Anand Jain, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer of customer engagement and retention platform, believes that innovation in India’s SaaS ecosystem happened slowly initially, and then all at once with pioneers like entrepreneur Girish Mathrubootham, who built Freshworks from a 700 sqft warehouse in Chennai and took it all the way to NASDAQ, no less.
In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100X Entrepreneur, Anand said that India is likely to see an explosion of Software as a Service (SaaS) companies in the next three to four years. “SaaS is here to stay,” he said.
In fact, investment in SaaS companies grew by 170 percent year on year, and is expected to reach $4.5 billion in 2021, according to India SaaS Report 2021 by Bain and Company.
The reason for this growth, he said, is because companies and organisations prefer service from “a specialised player who does this one thing,” rather than building in-house. Anand said he has witnessed the demand for specialised SaaS products first-hand with his own startup CleverTap, that aims to automate mobile-marketing and deliver real-time customer experiences at scale.
“The market is opening”
According to Anand, founders need not necessarily move to the US to build a large company.
In its early stage, he shared that CleverTap Co-founder Sunil Thomas had also moved to the US but to learn from a more mature market on everything from marketing and retention to customer acquisition and analytics. The startup has now grown at over 250 percent CAGR and found great adoption in the Indian and Southeast Asian market.
“You must be clear on why you want to move to the US. It is not for sales. Today, America is a market that does not want to see you in person and are happy to buy products online, through zoom. If the reason for you moving is to learn from a market, then you have to move to the market,” he said.
“I know founders who have shifted to Southeast Asia, some have moved to Berlin to learn from that respective market side,” he added.
CleverTap’s belief was that the Indian startup ecosystem as a consumer will blow up. As the startup ecosystem grew so did CleverTap’s product capabilities and revenue, and the company found a market here instead of going halfway across the globe to the US.
As India becomes home to 13 SaaS unicorns and thousands more SaaS startups, Anand believes there is nothing like having competition to validate a segment.
The key to growth, he said, is to listen to the customers very closely “because they have placed a bet on you.” Sitting with the customers and understanding their unmet needs and assessing how that sits with one’s roadmap is especially important in the initial stage.
He emphasised that scaling an organisation’s culture and business are two different things, and hence, founders must pace their growth.
“Scale the culture and you can get the rest under control easily. You can fix the product and raise the capital and customers, and pacify in case something happens. But culture is something that, if you don’t set it right, will take a long time to fix it,” he added.
To know more, listen to the entire podcast here.
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