“Stop selling. Start helping.” – Zig Ziglar
It seems this same thought crossed Arunabh Das Sharma’s mind in July 2016, when, after 25 years of a successful stint in companies like Coca-Cola India, ITC, Whirlpool, Bennett & Coleman and Co. Ltd. (Times Group) etc., Arunabh realised the annihilation, which the front end sales segment had been facing for long.
Front end sales that usually take place in a highly-negotiated pricing environment require the sales personnel to take prompt decisions. However, the existing decision-making hierarchy causes unnecessary delays in finalising the deal most of the time. This leads to a fall in personal credibility and the relationship-building ability of the sales personnel, further affecting future leads as well.
Also, growing competition, technology advancements, and aggregated buying, have been putting pressure on net realisations (yields) or margins for the companies and sales managers in particular.
Arunabh realised that by correlating all his local and global experience, there lies an opportunity to create a sales guidance product – a system which would give them insights about the clients they are supposed to meet, and insights about the right amount to be quoted for their product.
This led to the conception of Sagacito – a B2B, cloud-based, mobile-first enterprise products startup backed with data analytics. In this endeavour, he was joined in by Ravi Dhariwal, Ex-CEO of Bennett & Coleman and Co. Ltd, and Meeta Sachdev, Ex-Head of Ad Sales Strategy and Pricing at BCCL.
Within just four months of launch, the founders claim to hold a monthly revenue of $200K and are backed by Star India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty First Century Fox Inc. The company has, to date, raised $9.2 Mn ($1 Mn for 10% equity and the rest as an ongoing revenue for next five years).
Using Predictive Analytics To Deliver Intelligence, Acumen, And Insight
Sagacito offers a Business Intelligence (BI) solution for revenue management services that deliver ‘value’ creation and ‘margin’ expansion. It works with both structured and unstructured data to create machine learning-based algorithms to positively impact business outcomes.
The team aims to maximise impact on profit margins and market shares for a range of industries like media, entertainment, healthcare, logistics, hospitality, and travel.
As explained by Arunabh, “In most businesses, front-line ad sales have to be strongly guided. This guidance has to be both easy to understand and apply. This is a non-trivial challenge that requires sophisticated data science, scalable technology, and adaptive algorithms behind the scenes to create simple actions that impact business bottom lines positively.”
So, how does it work? “We allow for managers at all levels of the organisation to make informed decisions and create processes that allow for “Pre-Fact” intervention and “Post-Fact” analysis,” he tells.
In simple terms, ‘pre-fact’ implies that every approval comes before the transaction, thereby helping sales persons make immediate decisions. “Most BI systems are ‘post-fact,’ based on historical data, and waste a lot of time. And wasted time is wasted productivity in today’s age. This maximises every single transaction that happens,” said Arunabh.
All this is manifested through data visualisation dashboards using their own “RIVET” philosophy, which implies that the dashboards are Real-time, Interactive, Visual, Easy and Touch-enabled.
As Arunabh stated,
“In today’s age, a lot of technology is being used. But how that technology is being experienced by the user, that is where I think we can create some disruption. People who are not tech-savvy – how do they use it and how is their experience with the technology – that is where Rivet comes in.”
P-Mod, Y-Max, P-Gov, Rev-X: The Four Pillars Of Sagacito’s Foundation
Sagacito offers four products to enterprises to help combat the challenges faced by their sales teams. One can opt for the complete suite or even individual product, as per the requirement.
Under P-Mod, the Sagacito team first look at the company’s data and creates a whole planning tool for them, wherein they can do the real-time sensitivity analysis on any number of ‘what ifs,’ etc. “From here we can also have a very strong deployment plan to the field. So, this is meant to be used for the senior management,” explained Arunabh.
Another product, Y-Max is a data science-based predictive pricing engine which takes into account the multiple factors such as client’s behaviour patterns, dynamic ad inventory, etc. For example, the consumer’s pattern of buying can help judge the most-likely price he is willing to pay. So, it does away with the clients to create pricing for every category of the product and tries to create the most likely price for every single transaction. This helps in getting faster quote time and optimisation of proposal.
Next, comes P-Gov which takes care of the final discounts/negotiations to be made at the table. It makes sure that the approvals come before the transaction happens, to make the best out of the current deal.
All things said, the one prime concern for any organisation is its revenue. As per a basic marketing principle, there are only two ways of maximising revenue – either one can get current clients to buy more or make sure that they don’t stop buying the product. Or else, find new customers every time.
For this company has developed another product, Rev-X or the revenue multiplier that rescues companies and does real-time churn management. Arunabh explained this as, “It tells you real-time cross-sale and up-sale recommendations so that you can sell more to the existing clients. It also tells you which of your current clients are at risk.”
Of India’s Nascent Outsourcing Environment, Unrealistic Expectations, And More
Despite several startup initiatives, Arunabh feels that the most difficult task is still to set up a company in India. As he said,
“The paperwork, the number of things you need to take care of – taking it all into account – the ecosystem is still not very well-developed. To get a company started, you can very easily get a lot of things outsourced. However, I think that outsourcing environment in this country is still quite under-developed and not fully professional.”
Also, because of the startup boom in the last three or four years, expectations have become completely unrealistic, thereby making it difficult to ramp up the team size, he stated.
If we talk about the competition, then there are international counterparts like PROS, VISTAAR, zilliANT, vendavo, syncron, FICO, and more.
However, Arunabh does not count any of them as a direct competition. He further added, “The supply ecosystem is still nascent, especially in APAC and EMEA region, with clear white spaces in media and healthcare sectors and only few incumbents offering predictive, fully-mobile, SaaS solutions.”
Furthermore, the Sagacito team looks forward to doing a few, strong pilot projects in industries such as hospitality and consumer products, with an aim to make its products better. The immediate priority is to make sure that the team delivers according to their contract.
The founders are also looking first at industry expansion rather than going for geographic expansion, with internal priority on developing technology leadership.
With business intelligence and analytics dominating SaaS investments, media addressable market (which includes digital advertising, cinema, tv advertising, audio entertainment, etc.) size is forecasted to reach $2 Tn by 2019, as cited by Arunabh.
In the words of Philip Kotler, an American marketing author, consultant, and professor, selling is only the tip of the marketing iceberg. What is unseen is the extensive market investigation, the research and development of appropriate products, the challenge of pricing them right, of opening up distribution, and of letting the market know about the product.
How and with what efficiency will the current solutions such as Sagacito and its ilk, be able to justify the client’s need, is yet to be determined.