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A BITS Pilani and IIM Lucknow alumnus, Praveen Gupta, started Cross-tab, a global market research company, way back in 2000. Since then, he has been in the startup space adopting various roles, before focusing his energy on Tallenge, a contest platform for creative people to showcase their talent. The idea took birth somewhere in 2010 when the craze for talent shows was at its peak in India. The likes of ‘Indian Idol’ and ‘India’s Got Talent’, etc. were everywhere and Praveen started to think about how the life of participants could be made easier.
“One needs to apply, stand in large queues, wait again - the entire process can be frustrating for many. Why can’t a big part of this chain be taken online?” thought Praveen. The idea took time to crystallize but after a survey and talks with other people in the know, Praveen concluded that it was a thought worth going after. Not a coder himself, Praveen found a development partner, and built the initial version of Tallenge which was a contest platform for creative people to showcase their work online. Starting with videos, participants could upload their ‘sample’ of work for a particular theme, and people from across the world could watch and vote.
Geography was not a restriction any longer. Content creators from all over the globe were participating and they shared their work to attract traffic from everywhere. When we last wrote about Tallenge in April 2014, the platform already had more than 50,000 participants with traffic coming from North America, Europe and South East Asia. By the time Tallenge reached this milestone, Praveen had also managed to secure investment from Kalaari Capital. “We reached out directly to Kalaari. After the first interaction, there was a break; but with the growth we were seeing we reached out again, and Kalaari showed confidence in us by putting in the first institutional round of funding,” says Praveen.
Tallenge has been built from scratch and it was clear from the very beginning that it would be hosted in the cloud. “We had a couple of options and after I took in a few third party reviews, we decided to go ahead with Microsoft’s Azure,” says Praveen. It is very important to be aware of what a cloud platform can do. Many of the things that team Tallenge wanted to build already existed as features on Microsoft’s Azure. Praveen also suggests that instead of looking for funding first, entrepreneurs should be more focused on building the technology right. This can only happen if one stays abreast of what is going around in the technology domain.
One impressive feat achieved by Tallenge is that it has outsourced its tech. It has been a long and challenging journey but Praveen has been able to pull it off. “One needs some financial security and a lot of patience to make this work. It is better to work with experienced and larger development firms rather than smaller services teams who spend all their time in just delivering projects,” he says. It is advisable to have an in house tech team but Tallenge is a good example of how someone can also work with an outsourcing model.
Over time, Tallenge has scaled and has also found other focus areas. In the last one year, the team has realized that a talent platform like theirs can be used for a wide range of applications. Consider a large organization that wants to have a competition platform for its employees. As of now, they make separate sub-sites or make do with Facebook pages, but Tallenge can have a platform shipped in five minutes on which companies can host contests for employees. This is also valid for college communities. Tallenge thus become a SaaS company on one hand and still has its open platform for creative people to come, join and participate.
And the move has worked. Over a one year period, traffic from India has increased from 15% to 75% of the total and Tallenge currently has more than 200k users. “We have taken steps slowly and it has paid off. Even on the mobile platform, we have been figuring out what we need on our app and have only recently finalized the first version which we are all set to build,” says Praveen. A team of 11 as of now, Tallenge is focused on the new positioning and is taking it out to more organizations in the market. They also have their heads down on the mobile front to develop a wholesome package that will make it easier for creative people to showcase their content and also get something tangible in return.