Building a global business from a small market

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Rahul Aggarwal is the founder of Desighill, a creative marketplace for businesses and individuals.

He built it and is running it from India even through only a small percentage of their customer base is represented there.

I want to find out how he’s doing it.

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Rahul Aggarwal

Rahul Aggarwal

Designhill

Rahul Aggarwal is the founder of Designhill, a creative marketplace for businesses and individuals.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. And I keep saying, I want to have more entrepreneurs from outside the U S but I’ve got to tell you it’s a pain in the butt to do it. Not for me, for them.

Joining me direct from India is Rahul . The dude created this, this great marketplace for getting design work done for you could go find a designer and work directly with them, or you can actually, um, you know, crowdsource your design. Uh, Don’t have a budget. You can actually use their software to have the designs created for you.

Even if you don’t have much taste in much style, their templates will help do it for you and they’ll print it out. Anyway, thing does great. And still he’s gotta be up at God. Knows what time in order to do this interview with me, I I’m pretty, I’m appreciative, but dude, how much does it stink to run a company and it American on American businesses and then be in India.

Rahul: I mean, I think that’s become part of parcel of our life now or before that, you know, thanks a lot, Andrew, for having you

Andrew: Thank you for being on here. Oh, and I should say it’s designed Hillier as your company. Yes. Now let’s get into how much of a pain in the butt is it to work in the out of India?

Rahul: To be really honest with You I love it. I mean, because yeah, because, uh, you know, we’ve been doing it for six years, seven years now. And, uh, you know, that’s how we, we jammed off building this business because we wanted to build a global business

Andrew: time is it?

Rahul: it’s half past 11 at night.

Andrew: And you’re clearly doing it at home. I heard somebody in the background that was family that had to quiet down so that we could record. That’s not, that’s not interruption. That’s not difficult.

Rahul: No. I mean, I think they used to it now, isn’t it? I mean, if you’ve done something for so long and the end of the day, it’s something that, you know, if I’m enjoying it and I’m still enjoying it, then I don’t see it to be a pain or a hardship. It’s something that we love. And, you know, we love the fact that we able to solve businesses globally and for a global business.

And you can’t have a timeline, isn’t it?

Andrew: No, I guess you can’t. I always thought that maybe in the early days you needed to do it, but now you don’t, your family was in, in offshore mining.

Rahul: Oh, yes. Yes. Uh, so we still, in fact, we still are, we are one of the first companies in India, uh, who are, now doing exploration for a titanium sweater with windows in seashore. Uh, so that’s something that, you know, I also am a part of as well. That’s something that I started before design hill. Yeah. 2011.

Andrew: but, but not anymore.

Rahul: I am actively in that.

Andrew: What do you need to do in that?

Rahul: So we do a bunch of stuff. I mean, the sense, because it’s it’s, the magnitude is quite different because, uh, all these, uh, offshore areas that we have, these are blocks, uh, 81 square kilometers each. And, uh, we go in with. We, uh, pick up a bunch of sand and we then bring it on shore and we then tested separated basis on specific gravity’s and other

And then we separate out these minerals and put the sand back into the seat.

Andrew: So you’re telling me that when you’re not going online, doing customer service support for somebody who is upset about some design issue, you’re dealing with rare, rare earth minerals.

Rahul: Yeah,

Andrew: What’s your job there?

What’s your personal job at the family?

Rahul: the logistics of the entire operations in terms of, I don’t want into the seat that often to be very honest with you, but, you know, there’s a bunch of stuff that you have to do in terms of, you know, uh, licensing with government agencies, getting licenses, approves, and also looking after part of the operation.

I don’t look at the entire operations there.

Andrew: But it’s your father’s business, I guess. And I think your grandfather’s business, am I right about that?

Rahul: No, this, this, I started when I graduated. I mean, this was an opportunity we Got and because we come from a mining background, so my father’s and my grandfather’s business is an onshore mining business. So this is something we started in

Andrew: And so you personally started off shore mining.

Rahul: Yeah. Yeah. We’ve got an opportunity with that.

I mean, there was a national tender, uh, uh, government of India for the first time actually opened the offshore areas for people to come in and, you know, bid. And we did bid for them. We tied up with companies in us and Netherlands, and we finally succeeded and we got, uh, a bunch of areas that we, you know,

Andrew: So you bid on it, you get this area and then you’re allowed to go in and look for, for valuable minerals.

Rahul: Yeah.

Andrew: this was before you got into design.

Rahul: Yeah, because I, it was 2014. Uh, this was 2011.

Andrew: All right. And then why did you go into design hill if you’re in the business of getting minerals?

Rahul: ’cause uh, you know, to be very honest with you design it as a passion project for me and my brother, I don’t, I mean, it’s something that we wanted to do because we wanted to do something online. Uh, we want you to be in the technology space and we wanted to scale something globally, right. Uh, with, with, with, uh, I mean, we didn’t see a lot of opportunity in terms of, you know, really scaling something.

And I love the technology world. I love the startup ecosystem. Uh, you know, I, I, myself invested in. Two dozen companies, uh, startups. I’ve had some good exits and some not so good exits, but yeah, I mean, I love the fact that, you know, there’s so much energy, you learn so much when you speak to other entrepreneurs.

And I think it’s, there’s so much, there’s so much dynamism that

is, involved

Andrew: you this though, what makes more money? Because my guess is that all the investments that you made in, in startups, you’re basically breaking even, am I right?

Rahul: Uh, if you look at the exits at, um, I’m a bit positive, if you look at the ones that have not exited any, look at the cumulative sum about all the money that got invested in and how much I don’t I’m. Yeah, I’m probably at a breakeven.

Andrew: But probably a breakeven. Right. Okay. And so if you were to compare design hill, which is an incredibly successful online business, if you were to compare the profits from that, with the mineral business, what makes more money?

Rahul: mineral business, because I I’ll tell you why I’ll tell you why. I see there’s a fundamental reason for that. Because with design hill, we could never do that. Nate as a business. I mean, we’ve built an incredible business. We have more than 350,000, uh, designers and artists from around the world, right. More than a hundred countries. Uh there’s so much technology that has been built. It’s a huge platform, millions of lines of code, some machine work seamlessly. But our problem was because we, as, as entrepreneur, I’m also involved in other businesses, not only mining, But there is a, there are a couple of other businesses as well. Uh, so whenever any, we see B they’ve ever approached them, To invest in our company.

We’ve never been able to take that money on because, uh, they would ask me to design and I’ll have to like be separate myself from all other businesses. So, so therefore we took that conscious decision, uh, in the very beginning that we will have to make it a profitable business.

Uh,

Andrew: right there saying, look, you get out of this mining thing. If you’re going to get into this internet business, we can’t have, you also do mining on the side.

We need a guy. Who’s okay. I get it. I’m wondering why you want to do it. You’ve got a background in mining, in your family business. You started a business there.

Why bother with, with an online company? If it’s not even still producing up for all this hard work, still producing as much money.

Rahul: It’s producing, it’s growing organically. I would say like, it’s not growing at the scale of how online businesses should grow, but, uh, because we don’t burn money, right. We don’t put in a hundred and thousands of millions of dollars just to. Advertise we, whatever money we made from it, to be very honest with you, we’ll put everything back till date in the last six years.

And now we’re drawing a single penny from this business because we wanted to scale it. We wanted to grow it. And we wanted to, you know, it’s something like, you know, we put our heart and soul into it, right. I, we didn’t know how to start a business. We didn’t know how to build a technology company. We didn’t know how to hire people.

When we started doing this.

Andrew: Yeah.

Rahul: So we’ve learned so much doing this and, you know, we basically become entrepreneurs with, through this business

Andrew: And is, it is more creative than the mining business. It is a sexier space. If it grows, right, it’s going to have huge value compared to what you invested in it. Um, and it has grown. And so at some point you’ll, if you decide to, you can sell, if you decide to stop investing in growth, you can, uh, you can cash out on an annual basis.

How much money is design hill producing annually?

Rahul: So we are doing, uh, in terms of, uh, the revenues that we make met. Uh, we do about $3 million is what we net week after we pay off our designers and artists and

Andrew: Okay. But, uh, before your expenses for say t-shirts on the printing business.

Rahul: Uh, so the teacher, Yeah.

I mean, that’s, that’s what if, because it’s a slightly complicated model because on one hand we have freelancers that were being off. Uh, you know, whenever they work on the platform and in fact, we are not being off, we are, they’re paying us because they are the ones who are doing the work.

Isn’t it. So we get a commission on that. Uh, then there are DIY services where we make the entire

Andrew: the, there’s the 3 million include it. Doesn’t it’s after you pay the designers, is it also after you pay your, uh, suppliers for the t-shirts?

Rahul: yes, yes.

Andrew: Oh, it is. So this is 3 million gross profit.

Rahul: Gross

Andrew: And then from that you pay for your developers and

servers and

Rahul: is

Andrew: Got it. All right. Impressive, impressive business over here.

Let’s talk about how you got started. You were in India and you said these people do not appreciate good design, but I know bad design and this is bad design. And did you try to convince the, like your, your family’s business and other local businesses that they should improve their design?

Rahul: That’s how I actually got into it, because when I thought what I wanted to really change the brand identity and make it more professional, then you don’t have that. Uh, I had a hard time finding an agency or, uh, or a company that could do that for us. And, uh, my younger brother, who’s also the co-founder with me here.

He actually used to work as a freelancer while he was in university, because he’s always been the creative guy. So when he came back, uh, you know, we just sat and we realized that this was a problem at both times, you know, where on one side freelancers are not getting paid. They’re not able to find jobs and communicate with.

On the other side businesses, we’re not going to find redesigns, uh, to answer your question, the second part of your question, I didn’t want to convince anybody here to actually use our platform because they would, they wouldn’t value design to the extent that we knew people in us or in the Western countries per se, would value design.

So we’ve always, actually really pitched up business internationally, do customers in us, Canada, UK, and even today, 97% of our customers are from these countries.

Andrew: so this was you saying, I don’t know how to find a good design firm for my budget, looking at your brother and saying he can’t really find great work as a designer. There needs to be some marketplace that connects the two and Upwork or whatever it was back then. That wasn’t good.

Rahul: You’ll be very honest with you. Uh, I wouldn’t really disregard any of the black home, but I would just say that they’re not focused entirely on design, right? Uh, I mean they have a bunch of services and in fact, we have a similar service as our work as well. They don’t really, they’re not built for design.

You know, we built in a lot of tools, a lot of animation tools, communication systems that actually are required for facilitating design work. And that’s something that really makes us stand out. And that’s why we have a customer satisfaction data, maybe more than 90, 99%, despite the fact that we give a hundred percent money back guarantee.

Andrew: saying it’s not just enough to match up a designer with a client when something’s not right. You don’t want them to go into a chat box and say the color over in the top left corner, doesn’t look right. You want some tool to be able to say that I’m tapping that

Rahul: Yeah. So they’re able to annotate on that. We give them real time functions. We are actually understood how customers, uh, need to submit their briefs because that’s the most important part? So we’ve made needed completely interactive. It gives show them a bunch of designs based on their industries, based on their budgets, uh, the select them color options and bases on that.

The brief that the designers get is really, really interactive and visual. And then after once the process. Uh, you know, we we’ve built in like the annotation tool I’m talking about. There are adult real-time chat tools, even for giving feedback. We’ve given them options that, that really facilitate and make it easy for the designer to understand, because what we have to understand is a customer might be in us, but the designer might be sitting in Brazil or he might be sitting in Ukraine or India or somewhere else.

And we have to make sure that everything is clearly communicated in multiple ways.

Andrew: Okay. All right. So I see the opportunity. You’re not a developer. You couldn’t develop the site, your brother couldn’t code it up. You say, all right, I see the vision. I’m an entrepreneur. My family’s been entrepreneurs. They don’t go outside and drill for the selves. We shouldn’t have to program this thing for ourselves.

Rahul: Yeah.

Andrew: Who would you hire to build the first version of the site and what.

Rahul: So, so, uh, it’s, uh, it’s funny because we, and you’re on point that we didn’t actually have, uh, didn’t know how to develop a website or build a website. So we hired, we naturally went to an agency where government company, and we told them that this is our brief, and we want you to build this platform for us.

And this is how it’s going to work. And for the six, for the first six to nine months, we, we struggled and struggled and struggle. And it didn’t go anywhere. And then we decided we have to do everything in-house so we started hiding people. We didn’t know how to hide anybody. So the first 3, 4, 5 hires were absolutely horrible because we didn’t know What to ask them.

We didn’t know when. The question them on. So anyhow, uh, it took us a year to be honest with you before we could get our product out, uh, made a mistake as well as the classic mistake of trying to build the positive product as well. Uh, but then, you know, we, I think a little period of time, or because we were so much into it, we learned the tricks of the trade or we learned everything.

And then when we got to

Andrew: did you, what did you want that first version to do when you were designed when you were developing it in-house or when you were working with the agency, what did you ask them for?

Rahul: I mean, instead of really asking them we would, we give them blueprints, we give them layouts. We give them complete viral themes of all features functionalities, or the use cases that we had in mind and how we want to serve our customers. And

Andrew: And what did you want it to do?

Rahul: we, we wanted to basically build a Crowdsourcing platform that time.

It was just looking at building a crowdsourcing website. Yeah.

Andrew: Uh, client says, I need a new website. It has to have these features and then a bunch of designers will design it, but then that exist at the time.

Rahul: It did, but it was, there was probably only one there’s one company called 99 designs and they were the only as we’re doing it, but we Really. we were really fascinated by the concept and they would also wave new, I mean, maybe, maybe a couple of years old. So we felt that, you know, there was a huge opportunity.

I mean, design was, uh, has always been a multi-billion dollar industry. Even today, if you look at how many people actually getting design work done online, it’s still very small minuscule as compared to what happens offline. So there was an awkward, yeah, I mean, uh, I know for, uh, the statistics from a couple of years back that if you look at the design industry, probably it’s about $64 billion, but the online design industry is not even $3 billion.

Andrew: Okay. And so when you say you were trying to do too much, what do you remember as being part of that too much?

Rahul: It’s just, you know, we’re trying to build, rather than just thinking of creating a service where we could have just matched up clients and designers and, you know, seeing how it worked. We were trying to build the entire process laws. All the notifications all features where they could communicate with each other via real time chats.

I mean, it was really heavy. Oh, they don’t features and stuff, which probably were not that important at that point of time. Right. Because all that was really necessary was design. And I could really showcase his work and the customer could hire him. And if, if that was working out, when it, you know, if he realized that that was something that we were able to do, uh, then you know, we could have built on it and, you know, added all that.

In sequences, uh, uh, later on, but we didn’t go for that. And then we wanted to build everything out first.

Andrew: Okay. And so when you finally got a build, you now needed to get customers actually knowing, well, you told us before was designers first, right? Or same time.

Rahul: yeah, I mean, it’s a chicken and egg problem, isn’t it? I might say it’s again, something that a lot of marketplace is struggling with for us. You know, we, we realize that customers, even if we get customers, if we don’t have good designers, there’s not going to be often use. So we will, we identified areas where we could.

Uh, tap into, or we could, you know, uh, build communities of designers, uh, that was, you know, on some social networks, on some design communities. And we started really engaging with them. Uh, we started building community groups. Uh, we started, you know, posting in them. We started like getting involved, you know, getting involved with those.

And slowly we started introducing our platform to them. And because the idea was that if people, we would just sell and stay that, you know, Hey, come on our platform, you’re going to get jobs And you’re gonna get hired. It wouldn’t have worked because we didn’t have clients. So we had to really provide value to them in different ways.

Uh, that was through just, uh, yeah,

Andrew: yeah, that was through what did you do?

Rahul: So, so, uh, it was to, you know, some, it was just different types of content that recording buckets or engagement activities that we did. Right. We would engage them with some competitions. We’ll do give a ways we would, uh, you know, even do run, just dummy contest from us. I, you know, that we would pay out for, uh, just to get them in the, you know, just to get them the hang of how it would work.

And once we started building. He sent me to realize that, okay, you know, we have a minimum set of set of pool of designers. We then started looking at ways of how we could, you know, get customers in.

Andrew: Where’d you get customers in the beginning?

Rahul: We didn’t. I mean, we, it was, it was a horrible time because, you know, we would be beat these in days out and weeks before we could actually get in a customer.

Cause we didn’t know how to sell online. We didn’t have, we were sitting in India, we were trying to get, get hold of a customer, uh, in us with a shabby website with no, uh, user experience. And it was a horrible time. So we had to do. I figured out. I mean, you know, we were reading stuff. We were listening to podcasts.

I remember even listening to your podcast a few times that payment, there was a lot of, I mean, we did everything under the sun. You know, we tried, we posted comments. We will post to put a push putting on Yahoo answers. We were like, dang, Google ad words. So I mean, you know, anything and anything that could have gotten us, some people would look at our website and check us out and maybe hopefully BS something too, you know?

But, but then that was, uh, I think there were a lot of great experiences because it taught us a lot of stuff. We had to release self-learn everything from SEO to social media, marketing, to the marketing content, uh, everything. I mean, we’ve. Everything. And then today, I mean, we have, we’ve done every function in house.

I mean, almost everything that we do in my business is being done internally. Whether that’s customer support, we

Andrew: Including printing yourselves.

Rahul: is something bending is something, to be honest with you, we do, we don’t still don’t have the scale to invest into a printing facility. But what we’ve done is where we’ve integrated ourselves to APIs, but some of the top, uh, printing companies in the world and us in Europe.

And, uh, the moment we get an order in real time, it’s, it’s sent out to them on their system and then the process gets shipped out. So quality pattern does add something that we’ve been looking at and Ms. Green.

Andrew: Early days, you’re getting going. You’re looking for customers. You get a few, but you told our producer, there were days with not a single customer, which stinks when you have all these designers waiting for work or trying to see if you’re even worth their time. You’d even go, you’d go days and days, no customers.

And you wondered whether you should continue this. What kept you going? Was it hearing the stories of other people who were doing.

Rahul: I mean, you know, you can motivate yourself as much as you like, but it’s really disheartening when you put in a lot of effort and it doesn’t work out because the problem with what I’ve felt is with an unconventional business. And I would call it online businesses to be very unconventional is that there’s no playbook, right?

Uh, every, uh, I mean, if you were, if you’re in a traditional industry, If you’re running, uh, opening a restaurant, Uh, setting up a factory or manufacturing facility, you still have a playbook. You know, people have done something like that before you didn’t get people in, uh, with experience who can tell you, okay, you know, this is how you need to go about creating your SOP or you do, you know, this is how you attract C distributors and other staff or your attract customers.

But when you book build an online business, especially internationally, it there’s no playbook for that. And, and then when it’s almost like shooting in the. A lot of the times where it can become really, uh, you know, de-motivating, if it doesn’t work out and for us, you know, probably one of the biggest, uh, mistakes we made was we never really, we should have probably sought, uh, some kind of funding or we should have basic, or even got somebody as a mentor because, you know, I think that was something that we ought to have done.

And if we could have saved a couple of years of a life, you know, where we was just talking to, you know, doing stuff that we didn’t have any idea about.

Andrew: If you could go back and mentor yourself your today, Raul could go back and mentor the role of the first couple of years. What advice would you give yourself?

Rahul: if I had to give it some piece of advice to myself back then, I would probably be very honest with them and I’ll tell him. Dude, you’re getting into an online business.

It’s a technology business. It requires a ton of money to be invested into a, if you want to really scale it up beyond a certain point of time. So you need to take a call today, whether you want to, you know, you want to raise money or not, because if you don’t want to raise money, probably it’s not the best, uh, you know, thing because bootstrapping and online business, unless it’s a SAS business is very, very different.

Right. Um, uh, SAS businesses have eight different in their nature, whereas a transactional business requires constant infusion of capital. And that is something that we didn’t understand at that point of time. So, uh, and then, you know, in the moment you actually go out, raise money, you automate. Find yourself mentors, right?

Because you bring in, you pay the board, you could pay organized, you have a VCs or engineering investors who come in and you know, you automatically get that mentorship that you, you,

Andrew: you’re saying one big piece of advice that you would want those mentors to have given you is. It takes more money than it seems. And it takes longer for that flywheel to build up. Then it seems, and that it’s normal for, is that right? That it’s normal for, for the early days to not see a lot of customers, it’s not that you’re failing.

It’s just that it takes time. And then once you get more customers, you’ll get more designers, get more designers, get more reputation, more, more customers will come and the thing will just grow. That’s

Rahul: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Because if you have a proof of concept and if you have a model that works, uh, any for, you know, there is a starting a business is really easy. I mean, I mean these days, I mean, anybody who knows how to code a little bit, they can launch an app or they can actually build out of a setting against over.

To me too, but building a business and scaling a business takes a lot more and it. takes a lot more of time effort, energy, money, and you know, All of that has to be put in. So you have to really have all of that available for you to, you know, invest into a business. And therefore patients is important.

Andrew: Okay. One of the things that did work for you in that period, when you were just experimenting, was creating these, uh, these quizzes and tools. Right.

Do you remember the first one that took off?

Rahul: Yeah.

I mean, we really experimented with those at that point of time as well. And they were really amazing because, you know, uh, it was more about because even today, in fact, even after six, seven years, I don’t see a lot of companies doing that because you know, when you create interactive, When you create content, which is not static in the sense that you’re just not writing blogs, you’re actually creating a unique piece of content.

Video might make micros websites where users can actually interact. They can click on buttons and they actually see, you know, different results coming out. Uh, it’s something that, you know, does three things for you. One, it engages your customer. Uh, or anybody who’s visiting that website or that page, you’re very likely to have them visit other parts of your website.

Uh, you’re very likely to get them to subscribe to your platform. And number three, it also gives you a lot of PR because when you actually push it out to lots of different, you know, different blogs and different websites and media websites, they actually pick it up because if anybody wants to really showcase unique kind of content and we did.

You know, with a bunch of, on bunch of topics that we, we had a quiz, which would say, what kind of entrepreneur are you? And it was like a rental, you know, you click on a button and it’ll take you depending on your answers and you, the screen complete screen moved, and it’ll take you to another option. We did a, uh, very interactive, uh, Microsoft.

No, he didn’t meanings of logos. It had like maybe 400,000 views in like a month. And we got a bunch of backlinks which held ICO.

Andrew: You’re saying that people are not going to link so much to a blog as they would to this tool. And here is a tool that helps people understand what, um, w the heading meanings behind logos or another one, which was the, uh, like you said, the quiz,

Rahul: What

Andrew: don’t know. Do you think that still works today?

Rahul: it would see end of the day, every customer, every business has a TG, right? It has a target audience. And if you are able to really understand what your target audience is interested in, you can have content that can be created around that interest piece of interest. And the end of the day, if you really think about it, we probably see.

Three or four times more, um, we’re spending three or four times more of our time on a digital media these days. Isn’t it. They don’t get that phones with smartphones and without laptops and all of that. So it’s very easy to actually grab somebody’s attention. If you have a unique piece of content. And then if you create something with quality, then you know, you’re more likely to actually engage with them and get them on board.

Andrew: Okay. So you did that. That started to work. I noticed that every time I tap on a logo, it expands. I get some, uh, some, a fact about the logo. And then there is a button underneath it says get a new logo design beyond getting links. Did that also help you get customers where people actually hitting that logo design and buying a design?

Rahul: Yeah, at least they were giving us the visibility that we were looking for because a lot of people understood that, okay, Hey, there is a website which you know, which actually I can get these bunch of designs from. And then we could, we target a lot of those people at a much lower. So Google AdWords or Facebook ads and other stuff.

Uh, so retargeting worked really well for us. And then, you know, the people who are also subscribing, so we were building out a mean email list that we could actually shoot them out with. And we understood that, see logos are just one of the things and they’re not, they may not be the only thing that they would be looking for as a, as a, uh, as a business, as a marketing professional, there are ton of other designs.

So. And we were making it clear to them that, you know, we were a design platform and we had quality designers. We could service them. And that’s what we’re trying to do with All these activities.

Andrew: All right. So the business was starting to take off on that side. Let’s take a moment and talk about we’ll come back and talk about how you grew beyond that. And, uh, I want to talk about my sponsor now, and I’ll just do a quick mention and say that anyone who needs a website should go to the same company that I use to host my site.

It’s HostGator. If you go to hostgator.com/mixergy, they’ll cut their already low price further for you. So you get great service at an unbelievably low price. hostgator.com/mixer. All right. So that’s, that’s what worked for you. These micro-sites what’s one thing, by the way, they did not work for you.

Rahul: I have like a thousand things that didn’t

Andrew: Was it one that you invested a lot of time in and it didn’t take off

Rahul: Google AdWords.

Andrew: Google Edwards did not.

Rahul: No, because I think that

Andrew: Wait, don’t move the mic.

Rahul: Any, any, any dollar that we spend on Google AdWords, we consider it to be a fee that we were paying to Google to have our website on this search, because it’s almost like it doesn’t work. I mean, because you know, we see end of the day, you have to look at. the lifetime value of a customer, you have to look at the price per click.

I mean, it’s, if it was two, it was a few cents. Uh, back then, it’s probably a few dollars now, uh, you, know, and then, then Google changed it. Uh, it’s complete UI of its page right earlier, you know, the, uh, people would get a lot of. From there, uh, search rankings, but then, you know, ad-words, I mean, it’s, it’s really, it doesn’t work

Andrew: As the

Rahul: the returns are just not there.

Yeah. It

works

Andrew: engine optimization, right

Rahul: Yeah.

Andrew: years of pain you invested. Did you personally do it or did you hire someone to

Rahul: Yeah. I mean Nope. So I, to see one person and leaving, you can do a seal because as soon as like, you know, it’s in itself, a huge study, I meant it’s a whole Bible that you have to go through the Google, but, but we have a team, uh, we have content writers, we have SEO executives and we know we work on that, but I mean, I’ve learned SEO in and out, you know, whether it’s on page off page, uh, optimizations,

Andrew: you spend

Rahul: personally,

Andrew: this is going to be a thing that’s going to work for us. I have to invest.

Rahul: Yeah. Yeah, because we had to, because, you know, end of the day, if you think about it as a design platform, we have probably about 70, 80 categories. Now there’s no way I can spend So much money, uh, you know, directing traffic to all those categories. We had to really understand that how, and then we looked at our competitors, we looked at the, uh, you know, how different companies were actually attracting customers.

And a lot of them were actually getting traffic through. So we had to really optimize that, to learn how it worked. Uh, you know, as soon as also changed a lot every year. I mean, you know, Google comes out with new updates and it’s almost like a race, uh, because you have to keep updating yourself, the whole platform, the technology changes all the time consistently to really keep up with the levels that, you know, your website needs to be at.

I mean, there were probably, if there were 20 parameters. You know, you have to be really good at now. Probably they’re 120, so it’s not easy. Definitely not. But, but something that, you know, we’ve constantly given a lot of effort and time to when it’s it worked out for us.

Andrew: So now the thing is. Talk to me about how you figured out what to add onto it. At this point in the story, we’re still looking at, uh, uh, design, a crowd source star trial design site. Right? What did you do to figure out what to do next to what to add on.

Rahul: You know, so for us, it was always a case of, you know, speaking to our customers, understanding, uh, you know, What would they be looking for next, you know, or what, what alternative solution would they were looking for? So we, you know, always had a live chat. We were always communicating with them or chat or calls and stuff.

And we, a lot of these customers wanting to work with designers, one to one, you know, uh, after they had even after sometimes when their crowdsource designs from us or they were just simply looking for a single designer to work with. So we created a service called one to one where, you know, after.

Designers could list out the portfolios, their services, even let’s start the pricings for different services that were really, they were really good at and customers could actually speak to them and offer a big quote quotations from them. And, you know, I hired them, uh, then that led us to, uh, build a custom printing platform because a lot of customers were getting designed from us.

They were looking for solutions to print those designs, whether

Andrew: I mean, they contact you and say, where do we get somebody to print this thing

Rahul: Yeah. Or if you could refer somebody or, you know, where could we get them or if we could offer that service to them. And then we, we started venturing into printing services. Uh, then we realized that because with technology, a lot of new, new startups are coming up.

They’re really offering a lot of DIY AIB. Uh, tools that are really amazing and we had to stay ahead of the curve. So we, we started building out those tools and we have a great tool called design studio, which basically offers you a million designs at no cost. I mean, it’s, we’ve still kept it for three. I mean, you can actually get any design under the sun because that beautiful templates and libraries that are there and you can just use them edit whatever your name is.

Company name and just bring them out or I’ll just download them. And then

Andrew: of the print. That’s part of your print business, right?

Rahul: so that that’s a separate service called design studio,

Andrew: What do I find that,

Rahul: it’s on my website.

Andrew: uh, under categories, under services,

Rahul: just, just go under services. Yeah.

Andrew: under services. All right, design. Okay. Start a design contest. Hire designer, post a freelance job by design gig or shop on printers.

Rahul: okay. That is this studio as well.

Andrew: And this is free design

where I can use your tool to do it. What makes it machine learning and artificial intelligence? What is it about it that, that

sat

intelligence?

Rahul: yeah, so what we do with that is, uh, I mean, if you, if you, uh, because every time a customer actually, uh, uses that, because right now, what we’re trying to do is we build trying to build it on that. So if you just scroll down on the homepage, you’ll see something called design.

Andrew: it on the very bottom.

Rahul: Yeah.

Yeah. So she, uh, you know, you have tons of libraries of designs and all you gotta is like, you know, menus and, uh, people who use a lot of money for marketing professionals, you know, social media banners, or posts and stories and

Andrew: Yeah, but what makes it machine learning? It seems to me like these designs are free because what you’re trying to do is get customers from them. This is the new evolution of the, what entrepreneur tool are you or see the hidden meanings and logos. Am I right?

Rahul: exactly. So, so, uh, in a way, because when they use our service, when they use This tool, uh, You know, we’ve kept it for three. I mean, we could actually build out a, uh, a on this, but we want them to use this, to get used to using our platform, to use, to get income, to coming back to our website, to for different requirements.

Right. I mean, for us, that’s more important because we want. Uh, a longitude longevity with our customers. Uh, generally when you have designed customers, they know they use you to once twice rice, but maybe not more, but with this, once they get hooked onto it, and then, you know, we could probably charge them a monthly subscription or of the teams

Andrew: you’re going to go with this?

Rahul: Yeah. we could, we can easily build an enterprise model on This because, you know, companies who have multiple offices and, you know, multiple, uh, thousands or hundreds of users, uh, they know they need such, uh, tools to actually collate all their designs in one place so that everybody can just use the same template

Andrew: is kind of like

Canva,

Rahul: Uh, I mean, yeah, it, it, it different noise because we know we’re trying to know a.

bunch of other stuff with this as well. So we’re trying to build an enterprise model, but yeah, that’s why we kept it for free. You know, there’s no charge that we’re busy. We don’t ask anybody to pay us anything, but it was just use the service, give us feedback.

And then based on that, we, uh, you know, we were developing this for the.

Andrew: One of the things that didn’t work for you was charging a monthly fee for unlimited design work. I’ve seen that work for lots of companies, famously designed pickles, been building a great business on that. Why didn’t it work for designers?

Rahul: Uh, primarily because, you know, we were trying to do something different with it in the sense that we were, we were because we already had a community of designers?

And what we were trying to do with it was that we were trying to leverage that community to really, uh, offer the same monthly cell service to them.

But, uh, to be honest with you, that model would only work really well. If you if we had hired all of those guys full time, Working for us because, you know, then you can have much more control over your, uh, uh, the kind of work that was being put out with those customers because their monthly subscription customers.

And also, uh, you know, I mean, it’s just a different ball game altogether because you know, you you’ll have to really get into the process with hundreds of designers and you’ll have to work on diabetes. Whereas we were looking at. Have you all scaling a business with hundreds and thousands of designers offering different services and it is way different.

Andrew: And you had to pay them every time they did some work, versus if you

Rahul: yeah, yeah. So you’re

Andrew: Why didn’t you shift the model? Why didn’t you think it was.

Rahul: But I mean, we didn’t really feel the need to, I mean, you know, they’re doing one thing within fives, so, you know, we, we, we have different revenue models. We have different services that give us different kinds of customers, different kinds of revenue options. And so we didn’t really feel the need for us to really go out.

Uh, you know, do that invest so much of our time and effort into building that from ground up. So we, we, we do focused on what we

Andrew: Okay. So it seems like what you’re saying is at some point you said whatever, we’ll just experiment with what people are asking for what we think will work. If it doesn’t work out right away, we’re just going to move on.

Yeah, that’s, the

Rahul: that’s, that’s what you have to do. Isn’t it? I mean, that’s one of the in fact that’s the, we built two services like that one was the limited services. Uh we should do a monthly subscription and then we also build up services basically for menial tasks. Like, you know, Photoshop edit editing done for $5, $10.

We thought that will work really well because a lot of customers kept asking for those services. But then again, something like that would work when you have in-house designers, because you know, design is going to work for like $5 for, I mean, they’ll work on five of them. Nope, but, you know, for getting an edit done, I mean, that’s, that’s something that just didn’t fit right with the kind of, you know, service that we wanted to

Andrew: And I guess also hiring designers in house is almost a threat to your model where people, where other designers need to trust you, not to take their business away.

Rahul: Yeah. I mean, it was slightly counterproductive that way. And so, as I’m, as I’m seeing that, you know, there’s so many different models within the design space, we’re all in looking with already servicing customers in three or four different ways, right. From anybody who’s even looking for a side hustle or.

No, who’s doing, uh, a small, uh, startup or work from home mom to a multinational company. If you’re able to cater almost everybody through the different services that we have. So we, we could have gone into that direction. We still can go into that direction. We’ve just chosen not to.

Andrew: If you aren’t doing this business.

Rahul: I am doing, uh, we just actually launched a company called, uh, it’s a, it’s a food and beverage company in India. So it’s an FMCG company. In fact, our production is going to start in one

week.

Andrew: type of food?

Rahul: so we, we getting into. Foods, uh, organic rice, organic pulses, organic flour. And, uh, so that’s something that we really excited about because we feel that, you know, we’ve come good point, especially here in India.

And I wanted to start something in India. I mean, I’ve done something, uh, you know, we will get by business and internationally and. This was something that I wanted to do in India, because India is a consumer story. We have a 1.3 billion people here and a very price conscious country, very, you know, a high consumption per capita country.

But, uh, we, we didn’t do anything. And I, so we we’ve always wanted to do, and we found this as a great opportunity now because, uh, there’s a lot of awareness around. Organic food and, you know, eco-friendly products, even within that same company, we’re doing food?

products as well as packaging products. So like one time use plastics.

So, you know, alternatives for that, uh, where we can have straws and cups and, you know, the cups that we actually drink, Starbucks coffee, and, you know, these things are now getting more and more acceptable in. And companies are willing to shift, uh, from the earlier plastic mortar to do this. So, you know, So

Andrew: So you’re saying people are getting more conscious of the stuff they eat and the things they buy there isn’t enough, uh, organic options available. You’re going to do it. Are you going to sell it through a retail stores through markets or online?

Rahul: It’s going to be a bit of everything because it’s going to be, it’s not B2B because then they’re going to be a lot of retail chains. And the home delivery companies were going to be huge customers for packaging products, right. Or products like this. Whereas, uh, when it comes to the food, food, food, food grade items, like flour or rice, and that will happen through retail stores and online?

uh, through, uh, groceries, online, grocery shopping.

Andrew: Cool. What’s the brand. We’ll close it out with.

Rahul: Uh, it’s, it’s called Josh foods. I don’t know if it really relate to that, but, uh, uh, Jasmine in the mean celebration. So, so it’s, it’s a nice touch to it because it’s very grounded and people really relate to that of all

Andrew: Is there a website I can go see

Rahul: Yeah. You can go to Joshin foods.com,

Andrew: O S H

Rahul: J a S H N.

Andrew: J a S H N. food.com.

Rahul: Yeah. So it just because we just launched, so don’t judge me on

Andrew: Uh,

Rahul: yes.

Andrew: foods.com. Oh, it looks good.

Rahul: Yeah. So we just, because we did launching next week. so

Andrew: yeah. See, everything’s available now for $0. Zero rupees, zero. Everything I’m buying now before everyone else gets in.

Rahul: Yeah. Yeah. So it’s just, it’s something in.

the mix. Um, but know, quite excited about it because, uh, there’s going to be a bunch of other stuff which is going to get added and they’re going to be packaging material and a lot of other stuff. Yeah. I think it’s a good time to do that. I mean, you know, to be eco-friendly and, uh, you know, it goes into the nature.

Andrew: Right? This is, this is not you on the website in the about page.

Rahul: Yeah, it’s not, I say I just give it, I give, just give the website. Do I didn’t ask you to it’s it’s under

Andrew: I said, I said, your brother looks super handsome. What is this? And then I realized, oh no, that’s

Rahul: no,

Andrew: someone else. I guess it’s a placeholder

Rahul: So we were, in fact, you know, we had really, uh, with Lynch, launching an initiative with this, uh, which is mission. No. Because we see because of coal, you know, we’ve seen some, so many people actually have really suffered in India.

And so we’re delegating about 2% of all our profits to, Uh,

you know, providing food for young children and other stuff with this

Andrew: Well, that’s impressive. Congratulations on your success here with design hill and everything else that’s coming from that. And, uh, hopefully we’ll be able to do this interview again in a few years. And we’ll talk about Josh and foods and talk about how well that’s doing.

Rahul: Yeah, sure. You probably I’ll probably send it to you and us as well because we’re going to be?

exporting to

Andrew: You are

Rahul: Yeah.

Andrew: right. Let me know when I could get it.

Rahul: we, we’re going to do it. in March next year. So there was a time for that. Yeah. But Thank you. so much. It was really great. And

Andrew: Thanks. And thank you all for listening. And I want to thank, uh, HostGator hostgator.com/mixergy. Roll this past midnight. by.

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