This Chennai-based startup helps ecommerce SMBs build mobile apps in 60 minutes

Chennai-based startup Vajro, aligned with Shopify, helps small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) build apps for mobile commerce with easy to use drag and drop features.
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It’s 2022, and brands and companies are increasingly focusing on ecommerce, especially mobile ecommerce. However, small businesses do not always have the resources or manpower to build mobile applications to scale their business. 

This is where Vajro steps in. The Chennai-based startup helps businesses build mobile apps using drag and drop features available on its platform. 

With 2,500 active paying clients across 100 countries, Vajro has helped direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands like Himalaya, Earth Rhythm, and Juicy Chemistry build mobile ecommerce apps.

Founded by Baskar Agneeswaran, Niwin Santhosh, and Raghuram Ramamurthy in 2021, the business-to-business (B2B) mobile app development application is available on the Shopify app store. Any ecommerce company using Shopify to run their businesses can use Vajro to develop their mobile applications using the features offered in the platform.

“Most ecommerce stores are optimised for their websites, whereas applications receive 80 percent of the traction. We want to democratise ecommerce and make it easier for businesses to make mobile app building more accessible and affordable,” Co-founder Baskar Agneeswaran tells YourStory.

In January 2022, Vajro raised $8.5 million in a Series A round from Kansas City-based growth equity firm Five Elms Capital.

Commenting on the same, Daniel Bjornson from Five Elms Capital, said, "Most ecommerce stores are optimised for desktop web traffic while 80 percent of traffic is coming from mobile devices. Vajro solves this problem by reducing the friction of traditional mobile commerce, quickly and effectively. Our partnership will allow the team to continue to invest in the product and drive increased mobile sales for their clients.”

How does it work

A premium subscription-based platform, Vajro offers small and medium businesses (SMBs) plans ranging between $99, $199, and $399 per month. It competes with the likes of Appery.io, Mobile Roadie, and AppyPie, which help SMBs without any programming skills build apps.

Vajro platform comes with drag and drop widgets and features. SMBs can choose among four pre-built themes and can customise the layouts and numerous widgets, including flash sales, push notifications, product videos, etc. 

Moreover, Vajro also provides reports to small businesses on the performance of products, sales, new installs, and successful business campaigns. 

The startup claims the apps created on its platform have a 6X higher conversion rate and customer retention rate of about 20-30 percent compared to other mobile commerce apps. 

In FY21, Vajro’s annual recurring revenue (ARR) was about $5 million, with the US comprising 70 percent of its clientele, followed by India. 

Journey as a lesson

Vajro first started as a price comparison app called Prizapp for the North American market. But its failure made the team introspect their shortcomings as first-time entrepreneurs. 

Baskar recalls that the team had self-doubts following the failure of Prizeapp, and it took a leap of faith with Vajro, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our advisors suggested we should be prudent and not go ahead with the product because there was no data to ensure if such an app would work well in the market. But the team decided to go ahead anyway,” Baskar says.

The co-founders had predicted that the lockdown would eventually lead to an increase in demand for non-essential products at some point. As their hunch proved correct, many brands joined the bandwagon of mobile commerce. 

Initially, Vajro saw two to three installs of its platform every month. With proper sales and marketing, the startup scaled to acquire 2,500 active paying clients, most of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises that use Shopify.

“We first learnt that our strength is B2B and not B2C. Secondly, we learnt a lot about the ecommerce market. Lastly, we realised the importance of founder-market fit, along with product-market fit,” recalls CEO Baskar Agneeswaran, a chartered accountant with almost 15 years of experience.

Co-founder and COO Niwin Santhosh, after a year-long stint with Microsoft, joined Vajro during its Prizapp days as a student partner. Co-founder and Non-Executive Director Raghuram brings with him over a decade of sales and marketing experience, having worked with the likes of Tech Mahindra, ICICI Bank, and Cavincare. However, he is involved only in the overall strategies and not at the operational level.

While the pandemic made remote work difficult, it was not impossible. Vajro conducted two rounds of hiring and grew its team from 28 people before March 2020 to 130 people after the lockdown was lifted. 

Vajro had begun with five employees, including the three founders. Today, it has scaled to 170 people across India. 

Future 

According to Research and Markets, the global mobile commerce market reached a value of $628 billion in 2020. Between 2021-2026, the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 34 percent.

Vajro aims to become the most preferred mobile app builder for the ecommerce market. It is also looking to integrate with Woo Commerce, SAP, and other Shopify-like spaces to reach out to more SMBs.

(This story was updated to add the startup snapshot.)

Edited by Suman Singh