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Cover Image For Episode 45 - Building and Scaling A Social Commerce Platform: Neha Suyal Of Woovly
Building and Scaling A Social Commerce Platform: Neha Suyal Of Woovly

Helping People Check Out Their Bucketlist- The Story Of Neha Suyal From The Small Town Of Kichha To Building And Scaling Woovly

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Javed Akhtar

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These lines are from the movie “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara”, written by the legendry writer Javed Akhtar. Anyone who has watched ZNMD dreams of going on long road trips with their friends. Some have skydiving while some desire to run through the streets of Spain while big angry bulls chase them on their bucket list.

Scene From Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara
Scene From Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara

Everyone has goals or things they wish to do on their bucket list. Many wait for the “right time” to start checking off things from their bucket list just like Arjun from ZNMD, and then there are a few who live by the code “Go Big or Go Home!” just like Imran and Kabir!

You might like this Maharani's Story: Anuradha Kedia of The Better India: Season 1, Episode 22

Life is not a race but a marathon and is certainly, UNCERTAIN. One should learn to live in the moment and enjoy the little things as they come rather than just worrying about the future. That’s what Zindagi Na Milegi Doobra tells us.

Living In The Moment Is Important!
Living In The Moment Is Important!

Sure we might not have friends like Imran and Kabir who bring the real Arjun out of us, YET. All we need is a platform to put our bucket list out and connect with people who have the same goals as we do. This idea is exactly what our guest today, Neha Suyal has been building and scaling with Woovly!

Building And Scaling A Social Platform: Story of Neha Suyal From Woovly

Neha Suyal From Woovly Talks Building and Scaling a Social Commerce Platform
Neha Suyal From Woovly

An engineer who had the desire to build something after attending the Stanford Insight Programme on entrepreneurship and leadership and here, she also met her Co-Founder Venkat, that is Neha Suyal for you. Her humble beginnings and what she has built, go hand in hand. Checking off entrepreneurship from her own bucket list despite her simple background, Neha has built Woovly so as to bring together people of similar interests and goals. And thus share their experiences so as to help each other check off goals and ambitions from their bucket lists.

Logo for Social Platform Woovly
Logo for Social Platform Woovly

Users can come to Woovly to discover bucket list ideas from categories such as adventure, extreme experiences, travel, exotic food and drinks, DIY etc. Therefore users can connect with a similar interest community which helps them in sharing and learning from each other’s experiences and to accomplish their bucket list by having access to hand-picked merchants.

Listen to Neha Suyal talk about building and scaling a social commerce platform, Woovly, and her humble beginnings. All this and much more on this episode of Maharajas of Scale Podcast.

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Here Are Some Excerpts From The Episode:

Reports, which say that if a traveler or refer adventure seeker or if anybody is doing one bucketlist this year, then they are doing, accomplishing their bucketlist, they already look to do two more bucketlist in the coming year.

Neha Suyal 15:36

People started kind of saying that, it is the right time Tik Tok is banned. COVID has hit us. Everybody is talking about Indian platforms, why don’t you guys kind of shift to be just an Indian content platform.

Neha Suyal 58:26

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Listen To Another Maharani Of Scale Talk About Her Scale Journey: Rashi Narang Talks Her Love For Pets With Heads Up For Tails

Show Notes

Follow Neha Suyal On LinkedIn (@nehasuyal)

Check Out Woovly (woovly.com/blog/)

Follow Maharajas of Scale On Twitter (@maharajaofscale)

Here is what the Word Cloud for the Episode Looks Like:

Word Cloud for Episode 45: Building And Scaling A Social Platform
Word Cloud for this Episode

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Episode Transcript

(Automated Transcript)

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, users, bucket list, building, platform, started, social commerce, b2c, months, india, story, thought, content, startup, realized, offers, places, bangalore, write, happened

SPEAKERS

Neha Suyal, Krishna Jonnakadla, Tania Jadhav

Krishna Jonnakadla  00:01

This is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are 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 of changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT the fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, everyone, we are live again. And I'm super thrilled to say that we are live with a Maharani of Scale. We are live with Neha Suyal of Woovly, we've been trying to get her to talk with us for some time. Now. It's a space I'm a little intrigued and then perplexed about. Woovly started off as a bucket list platform for those folks that have watched the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson movie will know what a bucket list means it is that set of crazy ideas that you have that you will someday to when you have when you no longer have fears or have fulfilled all your familiar duties as the Bhagavad Gita says. So hundreds and 1000s of people created their bucket lists on Woovly but in the before we hit the record button, Neha had talked about a pivot, as I'm going to save the story of the pivot and how they actually ended up where they are right now till we actually get Neha to talk about it. Neha welcome to the show. It's so good to have you.

Neha Suyal  01:21

Thank you so much.

Krishna Jonnakadla  01:22

Awesome. It was a little bit about yourself and what you're working on right now.

Neha Suyal  01:26

Okay, perfect. So I think a personal story, I come from a very small town named, HR, it's very tough to pronounce itself, again, from a personal friend have been in a family of all the teachers. So even my family wanted me to be a teacher, which was something which I never want to do. And kind of being an engineer, worked with HP for a very long time, post that my story actually started in a Stanford program. So Woovly actually started in a Stanford program, post my HP, I did a short term courses at Stanford, which was into enterpreneurship, and leadership. And that's where I ended up meeting my current co founder Venkat. So we kind of, in those three to four months of time, we were jumping a lot of ideas. And that's when that's where the seed of booty started. we pitched it to Stanford professors. They kind of liked the whole idea of pocket listing. And they were the one who motivated us to actually kickstart. So this was back in 2015. That's when I did the course post that what I did was I actually joined my co founders company itself, which is Wescott, India's largest business services company right now joined their work for two years there was heading their business primarily from a tech point of view. So I have been a tech person all through my life. So I was helping them to kind of use technology solutions and increase their net margins. That's what was my whole focus, did that for two years, two and a half years, then 2017. And is when kind of took a call to exit and then start. So for us, I think we did the incorporation for Woovly much before we started working on.

Krishna Jonnakadla  02:56

So we did so the Stanford program was it on campus at Stanford?

Neha Suyal  03:00

So it was not. It's a Stanford ignite program, which is actually now no more there in India. They did it. They used to do it long back, wherein they were professors who would fly down from from Stanford campus to India, Infosys campus and Bangalore. So we will have classes like Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. So just primarily for business people who work so we have age group from 24 till 50, 50-55 years. So you'd have CXOs plus, you would have early people also, there was a fun.

Krishna Jonnakadla  03:27

So so there's a bit of a digression. But let me still ask you this. Now that you are... Then , you were a wannabe entrepreneur, and you are an actual entrepreneur now. So tell me now that you've gone through that program, while while Stanford is famous for for all the behavioral labs and all the support that it offers entrepreneurship. So what did you find different about that program? Was it worth it? Was it on spot? Was it onpoint? How is it now that you're a real entrepreneur, if you were to contrast what you learned there?

Neha Suyal  04:01

So I would say that I would recommend it to anybody and everlybody. Honestly, the way, the way we had our sessions was amazing, because it was not like you will see an India specifically and I'm sorry, I'm gonna be very, very frank, but it's not very bookish. every session we had was a case study on a company on a phone, well, how did they solve a problem, which they had can be a marketing problem, it can be a finance problem, it can be a business problem. So each one of those session right did help us in something, figuring out how big companies actually so it was a I remember when session when professor was telling us a story of diamond. Then how the first Market Year sold diamond to be what it is today. So pretty interesting.

Krishna Jonnakadla  04:43

 Interesting. So you were also revved up after you did that and that's when you were like, Oh gosh, I can't believe entrepreneurship can be so exciting. So then I'm gonna team up with someone Is that how you and Venkat came together?

Neha Suyal  04:56

Not really. See for us though. I think Venkat has been an integral All right. So before this Woovly, he built this company in Wescott, which is India's largest business services company. They are listed in BSE NSE. Both of so yeah, pretty much before that. Also, I think he was the Indian founding team head. So he has been building companies. I think I kind of so I think I know honest conversation. I remember a one to one fine day I was sitting in his office, he was he was directed at that time before then I sit in his office and ask him, Do you want to die as a director? Or do you want to do something? Again? That was a fine line question. And he looks at my face and say that, Oh, my God, somebody I hired is asking me this kind of question. So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  05:39

So it sounds straight, like Steve Jobs asked John Sculley " Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come change the world with me?"

Neha Suyal  05:50

That's right. So that was a very straight question. And yeah, we started from there. So I think that got him thinking that Okay, fine. This is build this is already IPO. So maybe I should start something new.

Krishna Jonnakadla  06:02

Interesting, and what sort of ideas did you thrash around at that time?

Neha Suyal  06:06

So honestly Krishna, we had I think, I don't remember in those three to four months of time during Stanford itself. I think people do not post four or five ideas. And I say ideas. We did not just work on it. We did research, we kind of made a presentation presented to people and then took a call Do you want to go ahead and pull restarting stories also very, very interesting. Like you were talking about fog, humans, I think, one fine day, the kind of jobs we had on mega kind of comes home in the middle of the night from a trip from somewhere else. And then at two o'clock in the night, he calls me up and says, Hey, have you watched this movie bucket list? And I the first thing I say is, Are you mad is to him in the morning, and why are you calling me just signed up the past I hung up the phone. And next day morning before even kind of the start delay, I do my research. And I go back in time saying that, Yeah, I think there is a there is a gap. There is no platform, which is helping to this to this down the list. And then of course, also helping them to fulfill it right. That's where the conversation started. And that's how we started working on the idea.

Krishna Jonnakadla  07:05

Interesting. And then how long did it take?. So this was in 2015, when you were considering this, or 2017?

Neha Suyal  07:12

So 2015 is when we first time discussed about it. But then of course, I joined Quest and being being the director of Quest, Venkat had the three years kind of thing, he then started commodity company, because if you're found right in the listing, so 2017 and is finally when we put that in a hole, we were doing a lot of that background research 2017 and is when we kind of came out of Quest, started working on it to a first from a co working space, like every founder starts right. And then 2018 is when we started building the team and building the product. So 2019 February is when we launched.

Krishna Jonnakadla  07:44

So that's a reasonable amount of time. Okay, so So talk to us about that journey, the research that you did, and what exactly did you find? Because I'll tell you, I'll play devil's advocate for a second. And there's a friend of mine, who is a pretty big dog in a Austin based tech company. And what he did was he he invested in a startup, which actually uncovers hidden places around tourist spots, right. And this is way back in 2012. So he invested he started invested investing it into it in 2012. So what they would do is, let's say you were traveling to Mysore. in Mysore, there are places that you already know, you can go to TripAdvisor and you will find those places. But then if you were to travel with a local, the local Lord would actually tell you, hey, this, this, this is a point where everybody goes to but there's a part that nobody is aware, or maybe very few people are aware. So they started looking at places like that. And they started listing that. And I thought it was a pretty cool concept back then. And then eventually, there were four or five other clones of or he was his was a clone of something else. And then I looked at experiences I looked at dining out. So I thought at around 2017 2018, maybe this base might have looked a lot more crowded. So walk me through that thought process where use the bucket list, there is all way back in the early 2000s. There used to be a list called the top 100 experiences. And and I still remember, because one of my friends used to love the landmark forum, if you know what the landmark forum is, and it was rated, I think, number three in the world at that point in time. So he he would constant we would constantly go back and look at that list of the experiences. And then people would make sub lists of that saying, Okay, if I were to do it, these are the top 10 or top 20 for me would be something like this. Not exactly a bucket list, but I think something close in terms of experiences that they would like to have. So I would imagine that by 2017 2018 This was possibly a space that was served if not by one exclusive player. Maybe in bits and pieces by multiple players. So what was your thought process? How did you rationalize that this is something that we absolutely have to do?

Neha Suyal  10:09

So so i think i mean much before we started even when we were doing the research, right, but we realized just people relate back in this to a lot of like, you just write a lot of what you call it traveler adventure experiences. But bucket is not just that my bucket list can be as simple as I want to. Very weird, but maybe I want to try it. But that's not that's not in traveler adventure, right? I may have to go outside my house to try that but still a very different path to what we what we realized is yes, there are a lot of platforms who are serving the travel experience or an adventure experience, adventure experience was still not very what you call it structured. Travel is a structured adventure is not structured in India. So then we then we what we did a Krishna actually was before even we launched the product, you asked us as me, right? Oh, it's a quite a big time, like any year almost before you guys actually launched? Yes, because we did not launch. So what we did was very simple. When we started, we started writing, we just had one, two writers, content writers. And they started reaching out to people who have accomplished their work, right. And we started writing about that then. So in that one year period, period, we almost 4000 stories, we started getting a lot of what she called them. We did a very simple, we had a small WordPress website. Well, we had initially we started writing about people their stories, and then we had simple get featured button. So anybody who wants to get featured, tell about their stories, they would just click on that image, right? I think if you know, there is one singer who sings in male and female voice named Shriram. Very, very famous singer. He was the one who saw a lot of people like this, even a lot of a lot of mini celebrities maybe would have featured but for the bucket list, there was a very interesting story. I remember, it was an adventure. But still, there was a boy from Lucknow, who used to earn barely 50,000 rupees a month, he always had this bucket list of going to Dubai and doing skydiving, he saved for four years to be able to do that. And he did that. Right. So stories like these, which were not out in open because you and I would write about known people, but we would not write about those people. Right. So that's where it started. We started with get featured, we realized that people want to share their stories, but they're not heard it. Then we started with, again, a very small button. So this this from my this conversation, would maybe listeners can learn more about product, right? How did we start thinking in the product in our in our company scenario, we came up with very small button which had add to wishlist or add your work. That's right. Very simple. We launched it, I remember during just before Christmas, and we saw that just in one day, we had almost 1000 plus people organically who wrote a bucket list, starting from anything to anything, it was for a for a person of age group of 20-21, it was getting into poverty. For somebody else it was doing scuba diving or skydiving, it varied right. That's where all of it stuck. So we realized that people are looking for a platform where they can, they can write or they can say that, hey, this is my own profile, I have a professional profile, which you can see in LinkedIn. And I have a matrimonial profile, which you can see those matchable insights of the word. But I also have a personal profile in which is nothing for the things what I have done or what I want to do. So if you want to know about me, that's how it started. People were like, okay, you want to know about me, this is my profile, I have been a hiker, I have been a scuba diver, I've been a jumper. And now I want to be a foot in future. So that's how it translated even the idea translated like this.

Krishna Jonnakadla  13:32

So pretty interesting. So it's like, I constantly keep thinking people have different versions of themselves, right? You have a LinkedIn version of you, where you have stripped away all emotional and personal stuff and said, I'm XYZ at ABC place. And then you have this social media version. And then there is there is this really, I don't, I don't want to use the for the lack of a better term, I use the uncensored version, which is let me hide it away from some of the people that are going to judge me and then say, dude, you can't do this, or, girl, you can't do this. And it sounds sounds like in some sense, you give license to some of those users to say it's okay to dream. And it's okay to have a bucket list. And, look, there are 1000 other people who seem to have been there, done that. So therefore, now that you've already seen that it can be done, go ahead and then say, speak your mind and then put a lift list out there. Right?

Neha Suyal  14:29

That's right. That's right. my early years, I remember was a girl, she did not know how to ride a bicycle. And that was her bucket list. So she came and wrote saying that you know what, after I joined Ruby, I learned by cycle at the age of 24, which would have would have sounded otherwise not possible. But I did that because I bet the moment I wrote this book, a lot of people started writing their experience at a much later stage also when they learned so yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  14:55

But let me ask you a different question. How did you come up with this thought saying, hey, let's go out. Was it a random experiment? Which said, Okay, before we think about the product, let's understand what people actually do or what sort of things people are doing. How do you get people? How did you start getting this this content? What was the process you follow?

Neha Suyal  15:19

Okay. So it was a lot of research, it was a lot of details, right. So if you see the reports, which are which can the traveler the adventure reports of India or outside global reports also, there never was before 2017 also the Bucketlist word as a word was mentioned anywhere. We're in now, in the reports, when we saw those 2017-2018 reports, people have literally mentioned saying that there are reports which talks about peoples bucketlist. Reports, which say that if a traveler or refer adventure seeker or if anybody is doing one bucketlist this year, then they are doing, accomplishing their bucketlist, they already look to do two more bucketlist in the coming year. So that's the sense of accomplishment, what it brings for those users right, that kind of gave us a kick, which means that industry is moving from a typical travel to experience to something bigger, which is also about things what I was always wanted to so that was one party a second it also if you see even India from India point of industry was always traveled for piston, there would be lot of travel reports state by his country wise later and what we realized is again, in the same 20 1617, Indian Indian government itself separated the travel from adventure local experiences. So they have separate ads, which means there was a ministry which was supposed to be found, but just local expenses, which is nothing but a pension. That again gave us a kick saying that Okay, fine, there is something which is getting built, which is coming up. So now, this market is not a very conventional market, wherein people are just looking to go to places or hidden places people are looking for something more, they are looking for things, what they want to do there, which is nothing, but that's how these are the data's which backed it up. And that's all.

Krishna Jonnakadla  16:54

So that part, I got it. But I'm glad you actually laid it out in a little more detail. But so what I'm actually focused on is the tactic that you employ, let's get a story out per day, or maybe a story out every other day, wherein you reached out and got that content, was it always so I like to think of some tactics like, like the cue ball on a billiards board or a sneaker board, right? So the white white ball is what you're hitting. But that's not your goal, your goal is actually eventually to hit something else. So in that, in that fashion, was this one of the growth growth tactics that you employed, which you thought would eventually hit where you would want to hit?

Neha Suyal  17:40

It was. So so honestly Keyshia BB, both of us as a founder full time founder that we come from very conventional. I mean, if you see the company, which microfilariae was in, we were always like, I have to profited from that kind of mindset, right. That's why we built he could build that one prototype. And then when we started this, we know that we are getting into a very different thing, which is a b2c sector, you can think of making profits from the P one very, very different thing you have to understand so. So but one thing, what we were very particular about was first is getting those relations this second not spending money on just Facebook or Google ads, because then we would not learn anything. I have seen a lot of founders say that, do you want to run an MVP, just spend money on Facebook, Google. But then what happens is, I don't really learn that what organic users could do, I only learned that, but I am paying money to somebody else, what is happening, right. So we were very particular about not doing that. And that was also state when we had to build a product. So we know that development is going to take time even for us to even structured out how the product should come, it's going to take some time, we do not want to sit idle. And we knew that we have to do marketing much before that without spending a huge chunk of money just to do marketing on other platforms. So content marketing became our primary focus, which still is a very primary focus for us to scale. Right. So what we said is, how about we want people right, but that's right. That's what we want. We want people to write books and further accomplish it on. So much before that people have to know what his bucket list in India, is there enough content around that? That's when we thought How about writing a story. And there was a metric related to that. Also, if I'm writing a story about one person, it is organically writing, I know that that person is going to share on all their social media, because the person is very excited about it. Very proud about it. So what we started seeing was from metric point of view, every share which a person would do organically, we would get 200 to 300 people on our website, reading that story. So that was organic, right? And then we will also get an every every four to five stories we launch We will also get people who are reaching out to us and saying that, hey, can you feature me also. So now I don't have to worry about creating that demand. Because somebody else is reaching out to me saying write about me, and somebody else is doing the content distribution also. So that was a main point that we started doing that so by the time we started writing period, As we all we already are getting into from zero traffic to almost in the third month itself, I remember we need 50,000 users visiting our website. And all of it happened because there were so many people who were organically sharing their stories to others. So that was a good metric. And then we started into.

Krishna Jonnakadla  20:16

Very interesting. So talk about that evolution, the features, and what did you introduced next.

Neha Suyal  20:23

So I think the the very first was, like I said, get featured there will be realized that doing it very early is not going to be effective. And we are finding out people are reaching out to them, he just introduced me said can featured people suddenly not worse. So we got into a state where on a daily basis, we are getting at least one inquiry so we don't have to worry about reaching out. That's one second that we introduce add to pocket plus add your bucket list, right or your new a new bucket that that kind of gave us that. That can give us that kick that Oh, people are interested in writing because we had this question always people have Oculus, will they write it? That was the second question we had, right. And we will prove that against they would write, they would write their list, right. And they would also want to keep coming back. So that's what we launched our two bucket list. We were a web platform, then we thought how would you start showcasing these bucket list? Everybody's bucket list. Then we saw that people started engaging on others. But this all started adding. So let's say now Krishna has a bucket list. Neha has a bucket  list. Neha comes to Krishna space, look at it and see Oh, this is interesting. Let me add that. So next become adding to somebody somebody else's bucketlist,  just started adding to that became a next feature. So like this, we started kind of improvising.

Krishna Jonnakadla  21:31

Awesome, awesome. And and then at what so we all know, B2C, like, like you said, the monetization comes at a later stage. But But then again, there are types of B2C businesses that can be monetized. Because ultimately, it's about At what point you provide value. And, if but, but to be fair, I think on the internet, given the number of so called free sites that are available that let you do anything and everything, you're actually particularly challenged, because you have to work really hard to establish yourself that yes, you know what, I need to charge you for it, and therefore you need to pay me. And there's also this tricky decision of when to monetize, there is a myth, there is a possibility of monetizing too soon, and killing off that growth. And there is also a possibility, especially in these kinds of startups where you're content driven, especially where you're user generated content driven. UGC is a big deal, right? So UGC had the floodgates have to remain open for quite some time. And almost, it has to become a be some sort of an afterthought, saying people have to think I can't believe they haven't monetized it yet, that that kind of question has to dawn. So then, did you monetize it? At what point of time? What were what were your plans for it?

Neha Suyal  22:55

So honestly, we launched the platform in February 2019. That was when we launched our app right to the users. And we started monetizing from the same year operating. There's a reason for that. But we realized from the day One is we are not an entertainment, even ever that even now we are not an entertaining people. Moreover, infotainment users are coming to take their lesson users are also coming to look at how others are doing. So it was always that right. So in the numbers is I might not get to that 200 300 400 million kind of, so I might have lesser users, but they will always be very tough. Because now they are telling me, hey, today, I woke up and I had coffee, they are telling me that you know what, these are 20 things I did in my life. And these are very things which I want to do in my life. And also with whom I want to do in our lives, people would also write in there, you know what, let's say let's take an example of adventure just for an easy conversation. I want to do scuba diving in Dubai, with my partner in 2019 December. So people would talk at this level, and because then they are very serious about it. So anymore is not a user who would have done 100 events before even telling me what they wanted to hear people are saying out loud what they really want to. And then I tried to find the knowledge that so that was one big reason why people were very, very targeted. That's one second so what we did was when we realized this, he also had the same thought like he said now that maybe when I get to tell users I would start doing Lebanese but then he realized that you're not gonna be an ad platform. That's not what we're building. For us. It was like cover list your bucket list and we will help you or enable you in accomplishing it. Right? How do we enable in a competition we did not want to make my trip so the word we were more of a comfortable because we are not gonna make sell the packages. Then in their same age. We said okay, fine. To start with, he said, we will focus on one category, which was last minute service providers who are not currently available anywhere else. So when I say last month service providers, I'm talking about Chuck who have who's running a boathouse in Kerala. Right now, when you go to any other platforms, you would see the middlemen or the task or the routers instead of the charge right? So we started bringing in those sharp edges of the word. That's how we started monetizing. So now, October 2019, we had, between those months, we had almost 150 plus operators, those last names, service providers who were there on the platform, and they started getting sales organically, because people are looking for those experiences. We did made revenues in those three months. Of course, all of us know what happened in the month of February 2020, and kind of all of that stuff. That's when the COVID hit. And that's when googly also changed. Or I would say, I would not say pivot pivot, because even when we were in this, people were not writing just about travel adventure, people were writing how to do a lot of fashion or beauty, personal care list also things what they want. So people would say a lot of luxury items, like I want to buy a Rolex watch, right, which is not traveler detention. So we have plans to move further categories. I think COVID kind of kicked it off, where it made that plan to be like 12 months or 18 months prior. And in the month of March, we took a call that let's start focusing from content point of view to those categories, and then see how the growth right. So from, from being that we kind of move to a social commerce for beauty and personal care. That's what we are focusing.

Krishna Jonnakadla  26:12

Interesting. We will talk about that pivot a little in a little more detail. But I want to cover your your personal journey a bit. Kichha is the name of the town you said which state is it?

Neha Suyal  26:24

It's in Uttarakhand. District Udham Singh Nagar.

Krishna Jonnakadla  26:27

Oh, okay, I've been to Uttarakhand 2019 I think around the time you were busy launching your platform. So beautiful state, especially it's got all CharDham spiritual locations, very pictures, pictures call so.

Neha Suyal  26:45

it's it's beautiful. So which part of Uttarakhand?

Krishna Jonnakadla  26:48

Went to Kedarnath and Badrinath, and, yeah, I mean, both of them. And we did this in the month of October. So and I am a big fan of snow capped mountains and snow peaks, lived in Chicago for a long time which tires you have the snow, but still I never lost the feeling of romance that I had for snow peaks and valleys. And all the tributaries of the Ganga, the stories of the Ganga, it's fantastic. It's It's so, so funny. All those unions are the Sangam the five different Priyas as it is, as they are known.

Neha Suyal  27:32

Yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  27:32

Yeah, right. So you stand practically overlooking the Prayag and you can see both the rivers merging. The most Stark one is where Ganga, Bhagirathi and Alaknanda meet and Alaknanda is literally that Aqua, marine green and then Bhagirathi, which is actually the main Ganga, right, so together they become, it becomes the Ganges or Ganga. But Ganga still doesn't have the last show. polygonum Yeah, it is. It's a sight to behold. So, did you grow up there? Did you grow up in those parts? Or.

Neha Suyal  28:08

So I was, I mean, I grew up in the town in Kichha. Honestly I have been there much of my life. My grandparents or parents places in a place named Tanker, which is again towards the end site famous for apples famous for tripods. So yeah, that's a face help. Greg go there often known archdaily I have been I've been mostly in the town, I used to go there once in two to three years kind of stuff, but not too long. But I would say Luckily, I ended up doing my studies from, from this rec, to our heart. So which is of course above radical, radical panel, it's where art is a place. There, you would see these snowcap counties kind of so if you go from there, there's a place there's a place on 20 kilometers named Pandu Pudy, which is there is a history behind that they say the Pandavas they came and kind of were there so 500% there when you go during the wintertime, right? It's filled of snow. Amazing, amazing. So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  29:06

So how did you end up in Bangalore and the Stanford program?

Neha Suyal  29:09

So um, so what happened was from the starting so I come from a very, I would say, middle class or lower middle class kind of family. We were not very well to do and then now we are Yes, but not. So from the time when when I did my engineering. I remember giving my I always wanted to do my highest study. So I remember giving my gr gr et ads and of course that type cat and all of those things right? But then I decided that no, I really want to work and then kind of do something for the family. Before even I take a call to study so that was one of the reason I said fine fine. Let's let's go and do two offers and ended up being in band writing. Bangalore is a dream city for people living in tier three, tier four tier two right I mean, you you see that Bangalore is the Silicon Valley of India. So you go there you will get a job. I had a job in Infosys before. Facilities his deployment came to Bangalore. So it was it was my fault a third of the day. Even if you don't get a job, you can do a job. Luckily, the first interview I gave was in HP and I got it. So I worked with HP for almost five years. And during that time, I was preparing for GMAT. I did, I didn't get my GMAT and also is again, a very emotional kind of story did give me a gene that was to go outside. But that was same when my dad passed away. So I took a call not to go outside and get on. I think that's where Stanford happened. So during the same time, I got this application for Stanford Ignite. And I was like, okay, fine, why not? Let's let me give it a try. anyone wanted to go to Stanford? If not there? Let me have the course here. So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  30:42

Nice. A family loss actually turns into a blessing.

Neha Suyal  30:47

Yeah, true. Right.

Krishna Jonnakadla  30:49

And so obviously, you and Venkat, were in this program? And how did the very you are? Did you develop a rapport in the program? Did you see that he was a little different, or how when did that whole thing about hey, we need to do something together, or at least having respect, because two people coming together and doing a venture actually means that they've come to appreciate each other's point of view and something about that other person. And that is, that's when they've decided, Okay, let's do this crazy adventure together called a startup. And we'll see how it goes. So how did that happen?

Neha Suyal  31:26

So honestly, I think Venkat and my story is very funny in all the sense that the thing that I told him when I was sitting in his cabin, same thing, I remember when we started the program, so the Stanford program itself is structured in a way where you are a group of 50 people who are there in the session, and then you are divided into multiple sub groups. subgroups is nothing but each group of between five to six people work on a business idea, from business idea till you kind of presented in front of PCs. That's how it was presented. And Vanket and I were in the same circle. But interestingly, what I realized is, in the first few days itself, because they be the directors of a company, he had a very clear objective of coming to the session for hiring some good people from here. So they wanted to hire some that was a motive, right? I think that's how I got hired also started from there. And during those four months, of course, because we were working on the business ideas, taking, taking it to a volunteer presenting it up to a VC right. Now, we did a lot of those things together. So towards the end, it kind of I realized that I think it's knowingly or unknowingly both for such spending a lot of time in working on different different ideas, and then kind of presenting it to that's how it started. And then of course, I caught enjoying his own company. There again, we had this bird that had to have to start something, I kind of pushed him to leave that high me good job and told him the let's do this kind of stuff. And yeah, he did it. And it was almost two and a half years, I worked with him right. So you get the kind of comfort that we have.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:00

You must have major convincing power.

Neha Suyal  33:02

I think so. Yeah, he is. So I sent him I keep saying that, you know what I when I joined this company user is going to be easy. And he has been a photograph and and a biker. And I have not done anything for the last three years. So yeah. Yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:17

Time to dust off his bucket.

Neha Suyal  33:20

Actually, actually, we were building a bucket, this platform, and both of us start doing our own bucketlist thats what happened.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:26

You were just so busy helping everyone else fulfilling their bucket list, And you were just taking only one on your list.

Neha Suyal  33:32

 That's right. That's right.

Krishna Jonnakadla  33:34

So let's talk about the we've already spoken about. I'm glad you you spent, actually kicked it off with the story angle. That gives you a sense in understanding what the spark was. What what I what I found is, most narratives begin after some amount of it's like, if I were to take the journey of a plant, there's the seed, you actually saw it. And for the first two, three weeks, you actually don't see anything about the soil.

Neha Suyal  34:05

That's right.

Krishna Jonnakadla  34:06

And depending upon what you planted, of course, but for the most part, you don't see anything. And the normal human instinct, especially if you haven't done any gardening before. You don't know how those things work is you take and then you see, okay, what's happening with the scene, and then you realize that that digging itself actually endangers the germination of...

Neha Suyal  34:25

That's right, right.

Krishna Jonnakadla  34:26

And then it becomes a sapling. And once it grows a little bit and start showing signs of paring some vegetable of fruit, that's when you start taking it seriously. Yeah, that's why most startup narratives begin there. Yeah, and I'm actually a big fan of starting from the beginning because to actually code Kunal shelf great startups in the first two years suffer from what is called as a sudden death syndrome. It will die for a variety of reasons. But that also is a function of the fact that finding early growth He's not a, an established science. Yeah. So right. When I, for our current startup, I've been talking to a variety of growth leaders growth leads. And one of the things that comes back to me starkly is when somebody tells me, yeah, we'll do social media marketing and digital marketing, that completely convinces me convinces me that this person has no clue about how to even think about growing a product. Yeah, that's fine. And that possibly worked way in the late 2000s. And then maybe early, early to early part of the previous decade, 2011-12, when social media platforms offered organic growth, you just posted something people like and you had followers. But now, it is impossible, all you're doing is spinning your wheels without actually going anywhere. So if you could do a little more deep dive and talk about some inflection points, you already spoke about get featured, and how you got some operators organically. If a couple more inflection points where you got from the first 1000, how you hop to the 100,000. And then beyond beyond that, and what were some different tactics that you adopted? Okay.

Neha Suyal  36:18

So I think I told you, right, that we have been very conventional doing anything. And specifically as a founders, also, I think we always had this, this one, very strong rules that if you want to implement something as dirty our own hands, that's something which I run from my own hands. See, before even you're telling it to the team, Commander, if it's gonna work, it's gonna work them, because only then you will also be able to measure right how things are going. So I think what we did first is our first 2000, UPS were actually very monthly on put it, so five of us in the office, be sad. We took a platform, which was a backtest, platform based out of interest, we started reaching out to all the users from their very well, you would find their names in Facebook, we would reach out to them send a message and saw that how it is going. What we saw is that once you talk to somebody and explain the idea, clearly, people were interested in being part of that. That's what we saw, then, but then we realized this is not going to be sustainable. I mean, I can't take let's say 15 days, or 20 days to just to start if you're in a b2c space. So again, what we did was very conventional, he said that we can do it, why don't we start working with finances, but it will not be typical finances. So we started building a lot of students, we thought that there are colleges which are in equilibrium. All of them look for digital marketing potential, because that was the era of it still is any era of digital marketing and social media marketing, right? So talk to colleges placement officers tell them that we have internship for your students, all they have to do is social media marketing and digital marketing. That's what that's what we did. So very, very, very conventionally, we started with that small batch of students were in those students became our ambassadors, they would reach out to people they were struggling, that's how the seeds started. Honestly, last us, you do it with two and a half, three years now. I have I think, almost worked with 10,000 plus students, and almost 1000 plus colleges around it here, like so we have a we have a full fledged team now, right? Now what happened was think of it right? Let's say I'm in one college, wherein I have one student who's into who's a pancake freak or with a foodie, who is now talking about. And he was just talking about what he was saying that you know what, I have a profile on who you want to know about to check my bucket list. And people are very true, because he on other social media platforms, you can know what people have already done, you can never know what they want to do, or what they are looking to do in their life. That's what started getting them here. And then they started hooking on here, because they saw that what I wanted to do also is being done by somebody else. So it was a very kind of a content marketing push these investors started pushing, and then lot of sharing and organic side. So what I was seeing is, even in the early days, we saw that the first few months, also almost 20 to 24% of our users were coming via your app store optimization. People are looking for bucket lists, kind of he wasn't there, they come in and out. That's how we got from first 2000 to 10,000 per 10,000 500,000 users. And honestly, after 100,000 is when we thought that, okay, we also need to scale. We can't just keep running this, why don't we also spend some money, the period. So we did very small budget, I think I've seen this somehow, you know, every time we get into paid marketing something other than happens. So we kind of started doing the paid marketing. And then we realized that we were a rapper plus native app back end. And then we realized that that's not gonna give us very good attention. So we took a call to move to a native app for Android. So we kind of stopped in marketing there. And then we said, let's focus on this. And then of course, keep growing like this right? content market organically. We had ambassadors, we had influencers who were doing this, so we kind of kept growing like this. And then funding happened. I think, like with every intrapreneur it happens the moment you get funding to start At least to scale, and one of the easiest way to scale is spending money. So very important, but that's what happens. Right? All of us do that. So I think October 2019, is when we close up funding, and he was like, Yeah, I mean, he just raised now, we have to show growth and scale. So he also started spending money on Facebook, and we spent three months COVID happens to kind of stopped again. But what we realized also, you know, what, Krishna that again, right, like, like I was saying earlier, the moment you stop paying to stop getting anything, is that right? If I pay today, 10 rupees I would get if I do, I would not get right, that's not scalable. Is that required? Yes, it's very much required, you cannot just just just just scale on organic content marketing, it is required to couple years worth, because I have seen it, I mean, I have seen it very closely that if I'm just doing organic, then I might get 22% of the organic growth, the moment I coupled it with a small budget, also, my organic also increases, because that's how these algorithms acts. Right. So so even to topple or to grow your organic, you need to spend some money. So we started doing that we started spending some money. That's how we did I think, till we reached 900,000 users during from 100,000 to 9000. We tried multiple channels, we try that advertisements, we tried using publisher network, I always had a very, very bad experience with publisher network, I feel the kind of users you get is extremely bad, extremely bad. So kind of feel that for two, three months, I took a while to stop and write. And then COVID happened. So last year, March, we are going to call not spend any money. So from that 900,000 to now 3.5 million, all of it is organic. And all of it is only via people, because now we move the platform also right and social commerce with 15 personal care. So the way the product is built, it's very simple. User coming to booty, if they have a product, or they buy a product, they create a content on that. And the time the system is built is very simple that when somebody clicks a video or image be auto tag that to a brand. So every content which comes in becomes a shoppable content, we have always been a very infotainment at front, we are still that that intrudes user saying that, Oh, I just upload a picture and they tell me which brand it is or to type which plan it is and make them shoppable also. So now it becomes shoppable. if let's say now Krishna comes to platform looks at Li has content by it kind of Neha gets a certain percentage commission of the team, which ought to gets given to me. So this kind of motivated, a lot of us are saying that, all I have to do is I have a content, I have a product I'm using, if I create a content, Woovly takes care about attacking somebody else by it, I'm still getting something out of it. And I'm also getting a lot of followers, right. So there is a there is a press which is getting built, I'm still making something out of it. That's how the virality and content and sharing. So what we started seeing is people who are creating content, at least 60 to 65% of them are also sharing it outside. And I saw that for every share. In on average, for every share, I'm getting at least 10 to 11 clicks. That number sounds small if it's just one person. But if that is 10,000 to 15,000 people, the number goes very high. So that's how we started getting a lot of users. Now that's how we are getting almost 200,000 views a month just by doing this motivating people to share.

Krishna Jonnakadla  43:20

Exceptional so and you've you've sort of teased the pivot, because of COVID. Maybe our shift instead of a pivot perhaps maybe in some sense, you were addressing a bunch of things and you realize that there is this personal care and personal development angle, which is what feeds into what you're looking at right now when when you made that decision. It's normal for entrepreneurs to say we were looking at all of this data, and the data told us this. And therefore we started that traversing towards the data, in your case seems like COVID has prompted that too. But when you decided to do the shift, I'm am i right in assuming that COVID actually put paid to some of the plants that have your organic growth. And then therefore you thought this might be a good time to look at? What are the brightest bright spots that are there and then make the shift? What was that process like?

Neha Suyal  44:19

So Krishna I think you know what, like you were saying that when you are doing a PR you would say all the glossy or a glamorous thing. But honestly, it was not easy, right? When you are holding on to it for so many years. It's not easy to just turn around and say that you know what, no more doctors don't professionals, normal users saying I am going to just get social commerce, even though it was not at all easy. It took us also a lot of time, right. We kind of also I think I think for for a month or so we kind of sat every day and said that. What do we do? What do we do? What do we do? Right? And COVID did a lot of things to a lot of people right? I will still say thanks to our investors who are they're part of it. It's good that they pushed us because For everybody, there was a lot of a lot of commotion, yeah, people didn't even know if your startup will sustained. And we know that a very high percentage did die right because of COVID not officially. So, for us also what happened is from the growth, which was, so for us, you got 45 months back, the focus was growth till till February, March. So I remember till a marshmallow also, when we turned on the review course, we were only told about growth, growth growth. And certainly from growth, the focus shifted to revenue, right? Because then you have to think of first everything else is okay, but you have to sustain for a longer period of time, even when we had around for a long time, still, we have to think about, so there are lot of angles, I would not say just go with a lot of factors right there, there was a pressure, there was COVID. There was other possibilities, a lot of those things. And then we were also trying to figure out here, people are not going to talk about buckets, right? If you keep saying asking people write your bucket list and just say, because majority are writing in let's say adventure and travel almost 60% was that pretty person was a mechanic, people would not come back with that. Because I can't just come back to come to a platform during a lockdown, say and just see scuba diving video and feel good about if people were not in that state during that time. So we kind of I think it started from a content point of view. We said that, okay, fine. Let's just ask people that you also wanted to list things in your fitness buckets, you also wanted things in your cooking buckets, why don't you start writing those. So that's how the platform shifted. So we started focusing on those categories, those categories keep power, but then we realize that if you see from a market point of view, fitness or food, again, there are so many players out of those things, a lot of those things, research complexity, or those things came into picture. So we finally said, What is the next big thing which is coming up, which also resonates with our users and the way people have that's where I think the problem is social covers, specifically for beauty and personal care. So partially because what happened was for us honestly, the reason we said we will only go with one category was because we also did not have so much cash to spend invest now that we said fine, let's just do stabilize in one category, see how these other behaving and then take a call for other categories, which work very well I think luckily also because there was a time when there was so much of B2C boom happening, the move to social commerce. And suddenly if you see now people are talking about b2c commerce itself, not just ecommerce they were they were two words in the market till now. ecommerce and social commerce and as of today morning, I was seeing people talking about do you see commerce, because there are so many new to see platform because of your art Nearpod because of your Indian because of not all those things, but that b2c has come, our focus was only that. So from a platform point of P started with that we will only be focusing on social commerce for the b2c platforms in beauty and personal care sector in India. We found a challenge or a problem, which was again, very similar to what we were doing during this time. In Buckley's time, we found that these lassman service providers are not able to generate it, they are sharing almost 15 to almost as high as 50% of their revenues, just to generate TCS leads, right, which is which is creating a lot of gap in the market, in this also the same thing. So these b2c platform, they can build products, they don't know how to work, they don't know how to do anything is right. And the challenge is that currently with a mammoth social media mammals like Facebook, or Instagram and Tiktok, if they have to sell a product worth 100 rupees, they end up spending almost 180 400 rupees to generate that sales, which means they're literally burning to even generate a repeat, they're not making any money. That's their biggest challenge. Nobody knows about see you like if all of us the only success stories of mama and moms go and sugar, but there are only three or four or 10 pairs, there are 1000s more products out in the market. So I think that was the challenge with this problem which we started solving. And that's where again, we are able to scale because now we are able to create that USP that we are a platform for b2c brands of India and in person k sector users know very clearly that I'm coming here for entertainment for those those set of brands.

Krishna Jonnakadla  49:05

Interesting. Awesome, awesome. What this actually tells me is because when you speak about these, not just right, because it's essentially a knowledge, you're actually telling them, hey, you've given that majority of your bucket list was an adventure and travel. There are some other areas in your life as well, which right now can't get attention because of the way the world is right now. What this what this tells me is you had some sort of insight, visibility and a dialogue going on with your users, or at least you had some sort of a process whereby you could say, I think I can nudge them to do this. Because I know they are going to be a little direction less at this point in time. Because all of a sudden COVID has put paid to anybody and everybody's basic plans for good dreams for for a moment. Basic life is just coming to a standstill. So that tells me That that's possibly a possibly a very integral part of how you look at things to your users. It's, it's, it's kind of rare to hear something of that sort. Where does that come from? And talk about that process a little, little more.

Neha Suyal  50:16

So I think it's again, from a point that it's how your mindset, right? Like we said that we never wanted to just push in money in all the platforms available in the market and then say, what is happening? Right, we always wanted to do that very 13 hands, see what is working, what is not working, how it is performing. That's why instead of just spending, let's say, 10 lakhs a month on a Facebook group who will come in, we ended up creating that huge Ambassador base of 10,000 students across India, which was not easy operation, it's not easy to handle some turns around it, right. And we ended up creating that just because we realize that if you have to communicate very clearly, you need somebody who. So that was another very big reason that we never believe in just that kind of fun. So we will always that we need to know what is happening. And from a user point of view, also what happened was in the product, see, see we were when we were working with that we were asking people that a very simple button again, add to bucket list. That's what we were telling you that. So there are content, which people will come and see if they like that, we would nudge them saying that bucket list. We realize that when we are moving to the category of Swanberg, it's nothing but a wish list. So now I'm saying when I'm showing, let's say, a b2c brand product, I'm saying you like this content, like somebody else using slip stick accelerationist. So that bucket has moved to fish list from a product point. Now people are coming to Whoopi, they're looking at somebody else got it you or me is they're seeing how they're using those details. If that's let's say, I am accustomed to using like a, okay, somebody is promoting either cosmetics or somebody smoking urine. I've never heard of these banned, but it looks interesting. Finally, give it a try. That's how I start because I look at a content, I see somebody authentic, who's promoting that, or not promoting communicating that via his or her content. And I say that, let me try it. So instead of just asking people by now we say that back to your wish list. And if you're making a decision to buy, you can buy also here, it is an option for you to buy, I think those are the very small changes when we started, which we saw resulted in this kind of growth. Also, it was just a content in nothing else. But it's the same process to the same just the content, which made us understand what to be able to still same, I'm still adding something to my list, it just that i am not adding to bucketlist i am adding to wishlist now.

Krishna Jonnakadla  52:37

That's very interesting. What's what have been some trying moments and some cherish cherishable moments in the last few years of this journey?

Neha Suyal  52:47

So I think I would say a lot of moments has come in last few months. Also, we of course, we launched this social commerce platform in person care. And we were like, kind of, even when we are targeting a very different kind of you have a very different USB route. Many people came and said that you know what, you're still standing in some habits. Because you have these rules of the world. And it's such a huge one. They are catering to very different audiences. Here, it appeared to be a three year into fashion segment. Very different housewives. Right. So how is kind of how it's gonna happen, what's gonna happen, I think for us, a very good thing was I remember that we launched the covers for users in the month of September last year. And all organically, we are already doing almost this month, we will be touching almost $100,000 a year, which is actually equivalent to the kind of gmv is which platform to pay higher funding, raise v higher stability or be higher, I think pay later in their journey was doing. So things like that, which kind of gives a lot of belief that, yeah, if you keep sticking to the users what they want, keep thinking, keep bringing value to both sides of the value chain, you would still be able to be the player in your market. So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  54:06

No question about it. I think the biggest aspect when you have the foundational blocks, right? Is that patients that that's the that's the difference that I see. Of course, you have to keep executing, you have to keep believing. And there is this phrase called keep on keeping on Yeah, that's right. But but but but that's where the hockey stick happens many times right at the hockey stick growth, because because there are so many posers out there, I would say, who are actually literally pushing things towards you. Yeah. And all of a sudden, you've come you come here, come here and say I'm going to nudge I'm actually going to walk with you. And they look at you and say, No, No, this can't be happening. Is this person crazy or what? So it's a question of Once bitten, twice shy and that whole trust equation, that leap takes a little more time. But then once it happens, a small leap actually translates into a giant one. And then the trust trajectory goes like this, which is why I'm, which is why when you contrast ones, which are heavily funded versus the one which what you're doing right now, which, which I think is the right way to do because there is a difference between telling people and then asking people, yeah, right, your version is asking. And then the other version is actually telling, because in in, maybe I'm just simplifying it for the sake of discussion. Because many times when you're heavily funded, you're sitting behind a pile of cash, right. And you also have a different kind of pressure. I remember in my previous startup, we ran some campaigns. And we saw that people would come purely for the incentive. And I said, just like you said, users that came from some of these publisher publisher networks, they were not the desirable ones, the users that actually came purely for the incentive, and then didn't come back. I didn't want to I didn't want that kind of user, it actually told me two things. One is either the user is wrong, or I possibly am not offering enough value for them to actually consider me without enough incentive. Right. So if they took the first incentive, and came back the second time, what that what that tells me is the incentive is create solving the awareness problem. Yeah. Right. It is not solving the value problem. So when you're sitting on a mountain of cash, you're obviously you've obviously had a lot of ideas, saying, Okay, this is how I can build the market. And somebody obviously believed in you trusted you with that story and said, Okay, go do that. Now. You've said you are going to do all of this, Here's your money, go do that. And then while you're at it, make sure that you're the last man standing, so to speak, because most of these places, yeah, yeah, almost all of them are Last Man Standing contests, right? The the digital marketplace is a zero sum game, you don't have a number two in most places. It takes some amount of time for genres and differentiations to MSO. For instance, in search, you have DuckDuckGo, which offers privacy, which is still much, much distant fifth, or sixth, or whatever, in that list, right? So I'm not surprised at what you are experiencing, because you've you focused on the users, you got them to talk, you asked them, Hey, what do you want to do? What do you want to do what's on your mind? And then you said, COVID, come along, maybe let's not just then do something. And if you're doing this, so all along, it feels like you've been gently hand holding them towards what they've wanted to do, versus somebody who's who's who comes to you. And I know what you want. Here's what it is. And by the way, you know what, this is x, x times better and y times cheaper. So Trust me, I know what's best for you. So that's a different approach. So there are obviously people who don't know what they want, and then obviously go into that pocket. And then there are sets of people who were like, No, no, no, dude, I got this, you know, I know what I want. And maybe what you are offering is not for me. So I'm not surprised. So that's interesting. Do you ever see things that way?

Neha Suyal  58:14

Yeah, we do. So like, I think, I've been telling you write this for us. People always vary. I mean, from a thought process point of view, we have always been straight that you know what, we are not in a digital platform. I remember when COVID hit right. I remember getting a lot of nudges from a lot of people talking about, like maybe a peer investor, not just investors entrepreneurs a lot of people right. People started kind of saying that, it is the right time Tik Tok is banned. COVID has hit us. Everybody is talking about Indian platforms, why don't you guys kind of shift to be just an Indian content platform, I remember getting a lot of emails from Tick Tock stars in the region language asking saying that, Hey, can I post my entertainment video? Right. And we might have done that. Also, if we were not very clear and focused, we should still be a lot of platforms directly. I remember a lot of platforms converting suddenly, from very different focus to saying that Whoa, we are at the top of India. But I think it took us a lot of I know, I mean, again, it took us a lot of focus a lot of those multiple discussions day in and day in and day night saying that you know what, a lot of these things would come. But he said from the started, he will be the infidel, he will be the users, maybe not millions, hundreds of millions of users, but users could come for a very target content. And they will be very targeted uses for a targeted type. That's what we said. And that's what I think both for us. So that's where now if you see from a number point of view, we may not be may not have 40 million US users, but we are still able to do the kind of gmv revenue we are able to do is way better than many platforms who have been hired.

Krishna Jonnakadla  59:49

Right. So what what do you foresee ending up this year with in GMB?

Neha Suyal  59:54

So honestly, I think now from April till next year, my target is pretty high and Looking at, because we just started kind of social commerce revenue last five months, right? This month I would be doing $100,000 from a GMP point of to appear targeting that, how do we get to 5 million arr next year? If we do that, I think we would become the first company in India from a social commerce point of it to be doing that so well as the target. Let's see.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:00:23

Pretty interesting. From a funding perspective, was it? Was it a different journey? You haven't raised money from the usual suspects?

Neha Suyal  1:00:31

So we, yes, we did see the kind of, again, in a very different story, we were we were in the market thinking to a smaller town, he ended up doing in 20 $92.5 million. So we had one investor who said, You know what, I would kind of take the bigger round kind of stuff. So we did that, here already. Closing are one more round now, pre series a kind of around and already in the market with basically have been speaking to some investors for the series A, also.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:01:02

And in terms of culture, yeah, let me understand a sequence of how you built this, because what it gives me the feeling that I get is that you first focused on the growth aspect of it, and then the product got built along the way, would that be an appropriate characterization?

Neha Suyal  1:01:23

So I would, you can say that I mean, we have not honestly when we launched right, instead of the base, basically, just we did not define saying that. These are 10 features which would come in that we did not write, because we said that, okay, this is what we want to communicate to the user. And let's start building in small, small things and testing what users are actually liking. And then of course, depending on what users were liking, we started bringing in, in a much more better form. That's the reason that for almost one year, we did not have data, we were on the rapper plus native app. And then we took a call in 2020. Singer, okay, we need to map out his performance is very different. To a lot of those calls happened, according to the growth according to how users will respond.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:02:05

How has this journey changed you?

Neha Suyal  1:02:07

So I think you know, one thing, I think, a lot of articles you see linked a lot of success stories, and all of those people, a lot of dogs as easy and glamorous. But honestly, it's not an easy, right? It's not, you will see way more failures, way more arguments be more things not happening and things happening. And in that journey, also, if you see, you will see that out of 10 things only one thing but work. And that one thing is what you have to stick to and say that, okay, let me just figure out a way to scale it. So it makes you very, very strong. It kind of makes you stronger, it kind of gives you that wisdom that to not listen to everyone. I think early on in the journey when we started it. I used to think that maybe if 10 people are talking Let's listen to them and see if it's can kind of above but I think you will have in this journey, a lot of people who would give you your their own piece of thought, but you should stick to what you are really building and who you're building for, instead of just listening to everybody and then see what is useful. just build build into that. Don't start implementing everything and everything.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:03:11

Right. Yeah, I've been down that rabbit hole. Previously, right now I think we do. We don't necessarily have waves happening. But back in mid mid 2010s. You had waves you had AI waves you had AR waves, where you would see 100 200 startups getting funded in that we have that a tech wave right now the honest tech can help tech is coming up and a tech and health tech. And if you weren't if you were in a tech or health tech, and if you were taking a slightly different approach, it is impossible not to feel like a lunatic, right? Because the investors would ask you that question. potential investors would ask you that questions, advisors would ask you that questions, the market would ask you that question. And then why aren't you guys doing those things or saying those things or approaching those things? And then it's, it takes a lot of wisdom and a little bit of quiet in the mind also to sit down and say none and all of this is noise. Yeah, or maybe most of it is noise. And you have to have enough insight and some amount of hard work and working in the weeds to say no, not all of this is noise. And I'm going to separate the signal from the noise. And this is the signal and which is where in some cases, the truenorth is is the user saying hey, we are building it for them. And this is exactly how we are serving them. We made that mistake in our previous previous venture, where the whole idea was people show up all the time. Even today. The funny thing is locally in stores a lot of merchants can offer discretionary discount Yeah, but but the tech crowd, for instance, and the Indian way of extracting that is a bargain bargain, right. So driving driving a hard bargain. But most people who are not local, let's say there are a lot of in Bangalore, a lot of techies from out of town, they don't know the local lingo. Some of them hustle. But most part, when there is a label that's written with the price, most people don't argue. But if the store owner or a merchant wants more leaves, you know, the way he can put out is through an offer. And if that offer is actually private, the funny thing is, stores can actually benefit and stop promotions and discounts if they are private, and see, okay, what kind of users do I or buyers? Do I get through this in but unfortunately, even today, you have a situation whereby most offers are public, because nobody has built that private audience. They haven't built hordes of private users, whereby they could say, okay, hey, I think this user is, is looking for something like these, or maybe there are groups of users, you could make an offer. And instead of having 50 footfalls, maybe we could convert it into 500 foot faults. So that space is what we set out to solve. So along the way, the hyperlocal swept hyperlocal wave swept us. And today, just like you have, because of your size, you had to choose a category in personal and you we had 16 categories for which we were solving this problem quite effectively. And all of a sudden, hyperlocal came in, and merchants started telling us No, no, it's not enough for you to just game show a deal. I want you to do much more than that. I'm getting offers from anybody and everybody saying that I'll enable commerce for your local commerce for you. And then we went down that rabbit hole. And because food was actually quite heavily crowded, even today, to a certain degree it is. And then the others were crowded book, my show had looked at experience and then local experience. We said, okay, what's local that is physical that needs football, we said fashion. And when we looked at our data, again, it showed that fashion was the second most frequented category, people were dying for deals there. And but we didn't stay true to that. It's a big lesson. And I call it the premature pivot, or and also premature scale, where you don't separate the noise from the signal from the noise, and then you end up making the wrong decision. Good for you that you taken a different decision. And I think you're on the path to revenues and profitability soon.

Neha Suyal  1:07:43

Yeah, yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:07:45

Awesome. What, what have been some decisions that you regret? And what have been some decisions that you've been sort of pleased with?

Neha Suyal  1:07:54

So I think from our from our good point of view, I would say that, like selling guys being very emotional as a founder, your founders are practical and both emotional. The two characters they have, right, that's the reason they keep going was right. So they're very emotional to the idea or the product that they're building. Right. So. So I think one good thing is that we took a call during that time that everything else aside, but let's let's do better, let's move towards social commerce period wasn't yet. It wasn't that easy occurred. But we still took that economy started implementing it very early. I think from Marsh, all of this happened in April itself, we started testing it even with the brands much before our product was like we started working on the new map. So that's something which was a very good currency from the something which I did not write Personally, I would say, in the companies. I think my former co founder always kept telling me that it's something about right that if something is not working from a person point of view, by point of view, fire fast. I think that's one. One thing, which I have not learned yet, but it still takes me a lot of time. So you know what i think so let's say if I decide today that you know what, I think this is not working and not working. I would not go in there today, sir. I wish to go back on something. Is there a way? Is there a ways that away? And then I would take the call? So that's something which I think firing fast is something which I will not do. Okay, and which I should have done? Because when you're a small team of 20 people, right, you don't have a levy of having even one person which is not working out.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:09:28

Right.

Neha Suyal  1:09:28

So So yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:09:30

I couldn't agree more with you. I am a person who gives a very, very long rope to people. In fact, the funny thing is, one of my foundational philosophies is find good people, and you grow and make them grow with you. Yeah. My thing is, let's find diamonds in the rough, because for some reason, and I've gotten pretty good success with it. Our designer in the previous startup was A guy who just couldn't converse in English, he would, he would speak in Canada. And the result was that the good part was all the three co founders, all of us knew Canada. But the tech head did not know Canada. It created some amount of rift between the two of them. But the thing was, because of that, unfortunately for him, he couldn't find employment in the larger ones. But he was a terrific designer. So we had many square pegs in round holes. And my favorite famous metaphor or analogy I can give is the analogy in Moneyball, which, which shows so many different Maverick key players fit into one team. Right. And I built a team, and if but I found that the notion of actually firing fast is important. Yeah, both for the team, as well as that particular individual It is, it is tough. It's a tough call, it's very different. Because we are also emotional beings, we think, oh, maybe that person will get back, maybe they'll get better, maybe they're in a wrong role. But trust me in in the current venture, the last few months, we've actually sometimes even let somebody go in as little as two hours. And some somebody on the second day, we are actually going through one decision right now. And the longer you keep them, the tougher that decision is. And it's more damaging, because both of you have emotional skin in the game. And there's so much history, the more history builds up, the tougher it becomes. But the quicker that it can go, it can happen. You can replace them. And I I can absolutely relate to what you've what you've said just right now. And what's the end game? What's the dream scenario here?

Neha Suyal  1:11:53

Dream scenario for us is to be the largest social commerce that come in here. And at least for now, it's an Indian for beauty and personal care.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:03

And what time horizon.

Neha Suyal  1:12:05

So we are looking to reach there in next three to four years.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:09

Okay, by 2024.

Neha Suyal  1:12:11

Yeah, we should we should be

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:12

in 2024-25. Awesome. This do you read?

Neha Suyal  1:12:17

Yeah, I don't know.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:19

What's on your reading list right now. For what what have been some books that you've loved offline?

Neha Suyal  1:12:23

So honestly, I read very different kinds of I read very curious kind of books also. And I read very business kind of books. Also, one of my favorite book is predictably irrational. I think I have read that book one time. I still don't really yeah, that's right. I still love that book. And I'm a big Harry Potter fan. So I have read Harry Potter series. I think I remember a month when I read all the seven books for 14 Hours.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:45

Ah Potter Head.

Neha Suyal  1:12:46

Yeah, Yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:12:49

Awesome. I remember reading predictably irrational, I think 2008 or nine, when it initially came out. There's another similar book called Random Walk Down Wall Street, which is very interesting. But you know, the funny thing though, is there are a bunch of books, which are all around the same topic, which is human behavior, human emotion. And you will find this fascinating. Almost all these books are based on the work done just by two people.

Neha Suyal  1:13:20

Okay, yeah.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:21

Then Daniel Kahneman. And Amos Tversky.

Neha Suyal  1:13:25

Okay.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:13:26

I've read about 15 books on the subject, okay. And then when I, when I, on the fourth or fifth book, I started looking at the reference references or the footnotes, and then they will say, in this particular expert experiment, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. I said, Man, I can't believe, you know, a bunch of experiments. And they're not like 2000 experiments of Daniel Kahneman and Amos, right. It is it is about eight to 10. And almost same experiments repeat. The, what I appreciated in these books were the different perspectives the authors could derive out of the same experiments. But But, but what I thought was man, the source material must be so rich, that it was it has spawned so many narratives around it. And the book that actually gets you to that is Thinking Fast and Slow. So, and all of that began with a meeting of 12 people in a room. And that led to that book, but fascinating. It's, these books are, I would say, almost like Bibles. If you have to understand human emotion and behavior and build something around.

Neha Suyal  1:14:40

it, especially from a pricing point of view, it gives you so much insight about the user behavior.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:14:45

Right, right. Right. So Neha this has been a fantastic conversation. I think he's so full of insights, rich insights. I know you have the basic tenets in place when you scale the next week, we'll come back and interview this Maharani of Scale and the see what that vantage point looks like .Awesome.

Neha Suyal  1:15:04

Wonderful speaking with you.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:15:05

Last words for people, women entrepreneurs and people starting out.

Neha Suyal  1:15:10

So I think you will get a lot of setbacks. Keep keep your focus, I would say, just keep focusing on what you're building and do it consistent. That's what matters.

Krishna Jonnakadla  1:15:20

Awesome. We wish you the very best Neha.

Neha Suyal  1:15:22

Thank you. Thank you so much, Krishna.

Tania Jadhav  1:15:25 We hope you enjoyed the story. If this story 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 our show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaboration. Write to me at heythere@maharajasofscale.com