Episode 146 / December 5, 2021

SAAS from India to US: Myths Debunked ft. Anand Jain, Co-founder CleverTap

48 min

Episode 146 / December 5, 2021

SAAS from India to US: Myths Debunked ft. Anand Jain, Co-founder CleverTap

48 min
Listen on

A notion amongst most Indian SaaS entrepreneurs is to move to the US to expand or start from the US from Day 1 itself.

However, in today’s episode, we’ve brought Anand Jain, Co-founder of CleverTap, to debunk this myth and shed more light on what an early-stage SaaS founder’s roadmap should be in terms of either staying in India or moving to any global market.

CleverTap is a leading customer engagement and retention platform, trusted by over 10,000 apps, including Gojek, AirAsia, Sony, Vodafone, Carousell, and Cleartrip.

During the episode, Anand talks about how a company needs to adopt new market plans to continue growing one milestone after another, his learnings early-stage SaaS entrepreneurs can consider in their journey, and much more.

Notes –

00:55 – Founding CleverTap

06:57 – $45 Mn ARR and customer growth Y-o-Y

10:43 – “What got you to 45 will not get you 100.”

16:55 – Is moving to the US to expand as a SaaS company necessary?

24:03 – 3 Key points in his $1 Mn to $10 Mn ARR Playbook

27:10 – Mistakes in his journey building CleverTap

40:10 – Game Plan to market your product in newer markets and different ARR levels


Read the full transcript here:



Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:01

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia, welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur podcast today, we have with us Anand Jain founder CleverTap, CleverTap emphases digital plans to increase customer retention. Founded in May 2013, Clevertap offers blazing fast analytics, powerful real time segmentation, multi-channel messaging, A-B testing and personalization in one unified solution, consumer brands around the world including Vodafone, Sony, Mercedes Benz, and GoJek trust clevertap to help them improve user engagement and retention, thereby growing long term revenue. CleverTap is backed by leading venture capital firms including Sequoia India, Tiger global, Accel. Anand, welcome to the podcast.


Anand Jain 00:49

thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:52

Anand, you have been an entrepreneur in the Indian startup ecosystem for over a while, right? your journey starts way back, around 2005-2006, you have been vocal on Twitter, around your learnings, right? So would like to tap into, you know, a summary of your journey, how your thought process behind it, and what led you to found clever tap? Sure. Thank you. I think I moved back from the US in 2006. And I ran a consumer startup, which was pre-Zomato. It was in the food restaurant discovery space. And after that got acquired by network18, I was with network18 for four years running a lot of the consumer businesses. So, think of yellow pages, think of money control, and so on, so forth, right? I think one thing that we noticed, running a consumer business is it’s very hard to understand what your true users truly want. And that is, because you’re not collecting enough data about the user first party data. I mean, right. And even if you have access to the data, you don’t know how to process all this in real time, how to make sense out of it, you must convert data into information, and then use it to serve your users better. So, I think after having spent four years in network18, we decided to start clever tap with a simple objective of can we leverage data? can we leverage machine learning? can we leverage real time platform to engage users in real time so that you can retain them better such that it drives your long term, you know, LTV lifetime value of the customer, and improve retention metrics. And when you started clever tap, it was a very innovative space. Right. Mix panel, I think started at the same time. And today, it is become like, extreme number of startups are in the same space. Right? So, Does it worry you that, you know, suddenly you are an extremely competitive space? And the multiples or for a VC funding, you know, can be low because of the competition, as well, as you know, the customer has so many choices to make. Right? How do you think about that?


Anand Jain 03:26

Correct. I think, one having competition validates your space, you’re not the only one building a solution. But, you know, more importantly, you know, what does the competitive landscape look like? So, let’s say you’re running a consumer business, right? And you would have products like analytics in your stack, you might have an email service provider, you might have a WhatsApp provider, you might have push notifications, there might be a segmentation engine, there might be all sorts of various tools, right. Like recommendation engine, and so and so forth. Now, if you broadly look at what’s out there, these are all point solutions, right? These solve for us one specific use case. For example, if you are using WhatsApp to reach out to the users, you will have to buy WhatsApp from the providers or if you have analytics from a particular provider, like you know, that will solve for that thing, right? No one solves the problem, or no one puts this data together holistically for you, the growth manager. What clevertap does is, you know, we have what we did in the first three years of our startup life is what we build this unified data layer, this one data layer through which you can accumulate data from multiple sources. So, your call center data, your data that’s coming from your apps, from your website, point of sale system, CRM, and so on so forth. It gives you the visibility of the user across different channels. You can use this to process these two fun bubble insights on the users, so things like what are my user doing? Where are they from? Where did the drop off? Are my loyal users coming back, and so and so forth? You can use these insights to segment people better, or create these micro segments, you know, the classic segment of one, you can achieve that with Clevertap. And then you can finally engage these users in a meaningful way. So, you can say, Okay, well, these people who are, you know, on my platform, if someone is dropping off, should I send them a message or not, should I you know, maybe for some people have some sort of people, you might change the way they experience a product. For example, if there’s a gold member, you may want to change the layout of the app for them. So, we help you with all these things. So, we are not selling a point solution, we are selling something that’s holistic, and it solves for the larger retention problem. And I think that’s what you know that so I’m not afraid of competition or how others serve the market. We have a rapid growth in the last four or five years of us monetizing the platform says that there is a big market, and people don’t want to buy these multiple solutions, and then stitch them together, you know, in a previous life, I was an engineer, and I was an engineer tasked to stitch up the solutions. I’m not a marketer, and neither are my other two founders, marketers, but we were the engineers that had to stitch these products, multiple products together, and from there, and we got the insight that, hey, there has to be this one product that can provide you one end to end view of the user journey, and also provide you ways where you can nudge or intervene as a user goes through your product. So that’s what we do. And that’s what the competitive landscape looks like.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 06:50

And would love to know from you, you know, in the last eight years, how has the ARR and a number of customers of clevertap grown year on year?


Anand Jain 07:00

Yeah. So, I think, I’ll break this up into two parts. One is the, when we started out, unlike many startups that are out there, we spent about 30 months building the core platform. We had a strong belief, like I was talking about this data layer, we had a strong belief that It’s not like, hey, can we set up a custom database and start, you know, accumulating all the data, right? Storing it, it’s at the actionability is what we worked upon. So, we said, there are three or four things that need to happen. One, the platform should be capable of storing infinite amount of data to it should be available for you to you, as a publisher, as a growth manager, you know, for immediate action in real time. And three, you can use this entire so this any action that you take, like, you know, kind of feeds back into the platform. That’s how you close the loop with the users. Right. So that was the first 30 months, we had a ball of time, we have things like arr. And other things didn’t matter. The three engineers got to write something core. And, I think, you know, and it was fun experience, right? We have we have filed 11 patents on the core technology of clevertap. So right after we built this out, we said like can we go out and like start showing the product around too few people that we know in the industry, and so on, so forth. So we started monetizing the product, the first sale, if you will happened in the year 2016, in the in the month of May, so and that year, that one year, we closed at $1.6 million of ARR. In the first year of our business. Today, fast forward, like you know, five and a half years later, Clevertap is at $45 million dollars of ARR. And we run our business with a extremely strong gross margin and extremely high net retention rate of 120%.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 09:03

So, if you can share right from 2016 to every year on year, how has the revenue compounded?


Anand Jain 09:10

so we have grown at 250+ % CAGR, which is compounded annual growth rate. And we’ve been very lucky to find very broad adoption in the India plus Southeast Asia market. That was the first market we went to sell the product, you know, Clevertap was founded in Mumbai. And I’m still in Mumbai, one of the outliers from the rest of the ecosystem. But we had a little thesis like that Indian startup ecosystem, the consumer side is going to blow up. And they will require a product and what better to you know, instead of going halfway across the globe, can we sell to Indian startups, can we sell to the ones that might need the product like ours? And in that we found some of the biggest brands that there are in India that today users, so that led to a massive expansion of product capabilities, but also of revenue. As they grew, we grew as well. So, India, Southeast Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Europe and North America continue to be our big markets, which pretty much covers, you know, outside of Japan, Korea, and China, which is pretty much everything. And we have very good logos that work with us across these markets.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 10:28

So, by that like last year, you were at 20 million ARR, and this year, like it grew more like 2.5x to 45 mil, so assumingly, right, you will cross 100 mil next year.


Anand Jain 10:43

one of the challenges is not growing revenue. One of the challenges as an entrepreneur I can share this is how do you scale the organization? What got you to 45 will not get you 100. So, what are the changes you need to make and need to make very, these changes in a very rapid pace with a very, you must be very sure about them. Like, for example, in the first year, hustle got me, you know, $1.6 million, right, there was no method to the madness, if I can use that. It was just me and a couple of other guys. And we were going all over the town showing the product signing up customers. In a very loose definition of the term, right, we did not have any contracts, we did not have purchase orders. We were just happy to ship the SDK. And you know, have them just use the platform, right? Today, we have, you know, a scalable sales machine, if you will. We have you know, a whole bunch of characters, right. So, there is this Business Development, BDRs SDRs, I’m sure you know, you are familiar with these terms, right? So, we have this entire pipeline of when a person demonstrates interest or when an organization shows interest in us, how do you take them through the journey, like our customer journey all the way when they sign up with us? And can we do this at scale? Can we do this in a repeatable way? Can we do this across all geographies with a very wide set of customers. So, for example, our ARR ranges from like average ACB, rather, let me just put it like that right ranges from $2,500, which is if you sign up for Clevertap for startups, you can start up with as low as $200 a month. It’s you can sign up online, you can pay through a credit card, and you know, you get a non-enterprise plan, DIY plan, if you want to call it that. And you can start with that all the way to customers that pay us a lot of money like upwards of $200,000 a month. So, at that scale, or at that range of revenue, right per customer, how do you scale your organization? These are the challenges that we grappled with. But we are very confident of our continued growth, there is a lot of demand for products like ours. A lot of companies also want to grow sustainably, they don’t want to keep throwing dollars at customer acquisition. They realize that, you know, sometimes it’s the same customer that comes back again and again. Customers pissed, uninstall the app. And then Few days later they spend money to acquire that same user, can you instead retain that person? Can you figure out what this person came looking for? Can you proactively serve than that? And you can do this all of this without using gut feeling, on a strong hypothesis led by data. And that’s what platform like ours, you know, lead like our customers to? And I think that is the future, right? That is how, you know what we see the industry and everyone evolving towards.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 13:45

What’s the geographic split of the 45-mil current ARR?


Anand Jain 13:50

Yeah, we have a extremely healthy chunk of revenue coming from India or Southeast Asia, because this region also had a lead. So, the last four years, we were selling here. Last year, we went out to the US and of course, it was the pandemic year. I think we renewed our efforts again to go back this year and you know, 2022. in terms of split, I would say about 65% of revenue comes from India plus Southeast Asia. The rest of the 35% comes from the rest of the world for us.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 14:23

Your co-founder, Sunil moved to US like quite early, was it a strategic move to build the US sales team and you build a US base?


Anand Jain 14:35

Yeah, It was less for sales, I would say but more for product thinking. So, Sunil prior to us starting clevertap was based out of the US and when we started Clevertap you know, there was a decision that North America is going to be a very significant market for us. And it’s probably the most mature market there is in the world for not only SAAS products but everything to do with marketing, retention, Customer Acquisition and analytics, all of those things. And what we wanted to do is want to learn from that market. We always believe in learning from the best. So, what was it that the market could teach us? So, when it was time like, right after our seed funding, we have one of us had to move to the US, and we decided it’s going to be Sunil. And what Sunil did was, of course, established a beachhead, he was there in the market very early. But he also kind of, you know, spoke to a lot of entrepreneurs, spoke to a lot of businesses to gauge, what is it that they are missing in the current stack? And, you know, overwhelmingly, we heard that, you know, hey, there’s too many tools. I’m sure you know, this stack. But there are probably more than 500 tools being used in any one’s growth stack which is, we believe is like a lot of them, right. And then there is data inconsistencies, all sorts of things, right, like, so. In the early days, we use Sunil to test the theory that if you unify everything, you know, and if you provide a single source of truth, will people want to buy a product like that? So, we used him for that. And of course, like, you know, he was happy to show a demo to anyone that cared. And we had some early signups from the US as well.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 16:21

And is it required because this is a common theme? Indian SAAS entrepreneurs after this scale to 1 million error? Right, the constant feedback from investors, the senior entrepreneur is to move to US. Is it required right, a SAAS entrepreneur when he starts to think of, at some point of time have to move to US right to if I want to build a large company?


Anand Jain 16:49

Yeah, I mean, I have a little different opinion from everyone else, or everything that I’ve heard, I don’t think so you must move to the US. And not because anyone else is telling you to move to the US, right? Now, you don’t need to be in the US to build a large company, we have seen the founders of Atlassian, they were based out of ANZ, and they will extremely large company, there are so many other founders who are not even in the Bay Area. They’re like, you know, somewhere else in the US, or they are not even in the US, right? There’s some other part of the world. I think with these, you must be clear on why you want to move to the US right? It is not for sales. America is a market that does not want to see you in person, right, they’re happy to buy products online, through zoom, though, you know, like, they’re happy to swipe the credit card on a product that’s available, you know, on online, right, they don’t have to meet you or WhatsApp you or call you or whatever. If the reason for you moving is to learn from a market, then you have to move to the market, right? I know founders who have shifted to Southeast Asia, some have moved to Berlin to learn from that respective market side. So, depending upon where you think your majority of your customers are going to come from, you have to go learn from that market, not to sell but to learn. Once you learn, you can always sell but converse is not true.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 18:12

That’s a very interesting point of view, right? Move to a market where you want to learn from your customers, from the ecosystem. Right? And I believe a US customer centric SAAS company can completely be built as you said from India, the founder doesn’t need to spend majority of his time in US for that.


Anand Jain 18:35

yeah, see, when I moved back from the US, right in 2006, the information wasn’t democratized. These days, you can follow anyone on Twitter, you can follow whoever your role model is right? You can listen to their YouTube videos, you can listen to their podcasts, you can follow them on Twitter. And if you ask very nicely, they will even respond to in person right, you know, you might get onto a 20–30-minute phone call with anyone out there. So, the access to information or the access to the people who have done it before is readily available these days, right? I would say you should utilize those channels before you, you know, uproot yourself from your home territory and move halfway across the world, especially for early-stage founders. Right? You might still be required to be in the office to set up the early culture, you know, to give direction to your team and just hang around with them like you know, you must be part of the journey. You can’t be sitting halfway across the world and then, you know, run it remotely. But as I said, access to information is very much there. It’s much easier now. There are all sorts of forums available. And I would encourage anyone like you know, who’s listening is SAAS entrepreneur to utilize these forums to learn from entrepreneurs before relocating to some other part of the world


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 19:59

Fresh works put Indian SAAS ecosystem on global map, you know, $13 billion fantastic IPO. Right. But at the same time, you know, as we discussed in offline conversation, there are fewer than, you know, 10 companies, which are above 50 million ARR, in India, pure SAAS businesses. What do you think will take us when you know, we see right, at least four to five Indian SAAS companies going IPO in us what is required and how much time ecosystem efforts are required to take us there?


Anand Jain 20:37

I will steal a line they say about innovation, right? That it’s very slow, and then it happens suddenly. So, you know, if you look at the Indian SAAS industry, literally Girish started it. There were few very few other players, right, I can say so, ZOHO was one of them? There was Browser Stack, maybe, you know, a couple of three others that literally started that fight, they said they had a hypothesis, they were not copying any idea. They were building original products. And then suddenly, fast forward, like, you know, 7-8 years, and then you have so many startups, I think there are 1000s of SaaS companies right now, a lot of them you may not even have heard the name, they have access to capital, there are some extremely good investors in the domestic market. Like in India, there is a lot of investors that are willing to invest in India from outside. We have seen this, we read the news, we know what I’m talking about. And then there is a talent depth, which is being created as you speak. There was a dearth of talent, right? We had good product builders; we did not know how to market the product. We knew how to engineer it, we did not know how to build finesse in the products, right? We are learning it. And we are learning from the best people who have led the way before I think, this will make sure that the ecosystem grows, we are learning from each other. Also, right? There are initiatives like SAAS Bhoomi, etc. You know, I think AWS has their own initiative on SAAS, they organized like you know, a bunch of other meetups and all that to help the startup ecosystem. These kinds of forums help people learn from each other, and then you know, become big, or figure out how to scale or the pitfalls you might see as you grow from one stage to the other. I think in the next three to four years, you will see an explosion of a lot of SaaS companies in India. SAAS is here to stay, people don’t want to build these things in house, they’d rather buy it from a specialized player who does this one thing. We have seen this firsthand, I’m sure if you’re in any solution out there, whether you are a video encoding solution, or whether you are like, you know, providing chatbots something else, you will see an explosion. Again, the market is opening as well. Previously, you would consider North America as you know, one of the big markets, probably the only markets right now, you know, markets such as Latin America, like who would have thought right Latin America, Southeast Asia, India, they’re big markets, too. You know, that buy SAAS, like, like North American people, right? I mean, they go and, you know, they go evaluate a product, they might ask you for a POC, and then they will buy it, right. So, the whole market has exploded, like the number of people who are ready to adapt SAAS has gone up, the number of people supplying SAAS products has gone up. And there is a lot of learning in the market. So, I think three to four years, you will see a whole more companies probably I don’t know 25-30 companies IPO going from India, in the US.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 23:39

Coming back to you know, the building the rail roads for such an outcome, right. When you went from your one mil ARR journey, right. 1.6 To be precise to $10 million. What were some of the key things that you did? Right, which help you, you know, and if you had to build a playbook, what would be the three to five key points of that playbook?


Anand Jain 24:04

Yeah, I think number one would be for us would be that. Listen very closely to our customers. When you go, you know, they have placed a bet on you. You know, they have not gone with any other incumbent which has shiny a brochure, which has more features, probably bigger market share. They’ve gone against the grain and they have you know, they’ve signed up for your product. So, in the early days, go listen to your customers, sit with them figure out what are the unmet and the unarticulated needs of a customer, and see whether it makes sense to directionally for your roadmap, and whether you should invest in that. And so that’s one thing, two is, I would say continuously upgrade your capabilities. Now, it’s always a tricky thing, right? As you add more people, the first thing that comes to mind is hey, let’s hire more engineers so we can build more product. But I think you need to figure out what are the other parts of your company that you need to hire for, this could be product marketing. Right now, I keep a tab on the India ecosystem, SAAS ecosystem. And there’s some fantastic like content that’s coming out, related to product lead growth, related to, you know, other playbooks and so on so forth. Right? So that is a result of investment in product marketing. So how do you market your product? How do you service your product? Which is the third thing, right? So, the customers while they may have bought like an early-stage product, right, or something that is yet to be sand papered, and, you know, high polish, they still would expect high levels of service. In the early days, you know, products crash, all sorts of things happen, you may not have all the bells and whistles, but do you have a solid way to service your customer support them? So, that’s the third thing. And largely, I think, capital is not something that I would say is required for scaling. But it’s always good to have good investors, you know, that work with you. So, there is no panic in the startup, like I was telling, right, like the first 30 months, we were building the core product, there was zero ARR in the company. And guess what, we raised two rounds of funding during that time. So, we had some very good investors, we had Accel and Sequoia that backed us during that time. And probably this was for Accel was like, the second or third, like SAAS investment for Sequoia was the first, I’m guessing, you know, I might be wrong here. But having these good partners, there is no panic to sell the product like an even if you’re not made it fully, and so on so forth, right? Like, they give you a lot of confidence to say, hey, we are around, take your time, build it right, and then go sell to the market. So, I would say these are the four things that you have to keep in mind as you scale your company from year one to year, to year n.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 26:59

what are some of the mistakes that you did you know, during your journey from one to 10?


Anand Jain 27:05

Well, I could fill up, you know, the rest of podcast. We could extend this podcast for like two, three more hours. I think we made plenty of mistakes, right? We, for example, we did not know how to price the product from that all the way to a we hired people who told us that, hey, we will show you the way. And, for example, you know, North America is a dream market for everyone. It’s also as the most stepped in any market. And some of the mistakes were made on people, on culture, on probably growing too rapidly. Some advice I give to a lot of people like you know, hey, PACE out your growth. So in 2019, we raised two rounds of capital back to back around B and C, literally four or five months apart from each other. We were doing fantastically well. And we stepped on the pedal. We hired a lot of people. And it was very hard to scale culture across the world. This was not even North America versus India. This was like, you know, we had people in the Middle East, in Europe, in South America, in North America, Southeast Asia. So literally everywhere, and how do you scale this culture? How do you make sure that people understand what your startup stands for the way you run things, the way you build products, and so on so forth? So, I think that was if, if you’d asked me what your learnings was from the, you know, from the scale or from, from the journey, I would say, that’s what is it is right, like scale the culture. The rest of the things you probably can get under control easily right like product, you can fix capital, you can raise customers, you can soothe and pacify in case something happens. But culture is something that, you know, if you don’t set it right, you take a long time to fix it. So, I think, I mean, that was one biggest thing for us, apart from like pricing and all sorts of things.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:01

for Indian enterprises to pay, let’s say $1 million annually, is very hard to crack for a SaaS company. Right? How did you build, you know, your education and pricing models for your customers? To that you could reach an. As you said, right, you’re some of the customers are paying 2.5 mil? In ACV right now.


Anand Jain 29:25

Yeah, I think, you know, it is, and I’ve learned these customers pay you for the size of the problem is solved for them. Right. So, you must solve for a bigger problem like, you know, a much hairier problem for them, for them to pay you a few million dollars, right? It’s not that they don’t want to pay you know, Indian customers do pay like you know, they are running. If you look at the telecom operators, if you look at ecommerce companies, if you look at grocery companies, food delivery, streaming apps, financial applications, banks, they pay millions of dollars, right? They just don’t pay to an Indian vendor, right. And some cases, I mean, they do now. But so, you must, it is what your product does for them, if your product solves a much bigger problem for them, makes them you know, earn a lot of more money, or retain better, like, you know, they will definitely pay you. If you’re selling like a simpler solution, like let’s say you’re selling a chatbot, like, you know, or a telephone, I mean, these things will not get you millions of dollars, right. So that’s what we did. That’s what we realized that we need to solve this problem holistically. For us to be able to solve a bigger customer problem, we need to, you know, build out this platform fully. And that’s what we told our investors to in the early days, right? Because they said, Hey, where’s the revenue? And they said, hang on, we need to build this out. And here’s why we need to build this out. And when we get customers to sign up, they will pay us our fair share of money.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 31:06

Would you say that Southeast Asia pays better than India?


Anand Jain 31:12

I don’t know. I mean, I’m not big on such comparisons, I think, again, it’s the quantum of the problem is solved for someone, if you’re solving a big problem, they’ll pay you big, we’ve seen this happen across the world. So, there is no India versus North America, or Southeast Asia versus India comparison at all. It is the same product that you get no matter where you are in the world, the clever tap app offers one product. And it’s a broad product, right? It, as I said, like it solves for retention. And you can’t solve a retention by running marketing campaigns, right without data. And you cannot, like you know, have data without it being actionable and being real time. And you cannot be all of that at high scale and high volume, right? For example, one of my customers sends me over 2 trillion data points every month. That is just one of my customers. So, to solve it at that scale for them, they will pay you, if that kind of problem exists in Southeast Asia, they’ll pay you better, if that problem exists in North America, they’ll pay you better. So, the quantum of the problem defines the amount of money you will make from a customer. Thankfully, we’ve been able to solve this and demonstrate very clear ROI to our customers. And that’s, you know, that’s why the net retention revenue for us is extremely healthy on 20%.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 32:34

Indian enterprise, especially the family run enterprises, have been you know, notoriously named for, you know, taking six months to one year or even more than that, to you know, negotiate contracts, even before the first dollar is paid. Have you seen that reducing over the years and what helped you reduce that long sales cycle?


Anand Jain 33:01

Well, one, we work with a lot of family-owned enterprises. So, and we work with a lot of startups, we work with a lot of other corporates, professionally run corporates, and so on so forth, right? We’ve never had this problem, to be honest, right? Again. In the early days, we chose not to go to the larger companies, right? Or the more notorious ones, right. Like you said, like, there might be reputation and you better to stay clear of those. In the early days, you are looking to get validation of your product, you got to find customers that will use your product and will share their learnings with you. Right? In the early days, it is all about learning, right? Correct learning, because you can action that into the product. Now if you spent like eight months negotiating a contract, you’re not learning anything. You’re probably the lawyer is learning a lot, maybe or you’re paying the lawyers a lot. But no, you’re not learning on the product side, right? You might, you don’t have to find the hairiest customer idea to find the one that’s very receptive is okay to take a bet on you and try out your product. So that’s that right as you gain heft as you grow bigger, you know, you can enforce certain things, right? For example, you will not be on boarded until the contract is signed. And if a customer if you can demonstrate clear ROI, to a customer after they have signed up, you know, they will be an urge on their site to go sign up with you. The sooner the better. So, the push comes from them versus you trying to pull your weight onto the deal. That’s what we managed to do last, I’d say you know, five years, we have flipped the equation a little bit such that you know, we the largest customers that we work with today. They came in a rush to sign because they’ve seen this product work in some other places. Someone, some product manager or some VP of growth, etc. saw this working somewhere else. They came to us and said, hey, you know what we want this product. And we promise that everything will be done very smoothly and very quickly, and how soon can we get the product? So, this is of course, demonstrable now, like, you know, you can go demonstrate this, because we have so many customers, but in the newer market, like, you know, we have references, case studies, and so and so forth. Right. So, the whole believability is high, as opposed to just trusting Anand’s Word or someone else’s.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 35:33

One more question on that, which I have is accelerating the enterprise sales cycle, right? Have hiring senior folks who already did enterprise sales helped you doing that?


Anand Jain 35:53

Yeah, it helps, right? They know how to navigate the system. In a lot of cases, the enterprise wants to buy a product, right? That is why they approach you, or they’ve had three meetings with you, in a lot of cases, it does not happen, the contract does not get signed because of bureaucracy, because of their natural way of doing things right. There is no clear decision maker that’s identified. There is no promoter in the company like someone who was proponent of your team, or someone who wants to buy or will ended up using. So again, in a large enterprise, the buyer might be different from the user might be different from the budget, and the person signs the contract, right. In a lot of cases, the financial guys will sign the contract someone from for from procurement. But legal will negotiate this for like weeks on an end, right? They might want to redline the dock and all that. So these are two parties, which are not even want to use the product, then there is an L2 or an L1, like you know, who we call as a senior executive, they may want to use your product, but they care about moving some big metric, right? Like, hey, can we solve can we increase retention, customer retention by 2%, or 2x, or whatever your goal might be? Right? can we make sure our marketing is coherent across all the channels of communication. And finally, there is a user who’s going to log in, he or she is going to log in and use the product, right? They are going to run the campaign. They’re going to decide what copies there, what image goes, and so on so forth. How do you align all these constituents together? Right? I mean, they’re working for the same company, but their interests are different, right? Their alignment is different. Finally, you might run into the siso, who’ll say, hey, I will, you know, while finance has agreed to pay for it, and legal has agreed to sign the contract, I will not let this happen without you showing me you know, GDPR, compliance, software certification or whatever else, right? Allow me audit rights. Having senior people on your side on the vendor side, like you know, helps. They know, they’ve seen this before. Whether they’ve sold a SaaS product or whether they’ve done enterprise sales, it always helps. They become coaches for the rest of the Junior, you know, people in the sales organization, they will coach them better. We recently hired Vikrant Chaudhary, who’s our chief growth officer, he’s an industry veteran, he comes from Salesforce. Prior to that he was at SAP so he’s, you know, he’s seen this story play out multiple times. And literally, we’re learning quite a bit from him, like he’s just in the system for since a few months now. But, you know, there’s so much that we did not know, and the rest of the sales guys did not know, right, as we navigated larger deals.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 38:45

And currently, let’s say you mentioned earlier in the podcast, that what helped you reach 45 mil ARR will not help you reach 100 million ARR, what are the things that you have identified that you wouldn’t do and what are the new things that you have identified that you want to incorporate to reach the 100 million arr mark?


Anand Jain 39:05

Yeah, I think a few things I will start with marketing then we can go to product and sales. You know, you cannot run one marketing like you know, I mean, earlier it used to be this you know, we market to the world, but that’s not true anymore, right? You got to identify like know who your target segment is, your ICP and then market to them. Now, this might differ depending upon the region, right or your brand visibility or how much are people aware of your product, in markets where they’re aware of your product, there’s a different way to market to them right, in markets in which you are an incumbent like not just because you’ve been in the market for several years now is a different game plan Versus the market in which you’re trying to plant your first flag right? Find your first marquee customer or find first few customers. So, the game plan changes right and as you look towards revenue again, like you know, 100 is just a milestone, that is not the end goal. To get to like this number, right? You need to identify what is the makeup of this number? How much is going to be net revenue? How much is going to come from renewables? How much is going to come from expansion? Can you sell more products to the same set of customers, like fresh works example is great, they have multiple products, right? And, you know, once they have a customer for a product, they can always cross sell and upsell and all that right? And so can you roll out more products that you can sell to existing customers? Because there’s an unmet need. You know, or they might be, you know, they might want a relationship with a single enterprise. So that’s that, right, then newer markets, and when they say markets, I don’t necessarily mean geographies. For example, a market in my head comprises of geography plus a vertical. So banks in a certain region, right, they may be out of your reach, because you don’t have data localization, you don’t have, you know, you don’t know how to sell to a bank, right? Like I said, like banks might take a long time to negotiate and all that. Or they might, they might just not know, you, right, like, as a vendor will be like, who are you? And why are you trying to sell to me? What’s the startups like know, who have a natural high rate of adopting, like, you know, good products, products that are innovative, and so on, so forth, right, banks are not necessarily looking for startups to buy from it, they’re looking for more established companies. So the way you sell, the way you market, the way you build your products, all of that changes. In the early days, we used to do about six deployments a day. Right? That means the product would change in from what you saw in the morning, it would be like, a little bit different than in the evening. We can’t do that anymore, right? Larger companies want stability, so things like you know, hey, is your product stable? Or will you train me, you know, if I buy a product, these things come into the play, you can’t say, hey, go read documentation, or I’ll send you a video. So as you grow bigger as you grow your revenues, right? These are the various things to keep in mind. And, you know, and then how do you service that market, that’s a very important thing. Also, the whatever you did in the early stages, like running everything out of like, one place is not going to scale, people will want to be serviced in their time zone when it is their peak hour. Or if a market begins on Sunday, like the Middle East markets, like, you know, you can’t say, hey, sorry, it’s your day off for us. You got to live in their time zone literally, you know, to service them. And these are the changes like, you know, you got to make as you scale your organization.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 42:45

And when you are seeing right, the current bunch of SAAS entrepreneurs, right? How do you find that they’re better than you when you started?


Anand Jain 42:56

I think they’re a lot more ambitious, they have a lot more energy, and they’re willing to learn, I interact with a lot of early-stage startup entrepreneurs. Sometimes, you know, it’s through Sequoia or through Accel, or generally people reach out to me on Twitter or on email. And, you know, I give some time to them, I think, I think they have playbooks, they have access to playbooks, have access to people like me that access to other entrepreneurs who have done it before. And they’re eager to learn. Literally, when we started, there was no one around like, you know, I mean, there’s who are you going to emulate? The building blocks have become easier to a lot of the VCs, they run these batches, like, you know, early-stage company badges, in which they invite a lot of industry experts, etc. Where you can learn from so, I think they’re a lot more flexible, they’re a lot more innovative, they’re a lot more progressive, and I’m very confident. I mean, I’m so optimistic about the newer batch of SAAS entrepreneurs, if you will, and there is no copy model, right? I mean, they’re not trying to copy anyone they’re trying to figure out what are the innovative solutions and what’s missing, etc. And, and build for that, even if it’s a niche market today, it the niche will expand and become a huge market, like you know, a few years down the line. So, they are not afraid to take risks. It’s all a great time to be here in this in this, you know, in in India in the SAAS ecosystem.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 44:26

But you see the same kind of patient with you had to build it over a long period of time and not get, you know, disturbed or unfocused by kind of funding news and friendly in the ecosystem.


Anand Jain 44:42

Yeah, I think, it’s a very personal thing. Some people are more patient and there is no rush to become a unicorn or to go you know, like announce things etc. Some people take the time now or I will I don’t know for them. Everyone says we are here for the long haul. You want to build something that’s enduring and all that I’m not like time will tell right there is a lot of noise in the market. So, with the explosion of SAAS, and consumer, and all of this comes a lot of noise as well. How many of them will you know sustain for the next three to five years is yet to be seen? But I think a very high percentage of them will. Just because they’re the initial part of the journey is off to a flying start, like No, they’ve built again, the products I’ve seen build good products, solving real lead, signing up customers more aggressively. But again, a lot to do your startup a lot could work for you. One bad customer, one, you know, negative publicity, lack of capital, fight amongst founders, and so and so forth, right? Lack of talent. You know, hiring talent, I meant, like, you know, not ability to hire people and all that. So a lot can go wrong. But you know, the ones that survive they write the success story, right. So, I don’t know, I’m very optimistic, to be honest, like, you know, I think a lot can go wrong. But I’m, I’m not even looking at that part. I’m looking at the parts that can go right.


Siddhartha Ahluwalia 46:12

Thank you so much. This conversation, I believe is a master class, it is going to stay with me the learnings from this conversation. I hope our audience find it as enriching as I did. Thank you so much again.


Anand Jain 46:28

Thank you. You are a very kind, generous host and you made me feel very comfortable. I was able to open and share my insights and learnings. I hope that’s useful to people who are hearing this and people who are seeing me. Thanks again for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.



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