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Acquisitions, big or small, must make sense: SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg

Dave Goldberg, who runs SurveyMonkey, a Palo Alto (California) firm that lets users create online surveys, has his eyes on India this year. The company has made foray into the Indian market for some time now and managed to gain considerable traction in terms of a 60,000-strong user base. But it is now keen to drive growth even further and chalking out winning strategies to succeed in a price-sensitive market. Techcircle.in caught up with Goldberg at the recently held India Internet Day, organised by TiE, as he discussed the company's India strategy, acquisition rationale, competition and the current startup scenario. Here are the excerpts.

SurveyMonkey was created as a cost-effective and modern alternative to traditional market research. How do you see the business in India?

SurveyMonkey is a user-friendly online survey solution provider with a global appeal. It helps users create online surveys for free and charges up to $65 a month for elaborate ones. Our goal is clear – we collect data to help users make informed decisions based on what their target audience wants.

Even in India, we see people using it to survey their customers, employees, partners and suppliers to understand what people want and make changes accordingly. Lots of companies across industry sectors like technology, manufacturing and education are heavily using it to add value to their offerings.

What's your growth strategy here? How do you plan to tap the opportunities in India, which is extremely price sensitive?

For one, we have introduced our pricing in INR about a year and a half ago and lowered the rates by half, as compared to other markets. This strategy has worked well in a price-sensitive market like India and the local market has shown significant uptake in terms of free and paid services.

This year, SurveyMonkey is keen to grow its business India and will do some effective marketing to create brand awareness, which is now considerably low. Promotional activities will start later this year and the US team will take part in it. Plus, we will do some stuff locally.

What's your acquisition rationale? Do you have any acquisition plan on the anvil here in India?

SurveyMonkey has acquired three survey tools (Precision Polling, Wufoo and Zoomerang) and also picked up stake in the UK-based company Clicktools. We always look at acquisition where it makes sense – be it small or big. Right now, we don't see any scope for acquisition in India. But in case something comes up, we will surely go ahead with it.

We acquired Zoomerang as it was our direct competitor. The move helped us access its customer base and integrate the products. Moreover, it had a fairly large business in India, which enabled us to strengthen our position in this country. Apart from customer base and product integration, we also look forward to adding talents while going for acquisitions. Precision Polling is a great example that way. Their team is now developing products on our platform. As for Wufoo, adding customer base and product offerings was the rationale. We thought it was better than ours, so we got them to join us.

What's your funding strategy? How much have you raised till date?

SurveyMonkey was set up in 1999 by the Finley brothers, Ryan and Chris, and it has been profitable since its start. The company never required investor capital to grow its business. But in 2009, the founders sold the company to Spectrum Equity and Bain Capital. Since then, we have used debt financing, which is kind of usual for internet companies, to pay for some acquisitions we have made.

How competitive is the Indian scenario?

True, there are other people who are doing similar business. But till now, nobody has been able to gain traction or significant scale. Taking advantage of this situation, it's our job to let people know about our products and get the messages across to our customers. We already have 60,000 users in India – far ahead than the existing companies in this domain.

You work with a company called Smartling that helps you manage the translation part for non-English surveys. But will it help in a country like India that has several native languages?

On the contrary, it can be a very interesting product for the Indian market. Smartling basically serves our foreign language sites through a proxy in the Cloud. It translates the content for 50 other language sites we already have. And this makes our business a lot more cost effective and helps us add as many languages as required. But right now, we don't have plans to enter the vernacular market in India.

SurveyMonkey is also available in the Google Apps Marketplace. How would it help your business?

Lots of our customers, including those from India, respond to a lot of our surveys via smartphones. It kind of works well for us till the time you have a good browser. In India, where mobile penetration is greater than PC access, this app is sure to click.

Are you looking at some new ways to expand the business? Or do you want to stick to the current business?

Online survey business offers a great opportunity and we can really do a lot of things around it. After the acquisition of Wufoo, customers can use our product as a phone tool. People can register for conferences and plan events. Even a bunch of teachers leverage our platform for quizzes and tests for students.

How has the startup scenario changed over the years?

Well, Internet companies have become a lot cheaper and easier to start. You have everything readymade "the tools, the Web services and the payment platforms. One can just plug in and start his smart company, even with a small team.

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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