#1 Smartwatch Brand in India
#3 Smartwatch Brand in Asia
#9 Smartwatch Brand Globally
All the above feats are not from Apple, Samsung or a legacy player in the market, but from our own homegrown Indian brand - Noise.
In this week’s newsletter we turn the spotlight on Noise : A brand that’s on a mission to offer quality smart wearables at affordable prices to its customers.
In our conversation with Amit Khatri, Co-founder of Noise, he shared how the brand started bootstrapped in 2014, what have been the challenges and how have they scaled over the years.
We have tried to summarize some key themes & takeaways from our conversation.
02:09 - Early Career & Family Background before starting Noise
05:45 - Product developement & Revenue journey from 2014 to 2018
08:04 - Finalising on the main categories - Smartwatch and Wireless Earbuds
09:55 - Why prioritize growing own Website instead of relying on marketplace?
12:18 - Testing your idea in the market being bootstrapped
13:36 - Vision & plan of the brand early-on
14:56 - Initial Learnings for early-stage D2C Entrepreneurs
16:16 - Focus on building the brand from Day 1
18:55 - Building and launching the first product
24:15 - Secrets of scaling from Rs.160 Cr+ to Rs.800 Cr+ Revenue
26:26 - Key elements of creating a playbook for a Rs.1000 Cr+ D2C brand
31:36 - Keeping prices reasonable while ensuring better quality
Why is HUL considered a Leadership factory?
“Every great brand is built on a fundamental human insights.”
Do you agree that people come before revenue?
“Invest in Brand, even as little as possible, and not just Performance Marketing from Day 1.”
Listen to Shashank Mehta, Founder of The Whole Truth Foods and a passionate HUL Ex-employee in today’s episode to know his perspective about everything mentioned above.
03:43 - Definition of D2C market in India context
07:11 - His early career prior to starting his entrepreneurial journey
09:40 - Post-MBA why he chose Marketing over Finance?
11:30 - Why HUL is considered a leadership factory?
14:30 - Learnings from his stint at HUL
18:48 - Why he joined Faasos (now REBEL Foods) a lesser known startup leaving HUL in 2012?
23:40 - Scale of Faaso’s when he joined and left the company
24:30 - Why he left Faasos and joined HUL again?
28:22 - Learnings from setting up an Ayurveda-brand within HUL
34:09 - Consumer insight which HUL was trying to solve with its AYUSH proposition
34:54 - His blog about food and fitness - FIT SHIT
41:54 - Raising around 5 Cr+ initial funding during his Notice Period
45:10 - Zero to One Phase of The Whole Truth Foods
50:02 - Realizing the ‘Aha Moment’ of brand’s journey
52:32 - Sales & Revenue Milestones during their journey
54:05 - Being a Truth company rather than being a food company
57:00 - Key learnings while scaling a brand
MobiKwik is one of the largest Mobile Wallet and Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) platforms in India. Its tech platform has 120 million Registered Users, 25.3 million pre-approved BNPL users and more than 3.4 million merchant partners. MobiKwik's top line grew by 80 percent from INR 300 crore in FY21 to INR 540 Crore in FY22.
Tune in to this conversation with Bipin Preet Singh, Co-founder, MobiKwik where we talk about his journey of building and scaling the company for the last 13+ years.
During the episode, Bipin also shares about how they started first with a basic problem of the masses with mobile recharge and then scaled over time, how they sailed through the difficult times of Covid and took Mobikwik to 100Mn+ users.
02:21 - What led him to founding MobiKwik?
09:00 - “You can’t build the platform on Day 1, the platform has to evolve.”
11:58 - Advice for early-stage entrepreneurs pitching to build a platform
14:27 - How did MobiKwik evolve as a platform?
27:23 - What has transformed significantly in the last 1-2 years?
30:33 - Current revenue, profits, and scale
36:25 - Is the economy currently going into recession?
38:11 - What kept him going for 13+ years?
40:33 - Tailwinds which are supporting Fintech in India
44:52 - Creating a mental model to build in markets with already existing large players
Any idea what’s common between Flipkart, Ola, Swiggy, Zerodha and 6000+ other Businesses in India and South-East Asia?
They all rely on Exotel for their customer communications, no matter the size, scale, or industry within which the company exists; Exotel has the a product-solution for all of them.
In this episode, we talk with Shivakumar Ganesan, Founder of Exotel to learn more about his journey and challenges building and scaling the company.
During the episode, Shivakumar talks about his experience with VCs & Angel investors, having Ola as a customer and much more.
03:48 - Early days, Family, background & career
06:40 - Entrepreneurial attempts before starting Exotel
09:51 - Initial Problem statement and solutions
13:50 - Raising money from Blume Ventures
18:30 - Scale and Customers at $1Mn ARR
30:21 - Cofounders leaving the company
37:30 - Dealing with thoughts about quitting
41:55 - How did A91 Partners chose to back Exotel?
49:38 - Current Capabilities & Scope for growth
52:15 - Proving naysayers wrong by building a $60Mn ARR SaaS from India for India
53:39 - Key lessons from his journey
55:56 - Advice for understanding market size
With the emergence of health issues in recent years, most people have started becoming proactive to improve their immune system and diet, rather than being reactive at a later stage when the damage has already been done.
Even most doctors agree that if from an early age, we somehow get access to a preservative-free, natural source of nutrients, it might significantly boost our health in the long-run.
Our guest Aarti Gill’s OZiva is India's leading Clean, Plant Based Wellness brand.
OZiva was started back in 2016 and since then the company has scaled significantly with a large base of repeat customers.
During the episode, Aarti talks about how she pivoted from her first venture to OZiva, what are the major challenges she has encountered during her journey and much more.
05:38 - Initial intro about OZiva
08:40 - High-level metrics around customers and revenue
09:44 - Building an Omni-channel brand v/s a D2C brand
11:26 - Early Education & Career prior to OZiva
14:14 - Meeting her co-founder and their first venture
18:35 - Deciding the first 4 products
21:14 - Market demand of OZiva’s Prime membership
22:26 - Challenges during the early years of OZiva
24:38 - Building a 20 Cr+ revenue from 2016 to 2020
26:53 - Building online & offline distribution channels
28:03 - Nuances while building distribution channels
30:10 - Rapid scale of 5x within a year
31:37 - Ensuring repeat purchase by customers
36:46 - Funding interest while growing from 0 to 20 Cr+
38:45 - Mental model of self-evaluating during each funding rounds
40:10 - Deepika Padukone as a brand ambassador
42:44 - Framework behind brand positioning campaigns
44:37 - Things which didn’t work out & learnings
46:19 - Why build new categories apart from nutrition
# Can a passionate cricketer become a passionate entrepreneur?
# Can you and your spouse be Cofounders without conflict?
# How many successful & fulfilling stints can an entrepreneur have?
All the above questions get answered during the episode with our guest Ashish Tandon, Founder & CEO, Indusface.
Indusface is his 3rd venture after 2 successful exits and a short but successful early-career in Cricket.
During the episode, Ashish talks about how his wife has supported him throughout his journey, what led him to start over and over again post his multiple exits and much more.
03:08 - Early background in Cricket
06:30 - 1st venture right out of College
08:46 - Getting acquired by SIFY within 2 years
09:49 - What led to his 2nd venture?
13:21 - Multi-million dollar Exit to TrendMicro
15:16 - Reason behind Bootstrapping his ventures
17:55 - What led him to starting Indusface?
19:42 - Problem statements solved by Indusface
24:32 - Journey from $1Mn ARR to current scale
28:10 - Key Levers to doubling their ARR within a year
31:32 - Challenges in building Indusface
36:58 - Having your spouse as your Cofounder
38:50 - Reflecting back how he feels about his journey?
44:09 - Lessons from all his ventures
# China Accused of cyber-attacks on Ukraine before Russian invasion
# Buget 2022: $9.9 billion towards cyber security aims to make Australia a key 'offensive' cyber player
These are some of the recent headlines around Cyber threats globally. Cyber attacks have been rated the fifth top rated risk in 2020 and continues to grow in 2022 as IoT cyber attacks alone are expected to double by 2025.
In this episode our guest Rahul Sasi, Founder CloudSEK, talks about the key challenges in Cyber Security in India today.
CloudSEK’s customer list includes Axis Bank, NPCI, Netcore, OLA, Sun Pharma, ICICI Lombard, IndusInd Bank, MakeMyTrip and many more who don’t wish to take a chance with the growing threat of global cyber crimes.
11 of the Fortune Global companies, and 7 of the world’s biggest banks, trust XVigil (one of CloudSEK’s flagship products) to safeguard their security posture.
During the episode, Rahul talks about how they started CloudSEK, customer acquisition strategy, and much more.
04:04 - Background before starting CloudSEK
08:55 - Current ARR and scale in terms of customers
09:45 - Milestone since launch
12:04 - Products and Problem Statements solved by CloudSEK
14:44 - How has been the industry response?
20:19 - Challenges with hiring the right people
24:40 - Targets for the next 2 years
26:17 - Learnings from their fundraising journey
28:26 - How to leverage your investors?
The Internet of Things category is not slowing down for anyone to catch up. It is projected to be a $1.1 trillion category by 2027, with the number of active IoT-connected devices expected to reach 30.9 billion units by 2025.
Targeting this, we have our guest Yadhu Gopalan, CEO & Founder at Esper, with a vision to power the next billion smart devices.
Currently, Seattle-based Esper has more than 200 paying customers and over 2,000 developers using its platform for product development.
During the episode, Yadhu talks about his journey building Esper, how he met his cofounder, what learnings he has brought from his stint at Amazon and Microsoft, and much more.
01:12 - Journey before starting Esper
02:20 - Early Childhood and moving to the US
03:48 - Problem statement behind starting Esper
05:25 - Product offering and clients
10:25 - The founding team at Esper
15:43 - Attracting the best talent
16:50 - Building a team across geographies
19:07 - Execute distribution and partnerships at scale
20:39 - Work Culture & learnings from Microsoft & Amazon
27:51 - Key learnings from his startup journey
As per a recent Entrackr report, Indian startups saw over 250 acquisitions in 2021.
Edtech startups like Byju’s, Unacademy, and upGrad have been in the headlines for their acquisition spree, and also startups in the e-commerce roll up space such as Mensa Brands, GlobalBees, 10club, Upscalio, and fitness tech platform Cultfit (Curefit) also took over smaller brands, recording the highest number of acquisitions last year.
With so much going on around acquisitions, our guest Rohit Anand, Founder, 1digitalstack.ai shares his experience of getting his first venture acquired.
During the episode, Rohit talks about bringing in a third-party consultant to assist with the acquisition, his second stint at entrepreneurship, and much more.
02:12 - Starting his first entrepreneurial venture in 1999
06:34 - “Importance of going after a problem where you have a natural advantage.”
11:39 - What did Value Edge work upon?
12:57 - Value Edge’s ARR at the time of Exit
13:39 - Thought process behind the Exit
18:46 - Process of identifying the right M&A Advisor and the help an entrepreneur can expect
24:00 - Maintaining balance during the stress while acquisition
28:57 - Deciding to start 1digitalstack.ai
32:31 - Current scale in terms of ARR & top clients
35:17 - Taking investor money during his 2nd entrepreneurial stint
38:10 - Future plans for 1digitalstack.ai (in terms of ARR & Growth drivers)
42:15 - Vision and Ambition of building a large company
46:19 - Current practices: Same & Distinct from Value Edge
50:32 - His approach towards investing
Many founders try to build for large markets. But Saahil Goel, Founder, Shiprocket thinks differently.
In his opinion, it’s okay to build small or lesser things and target a core segment of users, instead of jumping into a competition with large players, where you might not stand a chance.
In other words - Picking your battles wisely.
During this episode, Saahil talks about finding the right investors, current focus of the company, and much more.
01:56 - Finding his Co-founder & brainstorming around data-driven logistics
09:04 - Problem with starting in a large competitive market
12:02 - Focus metrics during the initial journey
14:12 - Current scale of Shiprocket
22:04 - Warehouse as a Service
26:24 - Y-o-Y growth of platform
27:49 - Approach to fixing broken things & building new
32:14 - Raising initial rounds of funding
45:01 - “Unless and until you have clarity about something, it won’t work.”
48:19 - Ensuring focus within the team
Suppose you're a marketer or have a marketer friend/colleague. During an event like IPL or Diwali, you need to get 100+ variations of creatives with 20-30 sizes for each, within a few days and not weeks, so that you can test campaigns on multiple platforms at the earliest.
However, traditional software is time-consuming, especially if you have a small design team with limited bandwidth.
Our guest, Satej Sirur, Founder & CEO, Rocketium, solves this for 1200+ brands like Bigbasket, cult.fit, Groww, Meesho, Supr Daily, Urban Company, and many more across 95+ countries.
During the episode, Satej talks about how customers differentiate between them and Adobe, the fundamental principles he focuses on to include in Rocketium's culture, and much more.
00:52 - Initial Intro
05:13 - Pivoting in early years of Rocketium
09:50 - Metrics around ARR & Customer base
11:31 - Customers comparing Rocketium to Adobe
18:07 - Company building: Attracting the best talent
22:36 - Principles in Rocektium's work culture
25:51 - What's 8-4-5?
28:02 - Framework while setting internal metrics
30:07 - Playbook behind International expansion
33:45 - Importance of deeply knowing who your users are
39:08 - Fundraising journey: Finding the right investor
"You never know when and where you can be "bitten by the entrepreneurship bug."
Something similar happened with our guest Shashank Bijapur. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he was working with a New York-based top-tier law firm; when he came across the news of Elon Musk launching Self-driving cars. He realized his manual work on Legal contracts was easily replaceable by AI automation soon.
This led him to start SpotDraft, an end-to-end contract automation platform for companies of all sizes.
In this episode, Shashank talks about his initial hiring struggles, getting new clients, some of his mistakes as an entrepreneur, the future plans for SpotDraft, and much more.
01:19 - Starting SpotDraft and meeting his wife for the 1st time
04:51 - First few years of struggle
07:28 - Timeline of Shashank & SpotDraft's Journey
10:34 - Switch of TG: From Enterprise to Startups
12:58 - Early customers: Unacademy & Chargebee amongst others
14:36 - Hiring A+ talent: Referrals from existing employees
17:01 - Mistakes in 0 to 1 Journey
22:18 - Competitive edge over large competitors
25:23 - "Let's get SpotDrafted."
# Marketer of the Year 2018 and 2019 by IAA Leadership Award held by International Advertising Association (IAA)
# Most Influential Youth Marketing Professional by Global Youth Marketing Forum 2019
# Top 30 CMO's in India 2020 by IAMAI
#" Marketer of the year" by The Economic Times ET Brand Equity
All of the above recognitions have honored our guest Karan Shroff, Partner & CMO at Unacademy, for his marketing strategies and the stellar brand campaigns time and again.
Before joining Unacademy, Karan was Heading Marketing at Xiaomi, and in this episode, he shares his decade-long experience in the marketing domain.
During the episode, Karan also talks about his first meeting with Unacademy Co- Founder & CEO, Gaurav Munjal, keeping his learners' emotions at the heart of all his campaigns, and much more.
03:19 - Early career journey
04:39 - Story behind joining Unacademy
07:32 - Marketing campaigns close to his heart
10:30 - Learnings from Gaurav and Unacademy's culture
14:45 - Finding creativity, ideas and tapping into it
18:17 - Audacity of ambitions & goals
20:38 - Secret Sauce: Keeping the sentiments of the users at the core of the campaign
23:24 - How to build an iconic brand?
27:24 - What has Karan Unlearnt?
31:24 - Changes in marketing strategy as per the dynamic needs of the customers
35:36 - His timeless marketing advice for startups
Do you know about the most interesting headline of all Indian business newspapers on 30 November 1999?
It was India's most prominent Internet deal at the time - a $115Mn acquisition of IndiaWorld, founded by our guest Rajesh Jain.
After this successful acquisition; Rajesh started Netcore. Yes, the same company is responsible for 75% of India's email traffic and 50% of Asia's email traffic through its Cloud network.
During the episode, Rajesh explains how they've been one of the Proficorns at Netcore, all his learnings and experiences over the last two decades, and much more.
03:17 - Early career and failures
09:42 - Learning entrepreneurship from his father
11:32 - Starting and scaling IndiaWorld
22:04 - "More important than knowing when to enter a business, is to know when to exit a business."
24:26 - His perspective about businesses in India
31:46 - "StarTech: Great Golden Era of Indian Entrepreneurship."
34:33 - Building Netcore after the previous acquisition
38:45 - Pivots and growth of Netcore
43:45 - What is Proficorn, and why has Rajesh strongly advocated for it?
51:48 - 25% ownership by employees
# Does the word 'Compounding' excite you?
# Have you always wondered what 'Value Investing' is and how can you follow this approach?
# Are you biased in your investment decisions?
Then, this is an episode you shouldn't miss. Our guest, Gautam Baid, CFA & Founder at Stellar Wealth Partners, and Founding Creator at Chapter talks about his journey in the stock market from his early days, learning through great books on investing to eventually becoming a writer and fund manager himself.
During the episode, Gautam talks about his personal experience of gaining and compounding knowledge, his recommendations (in terms of books, checklists, biases) for first-time investors entering the stock market, and much more.
03:46 - His family background and childhood
09:21 - Compounding of Knowledge: Spent on hours of learnings
14:28 - "Nothing teaches you the biggest lessons of life, more than an empty pocket and empty stomach."
21:19 - His thoughts about 'Value Investing.'
31:35 - Checklists in his investing decisions
33:15 - 3 biases every investor should know
49:28 - "Time is the new status symbol."
50:35 - His book recommendations
Link to Gautam Baid's smallcase: www.stellarwealthpartners.com
Link to Gautam Baid's Chapter: https://getchapter.app/@gautam
Link to Gautam Baid's book: www.TheJoysOfCompounding.com
As per the recent data by Tracxn, there are 1338 AgriTech startups in India. However, with 118.7 million farmers, who contribute to a mere 17-18% of Indian GDP, many problem statements are left to be solved at a larger scale.
In March 2020, we interviewed Vaibhav Domkundwar from Better Capital, where he mentioned their then-recent investment in Bijak - their first interaction with the founders and their thesis behind the investment.
In today's episode, we're interviewing Nukul Upadhye, Co-Founder at Bijak, where he talks about how and why he started Bijak. Bijak is a one-stop agriculture marketplace where sellers and buyers can find trustworthy, reliable, and transparent counterparties. Bijak processes transactions worth more than Rs 1.5 billion on a monthly basis.
During the episode, Nukul also talks about their initial challenges, leveraging the pre-existing offline supply chain, and much more.
01:48 - Creating a B2B marketplace - Bijak
05:55 - Alternate ideas while starting Bijak
09:24 - How does Bijak differentiate itself from traditional offline marketplaces?
17:33 - Challenges during the initial journey
31:42 - How has he personally evolved over the past two years?
Since early 2020, we've noticed numerous startups becoming Unicorn one after another.
But something a bit unnoticed by the wider audience is the valuations of startups at Seed-stage, which has grown multiples in the last two years.
Bipin Shah, Partner at Titan Capital and this week's guest, says, "Till 2019, a great startup idea with an awesome team would be valued around $2Mn to $3Mn, which has now gone up to $10Mn+."
So far, Titan Capital has made more than 250+ investments in early-stage startups. Bipin shares his experience and the thesis around identifying, mentoring and investing in seed-stage founders.
01:18 - Joining Titan Capital
06:10 - Finding Soonicorns and Unicorns
08:27 - How did they manage to make 90+ investments in a year?
12:02 - What support does Titan Capital offer to portfolio companies?
15:58 - Thesis: Focus on bottom 50% of companies
28:10 - Change in valuation at the Seed stage
31:20 - Learnings in the last six years as an investor
When you hear the word Startups & Angel Investing, which cities do you most commonly think they are based out of? Bengaluru, Delhi / Gurugram, Mumbai, or Chennai.
The guest of our today’s episode, Abhishek Rungta clearly breaks this stereotype.
Back in 1997, when he was still in his graduation, he had two options post college -
- Join his father’s family business in Jute Trading
- Start something totally unexpected
And that’s exactly what he did, he founded Indus Net Technologies from Kolkata, completely bootstrapped, which today has 200+ active clients across Banking, Financial Services, Insurance, Retail, Publishing, Media, Government, Healthcare and Entertainment sectors in five continents.
Today his company has an ARR of $11Mn, and offers services in verticals such as:
- Integrated Digital Marketing Services
- Cloud Application Development (CMS, CRM, E-Commerce, ODC, OPD)
- Enterprise Mobility
In parallel to this, he also started as an Angel Investor and later as an LP.
During the episode, Abhishek talks about the crux of his journey as an investor, his learnings along the way, what mindset he currently carries as an investor and much more.
01:07 - Family Business Background - Jute Trading
03:48 - Acquiring a global client base from Kolkata
06:50 - His journey in Angel Investing
12:13 - valley of despair in investing
15:14 - Thesis: Investing in 2nd time founders
22:05 - Diversifying your investments
33:01 - Learnings to intake as an LP
35:11 - Investors’ whose thesis he looks up to
Habits! Our habits make us who we are as a person. Since an early age we’ve been told by our parents and mentors, the distinction between a good and a bad habit.
But how often do we skip to the good one’s?
Specially as grown-ups, can you confidently say that you have the best habits in terms of -
1. Managing your finance & expenses
2. Managing your work life balance
3. Having a fruitful & fulfilling day
Something similar intrigued Rajan Singh, the guest of our today’s episode, to start HabitStrong in early 2020.
Prior to HabitStrong, Rajan served as a IPS officer, as a McKinsey consultant, and as an investment professional with a private equity fund.
HabitStrong started with him inviting people to join him on YouTube sharp at 5 am, for a 30-day challenge. And the next morning, he was surprised to see several people already waiting. Over the next few months, through several bootcamps, thousands of applicants and several hundreds of volunteers, HabitStrong was on its journey to positively create an impact in everyone’s life.
During the episode, Rajan talks about how people run after work, money and luxury lifestyle and how it can lead to a deterioration of mental peace over time, and much more.
01:18 - Journey to starting HabitStrong
05:02 - “Things that sound the simplest are often the most powerful and most overlooked.”
11:15 - Why did he make the choices he made?
19:48 - Current scale of HabitStrong
29:15 - What does Financial Independence mean for him?
33:33 - His definition of happiness - “Ability to step back from what is not making your life meaningful.”
# 5M+ Shopping Moments Personalized
#400M+ Monthly Active Users Engaged
#30B+ Messages Sent Monthly
#$10B+ Additional Revenue Delivered
These are some of the metrics driven by WebEngage, which caters to 400+ global brands as a robust customer data platform, personalization engine, omnichannel campaign manager, and an analytics engine.
In today’s episode we have Avlesh Singh, WebEngage’s, CEO & Co-founder, sharing insights on how they’ve built a seamless full-stack Retention OS.
During the episode, Avlesh talks about how companies can reach out to their own users, reducing churn and increasing retention, instead of reaching out to third-party ad platforms, and much more.
01:45 - Intro to Webengage
05:06 - “Marketing will only put a certain amount of value to the software, only if we are able to bring more users back to the platform.”
13:20 - Current scale in terms of revenue & customers
36:51 - Learnings from his experience as a founder