How Kaleyra bootstrapped its way to a Rs 693-crore business
Speaking at TechSparks, YourStory’s flagship event, Aniketh Jain, Co-Founder and GM at the business communication enterprise, urged entrepreneurs to go with their gut to see success.
When Aniketh Jain and Ashish Agarwal were studying computers in Bengaluru in 2009, they created an application that would send messages to parents about their children’s academic results. That same year, they set up Solutions Infini, a bootstrapped venture for Rs 4 lakh. Fast forward a decade and their venture, rechristened Kaleyra in 2016, has a revenue of Rs 693.6 crore, and its client roster includes Amazon, Ola, Flipkart, AirAsia, Zomato, Cure.fit, and Practo, among others.
Speaking last Saturday at TechSparks, YourStory’s flagship event, Aniketh, Co-Founder and General Manager, Global Enterprise Business, Kaleyra, spoke to the audience about ‘The Bootstrapping Journey’.
He shared his experience of meeting his business partner and their initial foray into the business. Stating he came from a business background, Aniketh spoke about how he learned the ropes of business very early on in his life. He said, “I come from a family where we are trained in selling suits and mobile phone accessories manufactured by my family. But, I always wanted to take up a job because I didn't like the traditional business model.”
The entrepreneur shared that their venture was bootstrapped and was initially built with Rs 4 lakh, some support from family, and space in Koramangala. In 2009, Koramangala was one of the city’s leading startup hubs.
Kaleyra helps global enterprise operators by powering their business communication. “When most of you order stuff, say a book or a cab, or shop and make payments or appointments, you get confirmation messages or a call. That is what we do. When a delivery boy calls or when you get messages and updates, that’s us,” explained Aniketh.
A bit of sound advice
He pointed out that startup entrepreneurs were always getting advice and that it was important to filter out the good advice from the bad. Recounting their experience with Solutions Infini, Aniketh added,
“When we started in 2009, we decided we would sell our cloud college management software to universities, colleges, etc. Six months later, we failed to execute or sell even a single college management application. So, to survive, we decided to build products for other people and other entrepreneurs. We did some big business, building applications tools for other companies for two years. One Christmas Eve, we decided to wish our customers and realised that it took about four hours to deliver all those messages.”
Aniketh and Ashish wondered why it took so long to deliver a simple message and the latter rebuilt the stack completely over two nights. That's how they went from being a product manufacturer to a service provider.
“What I'm saying is, you can't decide at a very early stage [what you should be doing]. Sometimes you have a great product, but you don't have a customer. You have to do what works for you. Every entrepreneur wants to be in a space where people have never solved a problem. You want to solve or create something new. You want to be where you have your margins. But, we ended up entering a market which was crowded. There was a lot of competition,” said Aniketh.
Growing even amid this crowded space, they managed to see a leap in revenue from $1 million to $40 million. Along the way, they were rejected by nine VCs. “But, that made us go back and focus on our business model. We said we could make it profitable by focusing on our margins, our customers, and growth and by getting the product right by meeting and not by figuring out the right customers. So, we were bootstrapped by choice,” he added.
In sharing their milestones and transformation into a solutions provider, Aniketh highlighted that, sometimes, it served to go against the flow. He explained,
“In 2014, another popular way for companies was creating a self-service product. Everybody wanted to go with an on-demand, on-cloud, pay-as-you-go model. We also got carried away with building something like this. We could not even get 100 customers on a self-service model. Eventually, we ended up building a large-scale enterprise product.”
The secret sauce
Speaking of the formula for success, he said, “You don't have a formula that says A + B + B squared equals MC squared, right? You have to figure out what works for you, and you have to figure out what really matters is the journey. So, I would say, pick up those learnings but see what works for you. And that's why I keep saying everything is contextually right and wrong. Do something that you feel is right in your gut. And if you're able to do that, I think you will get success. That's how our bootstrapping journey happened,” he concluded.
(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)
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