Around five years ago, at a time when e-mail was just catching the fancy of marketers, Digvijay Bhandari and Samarth Saxena were running a venture called Digsam Software Technologies, a web services firm providing marketing models for companies in India, UK and Australia.
During an interaction, one of their clients, Punit Modhgil (who was a director with Microsoft then), came up with an impromptu idea – a marketing company powered by e-mail in India. The idea catapulted the client to a partner — Bhandari, Saxena and Modhgil founded Octane in 2007.
In the initial days, it was more a part-time venture. Gradually things started moving at a rapid pace and Octane began to gain traction, prompting the founders to get into it ‘full time’. Started as an e-mail marketing platform, Octane currently offers e-mail and SMS communication and has also developed a social media tracking tool.
With 120 customers currently, Octane, which counts companies like Snapdeal, EasyPolicy and many more, is looking at starting multi-channel marketing that will include affiliate marketing as well. All this, despite shunning the usual run-of-the-mill mass mailing trend.
“We only do permission-based e-mail marketing. We are easily shooting 400 million e-mails per month and all are permission-based, we don’t believe in spamming mailboxes,” informed Bhandari.
Though the standard rate is about 50 paisa per e-mail, due to the huge volumes, the rates become considerably low per e-mail sent. Essentially, the rate depends on the volume as well as the frequency of the e-mails, Bhandari said.
The USP, as Bhandari puts, lies in the way the company use e-mail and SMS as a marketing platform. “We are interactive, personalised and engaging and we ensure feedback reaches back to our clients,” he said.
Though e-commerce accounts for the biggest chunk of the company’s clientele, Octane, selected as one of the 20 hottest technology startups as part of Techcircle Fastrack 2012, is now gaining clients from banking and travel sectors as well, Bhandari said.
Earlier, the business model followed by Octane was of a use-as-you-go service, wherein clients could use the service as a SaaS platform and pay on the basis of number of e-mails sent.
Recently though, it has launched another model, which is a configured service. It means that the software is installed in the premises of the client and is managed by Octane. The client doesn’t pay on the basis of number of e-mails sent, but on a monthly rental basis.
A profitable, debt-free company, as Bhandari puts it, Octane is looking to scale up in terms of channels it caters to. “We already do e-mail and SMS and now we are looking to add social media as well as affiliate marketing to our portfolio,” he stated.
Geographical expansion is also on the cards. Octane is soon opening an office in the US. “Most clients are from India and we are focussed on Indian market. But lately, we have had some clients from US. Brazil’s leading deal site is our client. So we are looking to set up base in the US. It should be done before March next year,” Bhandari added.
Octane competes with players like Netcore, a Mumbai-based provider of digital marketing solutions backed by well known Internet entrepreneur Rajesh Jain, Cheetahmail, Epsilon and a few resellers of foreign companies. Also there are US-based companies like Constant Contact and Mailchimp who provide service to Indian clients, however, they are governed by strict ant-spamming laws.
“Our USP is integrated solution for our clients. With our social media tracking tool, one can send mails through our marketing channel and also monitor what people are saying about their brand on social media,” he said.
“Changing the behaviour of a marketer is the biggest challenge. Explaining to them why spamming is not needed is difficult. We had to say no to a lot of business opportunities since we don’t indulge in unnecessary spamming,” Bhandari said on the challenges faced by them.
Headquartered in Delhi, with another sales office in Mumbai, Octane has a team of 40. It claims to have grown 600 per cent in revenue from its last fiscal year and aims to double its revenue in the coming financial year. The company, which has been bootstrapped till now, is now looking to raise venture capital for funding expansion.
(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)