… The value of communication and its impact on employee motivation is well established. The value of technology and automation is well established as well and yet organizations haven’t been able to leverage this for their frontline/field based workforce until now. We are changing that and our vision is to bring the frontline/field based workforce at par with their desk based colleagues from a technology perspective.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Praveen Kanyadi.
Praveen is the Co-founder & VP Products at Groupe.io. Praveen has over 20 yrs of experience developing enterprise and consumer products for startups and Fortune 500 companies. In his previous role at Yahoo, he built social experiences that reached over 750 million end users. Praveen also holds a patent publication in the social space. Praveen has deep expertise in building SaaS and mobile based solutions.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I met Vijay Pullur while I was at Yahoo. Vijay’s company Pramati Technologies had a very unique and successful product incubation model. The original idea was conceived by Vijay and he offered me to come onboard to co-found the company and build the solution. The idea and the incubation model got me excited and that’s how I got started.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
We originally started with the concept of ‘real time location network’. The idea was to instantly connect people at any physical location such as a retail store, resort, mall, stadium, airport etc and enable a real time social experience.However while working on this we realized that one of the biggest challenge for these businesses was that they couldn’t communicate with their frontline workforce since they did not have a corporate email address. None of the traditional communication mechanisms worked very well. One of our customers was a large mattress dealer in the US and they deployed our solution to connect with their frontline employees across 50 retail stores. They were able to instantly onboard all their employees. The employees loved the experience and the corporate office was thrilled to be able to communicate directly with all the storefront employees. This overwhelming feedback made us realize that we were genuinely able to solve a critical problem for such organizations and that pushed us to pivot our platform to exclusively cater to the needs of the non desk workforce.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
When we started out, the concept of connecting frontline workers was relatively new. There was a lot of apprehension and reservation from the key stakeholders about how a solution like this would work. There were many concerns ranging from privacy, security, administration overhead to distraction at the workplace etc. There were also concerns about adoption of this solution by the non tech savvy frontline workforce. We did not have case studies, metrics and credibility so it was an immense struggle initially. We had long sales cycles with no closures but we stayed patient because we were very confident about our solution and the value we could deliver
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We have now been able to establish ourselves as one of the leading communication and productivity platforms for non desk workers and often compared as the ‘slack for non-desk workers’. HR leaders have been able to use our solution to significantly boost employee motivation, engagement and reduce turnover. Operations team has been able to improve compliance and reduce manual errors through automation. Our customer retention rate is higher than industry average. Our solution has become central to daily operations within these organizations.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
We had just rolled out our beta and I connected with a senior executive of a large hospitality chain over LinkedIn and subsequently shared some details of our product over email. During the same time, I was getting spammed by marketing calls offering me free vacation with that same chain. One day I got 3–4 robocalls in the span of 2 hours and I was really annoyed. Meanwhile, this senior executive wanted some additional information and decided to just call me. This was our first conversation and I wasn’t expecting his call. When he called and introduced himself I thought it was the robocall again and I rudely hung up on him. it was only later that i realized what i had done. I did manage to connect with him later and we had a good laugh about it
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are a few aspects about our solution that makes our company stand out. We knew it was critical for our user experience to be intuitive and simple for non-tech savvy frontline workers to adopt our solution, so we obsessively focussed on user experience. As a result of that most of our deployments haven’t required us to provide any training to our users including the frontline workforce. The other important aspect is that we consciously designed our product for extensibility. We were amongst the first solutions to introduce the micro-application framework. This framework has enabled our customers to easily add custom features and functionality on top of our solution and tailor the platform for their unique needs. This is what makes our solution stand out from the rest of the solutions in the market.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Most startups start with limited budget and resources so everyone dons multiple hats and there is also an implicit expectation to start sprinting right out of the blocks. Ultimately all of this could result in burn out. Its important to realize that entrepreneurial journey is a marathon and not sprint
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
We are grateful to few of our early customers who trusted and believed in our solution and provided us with the opportunity to prove ourselves and also helped shaped the product
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Groupe.io is used by over 500 customers across 20 countries in various verticals such as retail, hospitality, construction etc. We have also onboarded more than a dozen partners worldwide
In the initial phase, we spent a lot of time identifying the different points of friction for customers to adopt our solution and addressed most of them. We focused on creating a self served experience to allow prospects to get a fair idea of the capabilities without requiring much support from our team. As we started to expand to regions outside the US, we are also focused on region specific requirements such as localization, pricing and regulatory requirements. We are also focused on onboarding partners to rapidly expand our business.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
We offer a per-user based subscription model. We also offer a flat pricing model for customers that have a large install base and prefer a fixed cost. We haven’t tried any other models primarily because the per-user subscription model is a well established model for SaaS and preferred by customers as well.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
It may depend on the business idea itself but in general for a SaaS based solutions, here are some of the important things –
Onboarding: it’s critical to focus on the initial user onboarding experience and offer a self served experience to the extent possible. This significantly shortens the sales cycle and fuels bottom up adoption.
API First Approach: The other key aspect is focus on developing your solution with an API First approach. This would enable your solution to be integrated with our systems and also enable developers to consume your solution in ways that you may not have initially envisioned.
Establishing ROI: It’s critical to help customers measure ROI of using your solution. Offer a dashboard that shows all the key metrics and KPIs out of the box. For some use cases however, there may not be a very tangible way of measuring the ROI and may require some secondary and tertiary metrics to be collated. In this case, it’s important to ensure there are means to collect these metrics . It’s also very critical to measure and record these metrics before the roll out of your solution as it provides the baseline for your measurement.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I believe we have started that already. The value of communication and its impact on employee motivation is well established. The value of technology and automation is well established as well and yet organizations haven’t been able to leverage this for their frontline/field based workforce until now. We are changing that and our vision is to bring the frontline/field based workforce at par with their desk based colleagues from a technology perspective.
How can our readers follow you on social media?