Niraj Ranjan Co-Founded Grexit along with Nitesh Nandy. Niraj passed out of IIT Kgp in 2002 and worked in Mentor Graphics for five years before he started his first venture in early 2008 with his batchmate of IIT Kgp. Nitesh was the first employee in that venture and he was also from IIT KGP – Batch of 2007. While Niraj was working for Mentor Graphics, he was in the R&D team of 35 engineers spread across 3 continents conversing technically and asking each other a lot of questions on emails and were supposed to archive the consensus as a document into the repository and properly tagged. But this was rarely the situation and the consensus gets stuck in emails only and the story recurs after six months from scratch. Having personally experienced the pain point, Niraj sought out to building a framework to capture email conversations out of the inbox and put it into a knowledge repository and that was the seed for Grexit
They took the idea and began talking to a few large organizations with globally dispersed teams. As the conversations increased ,they found a resonating trend that these types of organizations were not keen on knowledge management but were interested in tools that helps capturing the key information from emails to provide analytics and to solve problems. Thus Grexit did it first pivot and gravitated towards building tools for customer management problems that gets solved by extracting key information from e-mails. Niraj also decided that he will keep the problem solving feature within the email and not taking it out and making it happen out of another application because it will lose the stickiness. They went ahead and implemented this in a few organizations and they liked it and they also got valuable information about the needs of the other departments from their emails and Grexit began building a set of simple tools to build lightweight workflow for sales, customer support etc. They also identified their key segments to be Small companies and medium sized teams in large companies
Niraj recollects that the first version he built was the knowledge management repository and they placed it on google marketplace. They had mapped the keywords people were using to search for similar products and began getting lots of users. He also mapped some large enterprises in India as Named Accounts and made them use. They made sure that a variety of organizations used it to find out who this suited the most and they figured out that based on the usage that the lucrative market is the Small and Medium Enterprises as against large Enterprises where the SME customers were looking out for solving business problems in sales and in customer support which was Grexit’s key feature. This , Niraj says is a 100% change from what he had built 3 years ago.
Niraj talks about an assumption which cost him quite a bit. They had built the first version with the assumption that customers will not allow them access into their email boxes and hence the tool architecture was weak. Surprised as he was, he found that the customers become more open to putting their data on cloud and more people were open to giving access after they began using the system which let Grexit build better tools. Niraj says that if he had not assumed earlier and had asked his customers, he would have saved lots of time and money and would have got more customers.
Two things worked well in his Marketing Outreach. They worked on media coverage early in the startup and with zero budgets they got published in multiple media and that helped in organic search volumes. They focussed early on their marketplace presence, PR and Inbound Marketing. They tried Google Adwords but did not work. Google Marketplace worked like gold because they solved an important problem for gmail users and they were on the marketplace which gave them lots of credibility. Because what they were doing on email interested lots of people, they were lucky to be spotted by bloggers and that took them to the media. They also did carefully researched the SME productivity and email issues and crafted pitches and reached out to the press with a kit asking them to be published and they nailed it. They were forthcoming on doing calls with the press and demos and worked intelligently over six to seven months .
Niraj talks about the customers where he says that the free user behaviour continues to be the same for three years. They keep asking the same questions and the trend was that the issues that the team faced to convert the free users to paid users was more a product problem rather than a marketing or a sales problem. He says that lots of unqualified leads come in to sign up for free but they take the free customers also very serious and helps them to use the system and qualifies them and is proud that he is able to convert a lot more free users into paid users when compared to the industry .
Niraj’s Advice to early stage startups – If anything gets very hard – be it sales or convincing customers or marketing, you should go back and take a look at the product. In the first three years it is all about your product, who you are selling it to and what is the fit
Grexit (http://grexit.com/), has raised a total of 180K USD with Citrix accelerator, Morpheus, Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm and a couple of other investors. They were the first company from India to get funded by the Citrix Startup Accelerator. They have around 6000 companies as daily active users across their free and paid plans. GrexIt is a 6 people team including the founders, and were recently recognized as the top 10 in the league of Nasscom Emerge 50 this year