Growing A Marketing Collaboration Startup From Mumbai, With Sahil Parikh, Founder Of Brightpod
Sahil, please introduce yourself…
I am an author, web entrepreneur and the founder of Synage Software – a web products company that believes in designing clean, easy to use and feature-rich software to help you work smart, save time and enjoy the finer things in life.
A few years back I was named a Paragon 100 Fellow (Asia’s most inspiring young entrepreneurs and social change makers), shortlisted in BusinessWorld’s Top 30 Young Entrepreneurs in India, featured on the cover and leading story of India Today Aspire and showcased on CNBC’s prestigious TV show ‘Young Turk Innovators’.
I frequently speak and write on SaaS, Cloud Computing, entrepreneurship and startups. When not in front of the computer, I spend time reading, writing, playing golf, tennis, and traveling to exotic islands with my wife and baby girl.
What’s the story behind creating Brightpod?
So, it all happened in November 2011.
Our first product, DeskAway, had become a general purpose project management tool used by companies across a lot of verticals. I guess we built it that way. Competition was fierce in this space and growing fast was a huge challenge.
We also witnessed a surge in signups from marketing teams with feature requests aimed at marketing/campaign related projects and workflows (which a general purpose project tool cannot always fulfil). Basically, they had specific problems that a general project management tool could not solve.
This got us thinking – what if we could build a tool that could serve this target audience. Marketing teams are web savvy, understand technology and would see value in software that helps them cut through the clutter.
Most of them currently use a general purpose collaboration tool. What if we could give them something specific and help them grow their business? Could we help improve the way people work and manage their digital marketing campaigns from a central place? There were lots of ideas and possibilities.
The exciting part was – clients are spending more and more money on digital marketing. Marketing firms have more work that they can handle. This is where Brightpod would come in.
So, we dug a bit deeper into the question – “Why do we want to build this?”…
I did some introspection. I started to think about the days when I started this company and what excites me every day. Each time there was just one thing that kept echoing in my mind:
We believe that business software should be simple, easy and fun to use.
This became our foundation to move forward with Brightpod after we agreed that we should go ahead with designing and building the app – Design software that people love using.
With Brightpod, people should be able to enjoy their work day – everyday should be a bright day.
Brightpod was finally launched in April 2013.
How’s traction working out so far?
We have been signing up a few large full-service digital agencies to Brightpod in the last few months. We were stagnating mid-2013 but after a push in content marketing and a revamp of our site, we have upped our conversion rate up to 10-12% now.
Currently, we have around 1400 companies signup and using Brightpod. There is still a long way to go and battling general-purpose project management tools is something that we face when we talk to our target audience.
We released an Editorial Calendar and Time Tracking towards the end of 2013 which marketing agencies and teams absolutely love.
What challenges did you face when launching, and how did you overcome them?
Our biggest challenge was (and is) learning more about our customers, their habits, how they use our tool, what they like and what they would like to have. Customer feedback is hugely important to us in terms of how we build Brightpod.
I have started actively giving demos to people who are currently in the 14-day trial period. The purpose of the demo is to show them around and also get feedback to questions like:
Why did they signup?
Do they use any other tool?
How does their business function?
What problem can Brightpod solve etc.
I keep track of all this in my Moleskine diary (it is easier to jot down points in a diary while giving a demo).
What strategies are you using to market Brightpod?
So, currently we focus on building content on our blog as well as getting reviewed by other blogs like TheNextWeb, GigaOM etc. I am pretty active on Twitter and have search feeds for people looking for a project management software.
We currently don’t do any paid marketing but we will be trying a few options in the next couple of months.
Word of mouth online is helping us a lot – here’s one example.
How does being based in Mumbai impact the business?
The advantage of being in Mumbai is that it is not like Bangalore or other tech hubs. They are very saturated with tech companies. I prefer not being in one of those hubs.
I don’t see any disadvantages being here. My goal is to run a virtual company and hire the best talent from anywhere in the world. So, it really doesn’t matter where I operate from (as long as I have a decent broadband connection).
How do you see the startup and investment ecosystem developing in Mumbai?
When I started this SaaS business in 2007 there were hardly any startups from Mumbai. This trend is changing and Mumbai is now recognised as one of the top startup hubs in India. There are Founder meet ups, product events and even angels/VCs that have setup base here.
As the cost to develop/host a product decreases and the startup fever spreads we will be seeing a lot more people in India starting companies. It is already happening.
What’s next for Brightpod?
Besides small enhancements, we are currently working on the following:
Deep email integration so that clients can email in tasks, messages and files without logging into Brightpod.