As the SaaS market heats up, this startup offers a solution for all your CRM needs

Sreenivas Kanumuru and Tony Thomas’s SaaS startup Vtiger’s customer relationship management product is being used by 3,000 SMBs.

Sridhar Vembu, Girish Mathrubootham, and Kumar Vembu-the bonafide stars of the Software as a Service (SaaS) sector in India have, over the years, helped several businesses like CloudCherry, Dataweave, and ChargeBee go global. And from the same vein comes Sreenivas Kanumuru and Tony Thomas.

After completing Computer Science engineering from JNTU in Hyderabad, and getting a master’s from the University of Delaware, Sreenivas began his career at AT&T working in the network support team as a Level 3 support engineer. 

It is here that Sreenivas’ path crossed with Tony Thomas. But soon, Tony left AT&T to start Advent Network Management (now Zoho), and Sreenivas joined him. 

While working together at Zoho, Sreenivas and Tony realised they wanted to help small businesses. Vtiger was started in Zoho in 2004 and spun off in to a startup.

Today, the Bengaluru-based company is taking customer relationship management (CRM) to the next level by bringing customer facing teams out of their siloed tools.

“Vtiger’s vision is to enable marketing, sales, and support teams to create fruitful and enduring relationships with their customers,” says Sreenivas, Co-founder of Vtiger.

Vtiger’s cloud CRM is now being used by over 3,000 businesses across the globe, while the open-source version is used by over 300,000 businesses. The company is seeing $4 million in ARR, and eying to expand its footprint globally in the coming months.

Vtiger, Your Story

The problem it is solving

Fifteen years ago, business software was expensive, clunky, and was used only by larger companies with big IT teams/budgets. And very little has changed over the years as most companies still find it difficult to keep their marketing, sales, and support teams organised, productive, and in-sync.

To address this gap, Vtiger provides an integrated platform that organises customer data and gives the team a holistic view of the customer, breaking barriers between marketing, sales, and support teams, and enabling them to deliver better customer experience.

“Imagine asking your salesperson to use 10 different tools (separate tools for appointment pages, group mailboxes, quote approvals, contact management, pipeline management, etc.) Instead of spending time on having conversation with customers, your sales professionals will be toiling getting data from different places,” says Sreenivas.

He says, when it comes to software tools, less is more. Vtiger gives sales professionals a single view of the client while bringing together several functions, and integrates several channels such as email, phone, chat, etc. 

Empowering small businesses

Some of Vtiger’s products include Sales, Help Desk, and the All-in-One. Its Sales CRM empowers sales teams to boost business revenue and sales performance by enabling them to have engaging conversations with prospects across channels, and collaborate with team members to win more deals and win them faster.

According to Vtiger, it adds value at all stages of the sales process - from helping customers capture and identify top leads, nurture those deals, collaborate with teammates, analyse and forecast revenue, streamline meetings, etc.

Help Desk enables agents to provide support, boost customer satisfaction, and loyalty. Support teams have easy access to vital information pertaining to issues and self service allows customers to find answers to questions without contacting anyone, while multi-channel support allows them to interact on channels they prefer. 

“Support teams can leverage NLP-powered answering system to find best resolutions. Support managers can streamline and automate support processes while staying on top of things to minimise escalations,” says Sreenivas.

Its flagship product Vtiger One combines the power of Sales CRM and Help Desk to take customer engagement to a new level. Vtiger’s All-in-One CRM helps teams improve revenue, customer loyalty, and team performance. It claims to offer a single 360° view of customers and improve collaboration across customer facing teams.

How it works?

Vtiger hosts its products on the cloud, enabling professionals to directly sign-up and start using the platform in a matter of minutes. 

It assists beginners in setting up the CRM for their businesses, which is also customisable, helping users to configure the CRM to suit their business needs and preferences.

This might come as a surprise, but we do not know who our first customer was. We put our first version out in 2004 as a free download, and started seeing many downloads immediately. We were not collecting any details on who downloaded, and even to this day, we do not. Within one year, we were seeing 500 downloads per week and it grew to 1,000 downloads and then to 5,000 downloads per week. Vtiger CRM is the number one CRM in terms of downloads,” says Sreenivas.

Business model

The company’s original business model was around services. Customers could download the product for free, and then approach the team if they needed training, customisation, or support. While this turned out to be profitable, but to their surprise, the clients who started using the platform happened to be larger businesses like Nokia, Aegon, and NYSE Euronext. And this is not what the company aimed for.

However, in 2010, it changed its business model by delivering CRM via a SaaS model. This attracted many small businesses which did not have IT teams to manage an on-premise installation.  

According to the company, although it had initial hiccups in striking good partnerships and execution of marketing, over the last five years, it has moved faster.

Today, Vtiger is a SaaS company that operates on a B2B business model. Companies subscribe to its products on a monthly or annual basis, and each customer is billed depending on the number of users. It offers a mixed pricing option allowing teams to leverage on what they need, and are not charged for things they don’t use.

At present, the company is using many open-source technologies such as PHP, Java, MySQL on server, and javascript libraries like Vue for the client. “We have mobile apps for Android and iOS users as well,” says Sreenivas.

However, the founders did not want to disclose how much they have invested in the company.

The market and future plans

According to Gartner, SaaS alone is a $150 billion market worldwide, and there is room for many more startups to go global from India.

In the next 18 months, Vtiger plans to focus more on its product to improve user experience through simplicity, and tailored experiences for customer roles.

The company wants to reduce the time to market and create ready-to-use on-boarding kits for different industries. It also plans to extend customisation capabilities and create a marketplace to deliver more value for businesses and create a single product for complete customer journey.

“What sets Vtiger apart from other CRMs is it offers a single integrated platform that helps companies deliver outstanding customer experiences by breaking barriers between marketing, sales, and support teams,” says Sreenivas. It competes with Zoho and Freshworks.

Sreenivas and his 125-member team now want to build the next CRM journey much like what Salesforce did and was disrupted by Freshworks and Zoho.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)