This small marketing company pivoted to launch a SaaS CRM solution and handhold SMBs adopting tech

Here’s how three co-founders who set up a small digital marketing agency in 2010 pivoted after more than a decade to launch enterprise-grade CRM solution Kylas and help SMBs adopt technology at an optimum cost and grow their business.
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When Vikram Kotnis, Ketan Sabnis, and Vinayak Katkar started a digital marketing agency in 2010 in Pune to help small businesses adopt digital marketing solutions, one thing disturbed them: the inability of SMBs to tap technology. 

While dealing with small and medium businesses to strategise marketing initiatives, they realised that the reasons they could not go in for a tech upgrade were varied, including lack of skills, budget, and a solution that could handhold them.

The problem was neither new nor one with simple solutions. According to a survey by the India SME Forum, a lack of understanding and knowledge about digital tools for communication has resulted in only 34 percent of Indian MSMEs adopting digital means to interact with employees, customers, and suppliers.

The trio knew that a solution was needed to put the small businesses on their path to growth.

In an interaction with SMBStory, Ketan says, “We knew a solution was required to handhold SMBs, but we were very small then. Though SMBs wanted to know more about tech, there were very few options. The market was not ready.”

But the COVID-19 pandemic changed things. 

As MSMEs and small businesses bore the brunt of nationwide lockdowns, tech was the only thing that held them together. Demand from SMBs to adopt tech grew and the market opened up for Vikram, Ketan, and Vinayak. And, in June 2021 they came up with Kylas, a new-age enterprise-grade Customer Relationship Management (CRM) product, which competes with the likes of Freshworks, Zoho, and Bitrix 24. 

Making a solution

In 2010, the trio couldn’t immediately launch a tech-based solution for SMBs as that “involved a lot of research and the market was not ready”. However, they saw huge potential in the real estate sector, which was booming then and transitioning to technology, and launched a CRM solution for developers and brokers in 2012. 

Their company, K2V2 Technologies, had top clients like Mahindra Happinest, Emaar, Hallmark etc., and though they worked, the co-founders didn’t forget the struggles of the small business sector, which plays a vital role in the Indian economy, faced in the changing business landscape.  

After over a decade, the trio launched Kylas, a new-age enterprise-grade and customisable SaaS product that is uniquely positioned to help small and medium businesses streamline their sales efforts, engage with customers effectively, and grow.

“SMBs in India have been severely impacted with the uncertainties of start-stop lockdowns, unreliable cash flows, and disrupted supply chains. The pandemic forced SMBs to accelerate digital adoption and ensure business continuity. We launched Kylas now with a vision to make a high-quality CRM software accessible to small businesses with a differentiated pricing and no hidden costs to help them focus on reviving the business,” Ketan tells SMBStory

Ketan adds that the primary aim of building Kylas is to let SMBs focus on reviving their businesses without the additional burden of an increase in technology costs.

The product

Ketan says Kylas has been designed and engineered especially for SMBs, keeping in mind their unique challenges. 

He adds that most SMB entrepreneurs who use CRM software complain of paying for features that they don’t actually use and paying extra for the critical features. 

“We want to add value to SMBs who have to accelerate their digital transformation faster than ever. All integrations of the business services, data import, set-up, implementation, and training is free with Kylas and comes at no hidden costs,” he explains.

In its beta-launch phase, Kylas received over 800 SMB sign-ups and is scaling up its team to onboard more clients. Kylas has three service plans: Embark, the basic one that is free to use; Explore, which is priced at Rs 3,499 per month; and Elevate, the premium plan priced at Rs 7,499 per month. 

To handhold SMBs on their journey to digital transformation and help them scale business using digital methods, Ketan says the company also developed a six-week upskilling programme that offers sessions and hands-on help where facilitators deep-dive into areas like business resilience, marketing strategy, and help with setting up digital lead generation, digital marketing, paid ads, database marketing, ecommerce etc. 

In the first batch of its upskilling programme, Kylas received 60 enrolments.

“Growing businesses need all the support now when they are facing pandemic repercussions and for revival, survival, and growth of SMBs we came up with this upskilling programme to impart right skills to the entrepreneurs to expedite their digital transformation journey,” Ketan adds. 

Challenges and the way ahead

Demand for digital solutions is at an all-time high from SMBs, but retention is one of the primary and major challenges. 

“There are many CRM solutions providers out there in the market and SMBs get confused about whom to opt for. If they face a bad experience, they resist trying another provider, which is not a good thing for the players,” Ketan says.

Making SMBs aware of the product they should use as per their business structure is both a challenge and an opportunity, and Ketan says Kylas aims to offer upskilling programmes to more SMBs. 

Kylas is also working towards scaling up whilst researching and adding more useful features to the CRM.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai