Interview with Mr. Ambarish Gupta, Founder, Knowlarity Communications.
1) What was the Vision with which you launched the company and the journey so far?
Started my entrepreneurship career in 2004 with a company which did not work out, then joined Mckinsey in US after my MBA from there and also worked for a VC in US. In 2009 the subprime mortgage happened and while working for Mckinsey and looking into large companies and seeing things go bad in the large companies wondered how bad the things could become. This gave me a lot of confidence and being in US and looking at business opportunities saw an opportunity in the Emerging Countries and looked at telecom as it was growing more than 100% in 2009, focused on the consumer enterprise rather than the direct customer. Its much easier for an enterprise to pay if he realize what value or money that product generates for him. Therefore targeted the Small Medium Businesses (SMB) business keeping in mind the large numbers. Other countries already had facilities like Hosted IVR’s and thought may be Indian SMB companies could make use of this facility to increase interaction and engagement of services. That how Cloud Telephone started with Enterprises. Big companies like Naukri, Jeevan sathi, etc showed interest, as this would increase personalized service and at the same time reduce their cost.
2) How many companies where there in 2009 as competition?
There was no competition, we built the concept and were the first movers based on a need which was based on customer feedback.
3) Currently what kind of competition do you have?
Now competition has come in after 2012 after Sequia Capital broadcasted that when they invested in Cloud Telephony company in the market. We currently have 93-95% of the business in this space. 8- 10 companies started their operations.
Today we are 20 times bigger than the largest competitor and 10 times bigger than all the competition put together.
4) What sets Knowlarity apart from the rest of the competition and thus enabling it to be a market leader?
In Cloud Telephony – reliability is very important and most of the companies do not invest in technologies completely and therefore we are able to maintain our edge. Secondly, User experience on our platform is a huge world class experience. Thirdly,
The power of customer care and ability have a great customer experience and the experience of being able to handle huge volumes sets us apart.
5) How is the product on cost basis beneficial to the customer?
There are two ways to look at Cost Benefit
a)Cost way – The other way was to have an epbax and a user to run it which would be a cost of 1 Lakh/year against a 20k / year in the product that’s 5 times cheaper and giving a immediate cost benefit of over 80%
b)Benefit way – Increase customer engagement platform through follow up actions with customers be it on festivals, special days etc. It gives a world class experience to the user at fraction of the cost for an SMB.
6) Which other markets other than India are you operating in?
South Africa, UK and Australia, but very small baby steps
7) What are the key challenges faced by you in the Industry?
Building a company and continuously evolving it to cope with new business challenges to correctly bridge transitions and creating structures to help the company grow. Also to curb Founder intervention in everything and letting the structure grow to take decisions.
8) How has the company performed in the Last 3 years?
3-4 times growth year on year for the last three to over $5-6 Million, this is further helped by very good renewal rates at over 80-85% per year.
9) What advice would you give to Startups?
Firstly, Be truthful to yourself keeping in mind the risk and the reward that you are willing to take. Figure out your reality and expectations.
Secondly, Have a good team of Initial Team Partners to help you build further. They need to be equally invested in terms of Values and Culture in common with you.
Thirdly, De-risking your business, many entrepreneurs are apprehensive of sharing stake with investors, partners, but this is not the best thing. You are getting in professional investors/partner to invest in your company you are in a way ensuring that their skin is in the game and that the Big risk of your business is now shared thereby reducing you own risk. Startups is a constant job of de-risking your dream.
10) What are the lessons which you had learnt from the startup company which you had started in 2005 but did not work out?
Firstly, Just because you are a technology guy does not mean you know how to run a business.
Secondly, Getting in right partners on a Full-Time basis to De-risking your business fast. Make Mistakes, learn and get up fast and move on.
11) Where do Startups get Funding?
Go to accelerators with proper business plans and present good viable ideas. It just takes 5-10 Lakhs to get stability to your business. Also accelerators have a huge advantage of providing a rich community from were you can learn.
12) The Big Moment which changed everything for your company for the better?
We got our first client, a politician, my founder Pallav had a company in 2006
A Political Consulting company, In 2009 he was working with Sh. Naveen Patnaik in Orissa who was busy campaigning in Villages, and with only 10 days to go for elections, he went to Sh. Naveen Patnaik and offered him a platform(which at the time was not there) that offered him a facility to record his voice and play that to the masses over the phone. The message was simple but direct asking for votes.
He loved the idea and paid us our first money.
Then Pallav came back to me said we have the money but we needed to build this product. We had to hit 70 Lakh voters in a span of 10 days, we had money but not the product.
We then build the software in the next 72 hours which would be able him to target 45-50,000 voters per day. We started after 3 days, but with just 50,000 voters being reached per day for the next 3 days we then scaled the system quickly eventually reaching 10 Lakh voters per day. In the end we were able to reach all the 70 Lakh voters in a span of 10 days.
The best part is Navin Pathanik won the elections that year. So we went back to him and suggested that maybe now since he has got elected he should send a thank you to all the voters. He agreed to do this again.
In this way we got a repeat order. The funds which we got were more than
Rs.1 Crore. This probably was the Biggest Moment for us, where we before having the product we were able to get a client, offered him huge value and deliver on that.
Interviewed by : Mr. Nakul Saxena (GM – NITEE)