[Startup Bharat] This Ahmedabad-based SaaS venture wants to be the Zoho of virtual telephony
Ahmedabad-based entrepreneur Ankit Dudhwewala is evidently inspired by Zoho Founder Sridhar Vembu, the man behind one of the most recognised CRM companies of the world.
Not only has Ankit (with his wife, Suhasini) founded a company that operates - much like Zoho - in the pure play software-as-a-service (SaaS) space and commands a significant share of its business from overseas markets, but also prides itself on being bootstrapped.
“We knew early on that we needed customers, and not VCs, to fund our business,” Ankit, Founder and CEO of CallHippo, tells YourStory.
Despite operating in an investor-friendly state (Gujarat), it has stayed away from government grants and sponsorships. “Bootstrapped is the keyword,” Ankit beams.
That, after all, is Zoho’s philosophy too, making it India’s most renowned bootstrapped startup perhaps (now a multibillion-dollar global corporation).
It might be a tad premature to suggest that CallHippo is taking on Zoho, Freshworks, and other SaaS giants, but it is surely building exciting alternatives to those.
Plug-and-play solution and what it does
CallHippo’s flagship product is an on-demand virtual telephony system (also known as a VoIP system) that doubles up as a workflow automation software.
It allows startups, SMEs, and mid-sized businesses to buy local and toll-free numbers from more than 50 countries, and set up remote call centres instantly.
Primary features include conference calling, call forwarding, conference bridging, call blocking, call transferring, auto attendant for calls, audio-visual/video calling, voicemails, and cloud-based data recording, tracking, and analysis tools.
Essentially, CallHippo is out to replace physical telephones with soft phones.
Its customers include enterprises that operate large sales support or customer service teams, and are required to set up call centres and BPOs across locations.
CallHippo’s plug-and-play solution allows these businesses to not only set up virtual call centres in less than five minutes, but also lets them track call records and customer history, bring down customer acquisition costs, improve employee productivity, and use recorded call history for employee training purposes.
Operations and business model
Launched in 2017, the Ahmedabad-based startup claims more than 3,500 “unique accounts” on its web and mobile platforms already. These customers can avail multiple virtual phone numbers from a single account, and CallHippo charges them on a per user-per-month basis. Its subscription plans range from $10 to $30 a month.
“We have close to 12,000 monthly users from top companies like Infosys, Dropbox, IndiaMart, Airtel, and others. We target businesses that rely on large call support and customer-facing teams. We automate all the pre-and-post telephony work and CRM for them, and help optimise resources at every level.”
CallHippo claims that its software has resulted in a 13-15 percent increase in employee productivity for its clients. “The biggest benefit is that it takes only 30 seconds to install our product and start adding phone numbers,” Ankit adds.
The startup attracts customers from across the world, with only 10-15 percent of its business coming from India. The US, of course, is a hot SaaS market and CallHippo has identified significant opportunities in the region. It has also set up an office in the state of Delaware and is currently expanding the local sales team.
“The US is a major market for products like ours and we expect it to drive revenue growth for us,” Ankit reveals.
The founder adds that his company is also expanding in Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia, with significant sales flowing in from these regions. Without divulging exact revenue numbers, he says, CallHippo is “cashflow positive”.
Growth plans and standing out in a busy sector
CallHippo estimates that it will surpass $5 million in gross sales by 2022.
“Our next target is to increase the lifetime value of every customer account to $10,000 per year. That will drive revenue growth.”
Even though it intends to steer clear of VC funding in the short-term, the 100-people startup plans to raise some “strategic rounds”. It will also open a second India office in Bengaluru in the next three months.
Ask Ankit about the challenges of operating in a cluttered SaaS market, which is estimated to cross $120 billion globally by 2021, and pat comes the reply.
“We know we operate in a market which has 6,000+ products. There is a lot of innovation in email and chat because those are fancy. But internet telephony is an under-penetrated market and requires much more complex computing.”
And, that is what he believes, will separate CallHippo from Zoho, Freshworks, and the ilk. “We also plan to add a service component with account managers for the customer onboarding process. This will help us increase customer stickiness and control churn, which is the biggest problem for SaaS companies globally," Ankit adds.
Only time will tell if CallHippo is to Ahmedabad what Zoho was to Chennai - a company that spawned an entire ecosystem of innovation!
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)