Cloud telephony co Exotel dials talent for growth

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on September 19, 2016

Shivakumar Ganesan, Managing Director, Exotel

Sees huge growth potential in e-commerce and logistics start-ups

Hailed a taxi recently using an aggregator app, or got beauty services at your doorstep, or ordered frilly lingerie from an e-commerce site?

Chances are, cloud telephony company Exotel helped power the ride, managed the beauticina appointment, and even confirmed the cash-on-delivery for the undergarments.

As more convenient modes of communication emerge, enterprises are dialling cloud-based telephony services to stay abreast of the latest. Exotel is one such company, founded by Shivakumar Ganesan, Ishwar Sridharan and Siddharth Ramesh in 2011, to solve the pain points of managing calls and SMS from customers without getting into the hassles of a call centre or be bound to one phone.

Currently handling over a thousand customers, including Ola, Zivame, Belita, Swiggy, Godrej, Expedia, Urban Ladder, Practo, redBus and Zoomcar, Exotel is keen to tap into the huge growth potential across sectors “especially in e-commerce and logistics start-ups. Over the past few months, we have seen good adoption and demand, driving our growth and hiring plans,” says Shivakumar Ganesan, Co-founder and CEO.

With businesses using features of Exotel such as IVR, call recordings and API (application programming interface) to build telephony applications, Exotel plans to triple its headcount by the end of the year.

Talent hiring

Stating that one of the biggest assets for a start-up is its people, Ganesan says, “A start-up has to invest a lot of time, money and effort in hiring the best talent. And since good talent is expensive, one needs to look at it as a long-term investment. It is important to find a way to excite top talent and retain it.”

Ganesan says it is especially challenging for start-ups to get the right employees. “In the beginning of the journey, there will be more naysayers than believers. So, it might be tempting to hold on to the first person who shows interest in you. However, you need to take the time to find the right co-founder and the initial set of employees. The need to move fast may confuse you from waiting for the right talent.”

Building a great biz

Ganesan adds that of the many factors in play, the only one that can be controlled in a start-up is the co-founder relationship. “The quality of an entrepreneur depends on how objective the person can be about a problem and build a foresight based on reality. Unexpected problems will crop up at every stage,” he says. “But keeping a clear head and the interest of the company at heart go a long way in building a great business.”

A BITS Pilani graduate, Ganesan worked with Yahoo, building products like maps and navigation for five years. He was also the vice-president of products and technology at Flipkart, before stepping out to start in 2010 Roopit, a micro-classifieds site, enabling peer-to-peer buying and selling.

“A year later, I pivoted from Roopit to Exotel,” says Ganesan. “I did that because at that point I felt that I found a larger opportunity with Exotel. In a way, Roopit was ahead of its time. Since mobile was a crucial component of my customer-to-customer business model at Roopit, the mobile phone penetration was not high as it is today,” he adds, terming it the main cause for failure.

Chemistry issues

Ganesan says some start-ups tend to fail “because the idea is ahead of its time. There are those who are forced to shut or pivot due to regulatory issues. And there are those that fail due to immature management.”

The foremost reason start-up failure has “nothing to do with the business. It usually has to do with chemistry issues between co-founders. Entrepreneurs set out to solve a very real customer pain point, but somewhere along the journey, when faced with problems, it affects the relationship between co-founders and that eventually can break the company.”

Premature scaling

Another issue could be premature scaling, “when it looks like a start-up has identified a product market fit and is in the ‘growth hacking’ mode, it grows without a clear plan for monetisation, or a value proposition, or just drive growth through discounting. This causes them to burn out,” he adds.

However, eager to take the leap of faith to execute, nurture and grow an idea calls for a tribe of people termed entrepreneurs. “Fortunately,” he adds, “this breed is on the rise.”

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Published on September 19, 2016
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