The iYogi Success Story- In Conversation with Uday Challu, Cofounder and CEO
An independent provider of on-demand tech support, iYogi was founded in 2007 from Gurgaon in India and has scaled across three continents. A 2008 Red Herring company and also voted amongst the three fastest growing Indian companies in the technology space by Deloitte in 2010, iYogi has been an example of the kind of technology prowess Indian startups can possess. Cofounded by Uday Challu and Vishal Dhar, iYogi has a lot that new Indian startups can learn from. We got in touch with Uday Challu to learn more about their journey and reasons as to why they have been so successful.
Excerpts from the interview:
YS: Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and what prompted you to startup iYogi along with Vishal?
Uday: I have been an entrepreneur for the better part of my life. My first stint as an entrepreneur was in 1986 when I along with a friend set up a computer support company, delivering onsite maintenance and service. It was a short-lived venture but gave me an understanding of future possibilities in this arena. Later I worked with many start-ups in varied capacities focused on retail, technology, entertainment, media and services. It was much later, that I partnered with Vishal to set up a niche outsourcing firm targeting business-to-business media companies.
While we could see the rapidly growing need for third-party support in homes and small businesses, the right time was determined by maturing of the Internet as a delivery model. With globalization, Indian tech experts became increasingly more qualified and recognized for their talents. It was a combination that was right and made me revisit the original idea for tech support. This time around, it was targeting a global market place through remote services delivered through a platform.
YS: The problem for reliable tech support was obviously there and there was no one solution to it. What made you believe that you could take this up and make it happen?
Uday: It is not only about reliability, it is about the changing technology ecosystem. Today, homes and businesses operate in heterogeneous technology environments that are increasing in complexity. This is compounded with the growing dependency on technology and changing support needs that are not addressed by traditional service channels. As multiple devices interconnect with each other to ensure that we can seamlessly conduct our day-to-day activities like communicating, transacting or entertaining, dependence on the services of a single OEM or service provider for technical support is just not enough. We truly believed that there was immense potential for a quality service which was brand and product agnostic which users could rely upon to solve the day to day challenges of their digital lives. There was an obvious need for a service provider who could own the entire ecosystem, and we decided to do that by hiring the best in the business and building a global delivery platform that has demonstrated scalability and customer satisfaction benchmarks that are amongst the highest in the industry.
YS: How did you start off? How has the growth curve been over the 5 years?
Uday: When we decided to put our hypothesis to test, we spent the first year researching the space and trying to understand consumer needs and why existing practices were falling short. Then with a small initial investment we set up a pilot to test our assumptions. We are fortunate that it worked and we could provide an alternative at the right price. The growth curve has been exciting with over 2+ million users on our platform, powered by thousands of tech experts across multiple geographies.
YS: You must have made a lot of mistakes. What do you think of them?
Uday: In any successful business you have to make mistakes. You cannot learn and grow if you do not. The important thing is not to repeat them.
YS: Did you start off with the US? What are the biggest challenges that come when managing an international business like iYogi?
Uday: We launched our services in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States and other markets. Technology adoption is global and while there may be some adaptations to marketing in local countries, our service stack remains the same. To build a global consumer brand, quality, reliability and consistency have to be the main pillars that a business is built on.
YS: How did you manage to build the team? How big is the team currently?
Uday: When we started we were a team of around 35 people. As neither Vishal nor I had ever worked in traditional tech support related processes from India, we hired people from the industry and gave them a white-board to experiment. Today iYogi deploys more than 5000 people who work at our offices or partner delivery centers across the country. We realized early on that we could not scale fast enough to keep up with the growing demand. We therefore invested in creating a global delivery platform that is agnostic in terms of from where the service is delivered and to whom. This is now deployed across seven locations, including some managed by partners, who are considered global leaders in outsourcing.
YS: How did you use the funding rounds? How big a role do you think the investors have played in iYogi’s success?
Uday: As you are aware we have been through four rounds of financing so far, and we consider ourselves fortunate that we have had investors who believed in our business and its potential and were ready to invest in us. For a company which is barely six years old, infusion of funds at the right times have been critical for us to be able to grow our business. Thanks to our investors, we were able to invest early in our delivery platform and Internet marketing capabilities, which are the two pillars for acquiring and servicing consumers across the globe. Similarly, much of our last round of funding has gone into funding further development and enhancement of our technology platform and expanding our geographies and services portfolio.
YS: What are the numbers currently? How many requests are served each day? How much revenue does iYogi generate? Is US the biggest demand generator?
Uday: iYogi’s services are currently available in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the GCC countries and we manage more than 20,000 service requests every. Our service repertoire covers over 300 software applications and a wide range of devices including PCs, tablets, smart phones, digital cameras, printers, routers etc. Last year we launched services for Apple products. We also launched on-ground services in the United States to augment our remote service offerings with the addition of 1250 tech engineers available locally to service customer needs. Currently the US still remains our largest market.
YS: What are the plans for iYogi from here on in?
Uday: Expanding to newer geographies, local language services and licensing our platform to enterprises are among the announcements you can expect to hear from iYogi in the not so distant future.