In the ancient town of Chamba nestled on the bank of Ravi river in Himachal Pradesh, every year, unfailingly, the Minjar fair is held during the monsoons where farmers pray for heavy rains to reap a good harvest. The monsoon festival is celebrated to thank the cloud Gods for the gifts that they bring. It is a small wonder, then that when Vijay Rayapati, Anand, and Aparna Sharma were starting out to build a cloud solutions company for enterprises, the name Minjar fit the bill perfectly.
It was short enough to be remembered as a dotcom name, and had a fabulous story behind it – a story which demonstrated the importance of cloud!
All of the founders had previously built products using virtualisation and cloud computing. Anand, who had worked at Amazon India as Director of Engineering, had co-founded Kuliza, a product engineering firm assisting enterprises and startups build and maintain end-to-end web and mobile products after leaving Amazon India with Aparna who was working at Oracle prior to that. Vijay who was working at a startup Gizapage as CTO, left it to became CTO at Kuliza.
That’s when the trio started Minjar after noticing that many businesses were adopting cloud computing for their business infrastructure.
Vijay begins, “We had a gut feel that cloud will be the common infrastructure for future business applications, so we saw big opportunity in this space. Given our experience at Trilogy, VMLogix, Oracle and Kuliza, we decided to start Minjar to offer ‘intelligent technology for cloud management by businesses’ through our Botmetric Technology Platform.”
Thus, began Minjar’s journey in early 2013, as a company that provided tools and solutions to businesses migrating to the cloud and helping them manage their cloud enterprises. Focussing on B2B businesses from day one, it helped them deploy cloud applications and run them seamlessly. Towards the end of 2014, the team launched their first SaaS product – Botmetric – in public beta in the US.
Since the launch of Botmetric, the company has grown by leaps and bounds, specialising in cloud implementation and consulting to help companies leverage the business value and benefits offered by cloud computing. So much so that, in two years the Bengaluru-based startup became a Premier Partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS), the only startup in the Asia Pacific region to achieve the feat. There are less than 50 Premier AWS global partners out of 15,000+ AWS partners worldwide. The company has now built a growing partnership with Microsoft Azure, which is the second-largest cloud platform after AWS.
Indeed, the cloud gods have been a blessing for the cloud solutions provider itself.
Botmetric: A Virtual Cloud Engineer
What Minjar focusses on is using technology intelligently for solving business problems. It offers an intelligent cloud operations platform, Botmetric, that acts as a virtual cloud engineer to reduce the human effort involved in day-to-day cloud operations. Botmetric eliminates repetitive tasks, learns from repetitive or common problems and acts as an autopilot software for cloud management. It also helps reduce cloud costs, improve security compliance, besides automating DevOps for businesses.
Says Vijay, “The tech behind Botmetric is built on a single thought – how can we apply machine intelligence to solve your every day DevOps problem in the cloud world. Our customers save anywhere from 10% to 30% of their cloud spend, after using Botmetric while reducing weeks of human effort every month through smart automation.”
Besides Botmetric, Minjar also provides two more products viz. Smart Managed Cloud Services and SmartAssist Services, comprising cloud readiness assessment, migration, implementation, and cloud review audits, which together help a client’s cloud infrastructure to be optimised 24X7 and 365 days. Through SmartAssist, clients also receive assistance from validated AWS experts in addition to Botmetric’s cloud operations platform.
The idea being – migrating to a cloud infrastructure and managing it has its own operational challenges. What Minjar aims to do is to manage monitoring, backups, deployments, architecture design, and security in such a way that a client’s team can focus on Apps instead of DevOps.
Minjar Growth Trajectory: 150 + Clients, Managing $1 Bn In Cloud Services
The focus on the growing adoption of cloud technologies by enterprises is paying off for the Minjar team. Focussed on B2B enterprises, Minjar now boasts a clientele set of more than 150, with 70% of its clients coming from the US. Some of its marquee clients include Samsung, Intuit, SolarWinds, InterTouch, JitterBit, Godrej, Aditya Birla Fashion, Voonik, Prezi, PopSugar, Axcient, AirPR, Takt, Coconuts Media, and Dashbid among others.
Minjar’s cost structure is based on cloud usage and the SaaS subscription starts at $6K per year for its DIY SaaS Cloud Management and Human-Assisted Cloud Management solutions. The 100 member firm’s current ARR stands at $3 Mn, a number it is looking to push to $5 Mn in this year.
Vijay reveals, “Minjar manages almost $1 Bn in cloud services now. Some of our customers are companies who spend around $25 Mn in cloud services annually with growing usage.”
And all this has come despite having a single sales person in the US last year. Currently, the startup has a small team of three people in the US, which it plans to grow to five people by end of the year, which also includes hiring local sales people in the US.
Along the way, the startup has raised $1 Mn in funding from Valley-based angels in 2016. Having been angel funded by IT infrastructure industry veterans from CISCO, VMware, Facebook etc. during its early journey has helped it to attract enterprise customers both in US and India. A new fundraising is in the process, as it gears up for crossing the $5 Mn mark in ARR.
Banking On More Intelligent Software
In the next three years, Minjar wants to grow over 100% for next three years, to become a default cloud management software for enterprise businesses in that time frame. This ambitious target comes on the back of the fact that cloud management is a new space being created with the rapid adoption of Public Cloud (offerings from AWS, Google, Microsoft) by businesses and enterprise customers across the world. As companies use the cloud more for their applications and business infrastructure, their need for a Cloud Operations Platform – like Botmetric to improve their ROI and reduce manual cloud operations will increase.
“Botmetric is built using machine intelligence to reduce the manual/human effort involved in cloud management and DevOps work by engineers. We are incorporating more AI-related features to provide intelligent optimisation and automation,” says Vijay.
He adds that the startup leverages various machine learning algorithms for cloud optimisation, anomaly detection processes, and event diagnostics etc. to provide intelligent automation and smart remediation so engineers can focus on daily business instead of day-to-day DevOps problems.
This is how the SaaS startup aims to get to its next 500 customers. But Vijay reveals that despite India’s burgeoning SaaS market, the bulk of them will still come from US and not India.
The Minjar Mantra: Focus On Your Biggest Market
India may be a developing SaaS market with SaaS adoption by businesses on the rise but, for Minjar, the focus will still continue to be on the US.
Says Vijay, “When we started, we did the mistake of focussing on India, first. At that time, we were focussing on startups but we soon realised they were not our customers. So, even if we are planning to go to 500 customers in the coming years, we know that 80% of them will be from outside India.”
And that’s why his advice to SaaS founders on building a global SaaS startup from India is crystal clear: “Decide the market and the market segment you want to focus on. Focus on your biggest market rather than your smallest market.”
Some of this has to do with the fact that Minjar had a tough time finding the right sales talent in the country. He explains, “Salespeople are tough to find for selling cloud. There are very limited SaaS marketing and sales talent available in India for B2B SaaS companies is limited.”
This, at times, poses a challenge for startups like Minjar given that it depends on both inbound and outbound channels for customer acquisition. His advice is to find the right person for this job, in particular. Lastly, he believes that Indian B2B SaaS companies should focus on improving the annual contract value of their SaaS offering through product innovation and reduce churn through customer success as a top priority. That is one way to keep an eye on those soaring customer acquisition costs. As he concludes,
“Our unique advantage from India is that we can provide a great customer success support for SaaS customers. And this can act as a solid differentiator compared to US-based SaaS players.”