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Signing a foreign client is easier than closing deals with Indian customers: Experts @ Techcircle SaaS Forum

Given the fast-growing global SME market, Indian SaaS startups have huge growth potential across markets if they get their acts right, said the industry veterans and venture capitalists at the second edition of Techcircle SaaS Forum held in Bangalore on Wednesday (August 7, 2013).

According to Aneesh Reddy, co-founder and CEO of Capillary Technologies, a cloud-based CRM startup, Indian SaaS companies have the potential to be profitable faster than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, provided they market their products in an effective manner. He also mentioned that a homegrown SaaS company can do much better in the global markets if it has a local entity (subsidiary) in the respective markets. "We focus more on international markets as selling a product is much easier there, compared to India," said Reddy.

He also added that customers in the developed markets (such as the US) would look at the product quality, rather than cost efficiency. "However, customers outside India are not as forgiving as Indian customers (in case things have deviated a little for some reason or others)," he noted.

During another panel discussion, Ambarish Gupta, founder and CEO of the cloud telephony company Knowlarity Communications, said that the product unit, customer acquisition engine and operations engine – all need to work in sync in order to get going right in the initial years of a SaaS business. "The first few years are crucial for a SaaS venture as the company and its products are mainly driven by market response at that time," he explained.

For Nevales Networks' co-founder and CEO Kaushik Thakkar, the biggest issue is hiring the mid-management people. "The biggest scalability issue we are facing is related to mid-management. It is very difficult to get mid-management people for a SaaS business." Nevales Networks is a cloud-based managed security services provider to enterprises.

Venkat Raju, a member of the Indian Angel Network and former managing director of ACI Worldwide, Inc., said, "The number of actual sign-ups is very important and one doesn't need to compromise on pricing if he/she is confident about the product."

Avlesh Singh, co-founder and CEO of WebEngage (it caters to online companies and provides customer feedback and survey tools via a SaaS-based model), observed that selling to a customer in a developed market is much easier. "You can sell your product online to a client in the US or Europe, but in India, a client always wants to talk to you over the phone or meet you in person before closing the deal," he said. Singh was speaking in a session on how to acquire customers and sell to global markets.

Aditya Sanghi, co-founder and CEO of Hotelogix, which provides a cloud/web-based hospitality system to hotels across various foreign markets, mentioned that a channel partner is very important in context with the global market. "Channel partners are extremely important. However, you need to get them put their skin into your SaaS business to make sure they are serious about selling your product/s. Otherwise, you will end up spending a lot of time in just selling the product."

(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)

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