Friday, 17 June 2016

Entrepreneur's Speak: Shivakumar Ganesan, Co-founder & CEO, Exotel

About Exotel:
Exotel is one of India’s largest cloud telephony companies. Our aim is to help businesses, both large and small, manage their business phone system via a virtual phone system. Exotel’s cloud telephony eliminates the need to invest in any hardware or maintenance. And that is one of the biggest pain points of traditional systems like EPABX/PBX.
  • Exotel is one of the top 14 startups to look out for in 2014
  • Picked by Nasscom as one of the 10 promising tech startups
  • Mashable picks Exotel as one of the 10 startups to watch out for

Shivakumar Ganesan
Co-founder & CEO, Exotel

Shivku built Exotel for him to receive and make a lot of calls and not miss any calls. He is a passionate techie, has a wonderful sense of humour and can be found in one place every 45 minutes doing two things. He has fun solving all sorts of problems related to the company.

Please share how it all started and how the inspiration or the idea to startup happen?
Exotel is my second venture. I quit Yahoo to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams. One day, when I was figuring out what I should do, my fridge broke down. I wanted to buy a second-hand fridge because I didn't have enough money for a new one. That's when I realized how broken the C2C buying market was. These were the pre-Olx and Quikr days. And that is how I started Roopit, a medium-agnostic, C2C marketplace. I wanted people to be able to get in touch with us over calls, SMS or emails.

I wanted a solution that would allow me not to miss calls and at the same time manage my calls more efficiently. This was necessary as often; I was the only one taking calls, coding, and doing whatever else needed to be done.

When I couldn't find an appropriate product in the market, I decided to build it myself. This led to the genesis of Exotel.

When I told my fellow entrepreneurs about Exotel, they seemed very interested in using it for their businesses as well. They were facing similar problems themselves. Hence, the pivot to Exotel was a natural one.

Could you please describe the early years and the preparations you had undertaken before you embarked?
The first years were spent in the product-market fit of Exotel and building a sound team. When I decided to pivot to Exotel, the first 20 customers were friends or acquaintances. Selling to known people was relatively easier.

Between the founding team, we met at least 300 prospects in the first few weeks and began selling. The word started spreading in the startup community. So, the next set of customers came through word of mouth and references.

What has changed since you started the business between then and now?
When we first started, cloud telephony was not a very commonly known term. There was a lot of customer education involved. Today, the level of awareness in the market has improved drastically. With the increasing number of tech startups, cloud telephony has gained popularity due to its efficiency and ease of use.

What are the most important ingredients that make your business successful?
Instead of having a widespread target, focus your efforts on segments that have the best chance to grow. It is important to focus on sectors that are growing fast. Define and create a culture that is conducive for growth at your startup.

What word of advice would you give to young entrepreneurs embarking on the Startup journey?
* It is about people - Normal people make extraordinary things happen in a conducive environment.
* Each one of you is different - Some logical, some passionate, some empathetic. The world needs all of them.
* The excellence in our work is measured by what the customer says. Not by what we tell each other.
* Startups begin with chaos and travel towards clarity - Appreciate and spread clarity. Reduce confusion.

Which are the most common mistakes or pitfalls that budding entrepreneurs need to avoid?
Hiring is one of the challenges that all startups face. At times, hiring can happen out of desperation. That is the worst thing a founder can do. Ensure you do not hire people who haven't understood your vision or share the passion for the same problem.

Spend a lot of time talking to your customers. Listen to their feedback. It is important to tweak and make changes based on customer feedback, especially in the early days.

1 comment:

  1. LeadNXT is the most experienced Cloud Telephony Company in India, who offers complete business communication services to keep your customers satisfied and happy.