This Hyderabad-based startup aims to take brand engagement and communication beyond social media
The Sociohub team
COVID-19 has been a great disrupter to the way we conduct business. Though greater internet penetration and dependence had started a shift towards online collaboration, it was the pandemic and social distancing norms that highlighted the immediate needs and accelerated the demand for an online model. This is especially true for organisations that now have to manage their team, branding, customer communication, and engagement remotely.
Most companies have switched to WhatsApp, Facebook, andgroups to conduct business, however, these platforms offer limited functionality for brands and businesses to grow beyond a point. Also, there has been a huge backlash regarding building communities on social media platforms due to data privacy, security, and lack of control, along with a limitation on features and potential to monetise.
This led Chethan Mittapalli and Praveen Dorna to startin 2019 in Hyderabad. Sociohub is a SaaS all-in-one community management platform that helps an individual or organisation build, grow, and monetise their own branded community.
“It's a fully customisable, mobile-first and engagement-first platform where an owner or a business can launch their private community in less than 10 minutes without needing any knowledge of coding or technology,” Praveen tells YourStory.
From social network to community management
The duo had initially built SocioHub as a social network for the startup ecosystem.
While running the social network, they used to receive a lot of requests for using the same product to build their own private communities. During their market research, they realised that community management software plays a big role globally, and the SaaS product that they built can do the job well.
“Hence, we took the big step of moving to SocioHub to help all organisations build their communities in a hassle-free way. As a startup ourselves, we understand how COVID-19 has impacted the whole world, and to make things easier, we are offering COVID-19 exclusive deals,” says Praveen.
A team of ten, SocioHub was founded by Chethan and Praveen who knew each other while pursuing their MBA from Babson College, US. They have been part of the startup ecosystem for the last few years, and had been looking at different ideas for starting up. Both of them thought communication was the best bet.
What does the platform provide?
Beyond the standard engagement features such as groups, posts, polls, articles, messaging, topics etc, SocioHub also offers a wide range of modules such as event management, membership management, content management etc, that you can choose to opt for based on your community needs.
The platform also provides gamification attributes like points, badges, and leaderboards,
“We also provide integration to third-party platforms such as Google Analytics, Razorpay, Onesignal etc. This makes it easier to handle the entire lifecycle of acquiring, engaging, monetising, and growing your community on a single platform. This also gives an organisation complete flexibility around branding, control, privacy, and engagement,” explains Praveen.
The platform is universally accessible on the web, as well as on Android and iOS apps. The communities can run either on SocioHub-branded app or request for a white label app as well.
During the onboarding process, a user can fully customise the platform to reflect their branding, and can pick the features they wish to activate for their community – including whether they wish to run it like a public, private or semi-private community. Following this, they can invite the community members and engage them with a wide range of features available on the platform.
The team has been focusing on individuals/brands/organisations that are interested in professionally engaging their community to drive retention, increase revenue, or work towards sustainability.
“Communities using our platform can generate revenue with transactional add-on features (event ticketing, membership payments etc). The payment gateways are fully integrated into the platform, making it easier to handle everything on a single platform,” explains Praveen.
The use cases
SocioHub focuses on companies that want to bring together their employees, partners, customers, or associations. It also provides a platform to membership-driven communities, education and college communities, non-profits, activity and interest groups, and startup networks, among others.
“We offer a 14-day automated trial, during which we are always available to assist them with any questions or consult them on how to maximise the ROI with such a platform,” Praveen adds.
SocioHub went live in March 2020. Based on all the feedback, the team made the changes and started aggressive marketing and sales from early May.
“We are at seven paid customers now, with five of them signing up in the first two weeks of July. We are targeting 20-25 customers in August and around 200 communities globally by end of this year,” he says.
As the scope of communities is spread across a wide range of industries, the team receives a diverse set of use cases, making it a bit challenging to tailor fit the product to the needs of every community.
“We are increasingly working on channelling the use cases by verticals and are actively talking to more communities in Indian and global markets to streamline the product as well as identify the right set of add-ons and integrations that will make it a breeze to run their community. We have made good progress and are actively working with our customers in building the features,” explains Praveen.
According to a survey by Sequoia Capital India, more than 90 percent of the small and medium businesses in India sell directly through WhatsApp — more than 4x the number who sell onand Amazon.
The survey reveals that social platforms are the preferred choice for commerce by micro/small businesses: 93 percent sell on WhatsApp and 51 percent on Facebook. It added that group chats across various platforms are becoming powerful tools for low-cost customer acquisition.
Thus, social commerce and community platforms likeand are growing fast. However, SocioHub isn’t restricted just to ecommerce or sales. It offers role-based segmentation in the market to help communities easily compartmentalise and offer a personalised experience to each division.
There are other communication platforms like Slack and Flock but these are focused on internal communications.
Pricing and future
The platform charges based on MAU (monthly active users who logged in at least once in the last 30 days) and not based on the total members on the platform. This helps the community focus on growth.
SocioHub offers standardised plans of monthly or annual subscription models starting from Rs 4,999/month (India) or $99 (globally).
The costs vary based on the size of the community, the add-ons, and the integrations activated.
“However, we offer custom pricing plans for smaller communities or cases with different requirements on a case by case basis to make it easy to get started,” Praveen says.
He adds that one of their notable customers is T-Hub, India’s biggest incubator based out of Hyderabad, that uses SocioHub to engage a community around entrepreneurship for colleges with T-Tribe.
Currently bootstrapped, the founders pooled in $150,000 of their personal savings to build the platform.
“We plan to get 200+ communities onboard by the end of this year and are expanding our team to power more communities globally,” adds Praveen.
The team is further streamlining the product and working on adding advanced features for community builders such as analytics, dashboards, gamification, and communications.
"We envision making SocioHub as a platform that helps community builders build, engage, grow, and monetise their communities effortlessly. We are actively exploring fundraising to hire the required team with skills and experience to hit the revenue and growth targets, and work toward powering more communities with more innovative business models as this is the best time to build or power communities,” he concludes.