When Avlesh Singh and Ankit Utreja decided to strike out on their own in September 2010, it was their work experience in various start-ups that they banked upon to find success. The two founded Webklipper Technologies, a software product development firm. After experimenting for a year, in October 2011, they launched WebEngage, a user engagement product aimed at helping e-commerce companies better engage with their users.
Before launching WebEngage, Singh and Utreja worked with restaurant aggregator Burrp, where the marketing and sales teams had struggled to develop and run promotions on their website.
In a tete-a-tete with Avlesh Singh a 36-year-old co-founder and CEO, explores their future goals and plans.
How has your background influenced you as an entrepreneur?
A lot of what I could do at WebEngage is attributed to my experiences in helping build Burrp. For any company, its DNA is important — and at Burrp, hiring across the board was focused on quality. Anand (Burrp co-founder) and I were the only engineers for the first 18 months, not because we did not have the money to hire, but because we couldn’t find a fit to hire. And when we did get a few awesome men on-board, not only did they make huge contributions at Burrp but also created great products and companies later. I am sure, this story will continue to find more such men moving forward. At WebEngage, we continue to live with the same passion, DNA, and commitment. Our hiring requirements speak volumes about the kind of gang we are.
Working for a startup is a lesson in itself. If you observe closely enough, you’d lose count of how many things can potentially go wrong. Thanks to my multiple startup stints, when I started WebEngage, I was clear about a few things that we should NOT do.
What was the problem you wanted to solve, or the opportunity you wanted to explore with WebEngage? What is the “end to end services” you provide to the customers?
Tech and marketing are converging. One cannot build great customer experiences by the conventional ways of running marketing anymore. Our vision was to build a platform that helped marketers achieve just that. Today, we are empowering marketers with data, and helping them make more sense of it. There are numerous stories that come out when you look closely into data. These patterns that emerge are key insights into your users, and what motivates them. Our goal is to help simplify the complex realm of consumer behavior and leverage technology to enhance user engagement backed by data insights.
WebEngage is a multi-channel user engagement platform. It automates your communication across your user's lifecycle and helps you send messages via these channels - web messages, in-app messages, push notifications, emails, and text messages. Brands can create a one-off campaign to communicate with their users or create triggered campaigns that are completely automated at scale. Beyond this, the platform offers advanced features that let marketers create lifecycle marketing campaigns for users, targeting them based on the stage of their lifecycle.
Who are your target consumers – in terms of age, location, income group etc? How do you reach out to them? What are your marketing strategies?
Companies that have a business to do online or via a mobile app are our target market. We help them engage with their users meaningfully. Product and marketing teams at these companies find utility in our product, which in turn helps them improve engagement and retention.
A large chunk of our customers come from the e-commerce, travel, banking/insurance, fin-tech and ed-tech domains. More often than not, these are large consumer businesses who use the WebEngage platform to engage meaningfully with their user base, which can be anywhere from a few thousand users or even several million in number.
Our marketing strategy is centered around content marketing. We have a highly informational blog that regularly churns our highly compelling content custom-made for our target audience (C-Suite execs, Marketing & Product Managers). Such people are in the habit of reinforcing their own beliefs with knowledge and scourge the Internet to try and find more information about certain topics. We aim to identify relevant topics that are related to the Marketing Automation industry and create high-quality content that is informative and fresh. It helps us generate a healthy pipeline of prospects and also build thought leadership in the industry.
How are you funded? Have you raised VC funding? Are you planning to raise external funding soon? How much investment has gone into the successful running of WebEngage so far?
We have some great institutional investors back us in our journey including the likes of Social Capital, GTI Capital, and Blume Ventures. In our early days, we raised seed capital from a bunch of angel investors led by Rajan Anandan.
Why the name WebEngage? What does it mean?
Well, we are a marketing automation platform and our target is to engage online users, hence the word - WebEngage. Our brand name is quite self-explanatory in terms of who we are and what we do, which is to enhance the online engagement of users across multiple channels ranging from mobile, web, email etc.
How do you ensure the quality of products? Please give an instance.
A lot of work goes into building products at WebEngage. From conceptualizing the product idea to engineering to finally rolling out - there are multiple levels of feedback loop built in to ensure a great product experience for our customers. This helps us keep a track of every crucial piece of information that ensures the best possible output from every involved team and department.
We have a very strong customer success practice at WebEngage. Our account managers work with customers directly to help them build easy solutions on our platform for all their marketing challenges. That's our window to learning first-hand about the challenges our customers face on a daily basis.
Apart from this, we also look at all the possibilities that can be created to enhance the value proposition of our product. The way our users are evolving in terms of product usage and the growth in technology help us plan for the next level of development to create better, higher quality products.
Who do you consider your competition? How are you different from them?
Marketing automation is a crowded space at the moment. There are multiple niche categories in which several brands are operating. Today, you will find categories like bulk marketing tools, mobile marketing suite, and analytics tools to name a few. Companies like Braze, Mixpanel, Localytics etc are solving parts of this problem.
Then come the Enterprise tools that are focusing on solving the omnichannel experience problems. Adobe, Salesforce, IBM etc have built their marketing cloud by building/acquiring companies over a period of time. Needless to say, these products are overly complicated and expensive for a mid-sized company.
We are building a true cross-channel marketing automation product for the new age tech business which is simple and easy to use. Our main focus is to combine the best of both worlds and create a highly versatile and powerful product that is incredibly easy to use and integrates easily with any platform. Most platforms today have only one of those qualities, and that is the gap that we are trying to fill.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced? How do you overcome them?
There have been many. Being in Mumbai, hiring has been of the most difficult problems to solve. To build a cutting-edge tech platform that can be marketed around the world, you invariably need a team of sharp, dedicated and passionate individuals who share that vision with you. Also, most of the tech startups in India are stationed in Bangalore, which ends up attracting most of the top talent there.
In spite of these challenges, we have continued to thrive by focusing on building one of the most enviable work cultures at a startup. Our workplace has often been described as inspiring and fun by people who have worked here or experienced it in some way. The workplace environment is highly positive, inspiring the team to come into work every day to create something amazing.
How big is the market you are targeting? What is the source of your market data?
We are focused on India, S.E.Asia, Middle East and Europe as our target markets. We have an internal market research team. About 35% of our revenue comes from India. That’s because of our initial penetration with all the large players, we are targeting to receive 75% of its revenue from the US and Europe, up from about 40% currently.
How many categories and SKUs do you have? What are your most popular products?
WebEngage is the only product we have. It contains a whole host of features that combine to create a versatile, powerful product with multiple capabilities.
Which city are you based in? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
We have offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru. No advantages or disadvantages as such in my opinion since our product involves low human touch, whether it's sales or service. Most of our customers use the platform on their own as it is a cloud-based platform, and even their interaction with us happens via remote communication. This way, there are no issues, unlike other enterprise products that are massively cumbersome to integrate and operate and require dedicated manpower on the ground to make things happen.
How do you monetize? What is the average price range of your products?
We are a SaaS product with an annual subscription fee. It depends on the number of users our clients have for their own product. We offer brands the capability to target and analyze each user that they account for on their own platform, and that forms the basis of our monetization policy as well.
Who are your partners in the larger ecosystem? How do you manage logistics?
There's no logistics angle in our product. The delivery and experience are completely online being a cloud-based platform.
We work with a whole lot of partners like AWS, Capillary Tech etc for our distribution across the globe. We only work with the top names in the business to offer a smooth and fault-free operational experience, even at massive scale.
How big is your team? What are their functions?
We are 85 people strong team split across engineering, product, design, marketing, sales, customer success, finance and customer support.
As a business, what are the metrics that matter to you?
Customer satisfaction and stickiness are the most important metric for us. We obsess over this in all our functions.
Being a retention marketing platform, we understand the importance of giving our users a delightful user experience. It is highly important to offer a customized level of service to users so that they feel satisfied with your product. This is how we have managed to build brand loyalty in such a competitive market.
How have your sales and revenue grown since inception?
We launched our marketing automation stack 2 years ago. We grew 300% in the last year. We track 350 Million online users as of this month. We continue to grow steadily as more and more brands come to know about us and recognize the potential that Marketing Automation has to supercharge business growth consistently at scale.