Innovate on your product by validating with customers
Tushar Bhatia (Founder of empxtrack) has been an entrepreneur since his 3rd year at IIT Delhi. He had a services opportunity from a Japanese customer when he went in for a national competition. This was a high tech services assignment which he got lots of extra money while in college. Due to strong suggestions from family, he had to get into employment in a large corporate and went to Chicago thereafter for about six years from 1995. He started a couple of companies there and had an exit with a large technology company which taught him a lot of things about running a startup. In 2001, he came back to India and stared Saigun and also empxtrack.
empxtrack was started as a concept instead of a product and went to friends, friend-of-friends, family to get his first customer. He believed in the feet on street model and travelled week on week all over India and shared his story with all prospects. His product got a good break when one of the large companies who had invited him for a meeting came up with a set of features that the product did not have and was willing to let him build that for them which led to the employee performance management system module with a balanced scorecard. The team worked on it for four to five days clocking 20 hours each per day and built a nimble system and demonstrated it to the customer and they bought it because the competitor was a large product with similar features but at 20 times the price.
Tushar is a technology person but always thinks of himself as a sales person. After getting his first customer, he adopted the mass marketing route and travelled extensively to meet enterprise scale customers but did not get consistent sales. He tried raising money but the story was not exciting and hence he could not get the funding to scale and he had to do the bulk of running around himself and his efforts were spread across running all over the country meeting all types of companies without focus. Then when he analysed the efforts and the results, it divined that midsized companies were more conducive to use the product than large companies.
While prospecting large companies, he realized that it takes a lot of time to build relationships since larger companies have complex buying processes. This would mean much larger spend which appeared risky. The analysis of the types of questions that came from the SMBs made Tushar realize that the smaller companies were largely underserved and did not even have a base level of HR system and that made him to create his HR product as a SaaS product.
The positioning then changed into EmpXtrack being a SMB focused end-to-end HR product. Since he had won over a large customer using a global ERP, he used that as the positioning strategy for enterprise customers.
Tushar’s advice to startup founders – Find ways to keep your head above water and continue to innovate on your product by validating with customers using a combination of technology, sales and marketing tools. He also says that founders need to be at the customers place in the first few implementations because this will allow them to learn more about the customer situation and will help them better align the product.
EmpXtrack(http://empxtrack.com/) has around 100 employees as of now and 350 plus customers across 21 countries. Now they focus on specific buyer personas and write lots of blogs and have more than 100 blogs which are a source of inbound leads. They also harness the power of Inside Sales to the US markets and sell to many customers using this approach