Does age really matter when it comes to entrepreneurial success? One can become an entrepreneur at any age. All you need is the passion to make a difference. When Tanmaya Jain was in the 10th grade, he used to earn Rs 10,000 a month by selling iPhone accessories on eBay India that were available for 1/10th the price on eBay Worldwide.
He was 18, studying computer science at Shiv Nadar University, when he became fascinated by the startup world. Today he is 21 and is proud to be running a profitable B2B SaaS (Software as a Service) company with his college roommate Varun Puri, based out of Gurgaon.
“While I graduated two months ago, it was only because mom wanted me to wear the graduation hat and finish what I had committed myself to in 2012,” he quips.
Having completed one year in college, Tanmaya started inFeedo in 2013. inFeedo is an employee feedback platform for companies to crowdsource ideas and solve problems from teams across cities and in-house.
Tanmaya said that more than 5,000 employees from people-oriented companies like MakeMyTrip, PayU, Knowlarity, Faasos and Craftsvilla have chosen inFeedo over Microsoft Yammer as their primary employee feedback platform.
While Slack is an ‘internal communication platform’ and Yammer is an ‘enterprise social network’, inFeedo is an enterprise employee feedback platform which helps organisations act on real time employee feedback and suggestions to improve work culture. With anonymity as its USP, it does not involve chat, gossip or social elements and will in fact integrate with both Slack and Yammer very soon.
Companies chose inFeedo over Yammer because they had a clear vision of surfacing constructive employee feedback instead of a chat/gossip filled conversational social network like Yammer. This suboptimal experience with Yammer made most of the companies try inFeedo. We have had a pilot conversion rate of 95 percent so far,” says Tanmaya.
This year in January, Microsoft, in a bizarre move, laid off 40 Yammer Customer Success Managers who brought the product and its capabilities to life for companies.
A humble start
Coming from a liberal school, the general concept of college was a pretty big culture shock for Tanmaya, where new ideas were often known to be ignored, shot down or lost in the ocean among hundreds of other stakeholders involved. There was no escape from an inevitable circumstance surrounded by hierarchy, bureaucracy and bias.
He was even more disturbed by the fact that this battle was the norm in most organisations, where people had learnt to accept such an environment as their reality. Further, he observed that most employees in organisations felt neglected and believed that their decision makers never addressed the critical feedback, obstacles or ideas put forward by them.
No matter how big a competitor Microsoft’s Billion Dollar Enterprise Social Network Yammer was, this was a big yet highly specific problem in the market that was still waiting to be solved. My mission was to help CEOs grow their companies without losing their culture and make their employees feel heard with an internal feedback platform,” says Tanmaya.
When Marissa Mayer became the CEO of Yahoo in 2012, she launched a programme called “PB&J” (Process, Bureaucracy, and Jams) to make Yahoo the best place to work. She asked the employees to share their ideas on how to improve corporate culture and boost productivity. Eventually, she ended up solving 1,000 problems and thereby doubled the stock price of Yahoo in 14 months. The incident further fuelled the desire in Tanmaya and brought him closer to the dream of building his own product.
Seed Capital and initial hiccups
Initial funding was not a challenge for inFeedo as it managed to scoop up seed capital from former Google India Operations Head, Palash Jain (who is also Tanmaya’s father). But Tanmaya had a dreadful tech sourcing experience when he had to code the design of the first version of inFeedo. Then he met St. Xavier’s dropout Akshay Khetrapal over a casual coffee “conversation” instead of going through the usual scripted tech interview in the office. Akshay then came on board as a full stack developer.
“Product-market fit was the second biggest challenge in line because we fired all our cylinders in the first three months building a full-fledged product which we never validated. If only I had read the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries back then, we would’ve learnt that an MVP (minimum viable product) can go live super-quick with five-day sprints using the build-measure-learn cycle,” avers Tanmaya.
The third challenge for an inexperienced 18-year-old boy was to ask CEOs to pay for a product they had never heard of. Following multiple pivots over two years, they got their first paid client on April 20, 2015, Groupon India (now Nearbuy). Tanmaya recalls when he first presented the idea of inFeedo to Ankur Warikoo, Founder of Nearbuy, Ankur stopped the presentation midway and said, “Listen Tanmaya, I need this product more than you need the sale.”
Companies pay inFeedo using the standard pay per user per month and the price range starts from Rs 80 to 120. The company is growing at a rate of 53 percent in terms of paid users. Currently it has a team of nine people. By the end of 2016, inFeedo aims to touch more than 10,000 paid users and is looking to partner with B2B HR companies.
Indian SaaS companies are expected to reach the $10 billion revenue mark in 2025, according to a report by Google and Accel Partners. The report states India has over 500 SaaS startups currently, collectively earning $600 million in revenue. Globally, SaaS is expected to become a $132 billion revenue industry by 2020.
Companies like CRM solution provider Capillary Technologies, Cloud Telephony solution provider Exotel, online customer support and helpdesk solution provider Freshdesk are some of the startups in the SaaS space.
While the report suggests that a number of verticals are ripe for SaaS startups to target, customer relationship management, data visualisation, human resource management, marketing, healthcare and education are expected to be the largest opportunities at least in the near future.
One of the many reasons for this growth expectation is the rising adoption of technology, and specifically SaaS, among small and medium businesses (SMBs). These companies are expected to contribute over 75 percent of the public cloud revenues driving the global SaaS industry. SMB SaaS is expected to grow to $76 billion in 2020 and India is expected to capture eight percent of this market.