically. On the front end, I need an infrastructure that can be flexible and future proof. That’s the fundamental change that’s happening in the broadcast industry. We are kind of going through the trend and be a part of the trend. We are pioneering the trend. But essentially, this is a one-way street that’s happening for the broadcaster’s moving everything into a virtualized platform. That’s the first thing that’s happening. The second trend that’s happening worldwide. And again, our view is also very US and Europe specific because a lot of our pretty much 95% of our revenues come from outside the country. So, we are not very big in India, but largely across the globe,US & India are our largest markets . Now, if you look at it from a Ott standpoint, streaming TV, what we call the streaming TV, the trend has been very, very dramatic last three years have seen a fundamental change. And if you look at it from a US context, which is our largest market, two or three things happened, I think, and they happen simultaneously, which kind of the concurrency of these events really helped build a market. The first thing that happened was there was a lot of people who were finding television to become very expensive to get into the whole cost-cutting scenario, which we’ve seen and heard a lot was starting to happen in the US. That’s the first trend that was starting to happen. Second, we saw that a lot of the good content, which is like extremely good content, there are a lot of digital millennials creating content, and they did not have any mechanism to get it out to the consumers, except for going into a YouTube, and YouTube and some of these free environments unfortunately did not work for them because of the rev share deals and agreements. So they were kind of getting disheartened with the whole ecosystem of how the economic ecosystem works in that particular world and they wanted to be unshackled or that and wanted to see how they can make more revenues and become more prime stream or more like a mainstream television network equivalent. So they want to kind of come out of the shackles of YouTube. The third that was happening is obviously subscription, watered, picked up, everybody knew how the subscription would work. But we also saw the growth of Roku, for example, Roku is in some sense, created a new environment where advertising-driven good content can actually be defined. So what they defined is today, what we call advertising-driven market, which is completely free content, and what they did innovate and I think that’s where that’s where the industry sees its largest growth today. The moment you’ve connected to a larger screen, the environment was almost close to the television. Because it isn’t home. It’s an environment where people wanted to have a Leanback experience. The moment that started to happen, I think thanks to Roku, and thanks to a lot of connected TV effort, be it all the Smart TV platforms like Samsung and LG, and the Panasonic’s started flooding homes in the US. Suddenly you had IT connected homes, which the pipes can now be its free pipes. That means nobody’s controlling the pipes, you could pretty much run an app or a device, it could be just television or a Roku box. And you’re pretty much connected. This ecosystem of three people disheartened content owners, content creators who wanted a pipe to get to homes, the pipe itself becoming free. And technically because the pipes are available right now in a squad people understand how chat content work, everybody started moving to this sort of capability. And that is the big change that we saw. And today if you look at it, streaming TV is about $20 billion of advertising happens in that particular market already and it’s growing by almost 45% a year. It’s huge growth in terms of the CAGR, as we’ve seen in terms of the growth process, the fundamental change was because you’re watching television, the Roku so the world could actually educate advertisers that it is as good as watching on on a TV screen or a broadcast network. So that CPM and cost per impressions are much, much, much higher. So they could kind of command a much more higher CPMs which essentially meant that you could build a very attractive and lucrative business model on top of it. So cut the long story short, what we do today is in these two platforms is to a streaming TV comm per customer. So if you’re a digital customer who is trying to who are building content, we enable them to go to multitude of A-Ward platforms worldwide and this could be both in the US or across the globe as well. For example, right there are about 25 Avon platforms in the US for the likes of Sling TV, YouTube TV which are all virtual mvpds and a pay TV model. You also have equivalent like Pluto TV. Then we have Hulu, you having tons and tons of such fubo, for example. So there are many, many such riders who are starting to evolve in the country there in the US, for example, what do we do we enable these companies to work with us, we become the picks and shovels so we kind of give them a platform, enabling them to put their content to our system and be able to deliver and monetize. So we do both advertising, monetization technology, as well as the delivery technology become the one-stop shop for all of their capabilities. So that’s one part from the streaming theory standpoint.


Siddhartha 9:38

You have customers like NBC Turner Fox network and Ott channels like MGM?


Baskar 9:48

So, these are the traditional broadcasters. These are large broadcasters who already were doing an on prem clear, very big giant Capex sort of infrastructure. What they are doing, we’re helping them to move their whole operations, and in this scenario, for example, the key platform of the product they look at is creating linear channels, delivering the content and monetizing it. I’ll talk about all the three in some fashion, right? So essentially, for example, for things that we announced ad networks, right ad network is awesome environment is one of the largest TV networks in the world, largely US and India focused. There have been extremely good content, we all would have heard of history channels and channels that’s very popular channel of there’s crime and investigation and history. So they are very premium content. So what they were looking at this, for example, they used to look at traditional places. So they had a traditional data center where they were running all the channels and piping it through fiber across to their consumers in all of Europe. So they run 29 channels in Europe. So, what they came to Amagi and said, Okay, can I really virtualize all of these operations I don’t want to have any real estate or any data center that we would like to have. So essentially what a monkey did was to really take all the infrastructure and built our cloud software platform for where we could run all the linear channels. And we fight the content, both in traditional platforms like a satellite or a fiber, or it could be for Ott platforms, it doesn’t matter, I suppose, because it’s all in the cloud, you can start doing that. So that’s the sort of transformation that we did. And if you look at it, these customers have 10s and thousands of hours of content, so you have tons of content coming in. Then you have subtitles coming from different locations, people have dubbing studios from where you get audio files coming in separately. All of this gets and meshed in a workflow and eventually played out with graphics and other capabilities added and eventually gets distributed onto different platforms. That’s essentially what we do for the broadcaster’s largely from a TV channel standpoint.


Siddhartha 11:51

Fantastic. Baskar Can you share about you know, how did you start a journey before we talk more about Amagi, how did you start your journey as an entrepreneur, and what led to the birth of Amagi?


Baskar 12:03

Okay, personally, I think from my college days, I was very, very enamored, I think we talked about 91 to 95 my bachelor’s. Bill Gates was our hero in that sense. We’re all learning computer science. And he said, Hey, this is something software and I love software from the early days, so for example, my first company was formed when I was in school. So I come from a kind of a middle-class family. So essentially, we had a big challenge in affording a computer at home at that point in time. I was crazy of wanting to build software. So it’s very hard to keep me at home. So I used to spend most of my time in my school labs and it is frustrating for parents so they said, Hey, do something. Then I found out a chartered accountant with whom we had a deal there. For four days, I will build a product for them a financial product at the one-time financial accounting product for which I would get one day free for myself to build what I wanted. So that’s where my journey started. So my school days, I used to spend most of my nights sitting writing software. So we sold our first software, this is in Coimbatore, a small town in TamilNadu. So, I started selling software when I was in my 11th grade. So that is the first stint with software, in some sense. So then that passion continued, went to do computer science, and I’ve been a largely self learner from there on and this was fairly clear that I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so, I don’t think I’ve ever thought of any other career or dreamt of anything else outside of this. So it was fairly clear. And the only thing I think somebody sensibly told me in my final year was that Hey, Why don’t you work for a couple of years to understand the industry rather than trying to go directly to build your own business. That was 95 time frame. So I think that was good advice. So went to Texas Instruments. So, I worked for about a couple of years. And obviously, when I did my masters, it won’t be the same problem. Pretty much I’m a self learner. So, I’ve learned a lot of things myself, I found out that most of it is very academic and most people who are conferred masters are largely looking to get to a good job, which is not my intention. And so I didn’t find the environment, great sizes, okay, I left it and came back with a better pack my bags.


Siddhartha 14:29

Was it because you were inspired by Bill Gates, and your parents couldn’t allow you to drop your undergrad. That’s why you drop your grad.


Baskar 14:38

Actually, my parents have no, they’ve always been supporting me. Do whatever you want to. So when I called my dad and said, I am going to drop off IIT Bombay, he said, Okay, that’s your choice. If you’re comfortable doing it, do it. So in that sense, I don’t think there’s any pressure at home at all, frankly speaking, and it is really clear to me that life’s going to be an entrepreneur. It’s hard or easy, but I will be an entrepreneur. That’s the whole idea, I was thinking, a couple of years spent in Texas Instruments then worked in France for some time, because we had a project in France, I worked there. And that kind of got a good exposure across the industry understood, both international and how people work. That two years helped me and that’s it. That’s the only corporate life in my whole career. So then left it and then started, I don’t think we knew what we wanted to do. But three of us decided and that we’re going to start a company, it doesn’t matter what it is. But the only thing we knew is software and writing software. So that’s where we started. So about 99 timeframe, we started thinking about what to do and about 2000 we started our first company, which is a wireless technology company, a technology called Bluetooth was starting to happen. Obviously today it’s a common name. But in those days nobody understood what Bluetooth was. But so we started building software and we built our first wireless streaming solution. So we had our first music headsets launched in 2002. So, Logitech and Panasonic were are first customers who were actually buying all of this, so we built it for the iPod initially. And obviously that’s all toys today in terms of what you receive today. 2004 we built our first Bluetooth watch. So we had a watch which could take your phone calls, it tells you the messaging, what you see today, it was kind of at least 10 years ahead of its time. So, we were trying to sell it to fossil and Timex and a whole slew of Casio, so travelled across the globe trying to license this technology. It’s too early for its days, it used to connect your phones and we never had androids or iPhones at that point in time. So that was the journey. And then obviously, the acquisition came along so 2005 we sold the company and spent about 18 months with that company transitioning the whole thing. And 2008 is when we started thinking about what we came out and thinking about what to do in life. And I remember sitting in a park in JP Nagar people in Bangalore would realize this is small, what you call a mini forest in here? We were discussing three of us discussing and debating what should we do? And we were very software. So, we didn’t have any constraints on which market or which domain we said, we are kind of slightly foolish to do that, because we always try to get into markets, which we don’t know. And but try to learn that going forward rather than trying to get into things, you know. So we were debating and discussing and I remember and we were talking about television, and that conversation, the middle of the conversation, this is on a Monday morning at about I think 11:30 am. So one small boy walked up to us and he just kind of interrupted our conversation and said, Hey, can I tell you a future? And we were like what’s his question? At this point of time? Then he said, No, no, I’m actually a palmistry guy so I can actually see your future of your hands. And we said, No, no, no go away. We don’t want to know that but I think that’s stuck our conversation between all of our thinking, think about it. How is this guy laying that you are actually jobless, and we realize you’re sitting in a park on a Monday morning, it’s fairly clear that somebody should be jobless, to sit there early in the morning, without either you know, you’re retired, or you’re jobless. You need to know your future and this guy able to target people very well. And this targeting is what’s important that we’re missing. So that’s kind of like a conversation we started debating is targeting something needed. And we looked at the Indian market. And we said, we were slightly patriotic at the time, and we continued to be saying that we wanted to build something in India. So we said we’re passionate about saying, Okay, let’s the country is growing, that is opening up, we should do something. And we started thinking that will go disrupt the television space by splitting the whole satellite. Why should same advertising content go across the country? And why don’t we split that so that local small businesses can actually target their consumers in their locality using television, which is one of the biggest advertising medium through which the Unilever’s the PNGs are actually leveraging and why not a small soap manufacturer or a retail store here should not be able to leverage it. So because that is the fundamental Genesis, so we looked at the David Goliat sort of scenario for ourselves, we imagined back and said, Okay, let’s go after this. So, built the technology over the next few years, I think 2010, we launched our first service convinced some of the TV channels to provide us inventory. So I kind of connected the kind of built hardware boxes, which will actually go into different cable and satellite platforms where we interrupted the beams and split the beam so that whenever it comes to an advertising slot, if it’s our advertising spot, it will actually replace it with a different spot, because we have already bought that spot. And we replaced it. It was hairy for a lot of broadcasters, people think what are you guys trying to do? You’re trying to get you to buy screen liabilities, a whole slew of things. But I think we prevailed on that slightly bullheaded at the time but in 2012 large networks like Zee television and Viacom 18, all of them signed up. And they fit this is the future of how Geo-targetted advertisement is going to happen in the country. So, that was the kind of organizational transformation. So, 2010 to 2012 was a big struggle, but I think 2012 we got our first break in some of the large networks. So suddenly the company’s business started moving up. So, we were buying hundreds of crores of inventory. So we just buying a lot of inventory from these channels. So we became the second-largest buyer for some of these channels right, next to Unilever. We were the largest buyer of advertising inventory in the country, with some of these channels. So, we bought the inventory. We split it across the country and sold it to different advertisers in different parts of the country. That was a model. It was good, actually, I think the model itself is very exciting and interesting. But we had to build the model means we had to buy the supply inventory. We had to put the technology we ran the operations and advertising sales, and everything was to be done by one single company. Very, very high intense environment. And the fundamental flaw in this business model, which I think kind of slowly carry the class all the way is buying lot. The biggest flaw in this business model was, unlike any ad network model, which you see on the internet, we had a bigger problem structurally, because the supply side was constrained, the supply was owned by two, maybe three or four of the large networks, literally, which is a supply. So essentially, the supply side was very, very illiquid, it’s not as liquid as a typical bad inventory model in any other mobile or on the internet world today. So, that kind of constrained us a lot in terms of what we could do, because these people who used to come and actually raise money, raise prices every year because they could just continue to do that. And at some point, it became kind of untenable for us to run a business because our complete profitability of this whole gross margin business was literally driven by what’s the pricing we got into the business, and we were building all the technology, we were building everything together. It didn’t make sense. So, in about 2016, we shook hands with all these broadcasters said, Okay, guys, we’re not going to do this ourselves. And we don’t want to fatten your market. So, do let’s do the reverse, you pay us the money. So you pay royalty, we will provide you the technology. And we’ve proven the model. So, it’s hundreds of crores of inventory, we could show you that it works, you can now expand it with thousands of products. You know that you can do that. And so we flipped the model in 2016 timeframe. And essentially, prior to that, we just started building a whole cloud environment, we understood broadcasting the media business, and we had already started going international. So that was a big victory for us. I wouldn’t call it a pivot as much as both we’re actually running both simultaneously, at the part-time starting to build our own SaaS business models worldwide, at the same time trying to transition the Indian model from an advertising sales perspective into a complete technology platform moving forward. So that’s what we did in 2016. If you look at our platform, which is the flagship platform called Cloud port, which is kind of Born in 2015 timeframe, in 15-16, I think we had about two channels that we actually have launched. That was the launch happen. And but the cloud was itself very new to the whole media, business and media, if you look at this as a broadcasting domain, very, very finicky about using new technologies. From an adoption standpoint, second was content, content is huge. So really, for you the Internet bandwidth across the globe had to be so much that you want to do terabytes of content to be pushed in into these into these places, and petabytes be pushed out as well. So there’s a lot of infrastructural issues in terms of cloud, cost of cloud, everything was kind of a big negative at the time. But what we did look at it clearly, we saw that cloud cost is going to come down, overall liability is going to go up, it’s going to become more secure. And this is a future so we could kind of bet on the future. So, in 2017, from two channels, we became four channels and that is not a big deal. Because that’s all we got it and a lot of people are skeptical, saying hey, is it going to happen now or not? But I think when 2018 came in the whole transformation happened. So just to give you from two channels in 2016 17 timeframes, right now we have about 450 channels running in the system. So the change was so dramatic. And in fact, we think that growth, for example, we grew by 25% last quarter, just about quarter on quarter, right. So that means one-fourth of the whole company was created, we created the next last quarter. That means that the pace of the whole thing is actually accelerating quite fast. And that I don’t think we anticipated it. We would have loved to happen it early. But I think that’s the time it took for the market to adopt and it’s just the biggest learning is the market has to happen and you have to be there at the right time. I think that that’s the biggest learning for us.


Siddhartha 24:42

But you couldn’t predict it, it’s just that you went ahead with your gut and kept on building.


Baskar 24:46

Yes, I think a lot of people inside the company as well but very skeptical it’s gonna happen because 2016 17 it didn’t look like because the media business was slow, and I remember having the VC conversations where VCs felt that this is a very sluggish industry. The media will never adopt the cloud for a long time. And you guys are bucking the wrong tree. We love your technology. We love you guys, but I don’t want to put money on things which we don’t know how fast it will transform and I think that was 2016 17 I’ve had VC friends their conversations used to be that way. And but we kind of kept at it we said no, no, it looks like it’s coming. It’s turning around the corner. I think 2018, 19, 20 has been kind of a Blitzer but it’s changed dramatically. And just that waiting it out was worth at this time at least. That’s what it is.


Siddhartha 25:40

So Baskar, our listeners, if you can share, you know, a rough approximate revenue numbers between 2012 to 2018-19 like how it sounds like a very exciting and a very fast-growing journey. So just to give a context.


Baskar 25:56

So, if you look at it, 2012 to 2016 was a complete journey on the geo-targeted testing business, that business grew from, obviously zero rupees to hundreds of crores of money, obviously, Indian rupees, right, so it actually grew to that business. And then we kind of crashed the business completely as a company, we kind of moved into a complete tech model, because advertising revenues were obviously much, much higher, right. So we had to bring back and we only making royalties out of that. Literally, in 2016, we started on this SaaS model, we started almost at zero, right? So zero that we started. And if you look at it, the growth from there on which is zero dollars to, roughly what we’re talking about, we’ve crossed the revenue in terms of millions of dollars, right. So, we are kind of getting into the larger spectrum right now. So, the growth has been about if you look at it in the last three years, our growth is about 500% totally from five times the growth right so the company is kind of transforming itself pretty much. For example, last year we did a 100% growth, that’s two times the company was going two times. Now as I told you this quarter, COVID quarter, you’re gonna worried about COVID quarter, but I think it helped the media business, we’re just lucky to be on the other side of the COVID acceleration. So the business grew by almost 25% already, right? So, so in a quarter in three months, so we’ve seen that sort of growth path going forward as well.


Siddhartha 27:23

How big is the company in terms of the number of people?


Baskar 27:25

We are about 225 people right now. And largely obviously technology is our biggest where software development is our biggest part of the house. We do run managed operations for our customers. So we do have a center in Delhi where we do monitoring and in Bangalore, so both of these places are monitoring centers. And we do have offices across in LA, New York, and London, which is our primary sales and pre-sales and support offices. In India, largely Delhi and Bangalore. Bangalore is our biggest center where all our engineering and operations run out of this.


Siddhartha 28:03

And I believe most of your revenues would be based out of the US and Europe.


Baskar 28:07

Yeah, roughly about 70% of our revenues come from the US, and about another 20 22% that come from Europe, and about another 5- 6% from Asia and a few from India.


Siddhartha 28:20

Yes, Baskar, looks like the journey has not been very easy at Amagi. You know, anybody who was seeing, you know, second time entrepreneur with a first time successful exit. Right? How were the fundraising journey for you in Amagi a various point in time?


Baskar 28:36

A couple of things, I think, we have been fairly lucky as well, and just a couple of things. One is I think, I think in India, and particularly, I think, if you’ve done the first success, it’s relatively easy for you to take the next company start off at least after that the performance matters but at least to start with is easier. So for our first investor pretty much was on a handshake that they put the money So that’s really and we put our money. So first, initially, our three founders, we had the money to invest. So for the first 24 months, we ran the company ourselves literally. And we didn’t want to raise money at the time. But when we kind of fructify, the whole business model, which is in advertising, and we had to buy ad inventory and dollars, obviously, it was very clear that we need a lot of larger amount of money to do it and cannot be done at a smaller scale, because we’re trying to build the whole ecosystem. So that kind of drew us to start talking to people. First was an angel. So, it was a much easier handshake, we got the money. The second was the Mayfield venture fund again. I think all of them took a gut call and the early days pretty much I don’t think anybody understood how the business model is going to evolve, but largely as people they felt and they trusted us to deliver in some sense and then put the money which also comes to the huge baggage because you are now responsible for somebody trusting you. So, it’s important to be able to return back that becomes an extremely high responsibility for us as entrepreneurs. Sometimes that’s the kind of thing that I would rather avoid that people come in with their eyes open. But it’s hard from time See you, people trust you. And that’s something that you take the trust, and you need to kind of keep it up. But I think after we got into the private equity space, because the company has started growing, and we did a security advertisement a million dollars and started increasing overall. So at that point in time, we got Premji to invest. And then we got Emerald. There was a bit of struggle at that one time, there were two things, it was a kind of a unique beast that we were trying to address here. It was neither a complete consumer business nor is it a complete b2b in that sense of traditional tech-driven but kind of advertising model overlaid and I think by 2016, 17 it is fairly clear that the internet started really have 2008 when we started internet, we would just look at Internet but we didn’t really figured out how soon it’s going to build out in India. I think that transformed dramatically. So I think at that time people said, Oh, is television go to survive? What’s going to happen television and Indian television? What’s going to happen? Is it not a market, which is going to be hard to handle? I think those days and people don’t see the whole cloud environment was also very hard, challenging, because either it was too extreme futuristic, in our business model or something, which is to look like you’re trying to kind of disrupt traditional space, which is not easy and amenable for change, be it the large broadcaster. So, that was the kind of thesis and I’m sure a lot of the investor friends of ours, when we talk to them, that was the basic thesis, they all came back with. They say, we like you guys, we do our thing. And these are all people that I personally interact with for more than a decade. So it’s not like, we are good friends. Right? So, they could see from that thesis that this is the challenge they had. So,but those two rounds were, I wouldn’t call it fully challenging or very extreme issues, but it was not a slam dunk. So we had to work through that to kind of lay these concerns and then do that. And so that that was two big steps that we had to take. But I think things turned around for the last three, four years have been dramatically different from the last investment. And right now, we are completely profitable, there’s no reason for us to raise money. So, in that sense, the change was something that we’ve been looking forward to. And that’s been a big change for us as a company.


Siddhartha 32:28

And you are currently profitable. what’s your end goal for Amagi? Do you want to take it public? Do you think the market is big enough that you will be a 200 million ARR company in the next few years? And that you could go public on NASDAQ, or you think that you know, pragmatically when investors you discuss is the acquisition on a line.


Baskar 32:49

Okay, there are many ways this can work out. And I don’t think we kind of stuck or kind of specific on a particular way of exit largely as founders at least. What we’re seeing is that there is again, SaaS businesses grow like a beak. When they grow, they will grow like immediately. It’s just the way the business model works. And what we’re seeing is in a growth phase largely. And there’s a couple of ways three different options in front of us. One is, obviously we are actively looking at whether we should be acquiring other companies, which can actually help us to either bring in new customers or bring in complementary technology options, which can fortify the platform further on. But the mission is the same. The mission is fundamentally to change this whole media tech business, bring them onto a cloud platform, and be the leader in doing that. So I think that’s the base purpose that we are living today. And we continue to believe in that vision, we will continue to invest in that full time. So for us more and more portfolio of solutions that we can bring on board and more of our customers will be able to transform them from on prem to digital platform exactly what I think the cloud companies are going through from a transformation on a broader level, we’re doing that in the media space together, right? So one is should we acquire smaller companies. Second, obviously, is an option where maybe as we grow, we will see that possibly, first accelerate from 100 million dollar ARR, let’s say, I want to build a $200-$300 ARR. And maybe there are other companies which can actually drive that faster. Maybe there’s an acquisition in the angle that could help us as well. But that’s, again, when we grow, we have to continue to grow. I think we have a lot of growth in front of us that we would like to continue. So right now as a company, we are hunkering down really focusing on growth. I think once we hit a scale where it makes sense that it could be an IPO and acquisition. That’s an opening that we need to look at going forward. But right now for the next 24 months. We have a fairly clear cut execution plan in place, which we continue to execute on.


Siddhartha 34:50

Fantastic, I think with a 25% quarter on quarter growth, If you continue to do this, you’re not very behind a 100 million ARR.


Baskar 35:00

Yes, roughly. That’s what it is, I think. Yeah, as you rightly pointed out, I think that there’s an exponential growth curve that we are seeing. And we hope to see those numbers. But again, more than numbers, I think for me personally, the biggest gratification is are we changing an industry? are we delivering a value which is going to be irreversible? And I think that is much more important than number goals. Number goals are number goals in some sense. So more than that, I think it’s a transformation. And the value that we bring to our customers is a much more satisfying and gratifying thing. And our intention is to be a leader and being able to do that. So and in fact, all our efforts is not about generating revenue as much as how many new customers you can transform how many logos are seeing this as a value? And how do we continue to add value year on year to people and just to give you that for example till now for the last journey about four or five years, we’ve not lost a single customer to the competition. Or either customer, some of them, obviously smaller ones have gone bankrupt or otherwise. But no customer has gone from Amagi and said, Okay, I’m going to go to another competition, because largely because the big focus on keeping customers and being making them happy and then taking them going forward. And then that’s been the biggest. And it’s been hard and it’s not easy thing because given the growth stage that you are in, and access to talent and access to building those sort of capabilities in India, it’s been also been another challenge,


Siddhartha 36:28

And Baskar behind this growth, what are the processes you as an entrepreneur adopt for yourself and standards you hold yourself up to, and what are the processes you adopt in your team? I’m not talking about HR, but you know, to sustain this kind of growth, I believe it would be hard and to hold yourself accountable to it.


Baskar 36:49

Oh, yes, and no. And I’ll kind of walk through both actually, from a philosophical standpoint, I think they’ll see the company is at the point where it’s independent of me personally or anybody right? It’s a system that’s starting to grow. And it’s like a baby, right? You have grown the baby, the baby has become larger, and it just continues to grow. I don’t think I see the weight of responsibility in terms of its success or failure at this time, literally. When it’s younger, you’re putting a lot of emotions to kind of build it out. But at this point in time, I think it’s really largely trying to tend it rather. So we need to be tending it and kind of nudging in the right direction, rather than trying to feel the ownership of the scope itself. So I slightly dissociate myself with the growth itself as an individual, so it’s easier to kind of handle things. Having said that, from a process standpoint, obviously not have I think we had to reinvent ourselves multiple times over and there are all these friction points where the discrete steps of change that will happen. I think in a small company, you knew everything about everybody and everything that’s happening the company. That was your, I think, unconscious comfort, thinking that, okay, you have control over the system because you have the knowledge of what’s happening across the company, I think you’d start to tend to lose that as you move forward. And that happens in a couple of ways. Obviously, you’re bringing in new sets of leadership, new sets of people who are trying to address things, then become the friction of saying, okay, should I control decisions? Or how does the decision-making process happen? Right? So it’s quite a very interesting scenario where you are expected to support as a leader in terms of new or new thought processes. It could be against your thought process, but you’re trying to really look at it in a different lens. So that learning happened personally, as well. As we start really letting go. I think letting go is a very critical part of the growth process for entrepreneurs and extremely hard behavior change. So we all went through that from a letting go of the whole thing and enabling the new leadership to come in getting new people and really focus on vision and setting up processes, which will make it friction-free for the teams to work together and coordinate, rather than being responsible for a lot of things. So going away from responsibilities, but actually creating structures, which can be more, I would call it a clock building phase where we are as a company, not a timekeeping case. So we’ve been timekeepers for more than a few years said. So, in that sense now is a clock building phase for the company where the company should be able to run without any of us being here. And for that, we need to prepare the organizations and systems and structures to do that. I think a lot of my effort isn’t really recruitment, creating these processes in place, which will allow the company to perform independent of so you’re not in decision making jobs every day, but you’re actually helping decision making helping the putting together more of leading indicators and directions and values. So this is what the company I always tell people, hey, if I’m not there in the room, what would be your decision, it should be exactly the same when I’m in the room. So we need to kind of build those sort of value systems and DNA, that the company can go forward without any of us trying to be part of the part of the controlling mechanism. In some sense. That’s the stage where we are in as a company, that we’re trying to put those things together. I don’t know if I answered your question


Siddhartha 40:21

Can you share an example of one of those value systems?


Baskar 40:24

Let’s go through that right. For example, we, as a company, have multiple values that are four or five values which are very critical for us as a company, and we kind of repeatedly talk about it. One is integrity and integrity is a cliched value for a lot of companies, right? Everybody talks about integrity. But in our system, and again, we can stretch integrity slightly. It’s not about business transactions, how do you do, it’s not about greyness in your business, which I think we’re all clear. It’s black and white. All of us talk about saying, we have a very clear understanding of what integrity means from a business standpoint. More than that, we stretch the definition for example, into what we call vulnerability. And I personally respect a lot in the company where there is vulnerability. And when I say vulnerability, it is not a weakness, it’s actually a strength in a team. Essentially, we wanted all our team members to be able to come in and say, Hey, okay, I don’t know this, or maybe I screwed it up. But don’t worry, let’s go figure it out, again, together, have that sort of comfort, in terms of being able to address things as a team, we are vulnerable to each other. I personally, for example, have the at least privileged to go to my team and say, Okay, I screwed it up. This is what we thought of the strategy, but I think we want to change it. Because of these reasons, I should be able to be comfortable. And the same we expect from all our team members. So this is a big change because when we started bringing in more leadership teams from other different companies and large and small, it was important for us to be able to drive these processes in place that drive the conduct comes from comfort as well in terms of interactions in terms of having that capability because And again, nothing wrong with the other companies. But large companies tend to build structures and need that hierarchy and what I call political needs fundamentally, to prove people have to prove themselves and meetings are kind of highly charged. But we want a mechanism where we all really are open with each other and feel that, oh, it could be foolish, stupid questions you can ask and then you can go back because we trust you as an individual and not just because how you act in a meeting or act in a particular situation. So, that needed to change that we needed a conscious change as a company, for example, that’s one example I’m talking about, that we run through a lot, many interactions and a lot of people first get kind of find it hard to grab the ability to be vulnerable and be open about things and be comfortable that say, Hey, we all failed. I failed. I’ll go back and look at it come back, which is perfectly fine in an environment of ours, which is important for us to drive that process.


Siddhartha 42:58

Fantastic. Bhaskar, can you share a few key moments, you know where you were really vulnerable and almost on the verge of crying or cried out during building Amagi?


Baskar 43:08

Ah, there are many actually, okay two things just personally, I don’t relate myself, at least as an individual not wedded to the business itself. So I slightly see myself different from the business. So in that sense, I keep my sanity without draining my emotions on the company itself, personally, that just this association, I do philosophically for myself. Having said that, there are moments right so for example, I remember when we do the geo-targeted advertising business, the business is trying to grow. And at some point, I had to bet buying the satellite receiver, so we were buying receivers, that we had put software on it. And the software team was working on it. And we had a customer who said I’m ready to buy it. So I went ahead and ordered about I think about 10,000 boxes, 10,000, I think I don’t remember the number. It’s about million-dollar and about right at that point when we were small. And that was a big decision that I just made the decision. And I think I didn’t sync in with people till we got those boxes in our office. And I remember the day, 10,000 boxes sitting in a mound, and we had a double-storey building where we were there, the whole boxes that we can list it till the top of the building literally right. So it was like, those sorts of angles. And when the software teams came in, they said, What is this pastor and I tell them, You know what, I bought these boxes, million boxes, and your software is going to run on these boxes starting in the next three months. They were really out of their mind. They said what’s this, you betting on our software to run all these boxes, and you bet a billion-dollar with this. And they were very scared of the whole thing. But I’m just kind of comfortable. I said, Hey, this is the reality we have to bet. And you folks build your software come back, let’s discuss it. 90 days later. We in fact did launch the product. We actually put all these boxes across the field just to give context to people so it’s easier to understand is these are satellite receivers, where the only connection to the world is through a satellite. That means I can communicate one way it’s almost like the Mars Rover, some sense, right? In a very mini minuscule form. I can communicate in one way, but I cannot really communicate, I don’t know what’s happening there fundamentally, and these are like the first implementation 3000 locations where we are communicating it, we had a software bug on that, where the bridge connectivity between our connectivity from the satellite transmission to that receiver was lost.


Siddhartha 45:32

So Bhaskar during your, you know, last many years of entrepreneurship. If you do self-reflection, how have you evolved as a person and as a business owner?


Baskar 45:44

Ah, I think the biggest evolution for ourselves is, I think the biggest learning as an entrepreneur, there is no definition of a single definition of success in business because as you’re going to different business problems, you want to see different ways of solving problems. So it’s not a single particular trait or something that’s going to really allow you to survive and grow. I think as evolution as an individual, I think that helped us to grow. And personally, for me, that’s been a big learning in terms of allowing to see every problem in a fresh pair of eyes, rather than with the context of the past, which always you would feel either success or failure of your past context, would drive the decisions in the future. I think that’s something very conscious about that and trying to see everything without a context. From a business standpoint, I think the biggest learning personally for us is that things happen when markets happen. It’s not about how brilliant you are or how brilliant is your idea or your execution. I think all of that is second. Yes, they’re all important, necessary conditions. But the eventually thing is, the market has to be ready for it for adoption. The market adopts then if you’re doing everything, you’re right place by time I think it’s an extremely great leveler as individuals, it’s not about entrepreneurs creating markets, all of us would love to say, we created markets. But I think someday consumers and customers when they open their wallets decide when they want to do what they want to do. And when they do it in hords. That’s when the markets happening on its own. And you were there right time at the Right place. I think that’s been the biggest learning as well,from a business standpoint.


Siddhartha 47:23

But you can’t use you know, certain frameworks to arrive at the right place at the right time. It’s more of serendipity. What do you believe?


Baskar 47:32

I wouldn’t think it’s all serendipity in that order. Yes, I think you are trying to learn from signals that are already available. Obviously, it’s anecdotal. It’s not It’s not like rough. It’s not like a raw gut where you’re just making a decision and thinking you’re gonna be lucky. I don’t think that works in real life, right? You are taking some point in terms of stumps and things that are happening in the future, and you really take those decisions and live with those decisions against all odds. I think as entrepreneurs, sometimes times can go wrong, but if you’re able to kind of hone that skill and be lucky as well, so not that luck is away from it. But thinking only by Lucky you, that’s foolishness, right? So we can’t randomly do things and think that you will become lucky. By doing a set of things and predicting and being able to look at things and eventually luck failure failing that particular decision of yours is the formula for success, I think going forward.


Siddhartha 48:28

And if you can share with our listeners, things which you have personally developed or habits that you have personally developed to evolve as a leader, where you are today.


Baskar 48:42

I think Yeah, going back to the same conversation I had is to is letting go right. So initially, I think there was a lot of stress in terms of pretty much feeling the weight or what do you call it a baggage of carrying the whole organization. What I mean by that is, I think in early days as an entrepreneur, when you really sit in a garage, you typically, maybe two, three of you really looking to rebuild it pretty much. You’re building technology, you’re going to the market, you’re talking to investors, you’re trying to hire employees, pretty much, it’s a large responsibility. You’re trying to run around and do things. At some point in time, you need to start kind of letting go of those aspects and kind of starting to evolve, to look at more strategically where the company is going. And it is important to spend more time because two things happen. One is a lot of jobs. This is a transformation of your job role as founders moving forward, going forward. And at every point in time, we’re small. Right now, we were very small earlier. And as we start growing, I think there’ll be a very different sets of needs, as entrepreneurs need to evolve as leaders. And we also need to be clear on what’s our strengths and weaknesses. And that’s something that we are very conscious about. So if you are not the right people, I think you should never come between the organization and the growth of the organization. Because it is not a connection that there is no umbilical cord connection between the founder and organization because that is not a healthy one. So at some point of time, you want to cut it off and say the organization has to bring the leadership it needs unless you are personally evolving, and that I’ve seen myself, am I the right CEO? Am I building the right organization? Or should I bring externally for example, all of these are things that we need to be open about? And I think we’ve started thinking about it ourselves saying, hey, should we bring in somebody or should we not and both sides, it’s important that sometimes, without being emotional about it, you might want to take care of the organization yourself. And there are scenarios where you need to bring in people on board. So how do you kind of go through this leadership phase, transforming yourself to be relevant for the company, and yeah, each instant of time as the company grows. So, that’s been a big learning for me personally.


Siddhartha 53:46

Fantastic. Thank you so much, Baskar. It was a pleasure having you on the 100x Entrepreneur podcast. Thank you for sharing your journey, your experiences, and you know, almost your lifetime building companies as an entrepreneur.


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