Neil barman, Chief Growth Officer at Yellow Messenger*, talks us through the techniques and strategies you need to accelerate growth in just one year.
- Why 12 months is an achievable target for startups
- How to prepare for ambitious scaling
- How to target and analyze the right markets
- The biggest lessons Neil learned scaling Yellow Messenger
*Yellow Messenger is a conversational AI platform for enterprises to automate and orchestrate intelligent conversations with their users.
Q: Is going from regional to global in just 12 months achievable for a start-up?
Neil: Becoming a global player is the ultimate goal for any SaaS organization, and doing it in the span of 12 months is absolutely achievable.
There was a study conducted by Finances Online in 2015, that stated 73% of companies would be cloud-based by 2020, and in 2021 the study showed that the percentage will be nearer to 90% by 2022.
SaaS is no longer a trend, it's the norm.
With 80% of applications hosted in the cloud, companies are no longer dependent on legacy systems.
There’s only two possible outcomes for any SaaS company — either they’ll go global or they’ll perish.
Q: Can you talk us through your role in the transition to going global?
A: In 2018, we initially thought of taking the brand outside of India and establishing it in the larger Asia Pacific market.
We initially transitioned to Southeast Asia because it was closer to home. In terms of price sensitivity and market adoption, it was all very close in DNA to what the Indian enterprises do to adopt, and that's why we thought that Southeast Asia would be the perfect testing ground for us.
We started off with few brands, but I was the only one actually present in Southeast Asia.
It came to a point where we wanted to expand and run simultaneous experiments in multiple countries and it wasn’t possible for me to drive the entire operation by myself.
We started expanding and saw good adoption rates in Southeast Asia, and that's when we decided to replicate this model. So from an individual contributor role, or being at the forefront leading the charts for sales, it became more of an enablement role.
I transitioned into building new teams, building local and regional teams, enabling them, building a channel partner strategy, enabling the channel partner in building out a partner program, and trying to sell it through different channels.
It’s a role where you have to see to it that all your goals from all these countries and all these regions are being met, and you have to identify which region or which country is inclining towards a specific trend.
Q: Is it a good time for businesses to scale given that we’re still in a global pandemic?
A: I don't think the pandemic has had much of an impact on the SaaS domain at all.
If you look at Gartner’s projections from 2019, they projected 6.3% growth in 2020, which brings us to $240 billion as an industry.
Their projection for 2020 was $255 billion-plus, so I don't think timing has an impact on an organization's plan to grow.
If you're talking about timing in general, I think once the minimum viable product is established on your home turf, where you're experimenting with it, and you see adoption happening, it's time to think of replicating that success into multiple markets.
Sometimes, you may be surprised by the way adoption happens.
We saw a much higher adoption rate in Indonesia than we saw in India or any other part of Southeast Asia, but the moment we took the product to Indonesia, that was the fastest market to give us a million dollars in revenue.
It's essential to do the research, and the experiments and see which industry, and which geography is responding better.
Q: How do you decide which markets target first?
A: We always knew we wanted to take our product to the United States, but we wanted to evolve the product first, so we waited for the right time.
In the meantime, we experimented with a product across Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. We built a product with all the capabilities necessary for it to be sold in the United States.
We always wanted to stay kind of domain- or industry-agnostic, and we wanted to build more capabilities into the product, so we created very region-specific capabilities. We had to gather all the intelligence or build the product in order for the product to be more localized.
Ours is a conversational product, it actually has to behave and understand the colloquialism that's embedded into each of these regions or all these pockets of the world, and in order to do that, we needed to collaborate - we needed regional partners, regional product players, and regional engineers in order to enable that for us.
Ultimately, you need a robust sales and distribution strategy, which can put you in front of the right audience or get you to the right enterprises.
Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned while scaling?
A: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never slow down and never stop experimenting.
I've seen companies trying to be cautious and in the meantime, they’re falling behind in terms of features or losing out on the market share.
Multiple countries and regions we went to were not ready for a platform like ours, we had to do a lot of onboarding and enablement in order for them to adopt.
Once we established a product with a few brands, it caught like wildfire, and we were able to replicate that success with multiple brands.
Q: Do you have any advice for Saas company’s looking to scale at this level?
A: My advice would be to think of growth as product-led.
Have a defined plan for the next 12 or 18 months and be prepared for the unexpected.
You cannot do it alone, you have to collaborate at a product, distribution, and business level.
Understand what’s working and what's not and have a robust feedback mechanism in place so you can take adequate measures to course correct.