How A Pack Of Developers Built a Product That Sold To More than 4500 Customers Without Marketing


'Sales' has become a very important topic of discussion currently in the tech product ecosystem in India. The premise being argued over here is contrary to what many experts would say. We’ve heard a lot about how you need to be a better salesman than your product to make it work but Avlesh Singh, co-founder at WebEngage begs to differ. Many people told him how it was important to have a sales guy as a co-founder to succeed but he stuck to one word- ‘Engineering’. “Me and Ankit Utreja (co-founder) had no ‘prior sales experience’ - whatever that meant, we just relied on our engineering fire power[1] and we’ve managed to do fairly well,” says Avlesh.

WebEngage is an in-site customer engagement tool that is currently being used by more than 4500 companies to collect the all-important feedback from customers. Avlesh and team started out back in May 2011 with one customer (friend) who was running a bus search service in Bangalore. They grew to 200 customers in beta very quickly and also raised an angel round of funding from IAN in June 2011. The growth has been tremendous since then and have acquired many customers since then purely on the basis of word-of-mouth. They’ve also managed a seed round from GTI Capital/Blume Ventures in June 2012.

I'll continue to build this business with technology at its core differentiator and human friendly support as its selling point.

Talking to Avlesh, you’d feel that he is a natural ‘seller’, which he combats with, “The product remains the key. I could sell it better than anyone else because I knew the product better than anyone else.” Talking about the fact that has given them success till now, Avlesh adds, “We knew the audience. We knew that this product will appeal to Product Managers and Marketers mostly. We built it as such. And one of the key things we focused on, was to minimize the integration efforts. Infact, we quickly realized that this has become our USP - that once you added WebEngage to your website, no more code changes were ever needed for future survey/notification pilots.[2]”

WebEngage has three products: They started out with ‘Feedback’, then gave ‘Surveys’ and have recently added ‘Notifications’. “We conceived WebEngage to be a one-stop shop offering a suite of products to improve in-site customer engagement for online businesses,” says Avlesh about their beginnings and the evolution from there on has been very natural.

Feedback was the first product in the suite but the team always knew that this was only a starting point. It would be too much to expect that highly relevant customer insights would come via the feedback tab for the customers. “We realized that a website has to proactively ask for customer insights rather than expect the customer to tell them. And this led to the birth of our Survey product. We made it relevant by making it hyper targeted,” informs Avlesh. Thanking their engineering again over here, he adds, “The way this targeting [3] piece was executed, it is now one of the key selling points for WebEngage.”

As the survey product became main stream, with big internet giants adopting it, WebEngage realized that there was an expectation mismatch for a lot of customers. “Some of them would use the survey product like a messaging tool to pop discount codes, etc on their website. We couldn't have waited anymore to create a dedicated offering (for push messaging) with a much wider appeal. And hence the birth of Notifications [4],” announces Avlesh. It is really interesting how a company providing feedback has shaped itself so well on the basis of feedback they’ve received!

Individuals like Rajan Anandan (IAN) and Jonathan Schulhof (GTI) have backed WebEngage and as has the fundraising experience been for most startups, the ride wasn’t easy for WebEngage. “Fundraising takes a lot of time and patience. It takes a toll on you at times. But that's a part and parcel of how this game works. Money is critical to growth. Those who say no, are yet to experience it. Be it marketing or hiring good talent or geographic expansion, it takes a lot of capital to grow the business,” says Avlesh. As far as challenges go, Hiring and growth explosion are the two for WebEngage currently- the former is prevalent with almost every startup and the latter is good to have. “We'd rather not hire than work with the wrong guy,” believes Avlesh.

Avlesh also doesn’t think about his vision 10 years from now. “I would like to see grow at least 4 times in the next one year.” And he signs off on a rather curiosity provoking note, “In terms of the product, we'll not only add new features but also become a marketplace of sorts by bringing in the larger developer community to build some intriguing applications on top of the WebEngage platform. We have some ambitious plans around this.”

And to make the article meticulous, we’ve given a research paper feel to it and also is stamp on how well WebEngage blogs. This is another aspect that WebEngage has done very well. Check these out, there are a few lessons for everyone.

[1] Engineering Team

[2] Lessons on how to make your product more sellable

[3] Survey Targeting

[4] Birth of Notifications


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