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From 0 to $1 Million ARR in 3 years with Indian Customers (blog.kookoo.in)
66 points by kvprashant on Oct 28, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

Congrats on growing a company in Indian market, let alone a bootstrapped one.

I worked for a MNC for past 5 years, i quit this April and started dabbling with new technologies and platforms, with the intent to create a SaaS. As a person who is interested in startup, this article gives me a lot of hope.

Glad to be of some inspiration :)

Awesome! Really great work and it's great to see more success stories from the Indian startup scene. It's particularly heartening that a bootstrapped company can get there. I was working on trying to lay the groundwork for startup in Bangalore last year and was told by many people that I'd fail for the simple reason that government regulation would kill me. There are in fact two spaces that I've been wanting to enter into India: space and education.

On the back of your experiences, I think I feel that maybe I shouldn't feel as discouraged.

Would love to hear more about your journey and the problems you conquered.

Good luck going international!

Government regulation will try its best to make it hard, but it will not kill you :)

Actually, things have improved a lot and in fact the Government is now doing pretty good things in trying to encourage startups, especially the Karnataka and Kerala Governments, where they have setup separate funds for startups.

Space may be a little bit of problem with regulation. But with education startups, you shouldn't have too many issues.

I will write a blog post soon on our learnings in the past 3 years.

Great! Thanks for the feedback and looking forward to the blog post! I'm flying out to Mumbai on Thursday and will be in Bangalore for a few days too, so going to use the opportunity to try and figure out how, what, where, when, and with whom. Any tips, suggestions?

You can find my email on my profile. Please feel free to shoot an email and I will try to introduce you to some nice startup folks in both places.

By the way, you just missed the Product Conclave by Nasscom. This event started today and will go on till Wednesday and would have been an awesome opportunity for you to network with startup minded folks in India.

Thanks! Will shoot you an email after I grab some lunch. Would be great to make the most of this trip and network with startup folks in Mumbai and/or Bangalore.

Shame, sounds like a great event. Perhaps there are others over the next 3 weeks. I'll Google around.

Nice, I'm from Bangalore.

Just wondering what ideas you have on start up's in the Space Industry.

Is there something specific you are aiming at?

Nice! Yes there is in fact ... the small-satellite sector. My background is in Aerospace Engineering so I have quite a good grip on the state of technology and of the market. Last year I spoke to various interested parties in Bangalore, including ISRO, DRDO, and Mahindra Aerospace. I also gave a talk at PESIT in Bangalore at a SpaceUp conference [1], organized by a space startup called DhruvaSpace (who I had advanced talks with to partner with) [2].

The main problem was that although everyone was very excited, to the point of telling me that I'd be crazy not to enter this space (double-meaning intended) in India right now, they also told me to be ready to rip my hair out and scream, not because the startup ecosystem isn't ready for it, but because government regulations are opening things up VERY slowly. People were telling me that nothing will happen within 5 years, possibly 10, so it's a BIG time investment and effort to tussle with government.

I'm still really excited at the ideas I have, because I think they can promote commercial and social use of satellite technology in India to tackle a wide range of problems that my market research indicated are current and real.

[1] http://spaceupindia.org/?page_id=115 [2] http://dhruvaspace.com/

Thanks, As some one working a lot in my spare time and weekends in hopes of doing good side projects, and may be transform it to a business someday. Gives me great hope to see such things happening especially in the Bangalore scene.

I can understand the obvious limitations and regulations the government may likely to place on space industry. Very licenses and permissions may require paying up heavy commissions/bribes- Every one wants a piece of that black money, they are not going to bring in free market reforms here, Because they know once that comes in there will be cut throat competition. Government workplaces won't be able to deal with the quality, quantity and speed of development and will have to ultimately shut down. The reforms will come only if they are sure the industry will die anyway, and would like private players to salvage something out of it.

Will read up on small satellite design. You are very correct that we can solve a ton of problems with small satellites.

Do you know of any good resources to start reading up upon?

Yea, I don't want to get into any shady dealings, and my worry is that especially in a government-dominated sector like the space industry in India, it's very difficult to make headway unless you do. I'm willing to wait it out to some extent, but I guess I have a very short fuse when it comes to idiocy. That's eventually why I decided to wait with the idea.

The other area that I'm really interested in is the MOOC space in India. So I might target that otherwise if it's an easier area to break into.

There's a good page on the NASA website about small sat tech [1]. In addition, there are lotsa specific implementations that you can read about online, like the Cubesat architecture, Cansats etc. And finally, I'd look to university websites to see what tech they're deploying. In Delft, where I'm doing my PhD, we have an on-going small sat program. The first satellite, Delfi-C3 was a great success. Delft-NeXT is going to be launched next month [2].

[1] http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/small_spacecraft/... [2] http://www.delfispace.nl/index.php/delfi-n3xt

Are there any MOOC startups you know of, in India, that one can get involved in?

Actually I don't but I have some ideas of my own that I'd like to test out at some point and see if they fit my model of what the education space in India needs.

There are some interesting articles online and a fair bit off buzz around Indian MOOCs, like [1].

[1] http://www.edukwest.com/first-indian-mooc-will-launch-in-oct...

Kudos! Always good to read product people getting success in Indian market. As you said, the market is not wrong or small, if the value provided by product is good. It's just the way customers in India define value is slightly different than other countries, which is the case everywhere.

Great work and courage, to follow the path to profitability without external funding. Cheers!!! and best of all lucks going forward.

Congrats! And thanks for posting this. Definitely an inspiration for people looking to start a company in India. One of the things you mentioned is that Hyderabad is a growing place for startups. What are other pieces of advice you would give to people starting a company in India? Do you have blogs/forums that I can follow to catch up on the startup news happening in India? Thanks in advance.

And also wish you best of luck for the next year!

If you are starting up in India, then it is best to network with like minded people at events like Startup Saturday.

For blogs, you can checkout nextbigwhat,Medianama, your story and techcircle.

Thanks! That was very useful.

How did you attract SMEs - keeping in mind it looks like your service is aimed at developers? I'm keen to hear what your most common use cases are too.

We try to look at ourselves as solving the communication needs of businesses and the 3 products are 3 ways of solving those needs.

The KooKoo platform is similar to Twilio and allows developers to develop their own innovative voice apps.

Cloudagent.in is a full featured cloud based contact center and this helps businesses run their contact center operations.

Bizphone.in is a virtual PBX/receptionist product and helps companies get a virtual PBX on the cloud.

So though KooKoo is aimed at developers, Cloudagent and BizPhone are aimed at SMEs and we have adapted a separate sales strategy to sell those products. India is a high touch eco system and hence our sales strategy involved both inbound marketing and feet on street.

For KooKoo there have been many innovative use cases, including missed call marketing, developers integrating into various CRMs, integrating voice into their social media strategies and using phone numbers as a tracking system for their ads.

Thanks for posting this. This is Chaitanya from Ozonetel. I can take questions about our journey so far


Congrats. That's quite a neat achievement! There seems to be a bunch of companies quietly plodding away and doing good like this out here.

Would love to see what kind of margins are you hitting, but I guess that would be asking for too much. Quick back-of-the-envelope scribble says you could probably be doing 1-1.5 cr in profit before taxes etc. etc..

A question you can answer: What kind of mix are you seeing in the customer base - digital/non-digital, SME/Large Enterprises?

I am assuming when you mean digital, we got the leads online.

Digital:60% Non-Digital:40%

SME:90% Enterprises:10%

Obviously, though the number of Enterprise customers are less, their pie in the revenue is much more as they pay a lot :)


No, was not asking about lead sourcing. More on the lines that I'd consider an e-commerce company a digital company, while I'd think of an FMCG company as primarily non-digital.

In digital companies, the product awareness tends to be higher, so product education is a smaller chunk of the sales process. It mostly boils down to commercials. Non-digital, education forms a big chunk. This results in different approaches/cycles -- is what I have seen. Thus the question :)

Oh!Ok. Even in that case, its around the same. I would say



As someone who doesn't know much about that region - how prevalent / accessible is the internet?

I hear from friends that are from India / Pakistan of slow internet speeds, access limitations and general bandwidth restrictions - I assume this also plays a part in how big your target audience is, and with the limited speeds / bandwidth available I guess it makes pitching the product slightly harder?

Internet is pretty good in most of India, though we would all love a little bit of extra speed ;)

Though more than the speed of Internet, the telecom regulations play a large part in the solutions provided. For example, VOIP is still not legal in India for end to end communications. So, depending on the regulations our market size may vary.

And since many SMEs in India who are our target market are not Internet savy, our marketing efforts do become slightly harder and we have to rely on more traditional sales.

Ah okay - how difficult is it to convince SME's that tech is the future? I envision most of them are quite content with old school telephony / mail, printing off spreadsheets etc?

From what I see you guys are one of the many startups in the region now bring the old school SMB's/SME's kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Sorry for the questions - I'm fascinated by the challenges faced in developing for a market that doesn't have the same accessibility as that in developed / western countries, not to mention the constraints placed by the local bureaucrats etc.

You'll actually be quite surprised to know that solutions have existed for a long time for PLM/CRM/ERP for various industry segments for SMEs in India.

One of the reasons why they have not done well is that the founders rarely have a technical background and the products are a torture to use. So, familiarity itself is not a problem.

The big issue is that the market needs to see tangible benefits without major turnaround times. That is impossible with even a relatively simple CRM/ERP product. It is hard (often impossible) sell to convince owners that it will take 3-months to complete the roll out.

The alternative is to no attempt a direct entry. Have a smaller product, or a modular feature in the main product, that they can use from day one and reap the benefits of. Get that buy-in and move laterally in pushing your main product.

No problem. Happy to answer :)

Actually its not too difficult to convince SMEs that tech is the future. Most of them are willing to try new things and thanks to the prevalence of smartphones they understand a lot of the terminology.

What is difficult is to convince them that "your" tech is their answer. Though many of them are content with old school gadgets, they will shift once we showcase the advantages of adopting the cloud etc. In most cases, we get into an account by doing a proof of concept so that the businesses get the feel of the system before they buy.

Well done hitting $1m ARR!


Thanks Prashant for posting, this is Prashanth from Ozonetel

You guys should probably do an AMA.

Thats a good idea. Will do that soon. Thanks for the suggestion

Vote up on an AMA!

Congratulations - A great start!

How many employees?

We currently have 40 employees

congrats guys. :)

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