How can four guys from a city like Coimbatore make a difference? Four guys who want to build a creative business right out of college, without money or resources of a big-name studio and without the backing of a professional course?
What if I told you that this is indeed possible? Especially if they possess the kind of passion and work ethics like the four in question, and a vision to change the way brands tell their stories.
Meet Santhosh Govindasamy, Gopal Krishnan, Udhaya Krishna and Anil Kumar who made their dreams come true with their startup mypromovideos.com. The team helps clients with their brand and marketing messages via short explainer videos. The four are childhood friends with engineering backgrounds. Gopal is the senior most and the only one with work experience. The others started right out of college.
With absolutely nothing except a will and a vision, the four started operating from Gopal’s bedroom! They took a bank loan to buy the necessary equipments, and forgot that they required a degree. They learnt as they took up small projects and eventually bagged an enviable list of clients. This financial year, they have crossed INR 1 crore in turnover!
“Marketing is not about what you do but the story you tell. We help our clients communicate their message with a beautiful story through animation videos. We give them a strong marketing and sales collateral which will help them become market leaders,” says Anil, who is one of the Co-founders and the CEO.
Self-taught designers, animators and artists
“With no business or animation background, we taught ourselves. We used free sources available online and we learned everything by making mistakes and learning from them,” remarks Udhaya.
While in college, the friends used to create animation videos for the local Rotaract Club’s district events. One of these events, which they headed, turned out to be a huge success. This gave them an immense confidence boost. But as is the case with many others, the engineering college burden took over. It was only after they graduated -- at a time when the industry was hit by recession -- that they decided to start on their own.
The business of ‘explainer videos’
The business of using animation videos to communicate brand messages is booming. With a barrage of conventional marketing campaigns out in the online arena, it is crucial for any company to promote themselves creatively so that they can stand out from the crowd. Hence the huge demand for explainer videos. A number of animation video companies keep popping up every day.
Humble start from a bedroom!
Initially, when Mypromovideos started operations in 2009 it was creating template videos for less than $50. The idea then was to just keep a steady income stream flowing in. The team did not have any financial backing so they decided that the basics needed to be taken care of. Fortunately, it worked. Projects poured in. For a while, they were content.
With the financial worries taken care of, ambitions came to the fore. They had realized that the market for template videos wasn’t big enough to accommodate their aspirations. It was around then that the idea of creating explainer videos started taking root. They even pulled in some talented people to work for them.
The big break
“Workflowy was our first client. We sent in a cold mail to Workflowy proposing that the team would be glad to create a free explainer video for them. In exchange, Workflowy agreed to promote Mypromovideos in their blog. It worked,” recalls Anil.
A project with a well-known international client gave them the required recognition. The team followed it up with Freshdesk, who were impressed with the startup’s work. They were given a chance, again. And they delivered. The Freshdesk explainer video was wildly popular. The video was featured in www.startupplays.com and adjudged as one of the top five videos in the international startup community. They have, since, gone on to work with some of the most famous brands.
An impressive portfolio of clients
The impressive client list includes e-commerce giant Flipkart, customer engagement tool WebEngage, US-based organising tool provider Workflowy, software giant HCL among others. Many of their clients are from the Silicon Valley. Their videos are colourful, bright, fun, bubbling with enthusiasm and even a little crazy.
A worthwhile mention is a collaboration that the startup had with Menstrupedia, a not-for-profit social startup, in creating an awareness film on menstruation.
The market is responding positively to the venture. They have been able to get enough work without making any considerable marketing efforts. In fact, Mypromovideos is going to cross more than INR 1 crore as turnover this financial year. They’ve created more than 100 videos and worked with more than 70 startups around the globe this financial year alone.
“When we started we were just four and things were very simple. As we started building, one of the biggest challenges that we have had to overcome was building a talented core team. It is a very natural thing for an experienced and talented person to ignore an offer from an unknown startup and it is also natural that a startup cannot afford them,” explains Gopal.
To tackle this, they started recruiting freshers. These recent graduates were excited to learn and execute new stuff and the company has evolved with them.
“Now our team is our greatest asset. Even today, it is a great challenge to recruit a person who is excited about his work and has a sense of belonging,” remarks Udhaya.
“We already have a reasonable global reach and we are looking to expand our business even more in the overseas market by getting even better visibility. We are also looking to diversify into entertainment business by creating animation serial episodes for kids,” says Anil.
The startup is also planning to do some non-commercial videos and animation shorts as a starting point of entry into the entertainment media. They have already released a few non-commercials which have got them traction on Facebook and Youtube. This indirectly helps them in marketing their current business as well.
Why the bootstrap route?
“We haven't really invested in anything other than our PCs and our time to start our business as nothing else mattered. We were slowly generating funds from our own work to build our organization. The surplus was invested back into the business. Our business did not need a huge investment to start other than the softwares and computers we purchased. Hence, we remained bootstrapped.
We did not believe in waiting for funds to start our business. While we were listing down things required to start our company, we included many things in the list like an office space, telephone and other infrastructure materials which are needed to setup a business. But we deleted all those things since they were not really essential to start. On September 09, 2009, we setup our workplace in Gopal’s room with three PCs and one laptop and got going. Any business which just needs a computer to work on can go the bootstrapped route,” observes the team.
The startup has really come a long way since its bedroom days and the team has enough motivation to carry it further.
"Every morning it is like I am coming to my second home. I never feel I am working in an office. I always believe I belong to a family that creates awesome stuff for a living.", remarks Saravanan who is the Senior Animator and their first employee.
“The happiness in creating a good piece of art is what is always going to be our biggest motivating factor. The feeling when a client comes back and tells you what you have created has changed their brand perception altogether, is what makes us get up every morning and come back to work with the same excitement,” remarks Santosh, Director of marketing and administration.
This dream has definitely blossomed into a successful reality. Turns out four guys from a city like Coimbatore can make a difference.
Would you go the bootstrap route too? Is funding really necessary? We are eagerly awaiting your opinions. Do comment.
This article is the first in our new series, ‘Bootstrap Heroes’. We will feature one startup every week which has consciously taken a decision to go the bootstrap way. If you are one such startup, do write to us at editorial(at)yourstory.com with the subject line: ‘BOOTSRAP HEROES - <your startup name>’