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Winning formula to add value to India’s SaaS growth prophecy

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Indian SaaS emerged as a global powerhouse in 2022, with Nasscom calling it ‘a goldmine’ of opportunity. Touted as the third largest SaaS hub in the world, it remained relatively unaffected by the global economic shakeups.

In an interview to Mint in November to summarise the year gone by, Praval Singh, Vice President, Marketing and Customer Experience at Zoho Corporation, said his company saw revenues slow down a bit after 77 percent growth in 2021, but India SaaS companies overall were still rising at more than 20% rate.

If you are an Indian SaaS founder, this is music to your ears. Here is some more good news:

  • By 2030 Indian SaaS industry is expected to generate a revenue of a trillion dollars — McKinsey and SaaSBoomi report.
  • The Indian SaaS market will account for seven to ten percent of the world market share by 2025, according to a CII-EY survey.
  • With the best-recorded growth in 2020—2022, Indian SaaS is shaping the global SaaS landscape. As many as 21 startups entered the Indian SaaS unicorn club in 2022, and it’s predicted that this boom will skyrocket in the near future.
  • Unicorns like Freshworks, PostMan and MindTickle had already made waves on Nasdaq in 2021.
  • Indian SaaS businesses will likely pocket a whopping $100bn by 2026, according to an article in Business Insider.
  • After leapfrogging the UK in the SaaS unicorn numbers, India is poised to surpass China in four years.

 

This promising story may very well be any founder’s reality. Most of them aspire to be profitable and become a unicorn eventually. However, there are no magic formulas or quick recipes. Jeff Bezos once asked Warren Buffet, “Your style of investing is so simple; why doesn’t everyone just copy you?” “Because no one wants to get rich slowly,” replied Buffet.

Anything that goes up fast comes tumbling down faster. Building your SaaS business using the Value SaaS principles of capital efficiency takes you slowly but surely to that coveted spot. Since its inception, Upekkha has been coaching startup founders to build profitable, sustainable, capital-efficient businesses with solid unit economics, aka Value SaaS businesses.

The Value SaaS way is about building a solid foundation from the start. It takes an enormous effort to get the initial revenue flywheel spinning, but once it gathers momentum, it’s unstoppable.

 

Engineering the Indian SaaS ecosystem

In a 2018 report, Startup Genome Project, a leading policy research and advisory organisation, lays down the basics of building an ecosystem. It talks about starting from the areas of strength within the ecosystem. These strength areas should be disparate from the global competitors. The four significant ecosystems in the global SaaS world are the US, China, Israel, and India. Let’s evaluate India’s position relative to these global competitors:

  • The US is always in pursuit of cutting-edge technologies. In fact, it has outgrown the SaaS wave and is moving into newer innovations.
  • China is in a perpetual fight to beat the US by making cheaper and better versions of its US counterparts.
  • Israel is invested in cyber security, deep tech, military technology, encryption, etc., and is unbeatable at its game.
  • India is already the blue-eyed girl of SaaS, but she is far behind in AI ML. It lacks the data-intensive access, storage, and processing power that AI ML requires.

India can emerge as a global power in the game it is already good at, which is SaaS. Furthermore, the SaaS field is free from resistance and competition from the top players. India’s best bet is to position itself as the global SaaS capital.

 

A, B, and C’s of replicating the success of SaaS billionaires

  • Diverse talent pool

With almost a fourth of SaaS companies in Chennai, it is now heralded as the SaaS capital of India. While unicorns like Zoho, Chargebee, and Freshworks continue to dazzle, the Chennai SaaS talent pool keeps growing. It’s not just the coders and programmers who are building SaaS companies. The talent pool includes people from diverse fields, like product managers, sales professionals, and marketers. India is a brimming pool of talent, and Indians have deep domain expertise.

  • SaaS and funding – The curious relationship

SaaS isn’t funding-dependent, but having capital at the right time is good. Zoho became a benchmark case of a bootstrapped SaaS company that joined the unicorn club. 42Gears and Zerodha are among the other successful bootstrapped companies focusing on unit economics and capital-efficient growth.

Freshworks, on the other hand, raised funds but didn’t burn much of its equity to reach the billion-dollar mark. Mettl raised only Rs 300 mn and was acquired by a US-based company for three million. Irrespective of whether they raised funds, each of these profitable companies had Value SaaS at their backbone. They followed the right growth metric, conserved their equity, and kept their burn multiple low while working on building strong unit economics.

  • SaaS free of location affinity

Location is inconsequential for building a SaaS business. Deep domain expertise is, however, indispensable in SaaS. While building a SaaS business, all that is required is a small core team with commitment and expertise. These core members can take freshers under their wing and train them. As the business grows, the team size can increase. Consequently, building a SaaS business frugally from any location is possible. India is inundated with talent, available in every small and big city.

SaaS is not site-specific, as customers across the globe can find SaaS businesses online. It doesn’t rely on the conventional feet-on-the-street sales model. Digital and online marketing accelerate inbound help businesses reach customers. B2B SaaS businesses and signing contracts with global enterprise customers without meeting them in person. A relationship of trust is built based on various factors, such as:

  •  The value the product delivers to the customer, i.e., whether it solves their biggest problem.
  •  Customer referrals and customer experience at all touchpoints.
  •  The shop front or the online shopping window, which is the website.

 

  • SaaS and flywheel model

At the heart of building a profitable SaaS business is a flywheel model. SaaS doesn’t follow a funnel model. The starting point of a flywheel is a great product. Most times, as a founder, you are in love with your product. The acid test of your product is if the customer loves it. If you can present the cure for your customer’s biggest headache, your product is a hit. Understanding and knowing the biggest customer” problem helps you develop a great product.

The flywheel is a system of interlocked loops. For optimal operation, the entire system has to be well-oiled, and each loop has to be fixed properly. Since the loops are prone to change as your business evolves, you need to keep iterating and restructuring the different parts of the flywheel.

 

Accelerating transformation through Value SaaS principles

Building a billion-dollar SaaS business with a frugal mindset and low-cost structure is possible. The uncompromising components of such companies are:

  • Building with an abundance of depth, innovativeness, and talent
  • Knowledge of growing a SaaS business or adequate mentoring in that area
  • Working on unit economics
  • Keeping burn multiple low and growing frugally
  • Being customer-centric and creating real value for the customer
  • Value SaaS principles as the backbone to grow profitably and sustainably

 

The question is how to translate an individual SaaS success story into an Indian story in the global landscape. Suresh Sambandam, founder and CEO of Kissflow, remarks: “How can we position India as a global SaaS hub without all sub-ecosystems within India combining together?”

This call for forming sub-ecosystems within the Indian subcontinent. The success model of companies such as Zoho, Freshworks and Chargebee has to be replicated in smaller cities and towns. By oiling the parts of a startup’s flywheel, the founders can increase the probability of success. While innovation comes from the company’s think-tank, accelerators facilitate the nurturing pods. Investors play their own role at the right moment by giving your startup the rocket fuel it needs.

In a nurturing environment, the odds of creating a billion-dollar Indian SaaS hub become high. The trillion-dollar forecast becomes a fact.

_______________________________________________________

Thiyagarajan Maruthavanan is co-founder & managing partner at Upekkha, a SaaS Accelerator where he has worked with over 100 early stage startups to build their SaaS flywheel. He was a product leader at Intuit and worked on Quickbooks Online in its global market expansion. Rajan has helped with over a dozen cross border strategic acquisitions He is an alumnus of IIIT-H and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science Engineering.

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Capri and Adani join IPL party with Women’s Premier League

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Capri Global and Adani Sportline will join the Indian Premier League (IPL) when its newest version – the Women’s Premier League (WPL) – takes off later this year. The two teams bookended the winning bidders for five cities. The rest of the teams were picked up by IPL franchises. All, except Chennai Super Kings, showed interest in the process.

The WPL is running against the clock to be played from March 4 to 24 – after the T20 Women’s World Cup and the IPL in March-April. According to sources close to the proceedings, headline.ae understands the WPL will be held in the first year in and around Mumbai to reduce travel times and fit into the calendar.

The inaugural version of the WPL is a landmark development in the history of Indian cricket, the richest board in the world. The WPL will fetch a total of US$527 million (Dh1.93 billion) for the governing Board of Control for Cricket in India.

Five cities were picked by the winners after an auction arranged at short notice in Mumbai. In 2008, Rajasthan Royals proved to be a Moneyball team as the lowest bidders but going on to win the tournament on debut.

Capri Global will be hoping to emulate Rajasthan Royals, while picking Lucknow as their choice venue. Adani Sportsline (Ahmedabad), Mumbai Indians (Mumbai), Royal Challengers Bangalore (Bangalore), Delhi Capitals (New Delhi) are the other owners of the teams.

Company Franchise Winning bid (Dhs)
Adani Sportsline Pvt. Ltd Ahmedabad 586 million
Indiawin Sports Pvt. Ltd (MI) Mumbai 415 million
Royal Challengers Sports Pvt. Ltd (RCB) Bangalore 409.5 million
JSW GMR Cricket Pvt. Ltd (DC) Delhi 368 million
Capri Global Holdings Pvt. Ltd Lucknow 344 million

“Lucknow holds a special place in the north of India. Although Mumbai remains our corporate headquarters for operational reasons, the northern belt of the country is also equally important from the viewpoint of our customer base,” said Rajesh Sharma, Director of Capri Global Capital Ltd, which also owns the Sharjah Warriors franchise in the inaugural six-team ILT20 being played in the UAE.

The leading Indian Non-banking Financial Company also owns the Bengal Warriors team in Pro Kabbadi League and the Rajasthan Warriors franchise in KhoKho.

“Capri Global’s association with WPL has been strategic in achieving our vision of encouraging sports across all strata and genders and establishing a deeper connect with our stakeholders and customers. We believe cricket is the most natural route to further that vision given its history in India,” said Sharma, pictured.

With the amount of sale from franchise and media rights, the WPL will become the second-richest cricketing league behind the IPL only.

Among women’s team sports in the world, the WPL will take third spot among the richest behind the Women’s NBA and the Super League football in the UK. The auction for players, with seven from overseas allowed, will happen in the first week of February at an undisclosed date yet. Registration for players has started.

For the moment, Capri Global is content basking in the company of the highest bidder Adani Sportsline as the two non-IPL teams out of the five winners of the day. “We are happy to associate with the Women’s Premier League and extend our vision for sports in India while shining light on the women of India,” Sharma said. “With the Lucknow WPL team, we are extremely proud to be a part of this historic moment in cricket and especially in being able to extend our support to some of the most tremendously talented women in sport.”

Viacom18 has secured the Women’s Premier League (IPL) media rights value for the 2023-2027 cycle for Rs 951 crores ($2.5 billion).

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InsurTech company Wellx straps on free Fitbit for UAE residents

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UAE’s insurance platform Wellx has partnered with Fitbit to encourage insurees to stay healthy throughout the year while covering them with a policy linked to their well-being.

Wellx plans to connect their platform with the API of Fitbit, Google’s fitness wearable company, and have access to activity data upon user consent to enable them to set fitness goals and unlock rewards while achieving them.

Founded in 2021, Wellx is an insurtech company which combines digital medical insurance and wellness. The startup is also part of the DIFC Fintech Hive’s 2022 Accelerator Programme.

“Our association with Fitbit will enable us to turn a traditional financial product into an engaging lifestyle product by gamifying the individual wellness journey,” said Vaibhav Kashyap, Wellx co-founder & CEO. “By incentivising our customers to care for themselves, and rewarding them financially, we expect to change the way customers perceive insurance. Our aim is to become their everyday health companions and remind them of the benefits of staying healthy.” Javed Akberali is Kashyap’s founding partner at Wellx.

Wellx has brought together an ecosystem of wellness-focused services and products, with the singular goal of making insurance fun, engaging and impactful.

“By associating with locally grown companies whose prime focus is health & wellbeing of people of UAE, we at Fitbit are supporting our bigger mission of helping everyone in the world become healthier. Through this association, Wellx customers will be able to get even the recently announced Fitbit smartwatches & trackers including Sense 2, Versa 4 and Inspire 3, that feature some most advanced wellness capabilities; these devices will enable users to have a holistic view of their health and wellness.” said David Amehame, Regional Sales Manager, Middle East & Africa, Fitbit at Google.

Nicola Maxwell, Head of Fitbit Health Solutions EMEA, said: “This association shows how Fitbit can help to support innovation in health tech in the region. Over the years, Fitbit has worked globally with leading health insurers to promote healthy behaviour change. We’re happy to collaborate with Wellx here in the UAE to support them on their journey to launch unique insurance plans that will provide lifestyle benefits when customers achieve their health and wellness targets – tracked by Fitbit devices.”

You can sign up for an insurance plan with Wellx digitally using any web browser or smartphone on www.wellxai.com.

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Usain Bolt claims $12 million stolen from investment account

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Lawyers representing Usain Bolt, the world-record sprinter, claim that a significant portion of his funds held in an account with a private investment firm, Stocks & Securities Limited, have gone missing.

The account, which originally held $12.8 million, is now allegedly at just $12,000.

The lawyers have stated that they will take legal action, both civil and criminal, if the money is not returned within the next 10 days.

“If this is correct, and we are hoping it is not, then a serious act of fraud larceny or a combination of both have been committed against our client,” Bolt’s attorneys told The Associated Press.

The Jamaica Financial Services Commission has announced an investigation into the firm, and have assumed temporary management of the company. The firm is allowed to continue operating but needs government approval for any transactions.

“We understand that clients are anxious to receive more information and assure you that we are closely monitoring the matter throughout all the required steps and will alert our clients of the resolution as soon as that information is available,” the commission said.

On Tuesday, Jamaica’s Financial Services Commission (FSC) announced that it had taken over temporary management of SSL after discovering alleged fraud committed by a client relationship manager at the company.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Everton McFarlane, executive director at the FSC, stated that to the knowledge of the FSC, this level of fraud had never occurred before.

McFarlane went on to say that employee theft is a risk all businesses face and that businesses, especially financial institutions, take this risk very seriously. He also emphasised that the alleged fraud at SSL is not indicative of the risk for the entire industry.

According to Reuters, SSL had previously issued a statement on January 12, acknowledging fraudulent activity by a former employee and stating that the matter had been referred to law enforcement.

“To the knowledge of the FSC, this level of fraud has never happened before,” said McFarlane.

“Employee theft is a risk all businesses face and is a risk that businesses for the most part, and in particular financial institutions, take very seriously … This despicable act of dishonesty by an employee at SSL, and possibly with collaborators, we believe cannot be taken as symptomatic of the risk for the entire industry.”

Usain Bolt gained fame and recognition for his gold medal wins at the Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016 Olympics. He holds the current world records for the 100-meter and 200-meter races, which were set at the 2009 world championships in Berlin with a time of 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds respectively.

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