How Mobile VAS player BlackNGreen scaled to 50+ countries
There was a healthy debate on Twitter recently between two popular investors, Rajesh Sawhney and Mahesh Murthy, about failing fast and failing cheap. But sometimes, persistence is all you need. Such has been the case with Rahul Gupta, the co-founder of BlackNGreen. Rahul is an engineer who completed his MBA from Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, and has had a corporate stint in the telecom domain. It was in 2008, when Rahul started working with a few friends on their startups, that he came up with the idea for Magic Voice — a voice morphing product which could morph the voice of a person into any character (Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse etc) in real time.
Rahul was excited about the idea and formed a team to execute the task. “Voice morphing is a tough idea to execute, especially when you’re looking to do it at a telecom level,” says Rahul. It took three years, a group of telecom and voice engineers in collaboration with professors from Ivy League universities to come up with the product, and in 2011 Rahul registered the company, BlackNGreen. “It was very tough in the beginning. I didn’t have many connections and this is a tough industry to start up in,” says Rahul.
Completely bootstrapped, Rahul began approaching telecoms and it was a good nine months before they were able to sign up the first customer in February 2012. Based out of Chennai with a R&D centre in New Delhi, BlackNGreen grew quickly and now have a presence in close to 50 countries. “Building the product for three years and then trying to push it out for a year, the journey has been daunting. But once out with the product, we’ve been able to scale rapidly and the success of Magic Voice has fuelled other products which have been appreciated across the world,” says Rahul. Working on the ‘magic’ line of products, BlackNGreen launched products like:
Magic Ambience: Users can speak to their friends with background sounds of their choice.
Magic Parrot: An interactive voice response service.
Magic OBD: A mobile marketing solution for magic services that helps the operator to get the message out in the best possible manner.
“We’ve grown the business and we bring in about $35 million for the telecoms we work with,” says Rahul. The mobile VAS solution has reached a peak and now the space is attracting applications and that is where BlackNGreen is turning its focus on. “We spend a lot of time researching before releasing a product. Our next product will be on mobile application space which we’ll announce in March,” says Rahul. With a team of 120, BlackNGreen plans to expand further and increase its reach along with evolving from a VAS player.