This Vijay Shekhar Sharma-backed startup makes email management and collaboration simpler
When Niraj Ranjan Rout was working at Mentor Graphics (a part of Siemens Business), he and his team would often communicate about the technical challenges faced through email. They would also document in emails the various tried-and-tested methods to resolve these challenges so that the teams could have a ready reference.
“But, still, people would keep asking the same questions. That was when I realised that most of the information exchanged in companies is siloed in personal inboxes,” Niraj says. He saw this problem even with his first startup, Mobicules, an AI-driven solutions provider, which he had co-founded with Nitesh Nandy in 2007. Now, Niraj and Nitesh decided to found email collaboration startup Hiver.
“We figured out that while email was a reliable communication channel, it was incapable of catering to the collaboration needs of an organisation. We envisioned email 2.0, where teams could share knowledge and collaborate seamlessly. This was the genesis of Hiver.”
What does the platform do?
Hiver enhances Gmail to allow teams to manage business processes like sales, support, and operations from their inbox. It essentially provides an email collaboration solution for teams.
“Most people use their email inboxes as a task management system, but email doesn’t function in that way. Also, using email to handle a process like customer support or sales in even small-sized teams can be ineffective and counterproductive. The email clutter would make it difficult to find relevant information efficiently,” says Niraj, 39.
Founded in 2012 in Bengaluru, the startup works on a SaaS model and has over 15,000 customers in 30-plus countries, served by a team of 80. While Nitesh is the CTO, the team has Mohita Nagpal as VP of Marketing; Arvind Ganesan, who heads the Product team; Rajiv Sharma, who is VP of Sales and Customer Succes; Michael Benayoun, who heads Business Development; and Chandramouli who heads Engineering
Some of the company’s clients include HubSpot, Harvard University, Shutterstock, Flexport, PluralSight, Vacasa, Lonely Planet, and Pinterest.
How does it work?
The platform allows users to access shared inbox emails from Gmail, assign emails as tasks, see their status, and look up the entire conversation history. It also helps users create and share email templates, write notes on emails, share them, etc.
With Hiver, teams can use their email to get all this done efficiently, without having to learn and adapt to other tools. Niraj adds that one of the platform’s biggest USPs is that it works on top of Gmail.
When teams install Hiver, they can access shared inboxes right from Gmail’s left panel. Hiver makes it easy to assign and delegate incoming emails to team members. This can be done using the Hiver widget, which is attached alongside every email thread.
Hiver also allows the user to track the status of emails in real time. With this feature, team leads can find out if an email query is yet to be taken up or has been resolved.
Niraj explains that Hiver also ensures there’s no duplication of work within a team.
“It prevents more than one team member from replying to the same email; team members get alerted when one of their colleagues has already started responding to an email. A team member can have quick, contextual discussions with colleagues regarding an email query, through the Email Notes feature. These notes are attached alongside an email thread, eliminating the need for Ccs and forwards.”
The platform also allows the user to create groups of emails known as ‘Views’, which can be easily accessed. Citing an example, Niraj says all support emails related to door-step delivery or invoices from a particular vendor can be grouped under a single view.
“The team members can, therefore, focus on issues that actually matter and save time spent on sifting through emails. Most importantly, managers can diligently monitor team performance by tracking metrics such as average time to first response, average time to resolution, and more. This provides them with a complete 360-degree overview of how everyone is doing and helps identify the ones who need more training,” the entrepreneur says.
The growth trajectory
Hiver works on a recurring revenue subscription model, which is typical in the B2B SaaS segment. This means customers pay as they go. The pricing is based on a per-seat model and ranges from $14 per to $34. The company offers both monthly and annual plans across three slabs - Plus, Premium, and Enterprise. Corporates can choose a plan that fits their feature and usage needs.
The startup raised an initial round of angel funding to the tune of $130,000 in 2012 from the Citrix Startup Accelerator and Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
Since then, till 2018, it had added 1,100 paying customers and built a 50-person team by remaining virtually bootstrapped. In October 2018, Hiver raised $4 million in a Series A round of funding led by venture capital firms Kalaari Capital and Kae Capital.
According to Niraj, Hiver's annual revenue is close to $2 million and it is growing at nearly seven percent every month.
The market and the future
According to Gartner, SaaS is a $150 billion market worldwide, and there are several players in the B2B SaaS space. However, there are only a few startups focused on mail collaboration, like Happyfox, Front, and the larger SaaS players including Zoho, Zendesk, Freshworks, and a few others.
Speaking of his plans for his startup, Niraj says, “At Hiver, we’re solving problems that are faced by every knowledge worker in the world, irrespective of country, business vertical, or industry. We’re driven by the opportunity of solving these problems for tens of thousands of businesses. We currently cater to 1,500 customers across the world, and, in five years from now, we aim to take our product to 100,000 customers across the world.”
(Edited by Athirupa Geetha Manichandar)