Cover Image For S1 E35: Amit Mishra of iMocha - The Giant Leap from Slums to a Multi-Million $ SAAS Business
Scaling a SaaS business with Grit

The Giant Leap from Slums to a Multi-Million $ SAAS Business

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Scaling a SaaS Business with Grit

Like Amit Mishra, Scaling a SaaS Business with Grit, Humility and determination may be the only way to succeed if you come from the Slums Amit Mishra comes from the town of Amravathi in Maharashtra.

Before we understand how Amit was able to make the giant leap from Slums to a multi-million $ SaaS Business, let take a small detour.

The tale of 2 slumdogs who made it

Slumdog 1 – The Unlikely Winner

The opening scene in the movie slumdog millionaire shows a host and a young chap in the hotseat. The young lad in the hotseat seems to be getting an answer after answer right. The host aware of the lad’s upbringing in slums is almost convinced that he is cheating his way. The rest of the movie is about the young lad’s story and why he knows what he knows.

Slumdog Millionaire was a Sleeper Hit winning 8 out of 10 Oscars
Slumdog Millionaire was a Sleeper Hit winning 8 out of 10 Oscars
Slumdog 2 – The Unstoppable Winner

The movie Gully Boy which was inspired by true events and a true character released a lot of fanfare. Not just because Ranveer Singh, one of India’s hardest working actors played the titular role but also because of the rags to riches story it portrays.

Gully Boy Murad
Gully Boy Murad

Gully Boy Murad is battling his internal demons, his fledgling romance with Safeena, and his parents' well-intentioned moves to make him a white collared lad. Murad, from the slums of Dharavi, occasionally stands in for his father who chauffeurs his elite masters. Torn by the class differences and his emotions, he starts rapping. He ends up becoming a successful rapper all due to his context. He eventually ends up having the life he envies becoming an unstoppable winner.

Slums are economic engines

Slums in India and elsewhere were an outgrowth or a collateral outcome of rapid industrialization. Mumbai with its many textile mills is home to thousands of slum dwellers who formed the bulk of the workers in the mills. The mills have all but been replaced by swanky glass and concrete modern buildings but the slums remain.

Dharavi
Dharavi

Dharavi, supposedly the World’s largest Slum is an economic powerhouse. Economic output is estimated between $600 million to $1 Billion, with over 1 million people.

$600 Million to $1 Billion – the economic output of Dharavi, the World’s Largest Slum

NEws Sources

Scaling a SaaS Business with Grit

With the background that we have now, let's see how and why Amit’s story is a giant leap. Originally from a family of teachers, Amit grew up in the Slums of Amravati in whose schools generations of his ancestors, as well as his parents, taught.

Forever taunted by his mother to do something vocational, Amit decided that he would do something that would outstrip everyone around him. Most people with his background would opt for a comfortable life. Of one working for a “multi-national company” in air-conditioned offices. Or better yet, if an opportunity is presented, move overseas. In spite of having the opportunity to do both, Amit did something different.

Amit’s Grit is what made iMocha successful

From a life where he does all his schooling till 10th grade in Marathi and refuses to relocate overseas as he loves to live in India, Amit’s down-to-earth attitude and dogged persistence in solving a problem have made iMocha a big success skill assessment. In a nation where skills are sold for a song, iMocha is a breath of fresh air. This is a heartwarming story unlike any other.

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Here are some excerpts from the Episode

So my first company was IT services company, IT services engine, and in three-four years did a good job. Grew that company to around 100 people in IT services and with customers from Middle East-India, and of course US. In my five years of IT services entrepreneurship career, I was able to create 450 freshers jobs in that five years.

Amit Mishra 05:34

Skills are the future

The basis of my businesses is I’m into skill assessment, business type. Over a period of time, I represent that skill as by dollar. So a person will not be known by a degree he possess, but by the skill he possess over a period of time, and that has started happening already.

And there won’t be any blue collar white collar, it will be a new color, and color of skills. So in future, according to me, and it’s started happening already, there won’t be any computer engineers further, it will be our data scientist, our person as a cybersecurity professional Cloud Manager…

Amit Mishra 23:10

So for example, I’m in Amaravati and a lifestyle in Amaravati to a lifestyle in Pune, to lifestyle in New York is altogether different the same way, if you’re solving a problem of Westerner, even the solution provider gets a lot of money. And that is what India needed that time.

Amit Mishra 27:28

Shelf life of skills is becoming shorter

After talking to customers, what we realized that the next interesting thing that there is, the shelf life of a skill, which was previously 20 years is becoming lesser and lesser, it is only 3 to 5 years.

Amit Mishra 36:47

How we grew iMocha

We created a five pages website, started writing some blogs, and for two months – zero revenue. Created interview product, created Assessment, created search Engine content.

Amit Mishra 51:04

Sage advise and Our innocuous Growth Hack

I happen to talk to Krish of Chargebee, Krish told me a guru mantra. He said – “Make sure that whatever you do, you need to have Two External links – linking to you every day, and make sure it happens daily”. So I got a blogger, a Fresher, what just Answering on Quora and just keep on doing something to our page and we waited for leads to come.

Infact, we put a $49 month on month package on the website and in the second month we were doing it we didn’t get a single customer. Instead we got a call from Tech Mahindra which is a giant. But my only sales guy at that time was a junior sales guy who said let’s go meet Tech Mahindra. I said no, let’s have a DNA where we serve global customer we won’t go and meet them in person.

Amit Mishra 51:04

If you do analysis, then there are always some customers who are easy to sell, easy to solve, are successful with you, having advocancy potential and can do advocacy for you.

So if you keep applying this 5 formula – easy to acquire, easy to sell, easy to serve, expansion potential and advocacy potential, then you find out that four out of the seven eight segments is the segment which I should go after..

Amit Mishra 1:00:56

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Show Notes

Here is what the word cloud for the episode looks like:

Word Cloud For The Episode
Word Cloud For The Episode

Amit D Mishra – Founder & CEO – imocha | LinkedIn

Amit D Mishra (@amitdmishra) | Twitter

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Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

skill, customer, india, problem, krishna, product, started, services, person, years, solving, working, company, create, segment, assessment, job, enterprises, saas, interview

SPEAKERS

Krishna Jonnakadla, Amit Mishra, Tania Jadhav

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:00

This is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders. We're demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and are changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, everyone, this is Krishna Jonnakadla, your host at Maharajas of Scale. Today we have a young SaaS entrepreneur. For those of you who haven't listened to our earlier episodes on SaaS social pilot and wake up from Prasanna Krishnamurti, you should do that, you know, SaaS is the future. It is the thing that is going to create a lot of wealthy people and a lot of success for India. And we have a young and dynamic entrepreneur today with us Amit of iMocha Amit, welcome to the show.

Amit Mishra  01:01

Thanks. Thanks, Krishna really excited for Maharajas of Scale.

Krishna Jonnakadla  01:05

Awesome Amit that this is our very first video version. We've mostly done audio versions when we've done only audio versions of our episodes in the past. So it'll be interesting to see how this one works out. A lot of our listeners have asked us for video version. So awesome. I feel super excited to kick this off with you. So Amit, tell us a little bit about yourself and what are you working on right now?

Amit Mishra  01:05

Sure. So, Krishna, I'm born and brought up in a place Umbravati which is a city in Maharashtra a small city in Maharashtra and Vernon what have been the slums actually okay. So, do my father and mother like both are very well educated, but my father has been hollow in upliftment of a poor and needy and he decided to stay in slums. And we have been staying in slums still in a Marathi diamond Polina and, and he runs a school and he got us into a municipality, Marathi medium school. So I started my education in super high school. So I started my first I know kg one kg to know nursery clean first, okay. and up to date was in Marathi medium, and started my education through government school, and ended up at government College of Engineering amati, which is the native engineering college West Indian College in that locality. So, started my education in Marathi one to 10th in Marathi, then science then got a computer engineering degree in government College of Engineering Maharashtra. And then like every other rotten, we came to pony. So we go to, typically to pony, for, for a job, if you're done a computer engineering, you don't have any jobs locally there. So I came to pony. It was 2001 initial, and that was, there was a time it was a.com bust. It took me three, four months to hunt for a job and landed up into a small company as a software developer. Then, soon, I was able to get into IBM software lab IBM's lab division, which is into Pune, and was working there as a lead in three, four years of my professional career experience. But because I'm a talkative and dwama techie, but more of a person who handled person well, who connects with people will, they wanted me to assume shift to us or steam the roasting lab. And somehow, I never wanted to like, like, I would say, shipped out of India. Like, somehow I wanted to go to Morocco every month. And still I do that, even in Corona times I've been to visit my father three times so far. It's a pretty loaded window from here, but I wanted to stay in India. So I left IBM just because they wanted me to shift to us got a short stint at HSBC GLP. And the HSBC GL is a technical division of HSBC Bank. And again, after working there for a while, they wanted me to go to Geneva because it was a Geneva based activity customer. And again, I didn't want it to shift to us. So and by the time I was in law and about to get married, so and so I thought this is the right time my wife should not get used to a fair salary. Let me do something which is on my own. And let me not shift to us or Geneva and let me be in Pune, where I can visit a Amravatii every now and then and That was the my sole intention of getting into entrepreneurship. Okay. And then nothing fancy, I didn't want it to go to, like a, I didn't want to settle abroad. And somehow because I'm talking to you, all services company or product company wanted me to get go to us or something I didn't want it to do I go there now, so, but never wanted to shave. So that's how I landed into entrepreneurship was working with IBM, on shifting IBM technologies to because IBM Lotus Notes was a technology. So started my company along with sujeet, who is still a co founder in a mocha. So my first company was IT services company IT service venture, and in three, four years, like did a good job, like grew that company to around 100 people in IT services, and with customers from Middle East India, and of course us and then away working in IT services realize that, yeah, that time, I wanted to get into it services, their own mode wisdom, because I wanted to create, when I got into entrepreneurship, I thought, let me create more and more jobs in the country. And in my five years of IT services entrepreneurship career, I was able to create 450 freshers jobs in that five years. So I was happy, okay, I did something good. then realize that India is a country has matured in IT services to certain extent. And it's a time where our equity should not go with the customer when we deliver the project, and it to stay and it should stay with India. And by that time has got exposure to how Silicon Valley's working and that's how one so and again, while I was working with IBM, IBM is a product culture company, right? So in those five years of IT services company each year I used to own whatever we used to answer it and we were put back into product and in five years we start we tried five products but never sold it. Okay, so we thought a moon moonlighters cannot do a great job if you want to do something significant unit to be a sunlight who shines in the morning and sets up in the evening. Like it's a problem with noon right? Sometimes more sometimes smaller, something bigger, so tart, let's exit IT services and try our luck in SaaS. And that websites was new almost 5 years five and a half years back first, and I always say like IT services and products SaaS product is altogether a different version. So it services is like washing dishes and SaaS product is like creating your own whim okay. So, washing dishes business is altogether different from a business of creating a winning product, okay. So, first of all, you will get only 10 rupees in washing dishes you will get thousand rupees, you just need to show the case studies to get another word for even small trading a small product unit to have the product made. So far that mentality we got into gennext which is accelerator startup accelerator run by Mike used to be powered by Microsoft and their online IT services and learn a little bit of sass. Then, at any for two years, was fascinated with the likes of Zoho and freshford that time, so didn't talk much because freshworks logo was green. I put my logo as green and started that in 2-2 and a half years was able to grow to 10 Km RR through online as a media with customers from 60 countries. Okay, but only 10 Km RR so to get USD I'm talking about then in one of my conversation with one of the like, guy in Chennai, he asked me now are you saying it probably 14 cameras 60 countries and 600 customer and that really pinpointed me okay? I'm on the right path or wrong path and fortunate to get into pick at that time, okay? And and then in three years from Tim Kamara from serving a $14 a month package. Now. I got into a mode where we have more than 2 million in error. So almost 20 times in last three years in terms of MRR, our average selling price was $49 a month. $600 a year. Now we have a couple of customers paying us 250 k annually, a few of them 100 k in other 30 K so good journey, who has seen Marathi medium NC party school with all friends who are working still on some plantilla And selling vegetables and working at clock chops and all. So born and brought up and played with them, got into engineering came here, tried my luck in services work in our favor, to certain extent, got into product and so far so good. Awesome. So, you know when, several years ago maybe more than a decade ago, when I was in the US there was a gentleman who said, whenever you ask somebody a question, ask them a question. Real quick, you get up, you don't get a yes or no, but you get a multi paragraph answer. Right. So this is a classic example of a multi paragraph answer right but it's full of inspiration. That's that's that's terrific. So speaking before I you know, peel all the layers of the onion that you thrown at me and then I come back with question after question. In in, do Darshan on do Darshan, there used to be a cereal called amaravati. Do you remember that? Yeah, it's Andhra Kamravati Ki Kathaiye.

Krishna Jonnakadla  08:58

Correct. So it used to be I think the opening song used to be Krishna Tatpar.

Amit Mishra  09:01

Yeah. I remember that Krishna. So though that Amravati is now a capital of, I guess, Andhra Pradesh. So that's Amravathi mine is Amravati in Maharashtra. But yeah, that's it. For today.

Krishna Jonnakadla  11:21

I didn't. For some reason, I was under the impression that,that Amravati and this were the same. And because in Andhra, the current capital has been named as Amravathi. Right. It wasn't a Amravathi, it has been named as Amravathi, but I thought that the Amravati that you're from is the same Amravti that's referred referenced in the stories, isn't it?

Amit Mishra  11:43

No.

Krishna Jonnakadla  11:44

I see. Okay. Okay. As someone from Andhra Pradesh, you know, I'm, I must admit, I'm I Viola low. I know a lot. This is something I'm learning for the...

Amit Mishra  11:54

Yeah, no, no, I don't know our Amravti is called Indrapura. Where Krishna and that Kodanyapur story, some some mythology stories. So I'm very passionate about Amravati in and out about Amravati.

Krishna Jonnakadla  12:08

But, so that that was amazing. You grew up in the slums. And eventually you said no to future chances of relocating to the US. And though it continued to be, you know, you talk about being inspired by Silicon Valley and the things that they did that and eventually being, I would say, bitten by the SaaS bug, like what garish and you know, she there are doing well, who I think are doing a terrific job. And getting to where you are. So there are so three ventures from there. But let's go back to that. The slum Angola lady but right. There is a guy called Sanjeev Sanjana does the name ring a bell. So, indeed, Sanjana is the principal economic advisor of the chief economic adviser one of the two. But he's a man with a tremendous sense of history. He is the economic advisor was the economic adviser, I think during the first term of Modi government as well. He's written three or four books. One is called the ocean of churn. And the other one is the land of seven rivers. And there's another book called The Indian Renaissance. And the funny thing is the beauty of his books are is that they go into a great deal of economic history of India as well. We we read a lot of political history, but if not a letter read a lot of economic history right? For instance, you know, there are too good that's one way with the Maria's which was the Chandra Gupta Maria Dinah the Maui dynasty and then there is a later on Gupta as represented by the 400 year age of the golden age of the Gupta period. Right. In one of his in I think the line of seven rivers he talks about in fourth century in the economy of India, especially under under the Gupta period was so advanced, that there used to be up if you understand this phrase called man about town, which means Okay, we can make capital A must it must be Ghana, so. So there used to be a book. When you go to an English bookstore, when I was a teenager, I would go to an English bookstore and then I would find books like okay, pick up easy pickup lines for boys, you know, to pick up girls, stuff like that. Yo, I'll get pickup lines do in India, people don't even approach a girl forget actually using one. Yeah. And then when I read Sanjeev Sonia Sonia says that there used to be a manual on how to have fun. Now good for the fourth century, right? We are in 21st century now. So and then he The reason I'm saying that is I come to the context tarawih which is supposedly I think either Asia's largest slum or the world's largest slum. He He says, people externally, always perceive these as slums. But internally they are economic engines. And then economic powerhouses. And we've heard quite a few stories about you know, enterprises coming out of Darby, which was at Ranveer Singh movie that the rapper movie that was that was about that was it supposed to be inspired me to events of a rapper from Dharavi, right?

Amit Mishra  15:46

 Uh huh.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:47

GullyBoy.

Amit Mishra  15:47

GullyBoy, GullyBoy yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  15:49

GullyBoy. Right. So interesting, but talk to us about that. So your father ran a school there and what inspired them to do that they were professionals. Anyway, that's pretty fascinating. Tell us a little bit about that.

Amit Mishra  16:02

So Krishna, first of all, if you understand my surname, Mishra, okay. Misha is not a typical Maharashtrian surname page. It's a surname from North. once you Okay, do I speak Marathi,

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:15

Uttar Pradesh.

Amit Mishra  16:17

Yeah, Uttar Pradesh. So I heard that we migrated 110-20 years back from Uttar Pradesh, I speak Marathi better than Hindi do. Okay. And so what happened? My father, my father, Vivian, his forefathers, like landed in a multi variable, there was a densely dense population, there used to be like people used to migrate. And then those dense population became over a period of time bursty or slums, and people migrated to other colonies and nightwish areas. So the place where I stay there, for example, if you see seven 8000 people, slums, out of age, their community staying, okay. And communities of butchers communities of cobblers community of sweepers, and communities of I would say many different typically, it used to be divided by cost and work earlier, right. And we were only the family, which was educated, I guess. And at that time, maybe that's what I heard from a father. That's what that time like, a Brahmin family used to be a family, who will do a lot of education and no, so we have been staying there since 110 years, right. So, my father also like, born and brought up there, okay. And when he won and what happened, he got a chance because of educated family to pursue his education in arts. My my, my father even had a low marriage that time, okay, almost 45 years back, okay. So he, I, he born and brought up with them, and always he saw, saw that education is the main thing because of it, people are not able to uplift themselves. They don't know. Like, and many times, it's a viral loop. Okay, they keep on doing that. Moreover, I like I'll talk about myself when I grew up there, though, I was playing with all people and like, now, I was the only one who pursued my education after 1012. All of them dropped, like somehow and like after school, so what I realized that this tat suit suit, typically you wouldn't believe once I was talking to my mother and asked that, Hey, hurry, Jackie. And such in these were my three friends, they started earning some 1200 rupees while one was doing like his family work of laundry. second one was sailing some Jeep. And third one was like, Jenny vistana. Oh, he used to say that. So I said, Man, you want me to study for a 10 years more by the time these guys will be millionaires. They are earning 1200 rupees every month. Okay. And by the time I will become something and we'll start earning 70,000 these guys would have, like, put out on so many things. And stuff like that. I mean, yeah, I mean, it'll go on and stuff like that. But my mother used to say whatever money you need, and take it from money, but keep studying and make sure that you remember all these things. Okay, that's the only thing she wanted. And that's when I passed like, unfortunately out of my 10th In inference, three of them died just by having more liquor and stuff like that. Okay? Others, even like I will talk about charity part of my life, but we heard them a couple of them are studying, again from my. So you see, like, like what, Gary shan't see that inspiration to us. We are also like a kind of ecosystem where when we study by looking at us by in that ecosystem, people studied and now we have seven engineers from my locality, okay, over a period of time, and two of them from my family and others from other families. So I feel good about it. And moreover, I realized that education is the only thing which can change. And that's what my father even tried doing that. And he never went after money. So he wasn't, he was all. So I used to say, like something asking me, Well, why don't you earn money and put us into good schools, but he was on that front, but later on, we realized that what he has earned in his life and we are also like doing it back I go to him rock tapes, and you won't, you won't believe a couple of my friends have keep their son's name just after my name Amit, because they think that if I put a keep Amit as a name, they will be intelligent and will be studying more so that way and now nowadays, like my like my pattern, there are many people who are doing it there are many institutions who are doing it and getting them uplifted to an E in our schools, you will believe in my school where I used to study there used to be no toilets at all, okay, that type in slums, but yes, scenario has changed altogether. Even slums are getting better now. Like in terms of exposure in terms of work, and they are also like finding education as the media to work and none nowadays scenario is changing the system.

Krishna Jonnakadla  22:06

Right? I, I think India has always been a country of many words, right. So yeah, word subcontinent, in some sense, is a very befitting, although there are a lot of wrong British labels on India, but the word subcontinent can truly stick because in the urban areas, we are seeing a different conundrum, isn't it? We are seeing people who just chase certificates who just chase degrees. And for instance, three years ago, when we when we were trying to recruit interns, for our company, take interns, we found only four out of a pile of 800. Yeah, in terms. And then the funny thing is out of 800, most people couldn't answer basic theoretical questions about programming, and the to filter them down to 400. And then out of the 400, and then 80, and then 80. This is possibly what a lot of the other companies are doing also. But mind you, all of these people have computer science degrees. So the funny thing is, a lot of them have so called education, but your body in my mind, the tyranny seems to be that we have so many people who have education on paper, but don't know what don't know, think about really doing something with it. If you can't write a line of code, you know, what is the point in you having a software engineer degree, it is one of the degrees in the world where you are taught what you're actually supposed to do, nobody's asking you to do coding, no J's, you know, if you can demonstrate it in COBOL, or even Fortran or whatever it is, that you learned, you know, that is proof that you will, you will see, yes, that is what urban centers are. But in the semi urban and rural centers, they don't have access to these, you know, quality colleges. So for them, they have they, whatever leg up they can get in terms of some quality call colleges if they hustle, and then combined with their ability data and data out to be, you know, employable people. So it's a distinct conundrum in India right now. You know.

Amit Mishra  24:16

So Krishna, the basis of my businesses, like my I'm into skill assessment business type, right over a period of time, I represent that skill s by dollar. So a person will not be known by a degree possess, but why the skill we possess over a period of time and that is started happening already. And there won't be any blue collar white collar, it will be a new collar and collar up skills. So in future according to me, and it's it's started happening already, there won't be any computer engineers further. It will be our data scientists, our person as a cyber security professional Cloud Manager. So even in technology or it won't be a new market or it will be a digital marketer, LinkedIn marketer, it will be A Facebook marketer, and over a period of time, I would say the economy's and that's the basis of my business, that our economy is changing towards skill, it is becoming a skill economy. And the person will be known by the degree by the scaling process, not by the degree process. And that started happening already what you're saying is so true. Right.

Krishna Jonnakadla  25:23

So let's go back to that IT services business a little bit. I always get fascinated when I hear stories about people starting and getting to 100 member team is not a mean accomplishment, right. And those days, a lot of companies today that have grown were hundred 200 300. And they've all in some sense, for me, I always felt it services was in some sort like a hamster in a cage, it was like a never ending treadmill. Right. So it was it was staffing. A lot of them did staffing, and a lot of them did many projects. But all of all of them hit a certain scale problem at some point in time services doesn't scale as well as products do, especially project based services. And that realization when it hits you, that's when you decide that a move towards a product based company is something that you want to write whether you do b2b product or b2c product is a different question altogether. So what in your mind? You alluded to this a little bit, go deeper into that a little more? And how was that journey? And what were some rationalizations that you did?

Amit Mishra  26:41

Okay, so Krishna, like, what happens, like every, I would say, problem, I would suppose the problem goes through four different stages in its lifetime. First is a Genesis stage where a problem has emerged, or to the world, and where it starts solving it, when when when we'll start solving that problem that Genesis become customed to you provide some custom solution and over a period of time, when that custom This is repeated many times, and you know, the know how of the problem, the industry the solution, the product, the technology, that custom needs, emerges to product. So that, that so a problem, which, which was Genesis, people start industry start solving is a custom or a period of time it gets measured and it moves to product type product ization of it. And when it has productize to a level where every one is able to do it well, and at of same quality, it becomes a commodity, right? So if you see India as a whole country, okay, so now I'm talking about the problem of India, employment and education. So when we have been like ruled by Britishers, for almost hundred and 50 plus years, we are culturally, like, culturally become listeners, we have somebody will tell us what to do, and we'll keep on doing it. So we become a solution provider than a problem finder, as a country has a DNA of this country. And it is, it is in our favor now. Okay. Because as a DNA of the country, it sucks, like, somebody will say something, and we'll execute it. Okay, this was a DNA for a country. So when our country like in 90s, it becomes a mixed economy. Okay, open economy, I would say, and a world started becoming flat. That thing, what our country had as a input or raw material was a definitely English speaking population. Because we have been like, a dodo, we had some bad thing, but we had some good things even because Richard earlier, so English, was a language which, though I educated humanity, but I speak English now, right? Or a lot of time, like milk, like majority of the population, and engineering mindset. And who we whole country became a solutions provider to the problem problems Westerners are facing. Okay. So Westerners, because how many to solve their problems? They were the problem finders, they were the problem Finder. And that's the reason they created software. We created services, right? And, and we were solving the problem. So for example, I mean, I'm naughty and a lifestyle a number of years later in Pune, a lifestyle in New York is altogether different the same way, if you're solving a problem of Westerner, even the solution provider gets a lot of money. And that is what India needed that time. And moreover, now, so Google, might be a great company. Microsoft might be a great company, but hardly 50,000 and 100,000 people. On the contrary, TCS and Infosys 500,000 people, this is what India needed that time. Okay, and I see that was working, we had some like, material. So we as a country from Genesis of outsourcing become a custom solution provider to entire western problems. Okay. Now, once we got the raw material as a whole country whole as a study industry, then people started productizing it because we have no technology, we have a no opinion, no engineering, we have no such so many global domains. Okay. And so it's not me that was created a product, but ecosystems he was proud of. Thank you. It looks like it's a straight line, but there are steps in between, right. And this is the right time where India has taken a move to productize the problems and this is not only India, it will happen. If we don't do it, somebody else will do it. Right. So we we started productizing it so after doing a search, and what happens when you are working. So even if you see my Infosys, Infosys has a billion dollar revenue from its financial product, right? So it's a $10 billion, some part of their business has come through, again, in services and product, there is a layer of solutioning given in between, or consulting even in between. So that's all country measured. And we so I got a chance to work with through to IBM. And there I had a tinge of productization. Right. So when I started my services venture, I thought, if something can be automated, something can be productized. Why don't we solve So see, services is the business of solution providing, okay, and product is the business of problem ending. So in SaaS business in product business unit to be a great problem finder, the better you understand the problem of a segment, your segment, your customer segment, solution can be provided by the third party, even IT services, I can even outsource my work for a period of time. Okay. And that's a transition I have also seen, industry also seen it is not new, what I'm saying. But yeah, that's how it works after after doing the project and being a person, let's say, whenever you deliver a project in it, services, equity goes up with customer and you are left with nothing, but some case studies. So it pins somewhere, right? And over time you think why don't we create something same problem creating, creating and creating more and more IP out of it? And that's what we did.

Krishna Jonnakadla  32:27

So 2005 was when we started the IT services company, did you say?

Amit Mishra  32:32

Yeah, 2005 Five Eyes. So but previously, for a couple of years, I was doing training unning something. So we're gonna live personally, every entrepreneur is confident from day one, the only thing that changes is he gets clarity over time. So from the day when I was confident I'd started taking training was more out of IBM become IBM trainer as a consultant and many things. So we started it in 2005 years. So he joined in 2007. And we ran it for few years.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:06

And you did you have any product ideas back then when you were running? out of is this an outgrowth? what you're doing right now eventually did was it an outgrowth of what you saw there? Or this is something totally new?

Amit Mishra  33:20

No. So What was happening like, first time, as I said, I was about to get married and like, I didn't want it to shift out of India. So that the reason of me shifting from job to entrepreneurship IT services though, and from shifting from it serves a purpose. We wanted to create IP and and we knew that India is getting mature we're a product will be created and it will be appreciated by interworld. So So previously, like now also, Mr. Modi, like our Narendra Modi's trying to make India like making India but still we are not able to productize Even now, our toiletries are like IP of some other companies right. So, as a product that thing is not appreciated and done so far, but in it, we are as a country is mature. So, we thought let's solve a problem. And when we were in exit mode of our IT services, one problem we ourselves fit in IT services was whenever our like project manager used to complain, hey, HR has given us and asked us to talk to somebody who was not at all a good fit and was useless guy. So when we like try digging out the problem, we found out that whenever a recruiter try to gauge a person, he or she gauges it based on the keywords in the resume. And people are very lavish in writing resume if you have done something even for a week, or for a month, you make sure that it is in your resume as experienced or proficient. Right. And, and they did this study your job description Make the resume. And unfortunately resume do not quantify skills, and the only pointer in recruiters. So only resume was the thing, which recruiter used to gauge a person on talk initially to that guy and put them to the interviewers. And in this process what used to happen out of irritate people, which are forwarded to the interviews to the interviewing team, or hiring manager team, which is primarily support to deliver the projects, they are their own work in taking and conducting interviews, not their primary work. They don't have any KPIs towards it, they used to fail many times. And hey, man, like he doesn't know the basics. He's not even intermediate guy. And you asked me to talk to them. And they used to complain and that used to visit their billable hours. Okay, yeah. billable hours. And this problem we used to face every now and then. So we thought if instead of resuming so this was the this was the problem we faced when we were running our own IT services venture. And tsujita and me, were sitting in a CCD cafe coffee day, having a mocha coffee, we thought it's a interview problem. And we were having a mocha coffee. So let's start something with interview. mocha is a name. And that time we were in exist. So we started the company, but formally, we launched it in 2015.

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:27

Interesting, do you know that the name Java came about similar?

Amit Mishra  36:31

Yeah, coffee beans.

Krishna Jonnakadla  36:33

We know of course, we are the co co founders, they were sitting in a coffee shop. And they wanted to come up with a name. And that's how the name Java came about. So that's interesting. And then Jen next, so that is Jen. Next it was an accelerator was that that's a different startup, right? That was a different venture?

Amit Mishra  36:52

The same venture, in 2015, we graduated college on a four month post in March 2015, they had a demo day. So we'd be the same inter mocha. So that time we started so we got into the water without knowing how to swim. Okay, into SAS. And that accelerator helped us actually, its genesis accelerator run by realizing the premises in Mumbai, powered by Microsoft in, I'm not sure about now, with the Microsoft is associated with them. Okay, we got into them and see, I could not understand one thing like IT services and product, these are all together to different DNA. There, you have to be a solution provider here unit to be as problem Finder. There, you get new work by showing the previous case studies here. You won't get sell your product gets sold. So it's like, as I said, When versus washing dishes, right? Okay. But if I fall, you know, 10 rupees kaboom unit to our formula, unit, factory unit, a packaging unit to advertise and sell 10 rupees customer, right. So it was altogether different mentality. And it took us almost a year to unlearn IT services. So learning SaaS was an easier task. But we were painted so much by IT services and learning it and learning it took a time.

Krishna Jonnakadla  38:15

So, but the product idea that you started with what you're doing right now skill assessment, did it always was it always skill assessment or when you initially started the was a hypothesis different?

Amit Mishra  38:30

So hypothesis that time as I said, we wanted to solve the problem of interview process, right. And the reason and that's the reason we changed our name from into mocha, mocha. Now, that's a different story, though. Like, we wanted to solve the interview problem. And the first feature or product we developed was a automated video interview, not a skill assessment at all. Okay, so we, we did it a diffused IP, so that there was some other company we use their API, okay, and launch our automatic video interview solution. And we wanted to ask few questions, five minutes video interview, which our interviewer will see before and decides whether to talk to that guy. And then we've got into deeper and deeper into product ization and that interview mukha in interview form, almost we ran for three to six months okay. And realize that first of all this problem was already few people in the Western world and even in India that time started solving and and moreover, we realized So, this is what happened when we were talking to customers more and more and more and more. So we realize that though interview is what they need, okay, but parallely like, after talking to customers, what we realized the next interesting thing that there is a The shelf life of a skill, which was previously 20 years is becoming laser and laser, it is only three to five years. And skill metrics of entire world is changing very fast. Just to just to give you a context, just just see an example of two of the biggest retail players of us. One is Walmart and other is Amazon, if you see in India even because or dhimanth versus Flipkart, both serving the same purpose, but if you try to zoom up into the skill metrics of this to organization mentality, okay, when is totally trade driven? Like Flipkart or Amazon is totally tech driven. Do it's a retail company but they don't have their own shops like what Walmart and this thing to do. So because of it and mobile revolution, Avery industries district were disrupted by technology. If you see even the banking bank tellers job were getting obsolete and getting replaced by ATMs and online banking. Okay, and only apps and now you know, you'll see almost of you, I never went to like in my life for years, hardly I went to bank for getting the cash out, I always go to ATM and like do the transactions online banking. So whether it's retail, whether it's banking, even in marketing, if you talk about digital marketing was not in place. And nowadays, when you talk about marketing, first thing comes to your mind is marketing, Facebook marketing, LinkedIn marketing, skill metrics of entire organization, as entire world was changing, and was getting dominated by it getting dominated by software. And and it was not happening only to the white car industry. But if you see an example of a small example of toll roads and pathways in US previously, there used to be a person like India, who will tender the change open the berikut, will take money from you, it is totally getting replaced by RFID. And now in India, you get a smart card, which you need to pass to your car and get will open. So even those jobs were getting replaced by RFID, CCTV and other technology. So technology is changing very fast. And according to the researchers, almost 30% of the technology, which we are working on now has changed in to 10 years, what Gen Z will work on. Those jobs are not existing today, like AI itself has created 2.2 million jobs in last two years. And it made 1.8 million technical jobs even obsolete. Okay, three, cybersecurity is creating 3.5 million jobs. Now, we started with automated video antivirus solution, but found out that skill metrics of the world is changing so fast. And there needs to and there are some companies like liberal side, Linda and udimi, we're trying to solve our training part of it. But in skill economy, skill assessment will be the currency, okay. And when doctor business grows, pathology needs to grow. So we thought skill economy needs a pathology. And that's how we thought, let's solve this problem in a crowdsourcing manner. Create the skills and maintain and having your own team doesn't. So we are only Airbnb or Uber of this industry, who has all the skill assessments created through crowdsourcing as a model. And that's the reason it is scalable. And we are able to create three 2000 plus unique skills so far, which is almost double from any other competitor now, okay. And we would like to cope up with this change this whitespace of skills, which is changing very fast. So nowadays, skills are like your mobile, you change it with the newer version every two, three years, right that way, and then we'll move on to skill assessment. It took us one and half year to realize that, and there are no better.

Krishna Jonnakadla  43:48

So we're, in fact, going back and asking questions. The first one was interview, because you were trying to filter out candidates, that possibly did not mean. So taking the earlier discussion, there was a resume in the resume, obviously, everybody puts a positive spin on it. And people waste your time. So let's give them a five minute automated version to decide which candidate I feel is genuine, has the skill and who does not. And then you went back to the next evolution and then realize that through the through this was in some sense being solved by other players, just the interviewing part, but the real need behind it was understanding the skill of that person. Yeah. And what is that particular person skill? And now all of a sudden, you find that there is this huge whitespace because every industry is being driven by in some sense, I think, if you just take cloud as an example, or AI as an example, or machine learning as an example, there seems there seem to be a lot of opportunities there, at least for people. But the supply is not necessarily qualitative, which is where a skill assessment. I'm just taking those as examples. It could apply in a variety of other industries as well. Right? So, from that initial launch of the interview product only, and by the time you landed up with the skill assessment that was 18 months, was it?

Amit Mishra  45:17

Yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  45:19

Okay. Okay. And what? Who, and how did you make that? What were some of Was there any any particular events or turning points that sort of led you? Or was it some sort of a process that you followed in this paper?

Amit Mishra  45:36

So basically, again, like, so, it didn't happen in a day as I said, it was a judge, there was another problem and so, our co founder Institute talks to one customer daily still okay. So Gee, he, so he listens to customer, he's all years of organization, I would say. So, one observation he had which was other than this, even Krishna, welcome to the customers in western world, they would like to create a diverse and diversity teams and inclusions, okay. And they wanted to be very sure about the unfair recruitment process and unfair. And in interview, what happens, you judge a person, by his skin, by his country, by his location, by his gender, by his school, college, if you are or he or she is your eliminate. So what happens is, like, while talking to the customer, we saw there is one more problem in the video interview just gauging a person on video interview, a lot of biases comes in, when you see. So see, I'm so I'm not biased, but I am. So for example, passionate about karate, okay? So if a person is from a Marathi maybe some affinity, a person, maybe chenega getting chenega Marsden getting manager in the US even like, Oh, I'm a Stanford, Stanford person, again, some bias right? And how to remove biases, by quantifying the skill not quantifying a person right. So, video interview definitely is needed, but whole world needs a second opinion, whether you Is there any bias or fair in any like bias happened during the process and skill quantification make sure okay, that all these biases are remote and a person is just on the skill to possess and the level of skills you possess and the set of skills you possess, definitely in interview process, you may have different opinions, but over time a grown organization will ask what went wrong if that person who has really done well, so, well in his quantification, what went wrong and it gets out. So, skill quantification is needed at all level. And I would say introduce the second process. So we scream in is a layer which gets hundred answer meaning like, as you talked about an example India, in India, many times people use a tool, like us skill quantization tool or interview tool to reject the candidate, okay. But in western world where demand and supply the most the same, they want to select the candidate, okay, it's not about only saving time, they want to make sure they get the right person in. In India, you get one job, hundred application there, you get one job three applications for applications, right. So we are a selection mechanism there at selection, which is multifaceted multi dimensional. So as we have 2000 plus, plus skills, which is so for example, if you're recruiting a cybersecurity developer with us, you can check aptitude rajee cybersecurity skills, plus coding skills, assimilation, and finally, our video automated video interview. And finally, on our platform, you can ask them to code and so we've done that entire problem solving horrible thing.

Krishna Jonnakadla  49:22

That's pretty fascinating. How did you and Sujit come together? How did he end up being your co founder?

49:29

So Sujit and me like I was working in a small company, we are seniors. So I was having around a year of experience, so he joined as a fresher, okay. And both very time PERS used to joke a lot thicker. So I'm from roti, his company, I was looking into na and like from the day when we were clear that we are going to French ticket work together. Then I went to IBM I got him in IBM and get that 15,000 rupees referral bonus even ticket and Susan, like in IBM, you and we used to talk. And to do that we both are very passionate. And we are passionate about everything we do. Okay. I would say we are passionate about our country, we are passionate about our city, we are passionate about solving the problems nearby, and very passionate and focused about the problem we're solving through our business together. So very, very, very good. So we are working in Java and otherwise, almost from 15 years to be then.

Krishna Jonnakadla  50:30

Very nice, very nice. You're the executive, the leader of the organization. Sujit manages technology and data, that sort of magically happened that, because both of you have a coding background, but how did you decide who was going to do what?

Amit Mishra  50:50

Okay, so first of all, we are pretty clear that in a car, however, proficient you are, but only one driver can be there, otherwise, it will make a collision, right. And I'm a talkative person. I was too used to the biologic bit of influencer. And a suit suit is equally good, I would say, No, but we mutually deserve me maybe age working factor. And when you're older, I'm not sure about it. Now, now, I didn't wrote a single code of single line of code in last 15 years ago, from the day when I was pretty sure that I'm a marketer and a sales guy, then I take it. And we decided from the day one.

Krishna Jonnakadla  51:36

factors. Interesting, you should talk about one driver in a car, and funnily. My initial days, when I was in the US, there was a manager. And he, that week that, I think one week, we're discussing about a presentation, and I was trying to lead the presentation, and everybody else was trying to mess it up, because there are too many people leaving. And he gave us an analogy. And it was from an experience that happened just the previous week. He and three of his Indian friends went whitewater rafting, and near Pittsburgh. And it so happened they were it was some sort of a race of sorts. And they were the Indian team, every play. within five minutes of getting into the RAF, they laughed at caps. And all four of them were made in water. And he tells me, the only reason this happened, because only in our board, everybody was trying to read and nobody was rowing. As he in the in the other case, there was one person who was leading and everybody else and that person was going to and everybody else was rowing. And then there was one leader. And here everybody was strategizing and how to go out to row and then nobody actually was rowing. And then they hit a bump and then they capsized. So it and that I use that metaphor every time we have to, we have to make decisions, we have to decide we don't we shouldn't be deciding who's a leader every time. So that's interesting. I'm glad the two of you got that out of the way. Since you played the marketing role and more of the person who was responsible to ensure attraction. How was the talk about the initial days, even though you launch that interview product? How long did it take for you to get your first customer? And what was the first few customers? Like what was that journey? Like? How did you find it?

Amit Mishra  53:35

So I like as I said, when we got into gennext that time, we used to have like maybe 1012 customers in Puna paying us 5000 rupees a month. So those customers, so we were a SaaS company without a website that time okay. Because now, so we were in pony, we made them in some other forum, and we were doing it. Okay, but that is not interesting when I got into a gym next and realized that and one more thing kastelic interesting and a funny thing. I thought SaaS is a model in which you do not travel, it's online model you will be in your couch and like enjoying your life. Unlike IT services, you need to visit your customers every now and then and meet them in different countries. So I thought we need to sell setting in India. So in genomics, we understood that till the time you keep on meeting people, you are restricted by a location, okay? And you need to get into a habit where you will sell online, you will sell online anywhere to get it as a part of DNA. And I'm a good listener. Okay, so literally since that day, we created a five pages with I started writing some blogs and stuff like that. And for two months zero revenue gave us two months zero revenue created into product created Assessment Engine, no content and stuff like that. And I happen to talk to Chris you're charged with that time, okay? Again, because Chris told me a guru mantra, that means make sure that whatever you do, but unit to have two External links linking to you every day and make sure it happens every now daily. So I got a blogger only one blogger. Frasier was just wandering on Quora and just just keep on doing something to our page. And we so we were five six people team, a couple of developers one this guy we do and we waited for leads to come and in fact, we were like leads to come and we put a $14 package month on month on website and in the second month, we were doing it we didn't get a customer but we got a call from Tech Mahindra Intune which is a giant right but my only sales guy that Timon Junior sales guy get information he asked me gentlemen, let's go to the meet tekmira I said no, let's have a DNA. We are will sort of global customer we won't go and meet them in person. And both of the admit customer to wish me like waited for two months. And luckily, not Luckily, Fortune favors the prepared mind I would say secondment up gentlemen, a small company of college books were from Germany bought a $49 package. I was so happy $49 vvv got and it was automatic purchased and nobody was attending. No chance even thing. And within a week. I just I was I was in genuinely that time. The morning I got like, woke up and went to Gen X and I saw two payments of $49 each and one was safer up okay, somebody in Sephora buying a $49 package and second one Nelson. Okay, the one of the biggest Yeah, okay $40 million. So, I was so excited that a good I said a no to take my Indra to meet them in person Okay. And then we started believing Yes, online works. Yes, it was and then instead of creating two links, we started creating three links delete Okay. And then in two years, we got from zero money to 10 camera which is almost eight lakh rupees one lakh rupees a month, in two years with 600 customer from all the segments like whether it was a one people company or consultant, and even customers which are big we and we never used to like talk to them while purchasing like after serving we started talking to them. So, from a one person company to 100,000 people a company, I'm not saying org level somebody waters, okay. And then so that that was the journey that's all we landed up at customer and just to realize that Okay, now we need to focus more and make sure that we will sell so we believe in the startup lifecycle we call this as a rollout stage where you have multiple segments you have multiple value proposition you don't have predictability or not don't have repeatability. And then we understand that from rollout stage to group stage if you want to go unit a single segment and single value proposition repeatability and predictability and that's what we work with who because I'm not sure whether you notes we are because first startup okay. So and then then we kept on moving up market from an A so one to 10 people company small armies or small office home office company to VSP 11 to 50 people company to SMB 50 to 500 people company, now medium segment is the sweet spot 5500 to 5000 people, IT teams and 5000 Plus we have three dozens of them, even enterprises.

Krishna Jonnakadla  59:27

So Gen X when you were at Gen X with all these basic things that you did, you had 10 Gold customers in in Puna. You had met them and then after that with Chris of chargebee you know, and the link creation at the blogger that about two years and in that two years, how many customers Did you have back then?

Amit Mishra  59:47

So in those two years, we used to have 600 paying customers, okay, okay. And many of them journey because we never understood like we were enjoying the money what was it worth? Okay? And 600 customers so good thing about us is Krishna, when we decided to add now I only 200 customers. Okay, but those were $49 paying customer now I have a couple of them to take a few of them 100 K, many of them 30 K. Okay. And so I didn't the Indian ecosystem a past event like have you heard of SaaS? Bumi?

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:00:26

I have.

Amit Mishra  1:00:27

Yeah. So, so SaaS Bumi. And like, we used to, I used to always go to Germany every year was listen to them meet fellow founders understand what mistakes we are doing. And like, then somebody told me like say the cause of your action by stars not by any other person to decide your segment and go after that and decide a segment which is large enough. Even this, this I heard in opposition by shaker charania XL, he said go after a segment which is large enough, differentiated category, the frequency of usages almost daily or weekly, the duration of usage will be long, and you should be able to make a dent there. So this phi parameter we keep applying on the segments. And after a couple of iterations, we found out time suits for.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:01:31

What changed once you saw this, instead of having 600 small paying customers, obviously, when you go up market, and the funny thing is, let me ask you this, I've always found that when you go up market, you don't necessarily need to provide anything new. Right? It's just that the perceived value of the product or the offering that you have to the to that customer changes. So do you have to make any drastic changes? Or was this almost the same product with a different customer that you were able to get revenue?

Amit Mishra  1:02:05

So first of all product. Well, we didn't change anything ticket. The only thing is, it is not in their favor, even if you're multisegment if you're trying to be a jack of all, like, if you don't stand for something, you will fall for everything, right? This is the basic thing. So even serving so many segments, everybody will keep on asking new features something which which appeals to them. So I would say product wise, we didn't do any change, the only thing they are after in a product roadmap, we were solving the mother problem and all the subset of those mother problem, which is as we are writing. Okay, so but that changed thereafter. Why are you getting this customer? How did we get more money and move up market is just asking. So I would say we kept on asking them higher money they kept on paying us higher money. We demonstrated them the value sometime instrumented it into products sometime in presentations. Okay, so it was more of our conviction, our confidence, and our value, then product to get in front of a lot of changes, right. But then after whatever features we added, we are adding only for that segment. So I really don't want to be the world's biggest smuggler, I want to be done on the street. In this gully, I should be the best. Okay, I don't care about the segment. And the goal is big enough.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:03:30

Right. Right. So some time ago, a few minutes ago, you said an entrepreneur is always confident and he takes up eventually. This is the clarity, right? So you you are to talk to multiple people and you also listen to the market. And the market gives you some degree of clarity as well. And I support and like you said fortune 50 prepares prepared, no opportunity meets preparation. That's that success. factor of luck also kicks in. But there are some paradigm shifts as well that that to happen. Right. wonders. And the paradigm shift I'm sensing is came from this motherhood problem that you were solving on. You mentioned a few minutes ago. Talk about that a little bit. How did you It's one thing to say this is the segment I'm picking but to know for sure. Right that yes, I picked the right segment. When did those two realizations happen?

Amit Mishra  1:04:31

So what happens when we have several customers many of them so if you do analysis of it, then there are always some customers who are easy to sell, easy to solve, are successful with you. having adequate having expansion potential, and have a can do advocacy for you. So sorry. So if you keep doing this, if you keep applying this formula, I'll fight for my A lot easier to acquire, easy to sell, or easy to acquire, easy to serve expansion potential and advocacy potential, then you find out that four out of the seven eight segments is the segment, which I should go after did so. So did they, I would say value you more, and you have more market fit for that market than any other market. And then you found out is it a founder market fit even. So, if you're a founder who cannot do enterprise sales, or a DNA into it, and you're going to enterprises won't work. All segments are working, it's your call, it should be a founder market fit plus product market fit. Okay. So in your case, in our case, both of us had worked in IT services, it's a IT services enterprise, you began and we went into enterprises, they're not a website business. Okay. So we thought it's enterprise segment, it's a founder market fit, it's a product market fit is five things are together and when this context of paradigm was changed, then what happened product roadmap was made accordingly. So, whenever a new feature request came in stood on that feature request, we asked what problem This feature is solving. And if that problem is attributing to the problem, which is the model problem is a segment then only we took that into our product roadmap, and then we found out that previously it was a 10 people tech team, who was working on only 20% of the right thing, now will tend to be working only on one thing, so we are becoming more stronger indeed for that signal. So, this is one product roadmap point of promotion, general point of view, once you understood a segment with those five parameters, okay, which are which we call it as ICP, ideal customer profile. And once we found it out, those guys handled at different places, they have some similar behavior, they go to some similar events, they are doing some kind of similar activities, this search through their searches are similar, right? If they attend any events, those events are similar. If it's only like now we're ip casilla do Microsoft. So, they they they need you to come through some brand and you should look like a brand okay. So, then when we stop all other things and get deeper into those customer behavior, we found the right product roadmap, we found the right traction channel, okay. And once these two things are found out, well, the whole organization beat in our case product which does a lot of engineering and content plus marketing sales CS upon money pulled team should be well oiled towards that segment towards that product roadmap and towards attraction.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:07:52

Interesting. So and what were some inflection points that put you on the so 10 k MRR which is 400,000 $120,000 annual recurring revenue to 2 million MRR.

Amit Mishra  1:08:11

2 million ARR 200K MRR.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:08:14

200K MRR. 2 odd million annual recurring revenue. Right? That's a that's a massive shift. Do you suddenly feel like a rich man?

Amit Mishra  1:08:26

Rich by money? Yes. I Moodle. One good thing about us is Krishna. The customers we have have an expansion potential to go to go to $10 million in next three years, same customers, if I don't get any single customer in next two years, these customers with hardly any churn will grow to $10 million. And that's a beauty and those formulas working on as I said, we have three dozen, almost 40 of the customers who can pay us in q2 250 k six, seven of them already paid and other sort of the way.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:09:00

SO In the 600. So you right now you focus on skill assessments for IT service, folks. Okay, perfect. And so in some sense if you were to talk about founder market fit, you're you're a techie Sujit is a techie, you you've run a IT services firm, and it feels like based on what you yourself shared, it feels like at the back of your mind this problems been met up sort of evolving in your mind from 2005 from that interview difficulty stage, to the to the point where you are right now. So you decided okay. Have you ever seen it that way? Or does it look like look like that today?

Amit Mishra  1:09:44

What happened like I would say, see, as I say founder is always confident in most of the cases. It's not it's only clarity, which he gets over time and more and more clarity about segment their channel. So I would say it's not us who drew this chain, it is customer who made us grow this change over time. The only thing is we kept our ears open, I would say, We listened to them. And I would say we have grown the most in last two years. Two to two to three years, say, in three years, 20 times in two years, 10 times. But like in terms of MRR in last three years, we contain a 200 camera, right? Almost 20 X in three years. Okay, but it is our customer who made us do that. I knew enjoy more, right? If you create more and more value for some segment, you solve the real problems. So it's driven by customer, Krishna, then are my tip, I would say being mostly bootstrap so far just got some supporters engines. Still, I would say we are slow. We could have done better. But here we are enjoying our own as you said, We are newly rich, and we do ticket to enjoying the status for a while. Let's see.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:11:06

So in that, in the 200, the 200. Were not a subset of the 600. Correct.

Amit Mishra  1:11:14

So now, luckily, it was out of 600. We used to have like 50 for like 510 15 customers of this sword even. Okay, okay, but we never looked at it. So we were, we were internal, like we were looking at $49 package, we were not looking at a customer's problem that I initially and when we started. So we as I said Sephora and a Nielsen was our customer as a second and third customer there, they have to do no now, these two are not our customers, though, because we had initially we didn't realize that enterprises to SMB SMB buys the product and enterprises unit to help them buy the product. Right. So it took us a time, but we used to I honest, is not an enterprise deal at first go. And many times it's land and expand where some teams, some departments some location from some global location, bigger company is buying us maybe a small package of one, two, maybe five k right here. And then after making them successful, and taking advocacy from them and doing customer marketing, we open up dozens of different location different departments within the same organization, and grew that account from 5K to 200K and beyond.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:30

so this did you have to change your poll growth plan and your sales process because your type of customer was changing, but you still kept it online, the content driven method?

Amit Mishra  1:12:42

So currently, still it is online and content driven in its majority 80%. But in sales, new sales, in terms of expansion fee are totally changed. We have dedicated customer success manager with only few customers, they are ending, okay. And account manager. So with every tools Customer Success guy, there is account manager who are responsible just for few accounts, and which were the group. Okay, so in sales metal on the landing, nothing great has changed because it's still department wise. Okay.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:16

So let me warn you there, from those $40 million customers, all of a sudden, you change the type of the customer that you were acquiring, and you didn't change anything in terms of your content and your approach.

Amit Mishra  1:13:32

So we didn't change. Soon, as I said, we changed our approach and content only to listen to the segment. So whatever they needed, we got it into them. And that's a cumulative thing, which is getting us better, better and better for that segment.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:46

So in that 600 not customers, which loop were like the 200 that you have today. So, my question is, how did that 15 become 200? Okay, remaining 185.

Amit Mishra  1:14:02

So, what happened when we realized is that the kind of see for example, previously also it was SEO, it was content marketing, okay. And in in two to three years, we got only 1520 of them, right. So you are asking in two years, how it gone from 15 to 200. Now, right. So what happened when we started focusing on them, our keyword set has also become narrowed. Okay. And we are very stringent on that. Our content marketing our blog, our guides are really focused. So it so basically, we have a strategy called as gholami cola. So first first two years, every quarter and quarter limiting I used to put a Gula in between. So we'll do all other software, only this together. And once we decided upon a cola, everything on that cola and like now Do we know how to get them in. And so this is about 80% of it. As I said 80% is still working the same. The only thing is now focus on doing blobs distributed data places where they hang out. Okay. But see, that has worked for us is Microsoft so far. So when we realize that when you are targeting medium and enterprise segment unit, you have a strong channel, which has got a global GTM. And Microsoft is a very, very cooperative and startup friendly. If you do create value for them, they do create a lot of value for them. And we are a total alien as you are. Definitely their consumption also grows, as we grow, they get more money. Okay. But we started Microsoft a few months back, and Microsoft has attraction channel is also working well for us to initial things, but we are landing bigger now, okay, in a couple of cases, but I wouldn't say that it had happened because it's only a six month old story. So I cannot say that it's successful, but early indicators are through Microsoft will go global. And that too at a big level.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:16:05

What sort of a mentor network Have you established that helps you in some of this thinking I know personally to pick guys definitely. And the particle Baker has possibly given me a lot of clarity as well within that next but what sort of mentor network.

Amit Mishra  1:16:20

So Sue Krishna Lake are attending SaaS Bhumi and SaaS x earlier. Okay, it used to be called Sensex earlier. I would say chin again helped us a lot. Okay. And I can probably say, almost all of them are my angels. Okay, and investors. Apart from that, I'm not sure whether to take all the names but Kadeem, from what fakes the meaning from y mo Girish from fish words. Sorry, from kissflow, Krish from chargebee. persona, few folks and someone who like, like, somehow, I'm not sure, but out of my trail angels, eight, nine are from Chennai and Tamil Nadu. Okay. And one from like a pony. We both Peter laughs these guys are constantly. So now I also know who is expert of what, and which question to ask of him. But they are a call and WhatsApp away, or a scheduling away from me. And whenever I feel any problem, because I know who has done what, and what will. So as they meant, I'm fortunate that I would say about business, maybe I, I can vote a little bit about network, I can vote for my network. These guys really helped me every now and then as per my need. I also don't ask them any useless question.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:17:41

So um, so let me ask you one question. I don't know if you've been asked this before. And giving you the example of the recruitment that we tried, like three years ago, where we had to sift through 800 people to get before, at what point of time, that's what you are doing, start taking a crack at the education system. So what I mean by that is, today, when a campus recruitment happens, right, now, there are hundred students to choose from, but there is no gauge on top of their head saying that this is a skill level of the student, this is the skill level of the student. This is the skill level of the student. Right? So if you've seen master chef, you know, there are these three judges who hold up numbers, right. Today, our our education system, a lot of the education system is purely just input driven, right? There's very rarely output measurement that that happens. So upstream, whereby you take all of these skills, and Because see, at the at the end of it, everybody, every one of them wants a job, right? And then in order to get a certain job, all they have to do is assess if you know they have that level of skill. So without looking at other sectors and other industries, where this could have a huge impact. At what point of time do you see this becoming upstream? Going into colleges, educational institutions, where you think, okay, you taught them this, your coursework can get them this XYZ, when does that happen? will that happen?

Amit Mishra  1:19:19

Yeah so first of all, is not this, this will happen with time. Okay, so skill assessments are like Google is for search photocopies for Xerox a skill assessment should be a synonym of fine mocha. This is the vision we have. Okay. So like think of Google search, and it is Google think of skill assessment, and it should be a mocha, and it will happen to definity I thought about it, and we have a definite path towards it. I know how it's going to happen. The only changes this will happen with the US population in our case because majority of our customers are from us and they're screening the US population. So I'll tell you how will happen in our case. So currently we have like our 200 customer, majority of them are from us, and for this 2000 odd scales, they are screening the population of United States. Right? The job there. And out of these 200 few customers are the customers or the partner customer. So for example, we our customer, kala cybrary, which is a udimi. For cybersecurity, we have a customer college ritual, like, which is, I would say, again, tied up with hundred 50 universities in us, through them, we are already present in universities and all. So the thing will happen, no, no, no, imagine a scenario. So let's create a vision, how I imagine it, US graduate learning at university level, and he's getting screened without knowing it, it's getting screened at inter MOCA. But he's getting screened multiple times through this partner ecosystem, what we have, okay, those are the guys we're connecting colleges to the corporate there. Okay. So a guy, a final year guy, or education person getting screened 510 times on country for years in his education career, we don't know when he's getting. But we know that is the guy. Then when he's applying for a job, he's getting screened for university recruitment or campus recruitment. And enterprises are using inter MOCA. Again, his timeline of skill is maintained by us, then, when he's getting upskilling, to the organization, we are into lnt, when you he's getting screened multiple times, okay, a day will come, we will become a LinkedIn of skill assessment, a person unknowingly will maintain his skill timeline, okay. And a day will, which is as I guess it will be three to five years from now, where, when a company will buy a product and skill, a guy will tell them how he fares in that location, maybe Boston, how we fares in that college, percentage wise, how he fares in the industry, how we first globally, and we would be a kind of credential management, as far as skill is concerned, and where decisions will be taken. And we'll be using this metadata, I won't say, we'll be giving them a specific and won't do any confidentiality breaches, but we'll get them where this person stands. So we are a period of time will become a LinkedIn of skill assessment. Now how people go to LinkedIn and seats, what is the only thing is we won't do it directly we'll do through the system.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:22:33

or a brand and scary one, at some say serendipity, right? Because many times it says assessment. I'm a big believer of serendipity. And I wouldn't call it luck or coincidence. But many times quantity quantitative assessments and in this nobody, by no means quantitative or qualitative, right? You are a holistic skill assessment platform, at some point in time, an opportunity, for example, can make a world of difference as well. Right? So there is always an X Factor, I'm sure, you know, as your algorithm and whatever you have in the back end, which lowers it is going to make for that. But that's amazing.

Amit Mishra  1:23:27

Even Krishna, we are true ml NLP, we have credited to owning couple of best indian colleges in India to work on it will be able to quantify the interviews even over time and after interview will make the skill assessment happen. So we will be quantifying skills. And we'll try to make sure that it will be automated at all level possible interviews will also be quantified sooner or later. And we'll do it as opposed to.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:23:54

confirm your line. I know you answered this question already. But in in some sense, for me, the Indian market I think, not a lot of promise. But for every new invention out there, I always get a feeling for example, to driverless cars, right India with the accident. We need driverless cars here more than they know for. Right? So every invention you think of every creation you think of from a real need perspective, I always feel mediated here than there, although to achieve really different outcomes right? Is Hill works very, very similarly. And there are all these imagine how it could change the entire education system in India, right? Because people today when thousands student 1 million students come out. A lot of people say only 20% of them are employable. A lot of that right and the way it is made to look is that it is somehow a fault to the student. You know that that's that's how it is made to look like yeah A combination of a variety of other factors, the the educators, a lot of colleges just exist in name. I've seen colleges, we just have a one floor, fourth floor building, and it's a computer science college or a degree college God knows, you know, what kind of teachers show up there, what kind of, you know that subjects are really the quality of the education there. So imagine you started putting two things. One is the skill of the students coming out. Because so taking your example of the skill timeline, right, if the student is already skilled, he goes, comes out of this college, and the college is barely made a difference to him. Right now, that's the fault of the college. And not that's the, that's not the fault of the student, right. The student definitely has to apply himself. Anyway, India, you know, most of the educational and healthcare institutions are owned by politicians, and where it is easy to sit down, and then you know, input, enter rent, rent, rent seeking mentality, input based, you know, money collection, but I know if whenever this is adopted, not just in Information Science, but globally, I sorry, nationally, across a variety of industries, from worksman, to craftsmen to people working in very, very normal jobs, you know, take government offices, God, or the skill level of those employees, right. dedication, most of them. And again, they are not to blame, they're right, the system makes it. So I've seen even driven people who are just driven to the ground. Right? So I see a lot of possibility here. You know, it's unfortunate that it's one more awesome, you know, product and that has to serve some other you know, geography as opposed to India?

Amit Mishra  1:26:51

No, I would say See, if you start somehow that the perceived value of product, if you start serving India, and go to Western world did that okay? But if you some us customer, Indians, find it very easy to adopt the product. Okay.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:27:16

No, I don't think stop serving. I think I am just saying I'm reading your evolution, this is and maybe not even you guys doing it, somebody taking the concept and adopting it, because all of those are heavy application. And by definition is customer agreements, customers don't pay so you're possibly wasting your time there. Because you're a foreigner.

Amit Mishra  1:27:39

Yeah, like Yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:27:43

One One last, as we wind down a one, one more question is you have built a product that assesses the skill level of other employees right. So, that means you must have had a terrific team, you must have put together a terrific set of people talk about that team and how you how you What's that philosophy that you followed that has worked for you to put that terrific team together.

Amit Mishra  1:28:09

So, basically, like we are culture, which is printed on both the like walls of all the two floors and our organization is work happy, okay. And we like so, basically, first I will talk about creating do so many skills, so, let's crowdsource it is mostly process driven. So, we have got that engine develop in which this miracle of creating 2000 skills, where you need 1000 people to develop that and we only six people content team was getting it developed. So, it's organization of that problem, which we are solving through in terms of team creation, even Krishna, it has gone through a stage where multiple segments to single segment previously we used to get like to evaluate only those those guys who is to come to us and as smart and passionate. Nowadays, when we recruit we are pretty clear about so we as an organization believe in expert ization, like we we don't I will say appreciate MBBS we appreciate neurosurgery, the same philosophy in our organization, we make sure that people are successful if you asked to do them one thing at a time and which is their strengths and they have the ability capabilities can be developed, okay, but they should have the basic ability IQ, whatever is required for the job to be done. And just let them do that for a period of time. Like we are focusing on no organization, one segment. And one thing we focus in our team event, so our SDR only puts up a demo, okay, and he needs to get so in India, typically what happens the In Indian IT industry, even if you have years of experience to try to be a leader, a project manager, as against us for 20 years they have been coding so that we can quote coding expert and create software not services, right? The same way, what we are trying to do one person one job. And if you want to change that, if you so first make yourself excellent in the job, and then you are you have internally even an opportunity to get into wasn't there, but if you cannot do your job better, you won't be able to do the job better. Right. So that philosophy we have, and we recruit a person who's coachable with some skill. So like nowadays, we are reporting from last six months like good guys, previously, that we were creating a team, which has got a potential and coachable and some little experience in the thing we want them to do. And we used to help, like, get them straight and up to the jobs. Okay. And moreover, I've seen that people join with your vision. So now I'm fortunate that I am able to get employees from MP Gujarat, Chennai, Bangalore, a moto pony, okay, because they believe in what we are doing, in terms of, first of all, we are solving a problem, which is worth solving a big problem. And we we believe in sharing, so we got a compensation policy substructure, which in the past has grown significantly, so they believe in that. And yeah, and we are fortunate. And our employees even write a lot on LinkedIn themselves. And that is having a rippling effect, which is getting more and more bitter employees for us.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:31:48

Awesome. Um, if you're very down to earth manner, to smoke about so many big things that, that, you know, that have been consummated, you know, in building a skill library with sick people, and you know, close, warming from basement here, it's really smart thinking, right? It's like, Yeah, I think that would be really relevant. We applied and helped to assess. And we're still major on somebody's head saying, hey, look at that. That's amazing. And what you've done is keep your humble roots, because you haven't come into any of these saying that, Hey, I know, I know, all the answers. So therefore, you know, there isn't much, you know, that I could get. And, and to be honest, there are a lot of plot driven accelerators. And then, you know, the incubators out there as well. Right. All they give us a desk and a space. And while that is helpful, that very rarely creates the right environment to succeed. And you already articulated your grind grandiose vision. For me, I don't I don't, it doesn't feel like it's out there. I it feels very tangible to me. Yeah. Right. very tangible, very doable. You only ask, you have to exist for a certain amount of time for that to happen. Because, you know, if, if I'm applying, I'm a high school grad right now. And then if I have to build a, you have to build some history around me, you have to exist for a while. And then I have to system, so a lot of variables in that. But But all of it feels very, very believable, and very, very real to me.

Amit Mishra  1:33:37

And so it's it started happening with graduates and undergrads from last three years. Let's see, in next three or four years, we'll be able to reach that stage. But we started with working already.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:33:49

Right? Right, awesome. So where will we see Amit and then Sujit with iMocha in the next? Let's say in three years, and the next five years? What's the next beat that will scale?

Amit Mishra  1:34:02

So first of all, you called us Wikipedia of skills we call ourselves as Amazon of skills. Okay. So currently, we have 2000 skills in terms of offering, we should be a partner of choice for every medium and enterprises across the globe, when it comes to skills, so we have a good plan to create 5000 plus skills that matters to the world. Okay, so this is the first thing from a product point of point of view. Second, three to five years. down the line, I will talk about revenue vvv are almost doubling a little more than doubling our revenue every year. So it will reach somewhere. I'm not much worried about it. But I can surely say in three to five years from now, I will have at least 200 plus customers paying us hundred cannibal so we are solving that much problem for Limit list. Okay? And more even more, but 200 people paying us more than 100 k with at least a dozen observe that paying us even a million dollars to solve a problem or wait. Okay, individually in terms of employees, I would say three to five years, at least important there will be 3040 people there is so value will be worth at least a BMW. Okay. I'm not sure whether we'll take fun will not take one. But the valuation of the company with some shows that with their resort, the salt kind of ease of rolling. So out of 60 employees, 50-60 employees we have currently half of them will be karate in einer terms, then.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:35:54

Then I went BMW three series five series seven series,

Amit Mishra  1:35:57

But I guess but Krishna, again, I'm not sure. Like, what will be the scenario implies that time but I'm sure about it, I'm sure about us will grow at two x three x and valuation will keep on getting that multiple of 1510. The least in terms of value will be serving mostly the medium and enterprises. And with a Currently our entire team is in India will have maybe 2030 people team in us and maybe some other countries even in five years from now. And you will find me talking and just you'll find the number of the during all this times every month to ticket.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:36:44

Here's what I here's what I think. I don't know, if I were to treat him for use. reason I use the Wikipedia analogy is because Wikipedia is crowdsource while Amazon is not crowd sourced. That's the fundamental reason why we keep it as nonprofit. Amazon is for profit. So I suppose a merger of you know, wikis on maybe we can call it Wikis. But other ways, I think being the default choice if you are without using anything. When you think skill assessment think I'm okay just like searches for Google. I think that's the vision that you...

Amit Mishra  1:37:22

Yeah. And like that we started doing in su at least currently the skeleton software, but soon, in one year, we'll be skill assessment will be I'm okay, even on Google. So you will get indicators everywhere.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:37:36

I suppose, you know, you should start saying what's the cost of wrong hire? And then as soon as you ask that question, you jump from 100 K to 1 million right there. Because the cost of a wrong hire is easily quarter million dollars because that person is in the ecosystem, at least for a year or so. And then by the time you know he spent a lot of your time money resort he or she right. So I think I think it's sooner than later. This has been a very, very no horse down to earth. A tangible conversation and a put in a very subtle and simple way. I am very humbled by your you know, background and your growth and you still read in all that humility amid Maharajas of Scale. You know, is I know will host you again when you scale the next peak. So we can see what that vantage point looks like. We know you're going to make rapid strides into other areas as well. I'm sure that opportunity opens up there. You know, this morning, I was listening to Elon Musk's biography. And it so happened that in 1998 or 1999, there was a merger that his original company prior to x.com, which he which might even be bad, he wasn't looking out for any acquisition, all of a sudden out of the blue Compaq came in and then offered 300 and $7 million for it. And they took it many, many times. serendipity brings us a lot of massive shifts. And I'm sure you write so we wish you the best. And in closing anything any words of wisdom for people starting out in and entrepreneurs out there?

Amit Mishra  1:39:24

Yeah. So. So I would say to entrepreneur, understand if you're into SaaS, you're into the business of problem solving. get deeper and deeper into us. problem and problem, which is what's on problem too big. Otherwise, nothing. Thanks, Krishna. Thanks for the opportunity to like I don't do like Mara Joseph scale, though. My wife asked me why marriage is upscale. Why not? Moranis opskins. You see, Dr. Krishna about it. Okay, that's it.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:39:58

Couldn't possibly call it m&ms of scale, you know, and then yeah, chocolate company would have come after me for. But we when we do have a lady speak,

Amit Mishra  1:40:11

 Nana, I told I told her that it's rashtrapati Express literally so he's not she's not a party. But she's right. The rashtrapati rate in India we call it is at the wrong party. Party, bata is from America if you know, okay, she's okay. But she used to lie. I told my wife that though she used to call as rashtrapati. It's the same way. It's Mara Jasmine. It is like margins of skin. So it is not gender bias.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:40:49

Awesome. Thanks so much. That was wonderful. Thanks. and have a wonderful day.

Amit Mishra  1:40:55

Thanks. Thanks. Thanks, Tanya. Have a nice day. Bye bye.

Tania Jadhav  1:40:59

We hope you enjoyed this story. If this study made a difference to you, tell us, by leaving a comment on the website or our social media channels. Help us Spread the Love by subscribing, liking and sharing a show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaboration. Write to me at heythere@maharajasofscale.com