SoftDive Technologies is the perfect example of a company that has never lost its vision of being a market leader in the IT product space, despite diversifying successfully into the IT services business. We got an opportunity to understand the founders’ dreams and their journey. This one is a story that will inspire.
Excerpts from the interview with Abhishek Kumar and Deepak Chauhan, Founders, SoftDive Technologies:
Q1. A very hearty welcome from Ideasmakemarket.com team!
As the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Tell us something about how SoftDive Technologies started and the journey so far.
SoftDive Technologies Pvt. Ltd. was founded on 10th January 2012 with an idea to create wonderful products in IT space, which in its own small ways, would add value and usefulness to people’s livelihood. SoftDive operates from Gurgaon, in National Capital Region, India. As any start up, growing the business, defining key processes and getting quality people remains a challenge. SoftDive resorts to hybrid model of product and services to balance its day to day operations and its future vision. In its services vertical, in a short span of time, SoftDive has established itself as a reliable IT solution partner and has renowned customers from APAC, ME and USA region. The services revenue in second year of operations was close to INR 1.5 Cr and the company is poised to grow at over 30% to post a turnover of INR 2-2.5 Cr in FY15. While posting strong growth in services business, the company has never lost its vision to be a dominant player in IT product space. The profits from services are almost entirely invested in building products. With growing services business, grows the resolution of coming out with even better products.
Q2. Entrepreneurship always involves a lot of risks and roadblocks. Can you discuss some of the major challenges that you faced in your way?
Coming from a Brahmin family in Bihar, which is typically risk averse, the initial challenge was to convince the family members to be able to quit the job and take the plunge. There were many other challenges as well. The educational loan, the financial security, the fear of lagging behind my peers if I fail was a few other challenges.
Once we started, getting quality team, which can work independently, was a challenge. Ensuring a revenue stream through services was another challenge. Setting up the processes, getting right talent, balancing the team between revenue earner services business and ambitious product business still remains a challenge.
Q3.What would you say is the biggest lesson that you have learnt while founding and running SoftDive Technologies?
Steve Jobs mentioned in one of his famous speeches :-
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
The biggest lesson learnt while founding and running SoftDive Technologies is the ability to quickly take a decision without looking around too much. Many people around us have brilliant ideas. Many around us have brilliant execution skills. Then why are there only a handful of successful start-ups and successful entrepreneurs? We believe it has a lot to do with right decision making at right time and sheer luck. We hope that we have the quality and the luck, even when the company grows bigger and even when the circumstances leading to a decision become complex.[sociallocker]
Q4. You have recently launched Madpiggy in the NCR and plan to roll it pan-India. Congratulations on the successful launch!
Tell us a little bit about Madpiggy, the inspiration behind the idea and how you think it will add value to the Indian market.
Madpiggy is a catchy name, as thought by the team for its unique, first of its kind marketing product. Madpiggy stands for “Money-Ads-PiggyBank” and is a marketing platform for brick and mortar retailers as well as e-commerce retailers, to publish their deals and run a calibrated marketing campaign around their deals.
It’s no less fun for users as well on Madpiggy. Users can leverage the power of direct marketing from retailers and earn direct rewards for being part of campaign, writing reviews, posting the deal on social media. Users can also build their own social network of Madpiggy application users and multiply their earnings.
Besides a strong business model, Madpiggy application also provides some cool features for any user to see sale deals running in the vicinity. Users can open map view to see deals, drive through the deal directly, call the merchant to query on specifics and other similar activities. There is a local e-commerce option also, which enables merchants and users to communicate directly for a home delivery-cash collection kind of e-commerce model.
Madpiggy helps buyers connect with physical stores and outlets. Buyers can see and access the deals, promotions being offered in physical stores around them with their location and range set in the app. There are a few other apps, which list online deals and coupons from various ecommerce websites. The deals are the basic building blocks of Madpiggy, however, the app goes much farther than simply listing the deals to make it unique and appealing to all sort of users. A few other features of the app are listed below :-
- Merchant marketing campaigns and analytics – Merchants can launch marketing campaigns around their posted deals to enroll users, who are interested in participating in the same and earning rewards through social media. The analytics dashboard can be accessed to view and track the actual conversion from campaign to sales by the merchants.
- QR code checkin feature and built in loyalty programs for physical stores – There is an option for the user to mark his checkin to a physical store by scanning the store’s QR code and the merchant can then build loyalty analytics over the results to reward loyal customers.
- iBeacon based push notifications – Merchants can install iBeacons in their outlets and any nearby user can get the deals/offers of their store automatically, if he crosses the store. Imagine when we go to a shopping mall, we can get all the discounts and promotions of all outlets of the mall on our phone through iBeacons!
- Kingdom tree for users – MLM has always fascinated us in past. The only reason they failed was due to upfront payments. In Madpiggy, we have brought the similar concept, but with no cost. Users can build their kingdom trees by adding more users in their network. This will help them multiply their earnings, as they get part of the earnings of their tree members.
- Wallet, reward and vouchers – All through, users can earn endlessly, by using the Madpiggy platform and their social media i.e. FB and G+, and redeem their reward points into shopping vouchers.
Q5. Where do you see SoftDive Technologies 5 years from now?
SoftDive was registered in Jan 2012. The company started its full-fledged operations in April 2013. Revenue for the FY 14 were INR 1.36 Cr. Since then, the company is growing at a good growth rate of over 30%. In FY15, the company forecasts its revenue at INR 2-2.5 Cr. Currently, the team strength is around 20. The company aspires to grow at over 30% Year on Year for next few years from its services business. At the same time, SoftDive is very bullish and ambitious on its product Madpiggy and hopes to get exponential growth from the product business.
We have launched Madpiggy in NCR region. After building an initial traction, we plan to take it pan India. We also plan to take the app to other countries and are talking to our partner for marketing it in Dubai. We would need funds from a professional investor to quickly scale up the operations for our Product.
In 5 years from now, we see SoftDive as an established company with Madpiggy as a flagship product doing well all over India and Internationally as well. We hope and aspire to launch Madpiggy pan India at the earliest and take the international expansion as well, especially, in ME and APAC regions, where people and market is similar to India.
Q6. What, according to you, will be the next big thing that will revolutionise IT products and services, as an industry?
We sincerely believe, that Mobile Apps as a platform will continue to do well in the Indian IT space. Further, predictive analytics and big data analysis will be the next big thing to watch out for. So far, the big data analytics have been used by big enterprises only, such as financial institutions, e-commerce sites. However, with the cost of implementing Big data analytics coming down and a lot of open source frameworks coming in Big data, we can see a lot of small applications extracting information on user behaviour using this technology and hence facilitating an amazing user experience.
Q7. We have recently seen a trend among young MBA graduates taking up challenging jobs with start-ups driven by the yearning to learn from the extremely inclusive and result-driven but flexible work culture.
What is the most important quality you look for in a prospective employee? What does it take to be successful in a start-up?
Young and energetic resources are a must for any start-up. However, the company has to be careful in choosing right candidates for right roles. The first quality to be seen in a prospective employee for a start-up is the same vision and commitment as the rest of the team has. Further, he has to be high on energy, ready to learn and get his hands dirty in the business.
In start-up, everyone needs to know and do everything. It is imperative for any start-up to setup processes and define discreet roles and responsibilities for its people; however, as much as processes and defined roles and responsibilities streamline business, they also bring with them the unwarranted bureaucracy and lag. Start-ups are known for their agility and quick implementation and to retain this quality is the key to success for any start-up.
Q8. How do you see the entrepreneurship scene emerging in the country in the coming years? And how do you think entrepreneurship will impact the Indian growth story?
In early 2000, India did provide IT resources to world over. Now, we believe is the time, when Indian IT professionals will develop software to be used by Indian market. This makes the scene exciting, as there are ample skilled resources and there are enough opportunities. We believe, in the next 10 years, we will witness entrepreneurship in Indian IT space booming and providing a lot of products and services to Indian customers making their lives easy in as many ways as possible. We believe, this will not only be beneficial to the entrepreneurs but also to general public, as services can only exist, if there is a demand. And if, there is a demand, it is for the good of the customer to fulfil the demand.
Q9. According to Henry Ford, “A business that makes only money is a poor business”. Your thoughts.
We completely agree with what Henry Ford has to say. We want to go a step further to add that “A business that makes only money is not sustainable and is bound to fail”. We have seen some of the big enterprises fail over time, as they lacked innovation. They lacked the ability to adapt themselves to changing demands, to cater to the basic needs of the consumer and they lacked the ability to win the hearts of consumers. Hence, they failed. For any business to flourish, it has to create value for the consumer. The value might be in any form, ease of use, amazing look and feel, entertainment or some saved money or time. But the value has to be there and higher the value created for the customer, greater is the demand for the product.
An entrepreneur should always look for solving the problems of the consumers and fortunes are bound to follow.
Q10. What would be your advice to the young and budding entrepreneurs in the making?
Keep patience, do not run after short term success, and do not think of your start-up as a way to make quick money by getting it funded and selling it to exit quickly. Think of building your start-up as a perpetual company, which will remain in the business for ever, creating value for the customer in your defined area for ever. Once you have your objectives clear, you will look for revenue generation, your decisions will be based on actual valuations and on actual expenses. Your ideas will be created out of your expertise and passion to create long lasting products and not on what idea is trending in the market.[/sociallocker]