It is never going to be easy ride for a technology B2B start-up trying to compete against established names of Microsoft or Oracle. I spoke to founder Biraj Borah who started TIEMCHART in the year 2015 and trying to find what is inspiring him to take such tough journey.
Please let us know your background?
I was working in UK initially as project accountant and then for more than 10 years as SAP Consultant. With my deep interest to be an entrepreneur, I started working evening hours selling online in eBay and amazon simply to understand how the online business work. At one point I was power seller in eBay with 100% positive feedback. It was exiting to learn to make money online. But my interest was into technology and not selling products. My key skill was into project management and accounting. 2 year prior to coming back to India I was building TIEMCHART – an online web based project monitoring system.
How has been your journey so far?
Initially it was really tough. A – no-body knows you. B – There were other complimentary products available and why they should select us? Initially there were small builders and contractors who brought our platform but it was becoming difficult for us to sustain unless we can scale it really big. With limited resources, we started targeting very large corporations but without credentials or references, no-one wants to be the 1st to buy us.
How did you manage to get your 1st large clients?
I offered my time against system / management consulting on per hour basis to large corporations. That helped me to connect with them lot closer and establishing myself as a good consultant. I then got my first breakthrough government order from North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi). We made sure they are 100% happy and delivered our system in time as per their requirements.
How can small business survive against big competitors?
B2B corporate selling is far different than a B2C. Initially it is going to be really tough. Large competitors have big pockets to spend on marketing. There will be times when you seem to be winning the customer and at the last minute, they choose someone else. Such events are going to be painful and depressing. I guess keep the focus on and move on as there is nothing personal. Such event happens even between large players.
In my business, I keep the focus on two main aspects. Number one is “PRODUCT”. I have to make sure there are some key USP (Unique selling point) that is not offered by anyone else. If you are offering exactly the same product, you will have to do far more advertisement. Secondly, establish connections with prospects and do not always be a salesman while speaking to them. Understand their problems and issues and try to help them. And in the process, they will recognise you.
What are the challenges of dealing with large corporations?
It is never going to be easy initially if you are a technology start-up and new in business. In large corporations, it is always a team decision. You will be very lucky to come across any individuals who can make decisions and give you the job. They follow corporate guidelines and rules and no matter how strongly you are connected to one individual, there will always be someone who will try to bring an obstacles if your entry.
This is not faced by established competitors as they are quite well known and big corporate customers always find it safer to go with them.
What is your marketing strategy?
When we started, we applied the traditional form of direct marketing of going door to door and trying to speak to our prospects. This is the best way to start I guess as that will give us direct feedback one on one about our product and we modify accordingly. This is not possible with modern digital marketing. There are online reviews and feedbacks but we will never get to the bottom of the issues based on such reviews.
Now in 2017, we are beginning our pace in digital marketing and slowly establishing ourselves in search engines. It will still take lot of time and hard work to establish in the digital world and climb search engines ranking. Guess we will always keep our direct marketing combined with our digital marketing effort.
Do you have any co-founders?
Unfortunately no! I didn’t find equally passionate individual who understand my vision and ready to take the risk. As of now it is just me and my team.
Do you have any investment from venture capital or 3rd party?
Till date, it is my own funds and whatever I earn from sales is going back to the business. I haven’t tried really hard to win investors. I guess I keep my focus on earning revenue than on investments. I would like to keep the business profitable even with small numbers and surviving first 2 years.
The whole idea of leaving a job and starting a business is to be on my own and have my own time. I am open to investment as long as there is value additions and positive cash flows. There are big names out there with huge investment and with negative bottom line. Long term they might be the leader but I guess that is a big risk to establish a business from red zone. I rather stay in black instead of becoming market leader.
TIEMCHART at a Glance:
TIEMCHART is a sophisticated web based project management software and collaboration platform for medium to large businesses. It is not only a very powerful tool for project monitoring tools but also easy and intuitive for teams and executives. It is available in SAAS and also on-premise deployment for large enterprises.
Visit them at http://tiemchart.com/