Towards the tail end of the 20th century and in the early years of the 21st century, India established itself as an IT powerhouse, signalling the dawn of a digital boom. Companies like Infosys, Wipro, HCL, among others helped India become an IT hub and spread the legend of Indian IT engineers around the world. These IT titans created the market that startups such as Zoho and Freshworks are now capitalising on to spread their software-as-a-service (SaaS) empire globally.
Standing on the shoulders of IT giants, India’s SaaS brigade has grown in stature beyond measure and there’s a lengthy list of enterprise tech startups that are adding more solutions to the fray. Bengaluru-based Whatfix is one such up-and-coming SaaS startup that claims to now have 500 enterprise customers globally. Speaking at the DigitalOcean TIDE event, CEO and cofounder Khadim Batti told Carly Brantz, CMO of DigitalOcean, “There’s a huge availability of IT professionals in India. These people have experience in building the products and providing IT services to.”
With the right set of IT professionals and a clear vision for building a SaaS infrastructure, Batti and team were able to build Whatfix in a matter of months. He credits the growth of SaaS to the IT talent pool and the infrastructure that Indian IT giants had built over the past two decades.
Founded in 2013 by Batti and Vara Kumar Namburu, Whatfix is a SaaS-based enterprise tech startup. Batti said that Whatfix is a digital adoption solutions provider. He calls this domain as a relatively new category in SaaS while claiming that the company is now one of the key players in the segment.
As a digital adoption solutions provider, Whatfix provides support to businesses that want to test the waters with enterprise and project management software to find the best operational fit. The startup also helps the clients to understand how they can maximise the efficiency and increase the return on investment (ROI) on tech enterprise tools that they are already using.
So far, Whatfix has raised $50 Mn in funding from marquee investors such including Sequoia Capital, Helios Ventures, Cisco, Eight Road Ventures and angel investors. In the niche SaaS segment, Whatfix competes against WalkMe, Pendo, Appcues, TTS, Totango, Nickelled, Inline Manual, among others.
Building Out Of India
Batti credited the growth and adoption of cloud technology for helping it scale the operations as the demand increased for its SaaS product. “Cloud has democratised the plane,” he added. As of now, 95% of its clients are based outside India. Batti said that around 75% of them are from the US, even though Whatfix started in India. “We achieved this as most of the customers were already running their operations online. This helped us to grow rapidly.”
When asked what’s the secret sauce of Whatfix’s growth globally and the lessons for Indian SaaS startups, Batti said that doing the fundamentals right helped the company to scale. “Things like getting the right team is a major factor behind the growth. Top-notch consumer service is a must. Be a partner, instead of a supplier or a vendor to of the clients,” he added. However, Batti believes that first and foremost factor is actually solving the right pain point of the clients.
Covid-19 Impact On SaaS Growth
Currently, most businesses are facing a severe impact on their revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Whatfix isn’t immune to its effects. Batti said that sales are low currently as most businesses are looking to conserve cash instead of buying new subscriptions for software.
However, Batti believes things to change soon as most businesses will continue to operate with a remote workforce. “Clients will go for Whatfix’s SaaS offering that increases the output of companies while reducing the costs of tech enterprise tools,” he added.
Batti also expects that opportunities for other SaaS companies are going increase as remote working is going to be the new normal. “These opportunities were already there but Covid-19 has accelerated the demand.”
According to a report by Datalabs by Inc42, businesses are continuing to make ends meet through remote working, team management tools and SaaS products despite the disruption brought in by the pandemic.
Loginext’s CEO Dhruvil Sanghvi believes that many small and medium businesses would be coming online and that’ll drive the growth of SaaS startups. “SaaS for SMBs is the white space in the market right now, as there is no significant player currently and none with more than $1 Bn in revenue,” Sanghvi told Inc42 in one the ‘Ask Me Anything’ sessions.
Meanwhile, founder and CEO of Snapdeal Kunal Bahl suggested startups will use SaaS tools for cost optimisation. “SaaS solutions provide an easy and cost-effective option for large and expensive tech development projects,” Bahl noted.