Spotlight - Sameer Narkar
Last week we met up with Mr. Sameer, a good friend to the Skcript family and also someone to whom we look upto. Here, Sameer talks about his early journey into the startup world and gives us a peek into what to expect while starting up. We couldn’t think of a better way to start off the Skcript OG Series - now over to the man of the hour!
Skcript OG Series, Stamp 1
Sameer is the Founder Director of Konnect Insights. Konnect Insights is a social listening and analytics tool that is widely used by many top brands from various sectors such as Telecom, BFSI, Entertainment, IT, Pharma and few others. It helps track and understand conversations from all over the web such as News, Blogs, Forums, Consumer Forums and social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
1. Tell us about your early career.
After my engineering in Electronics and Telecommunications, I started working as a software developer in a company that was into the financial domain. Whilst using all my programming skills, I started learning more about Software Development and Technology at the same time and I got the opportunity to learn a great deal in the financial domain. I understood how Equity, Derivatives, Insurance and the Mutual Fund industry works. After working for over 6 years in 3 companies as a Software Developer/Solutions Architect I decided to start my startup - Prudence. However, my stint with Entrepreneurship started in my final year of Engineering where I along with my friend did the projects of about 6 other groups - this yielded us about Rs. 1.5 lakhs and gave us the confidence to keep going.
2. How did the idea/concept for your business come about?
The primary product of Prudence is Konnect Insights - a SaaS based social listening and analytics software. When we started Prudence, we started off with a few ideas. One of which was more like the FourSquare app and the other was offering analytics using big-data technologies. As we started building our products we understood the market better and focused all our energies into building the best social listening and analytics product. The idea came from the research that we were doing in those days (around 2011) those were the early days for big-data, also apps were new and hot and I could foresee where the next 5 years was going to be heading. We wanted to build something that was really useful for the users that could help them grow their business. That thought led us to Konnect Insights! 😉
3. How was your first year into the business?
Very easy! (LOL 😁)
Not just the first year but about 4 years were tough! However, I cherish those days when we were faced with challenges of surviving and still building our product and generating more revenue. We did many other software projects to keep us going. Working on other projects helped us build the team! 🙂
4. What marketing strategy did you follow?
The best marketing strategy is word of mouth and that worked best for us in the initial days and even today. Your product should speak for itself. When users hit your website, they sign up for an account, begin using the product and then start using it day in and day out and when they love it, then that’s the best marketing strategy! Rest of it is about reaching out to your target audience and there is social media for it. Content Marketing is the best of all - we use our own product to listen to conversations on the web and engage with them to introduce Konnect Insights. Adwords works well for us and then there are affiliates who resell Konnect Insights. My 2 cents on marketing strategies for startups is to get started by writing about your product on your blog. Simply try and answer questions that your potential customers might have.
5. How was the company’s growth during the initial years?
We made decent profits in the last 2 years and before that too we kept ourselves going by working on various other projects.
6. What is ‘success’ to you? How would you define it?
Success is difficult to define because it is relative. We say Yahoo is a failure but it went down with 4 billion dollars. If we ever reach those figures, it might turn out to be a great ’success’ 🙂
To keep things simple, I go by what Rancho from 3 Idiots said, ‘Chase excellence and success will follow’ 😉
7. What according to you is the key to success?
The key to success is building a product (a real good one) that is ready for the market. And… ability matters! 🙂
8. What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learnt?
Automate billing. For SaaS products to work, we have to ensure that we are paid on time. Automating your billing helps you in timely payments. For a larger part of Konnect Insights billing we didn’t do this and this was one lesson that we learnt the hard way.
9. Tell us some quotes that you live by.
a) Everything that happens to me is the best thing that can happen to me.
b) Life is a game. There is nowhere to go… and nothing to get!
10. What are some of the toughest things that you’ve had to face while setting up?
The challenges that any startup faces is initial capital and getting the right talent. We were no different. Also, one more major challenge is to get the first few customers for the product that you are building - MVP as they say it.
11. In the face of adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My love towards my work. Sheer focus on the smallest of targets keeps me going through tough times. Work motivates you the most. So, when things are not going your way (say not enough money) then rewarding yourself by achieving these small targets keeps you going. We have a massive product today but it was built by setting small weekly targets and achieving them. Today, I am surrounded by a wonderful team and we all collectively motivate each other.
12. What advice would you give youngsters choosing your field?
Believe in your idea(s)! Do your research. And then give your 120%. Be happy always. A sense of humour always helps. Create a strong team. Keep learning. Keep chasing Excellence! 😉