Solo founder of a tech startup, Vidya Vellala gets ready for the SaaS raceAthira Nair
Vidya Vellala was first bitten by the entrepreneurial bug about a decade ago. Having worked as a tech team lead in MNCs including SAP Labs and Cognizant, it was a tough decision to leave a stable job to startup at the age of 40. But Vidya, an MCA graduate, quit her job in 2013 and enrolled in a Management Programme for Women Entrepreneurs (MPWE) at IIM-B, post which she started working with multiple startups like Mobiotics to understand the ecosystem. “I wanted to put in the same effort in my own venture. I have nurtured that enthusiasm for 10 years,” says Vidya.
A dream of many
Most success stories have a family element. Vidya’s is an endearing one. Born and brought up in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh, Vidya is the oldest of four sisters. “I was also the handyman and my sisters’ teacher at home. I was to set an example for them,” she says. She recollects having to make calls to customer service call centres for any complaints. “I got to know what a pain it is. That’s how I closed in on the idea of Evayadesk – a platform to make customer support easier for both parties,” she says.
Vidya’s inspiration is her mother Bhavani, who used to run a cottage industry for manufacturing products like toothpaste and agarbathi. Vidya’s father, V Subramanya Sastri, is her pillar of strength. “My father wants to empower every woman; he never criticised me,” she says proudly. He believed in her, and she has not let him down. “When I was in seventh grade, he gave me a bike and asked me to ride it - with no training, or even riding a bicycle ever before. And I did,” she laughs.
Sachin Bansal might be the country’s startup star, along with his Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal. But he once said, “It’s lonely at the top.” As a solo founder Vidya might have miles to go, but that does not worry her. Her family moved to Bangalore 17 years ago. Vidya gets ample support from her three sisters, who are all MCA graduates and experts in database and UX.
“I do not have a co-founder, but I never feel alone,” she says. But she is open to the idea. “I did not want to delay starting up because there is no co-founder. If successful, there are people who can come and join me,” she adds.
When hiring a new employee, attitude is the most important trait she looks for. “Skills can be built; but not attitude. I want to help bring more women into this field,” says Vidya. She has also faced the biggest challenge for any women entrepreneur – investors’ lack of trust. But Vidya believes that nothing should demotivate when you are determined. “For women to start up more, we have to change the system, and I am happy to be part of the change,” she says.
A ‘cloud’y future
Evayadesk charges $25 for 500 tickets per month. Currently, they are doing trials with 30 companies, and are targeting at least 500 businesses. “It is a huge effort, but I am determined. Building technology comes easily to me; it is marketing that is difficult. But facing challenges is part of this adventure,” says Vidya. She believes that only in-born marketing can work for scaling up globally, and hence does not do direct sales. “We are now doing digital marketing via email and blog. Traditional marketing would not work in this sector since Evayadesk is a cloud-based platform,” Vidya adds.
A recent study by Google and Accel India says that Indian SaaS companies will hit $10 billion revenue by 2025. It adds that there are more than 500 SaaS startups in India. Competing against the likes of Freshdesk, Supportbee, and Zendesk, Vidya is eyeing foreign markets too. She is hoping to raise Rs.1 crore in seed funding.
More innovations coming up in the sector is only a matter of time. With Freshdesk’s recent acquisition of Airwoot, customer engagement via social media has gained attention. Will she consider a similar acquisition? “When the time comes, yes I want to acquire startups in the same field – like those which provide, say, automatic chat for customer support,” says Vidya.
Being in a startup demands that you to do more than just your job – you have to play many roles in parallel. So, does she feel that she lost out on an easier job? “I don’t talk about losing, because I have not lost anything. I believe that there is no need to worry about funding; just keep working hard until you achieve what you want,” says Vidya. Her eyes light up at the thought of more hardwork– perhaps that is what success demands.