The Indian developers making a fortune selling plugins

If you setup an online store, you might have noticed that you can install plugins to give your shop extra functionality.

Webkul, a company you probably never heard of, is quietly developing a big business by making those plugins.

We invited Vipin Sahu, the founder, to talk about how he built a business and how he’s modeling Google’s organizational structure so he could manage a company that has hundreds of products.

Vipin Sahu

Vipin Sahu

Webkul

Vipin Sahu is the founder of WebKul, which builds open source plugins to give your shop extra functionality.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, where I’ve been doing interviews now since 2008.

And my goal here is to bring on the kinds of entrepreneurs who you don’t usually see on the main tech sites but that you should know about because they’re building great companies. I don’t just want them to come on here and prance and talk about how they’re doing, but I want to dissect what they’ve done to grow. I want to understand how they’ve built their businesses.

And I do it for an audience of entrepreneurs who are serious about building businesses, who are very often listening to this either while they’re commuting to work or while they’re having lunch or while they’re taking a break or getting ready to go to sleep or wake up in the morning because they want to understand what other people are doing and bring back the best ideas to their businesses.

Well, two years ago I had this entrepreneur on, a guy named Vipin Sahu, who told me how when he started out in India, he was living on $12 per month food budget. I thought that sounds like a great headline, but I’ve got to dig in. That does not sound legit.” And he explained to me, “Yeah, that happens in India.” He even told me what kind of food he ate and all that stuff. He told me how it was actually even tougher than that.

When he finally hired an intern, he had to sleep during the day so the intern could use the computer during the day and then Vipin could use the computer at night. It was just like really, you’re talking about the scrappiness of bootstrappers and he had no outside funding. But the guy built up his business. He created a company called WebKul, which at the time built plugins for ecommerce sites and CMS. But he’s built it up to so much more since then.

When I interviewed him, we discovered he went from the $12 a month food budget to $1 million in sales and he and I celebrated in the interview. You actually should go back and listen to it. It’s a great interview. Well, I invited him back to find out what happened since then. Was he able to maintain the $1 million growth? Did he start to fall down a little bit? Did he grow? What happened?

Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today, what happened since our last interview to this entrepreneur. Specifically I want to hear about this new part his business called Mobikul. They’ve got something that allows entrepreneurs and businesses that have ecommerce stores and marketplaces to easily created Android and iOS apps, and I want to know how he did it. I also want to know how he’s structuring his company because he’s just grown to do so many different things.

This whole thing is sponsored by two great businesses. The first is HostGator, which Vipin has had experience with. We’ll ask him about that when I talk about HostGator later. The second is Pipedrive, which if you’re looking to grow your sales, you need to know about this piece of software.

First, Vipin, welcome.

Vipin: Thank you very much, Andrew for the nice . . . thanks for having me.

Andrew: Yeah. People can always tell when I’m super excited about the guest because I talk very fast like I did with you. Where’s the revenue right now? We’re at 2016. Where are we?

Vipin: We have more than like–it’s like pending. It’s almost $3 million we are expecting in. Like it’s almost done with the $3 million and we are expecting more than that.

Andrew: You’re saying we’re in October 2016, you’re close to $3 million already and there are still a couple more months left in the year that you haven’t even accounted for.

Vipin: Yes. It’s not exact data we have, but it should be around $3 million, I guess. Yeah.

Andrew: Bottom line, how much was it as of last month?

Vipin: I’m sorry?

Andrew: How much was it–how much so far this year?

Vipin: Well, it’s almost $3 million. We are approaching like maybe $3.5 million in full, I guess.

Andrew: Okay. Wow. All right. Still no outside funding, right?

Vipin: No, not at all. Not at all.

Andrew: You started out by creating little plugins like the kind of plugin that would pull people’s tweets and put it on their website and it worked on Joomla, a CMS that’s less popular than WordPress and underserved and so you did that. Today, what are the big products that you guys sell that allows you to get to $3 million in sales?

Vipin: Okay. Nowadays like we are building tools for the small and medium-scale ecommerce merchants as well as we are building tools for the post-ecommerce. Especially as I said in the earlier interview, people get potential by the practice. So, if we get potential, we get the skills of earning money by practice, by doing the business day by day. So, right now the greatest product we have is a marketplace. We are building tools for the ecommerce merchants. They are running their websites and if they will use our solution, they will have a running marketplace kind of Amazon or you can say eBay.

Andrew: They create a marketplace?

Vipin: They can create it. Yes.

Andrew: Give me an example of a client who’s created a marketplace using your software.

Vipin: There are a lot of them, even, I guess, what is that in? Walmart.

Andrew: Walmart is creating a marketplace using your software?

Vipin: No, Costco.

Andrew: Costco. What kind of marketplace is Costco creating using your software?

Vipin: I guess Costco Wholesale Canada have a department and they’re using our virtual Marketplace Extension for building kind of their wholesale department.

Andrew: So, then they have a marketplace that people sell and buy on?

Vipin: Exactly. Because I don’t know where it is right now, but they have purchased it. We have some kind of tweaks on their extensions and they were using our extension. So, I guess they’re using it for the buying and selling purpose.

Andrew: I want to fully understand this. So if I decided at Mixergy that what I wanted to do is create a marketplace for courses where anyone can publish a course and sell it in the marketplace and anyone who wants to buy a course can buy it, I would go and use your software to do that?

Vipin: Sure. Suppose if you’re Mixergy.com, you want to sell something. Let’s say you want to sell courses.

Andrew: Right.

Vipin: Courses may be the videos or eBook kind of thing. You can allow your sellers, the other people who are producing content, you can allow them, they will be able to upload the product on your website and they will generate the traffic for you as well as you will get the commission and they will get the revenue, like the simple marketplace model.

You can use any kind of marketplace. You can build any kind of marketplace using our solution, either an eBay kind of model or Amazon or Etsy. You can build any kind of–like virtual product or the movie ticket. So, we have built a highly customizable solution that will work for all kinds industry.

Andrew: I see. And it’s marketplace specifically–if I just want to sell directly to my customers, I can go to Shopify and create a store. If I want to sell directly to my customers, I can, on my WordPress site, use WooCommerce to sell. But if I want my audience to sell to each other, I need a marketplace and that’s why I would use Marketplace.Webkul.com. Am I right?

Vipin: Yes. And eve in the Shopify, we are the top seller extension provided in the marketplace. I’ll send you the link.

Andrew: I’ve got the link here.

Vipin: So, even in the Shopify, we have built the solution, but people are running their websites. It will say, “Andrew is running his website, AndrewWarner.com as an ecommerce website on the Shopify.” So, he can use our plugin on the Shopify and everything will be smooth and running, a full-fledged marketplace.

Andrew: I want to make sure that I’m explaining this right. If I’m selling something on Shopify like a t-shirt, myself, I don’t need you guys. I don’t have to pay you. I don’t have to know, right?

Vipin: Yes.

Andrew: I can just create my own t-shirts and sell them on Shopify.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: But if I want my fans to also sell their t-shirts in my store, then that’s more cumbersome than just Shopify. That’s when I come to you, I use your software and your software enables my people to upload their shirt designs and to sell to my audience, right?

Vipin: 100%.

Andrew: And then what you guys get for that is anywhere from $10 to $45 a month for me for using your software. That’s the kind of stuff that you’re doing, right?

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: And I say the kind of stuff because dude, you’ve got a lot of other stuff. You keep creating all these different pieces of software. You keep growing your business, right?

Vipin: Yeah. The thing is the mobile is one part. You running a marketplace on the web is not enough because your customer is everywhere. You are like making orders from the Facebook. The people are contacting you from the Google searches and people are contacting you from the mobile. So, we have built it for like okay, you have a website. You have a marketplace website. You also may need a mobile application. So, we have built a mobile application on top of that so that–

Andrew: Right. So, I don’t have to go and hire a developer to create my mobile app. I just come to you guys and suddenly my little t-shirt business has not just a marketplace because I use your software where anyone can sell it, but also an app that anyone can download and start buying from the app. That’s your business.

Vipin: Exactly. And the beauty of the mobile app is it is open source. That means there is no kind of open source platform which provides complete source code. There are various kinds of app builders but there is no kind of open source. So, we also allow third party people, they can purchase our software where the source code is open and they customize it for their end and it’s highly customizable, the code is open. So, they can build it as whatever they want. They can build a hyper-local kind of thing like the Instacart or anything.

Andrew: You’re saying they can build their own version of Instacart using your software by customizing.

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: Now I’ve got the business. What I’m curious about is how you got to this place, how you got to this place where you have now over 150 people running around your office, how you’re doing $3 million revenues and growing already, how you’re managing the whole thing. Why don’t we start with how you went from–you were building on Joomla, which was now a growing platform. There are not a lot of sites built on Joomla. Now you’re building on Shopify and these others. How did you figure out what other platform to build on?

Vipin: That’s a wonderful question. So, what we did is like we did a little bit of market research. And what is happening when we were building it for the Joomla, so we were getting some questions, “Can you build it for Magento? Can you build it for Shopify?” When we came to that, “Okay, this kind of query is kind of similar. A lot of people are asking for the Magento.” So, I thought maybe building in the Magento would be a good thing.

So, what we did, for the experiment purpose, we just created some extensions and that was the hit. That was an instant hit at that time.

Andrew: What are the experimental extensions you created?

Vipin: We built a kind of customer partner extension where your customer will be able to sell their product.

Andrew: I see. So, the origins of the marketplace were an experiment that you did.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: I see. Okay. How long did it take you? I’m trying to understand what kind of investments you’ve made in time to create those original experiments?

Vipin: I guess I invested–I built that out, so I guess it was approximately 30 to 40 business days, I guess.

Andrew: 30 to 40 business days?

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: And you still call it an experiment. That seems like an intense amount of time.

Vipin: Because the thing–yeah, sorry to interrupt. But the thing is at that time, we were more focused on those kinds of services because we were building the tool, but people come in and we need to pay the salaries. So, sometimes we need to do the services. Right now, we are a totally product-based company. At that time it was hard to survive because we didn’t have any external funding.

So, we were building the tools and the kind of customization for the customer. Whenever we get the time, whenever I get the time, I started building it up. So, if it wasn’t in [inaudible 00:12:28] okay–

Andrew: I see. It’s not 30 hours of intense work every minute of the day. You’re saying it’s in your spare time for 30 days or so, you were building this little tool to see will it stand up on its own. Will it be a product that could eventually help get you out of the services business where you’re getting paid per hour? Is that right?

Vipin: Exactly. The first version which I released is like just from the customer section you will be able to add the product. So, I invested around, I guess, 10 hours maximum and it was okay. It was like up and running. So, then I put it on the web. Then people come in and they ask of that, “Okay, can you do it? Can you make a little change in it?” And we thought, “Oh, the customer is interested in it. Let’s make some tweaks, then let’s make more tweaks and more tweaks,” and that’s how the marketplace and everything built it up.

Andrew: I see. Was Magento the first big one, the Magento plugin?

Vipin: 100%.

Andrew: It was?

Vipin: It was a kind of rocket start for us.

Andrew: Okay. Joomla is like a publishing platform that just to keep it simple, it’s like publishing a blog in a static website, right?

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: But it never went anywhere, did it? It started to do well and then it feels like it kind of disappeared, didn’t it?

Vipin: Kind of because the thing is we are still building, still having a small team on the Joomla, but what we really realized is that most of the time the paying customer, Joomla is lacking the paying customer, especially in the workplace. But also we were highly benefitted by the ecommerce boom everywhere around the world, especially in Asia and Africa and where a lot and lot of people are running towards the ecommerce.

So, we were at the very start, early days of our company. After the Joomla, we started building it for the Magento. And the Joomla, why the Joomla is not kind of Magento or a kind of Shopify is doing right now. I think the problem is because if you really need people, like kind of full-time people to invest in, you really need to have a very good platform and from there, the people can generate a good amount of revenue. You can’t build a company based on just $100 or $200 because as the company grows, you really need to pay them.

Andrew: $100 to $200? To me it feels like–I know people are going to disagree with me–but it feels like Joomla was overtaken by WordPress and then ecommerce, as you said, started to become really big, partially because Magento created software that made it easy for people to create ecommerce stores and also open source so you can go and see all the code and adjust it and not feel like you’re tied into them. Then it seems like Shopify came around and said, “Magento is too hard. We can make it even easier. If you pay us a monthly fee, we’ll maintain it for you.

Then through that and a lot of other experiments, ecommerce took off and you guys shifted to ecommerce plugins. You realized people aren’t going to use Magento as it’s made. They’re not going to want to use Shopify as it’s made. They’re going to want all these extra benefits like adding apps to your iPhone. They’re going to want to add plugins to their ecommerce software and that’s what you guys excelled at.

Vipin: Especially. Absolutely true. And we were focused on not on the commerce. We were more focused on the post-commerce. Like when the commerce will get mature, what kind of tools will people require? What kind of tools will the customer require?

Andrew: Like what?

Vipin: Like marketplace. Marketplace is a kind of post-commerce tool. When people are running their ecommerce store successfully, they want to allow other people to sell the product from their own store, like Amazon does, Etsy does or eBay does. The post commerce is kind of we also build a kind of multichannel connector, like an eBay connector we have right now. Then we build the mobile application.

Andrew: Multichannel meaning I don’t want to just sell on my own Shopify store. I also want to sell on eBay because that’s where the customers are.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: The thing I’m wondering though is, Vipin, you didn’t have an ecommerce store. You weren’t selling journals and t-shirts and shoes on Shopify. So, how did you know what to create? How did you know which of your customers’ needs to listen to? How did you know which platform to build on? What was your process for understanding that?

Vipin: Oh, that’s a wonderful question. The thing is we listen to every query in the feedback very carefully. We noted down almost every point whenever a customer because we’re not the front face. The front face are our customers. They are selling it and they know exactly what are the pain points. They speak to us and they ask us, “Okay, these are the pain points. Can you fix it?” Then we thought, “Okay, this is the kind of thing we need to fix it up.”

Andrew: What was your process for organizing all these requests and categorizing them so you figure out which ones to pursue first?

Vipin: We built it for them because previously it was a big pain. Then we built this Uvdesk thing. And this is a kind of SaaS best helpdesk system. By using Uvdesk, it reduces a lot of pain for us and we are organizing everything.

Andrew: Yeah, Uvdesk is one of your products. It’s helpdesk software. You’re saying you created it to help you identify the pain people were having and categorize the problems you might want to pursue. Am I right?

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: But what was your process before you had Uvdesk?

Vipin: We were organizing everything on the email and the notes and it was very–

Andrew: Did you have a dock with all the problems that people had?

Vipin: Yes. We were building sometimes docs, Google Docs, .xls.

Andrew: So, if I talk to a customer and the customer said, “I really need to have a marketplace that plugs into eBay,” I would have to into a Google Doc or an Excel spreadsheet and add a note about that every single time?

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: And people did that every time?

Vipin: No. People come into us and they say, “Okay, this is the kind of thing,” because we already built a base system. We already built a base marketplace. On the base marketplace, let’s say an initial time we don’t have a kind of mass approach functionality for the vendors. Let’s say a seller having more than 10,000 products and every time he’s adding one by one. So, it consumes a lot of time.

So, one of our customers’ requests was we should have a functionality called a mass upload. So, we thought, “That’s a wonderful idea. We should build it up.” And we created it up. So, that’s how we organized everything and we built it for the customers. And what we really–

Andrew: How did you know that he wasn’t just an outlier, that he wasn’t just an exceptional person, you don’t have a lot of other people like him? How did you know that his problem was big enough for you guys to spend time on?

Vipin: Well, it’s a kind of understanding as well at the same time. We are dealing in the commerce. This is the kind of thing that we should really take care of. Also at that time it wasn’t that kind of investing like one month or two months, like building a mass upload thing isn’t a big task. We can do it one or two days. So, we thought let’s do a kind of experiment. Maybe it’s gone through or not.

Andrew: I see. And there were a lot of experiments and some of them really didn’t work out.

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: Like what?

Vipin: Like we started building it for X-Cart, but it wasn’t a good win that way. We also started building for the BigCommerce, but then Shopify does that.

Andrew: Why do you think BigCommerce, which for a long time was a big competitor to Shopify–actually it still is huge–why do you think that you guys didn’t do as well for BigCommerce?

Vipin: I think because the APIs are more robust at the Shopify end. They have a quick developer support and better user documentation.

Andrew: I see.

Vipin: Better developer documentation and support and they have a very wonderful API and a highly customizable option to build tools on that.

Andrew: I see. Because they make it easier to build tools on there, your tools are more likely to succeed on Shopify versus BigCommerce.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: All right. Let me take a quick sponsorship break. The sponsor that I’ll talk about first is a company called Pipedrive. Anyone who has anything to sell has got to check out Pipedrive. Vipin, whenever I tell people that we use Pipedrive to keep track of all the people who we’re trying to book and trying to essentially close, meaning get them on to do interviews, people always tell me about their CRM, how they have a better address book, a better way of keeping track of the people they want to sell to.

Then they tell me about all the features they have. You probably are going to, at some point, create one of these things, I imagine, because you create so many. And there are a lot of these apps that will tell you that you haven’t contacted one of your customers in three months. Here’s an easy way for you contact them. Or the person you want as a customer just said this on LinkedIn or tweeted that. There are a lot of different customer management software that do that.

I don’t care about any of that. It’s nice. But that’s not my big motivator. When I use any software to keep track of potential customers and customers, what I want to know is are we driving them towards a conclusion, towards a sale, towards closing the deal and that’s what Pipedrive is about. Pipedrive forces discipline in the organization.

Here’s what it said to us at Mixergy. It said, “Guys, first thing you need to do is structure your sales process. What’s the first thing that has to happen? What’s the second thing that has to happen, etc.?” Then it says, “All right, now go find a lead and here’s how you add the lead to the first step.” Now anyone in the company can do the next step and move that lead’s card to the second column in Pipedrive and just keep moving it all the way down until we close them.

That’s how you got here as a guest. We use Pipedrive not to close deals where we make money but to close deals where we get our guest to come on and do Mixergy interviews. It’s fantastic. If you’re listening to me out there and you need to close sales with individual customers, you need to check out Pipedrive.

Sign up for it. Use their system. Forget the system you have right now. Try their system, just walk into it with an open mind and you’ll see that they created a process that will just help drive your customers towards the end goal, which is a sale and allow you to keep track of where they are the whole sales process.

I want you to go check out Pipedrive.com/Mixergy because if you add that /Mixergy at the end, I’ll get credit for referring you, but more importantly, you will get a lot of extra free time from Pipedrive. I’ve been using them for years. A long time ago a Mixergy interviewee told me that he started closing sales because of Pipedrive and I signed up just because of his recommendation.

I’m telling you you’re going to love me for doing this. Go to Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. They’ll give you two months for free. You will close sales. You will understand how to organize your company. Even if you never use them, it will help you understand how you should be thinking about closing sales. But I believe you’ll start to be a long-term customer of theirs like I’ve been. Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. I’m grateful to them for sponsoring.

You also did, Vipin–thanks for hanging on with that–you also did Google Trend Search to figure out what to create.

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: Did that help?

Vipin: Well, not that much. It’s okay that you can find the traffic, but I’m not sure that you should build your business model on top of that.

Andrew: It’s creative. What you’re saying is look, let’s see if Magento is already doing well for us, does the word Shopify get more or less search results than Magento. If it gets more, then maybe we should be building our stuff for that, right? That was the search. You’re saying it didn’t exactly work out because search volume doesn’t directly correlate to purchase intent.

Vipin: Exactly. It’s not like that that you should have it kind of, “This is a kind of sure shot,” like that graph is high on the Google trends, that you should start building on top of that. Maybe you are trying to search Magento with Kim Kardashian. Then obviously Kim Kardashian will be on top of everything.

Andrew: What’s this thing, PrestaShop? I never heard of them, but apparently that did well for you.

Vipin: Yes, PrestaShop is like Magento. Magento is very much popular in the U.S. in Europe, even in India as well. The PrestaShop is very, very popular in France and Europe. So we thought, “Okay.” We also did the research, “What is happening in France? What kind of tools? Or in Europe, what kinds of ecommerce tools are they using?”

So, we were constantly thinking Magento was doing good, so our other partners thinking, “Okay, we should start building it,” because this thing is successful and promising and working the Magento. So, I’m sure that this should work on the other platforms as well. That is still our strategy. Build something on one platform. If it succeeds on that platform, then we should start building for other ones at the same time.

Andrew: And did it work with PrestaShop?

Vipin: 100%.

Andrew: It did.

Vipin: It did.

Andrew: I did a Google Trend Search on PrestaShop versus Shopify and up until March, 2015, there was more search volume for PrestaShop than Shopify, significantly more. Then somewhere around March 22nd, the thing just turned and there were more people searching for Shopify. So, interesting that that’s the way it would work. It’s still going well for you guys as a platform.

Vipin: Exactly. It is wonderful right now for us. We are constantly building tools for the PrestaShop. We have built for the mobile application for the PrestaShop at the same time.

Andrew: I have an iPhone and I’ve seen that when someone builds an app for Android and they bring it over to iPhone, it feels a little bit weird. They have to understand how iPhones work and recreate the concept with the iPhone framework in mind for it to actually do well there. So, I’m wondering when you build something for one of these other platforms and then you bring it over to a new platform, how do you make sure that it actually makes sense on the new platform?

Vipin: Okay. Yes. It’s different because the complete structure and everything is different if you’re building for the Android as well. Things are different compared to the iOS.

Andrew: Right. And it’s the same thing if you go from Shopify to Magento or vice versa. So, when you decide we have this thing, this multi-vendor marketplace. It works well on Shopify. We’re going to move it to a brand new ecommerce platform. How do you make sure that you’re doing it right? What’s your process?

Vipin: First, we analyze that okay, what are the best practices? First of all, if this is the best model, like marketplace is a great product, then we try to build a small component, a small model on top of that. First of all, we should understand that this is a thing, what are the best practices to write the code. The code must not be broken. The code must not be buggy. We understand that in this way and then we start developing it for like if it’s a hit product, then go with the completed strength.

Andrew: Okay. So, you understand the code first. Do you also go in and use the site? Do you use their software to create your own store? Do you talk to potential customers? Fill it out. What’s the rest of the process?

Vipin: Yes. So, suppose the same case strategy, like this multi-vendor marketplace thing works very well in the Magento as well as in the PrestaShop and the OpenCart. Then we start on the Shopify. We started later on the Shopify, but we know that okay, this thing is working on three platforms, working very well on three of the platforms, then we should start building for some kind of SaaS-based system.

Many times people come like in our helpdesk system, we got to know that people, especially from India or the people from Asia, they are asking, “Do you have the same kind of solution for the Shopify?” We thought, “This is the time that we should build some kind of SaaS-based application on top of Shopify.”

So, we started like exploring how this Shopify thing works. We assigned a team on that. We assigned a dedicated project manager on that and we just located a fund, like, “Okay, this fund is for you and you start building a staff.”

Andrew: So, they’re essentially little startups within your company. You hire them, you put the team together and you, “Here’s your funding. Go and do this.”

Vipin: Exactly. Everything like hiring will be our pain, like he infrastructure will be our pain, the marketing will be our pain, but your part will be developing things, the managing the people, try better code, build useful stuff and that’s it. So, that is our strategy to build stuff. So, we explore the Shopify, that team explores the Shopify and then we came to know that there is no such kind of thing exist sand we should, “This thing is proven. We should start building it up.”

As soon as we started building it, the first beta was a kind of a success we got. We got a lot of requests that, “This is wonderful. Can you add this thing and we’ll purchase it and can you add one thing.” We add everything on our Uvdesk system and then we started building the rest. Now, if you check the reviews, it’s very popular.

Andrew: Yeah. I’ve been seeing that it’s popular, really strong. I didn’t know when to bring this up in the interview but I’ll bring it up now. The one weird thing about your entries is yes it’s very popular. It’s really nicely designed. You’re showing people everything including like where in their Shopify store you guys will appear once you’re properly installed.

The weird thing is grammatical mistakes in the description and typos. Like some of your bullet points end in periods, others don’t end in periods. It’s clearly somebody who doesn’t speak English as a first language who’s writing all of this. Commas sometimes have spaces before them, sometimes not, sometimes spaces after. I saw you cringe as I said that.

Vipin: Yeah. It still is a big pain for us. We’re still trying to figure it out. We’re still fixing on it. Most of the time what is happening, we have more than 700 products right now, more than 750 products. This is the kind of thing we’re struggling upon. There’s not a native English speaker.

So, we are still fixing it up and we are also built a kind of process very recently because we got to know that okay, in its starting days it was, “Okay, that functionality is working. It’s all fine.” But nowadays people are coming from a different background and some of the people are very picky and they say, “Oh, boy, you are missing this full stop and period thing. I won’t purchase it.” it’s the kind of thing people demand it and then we fix it up. it’s like we are doing it this way. The priority things work first and then because the problem is the problem we face, the founders, we founders are hardcore technical people.

So, we were more focused on building the stuff instead of promoting things. So, that is the main problem because it’s still our IP or company intellectual property will say is the technology instead of marketing. But we are still like working on it. It’s a kind of issue we have right now and we are working very hard on it.

Andrew: Okay. I like how you guys even within the description of the multi-vendor marketplace plugin for Shopify, if someone reads through and says, “I’d like a Shopify store so I can install this, there’s a big giant link there to go setup a Shopify store with, of course, your affiliate link in it. The reason I like that is because even though you guys are doing $3 million in sales, you’re still thinking, “How do we grab every last interaction with the customer and keep growing our revenue?”

Vipin: Exactly. If Peter Thiel says that–I’m a great follower of Peter Thiel and Jason Fried. You interviewed Jason Fried. I’m a great follower of him. If you’re building stuff, there should be monopoly. It’s like zero or one. You shouldn’t leave any corner and if you have kind of options, you should apply all of them.

Andrew: And so you want to monopolize what business?

Vipin: Yes, it’s our strategy to do it.

Andrew: Which one? Is it the plugin business?

Vipin: Well, we are trying to do everything. It’s like let’s see how it goes. The thing is in India, we are, I guess, the top and if you consider in the world, we may be at least second or third, maybe one, but we are like dominating this kind of business, for sure.

Andrew: Vipin, do you ever feel like you guys overstretched, overextended? You just said you have how many, 70 products?

Vipin: 700 products.

Andrew: How many?

Vipin: 700.

Andrew: 700 individual products? So, each one of these plugins is considered another product?

Vipin: Yes. Each plugin is considered as a product. Yeah.

Andrew: So, as you were mentioning Jason Fried, I flash to how he started out doing Mixergy interviews talking about all the different products he had and most recently he came on and said, “We decided we just want one, one really good one, Basecamp, and we’re going to let the others go so we can concentrate on it.” Does it feel like maybe it’s too much for you, like you’re missing out because you’re doing too many things?

Vipin: It’s like 100%, whatever Jason has said, it’s like focusing on the core, that is really, really important. That’s why we have like limited–still we have 700 products, but most of the time we are working on it because in the starting days, we were not aware that this thing will work or things thing will not work. So, we would keep experimenting. That’s how we created a lot of product. After that we realized this marketplace thing is working really well, so we should start focusing more on top of that.

Also, the thing within the company, we created so many startups, so it’s like managing all that stuff is not that big pain, but suppose that if I’m heading everything, like 700 products, if I’m heading all that, it’s a big pain. You can’t manage that out. It’s a kind of Alphabet business model. It’s like we try to build as many products as we want. Uvdesk is the kind of example. We can use others. We can use Zendesk or any kind of helpdesk software. But we think, “Oh, we are a software company. Why use other software? We should build our own? If we can, then we thought let’s start building some help.”

Andrew: So, instead of creating Zendesk, you said, “We’re going to create our own helpdesk software.” You created Uvdesk for yourselves and then you started selling it to other people. And then what percent of your business is that?

Vipin: It’s very new. It’s very new.

Andrew: It’s very what? Big or small?

Vipin: It’s very new.

Andrew: New? So, it’s too early to say.

Vipin: It’s too early to say. Yeah.

Andrew: I see.

Vipin: We are using it for our platform because previously last one year, we are using it for our internal purpose. We make it public, like from the last three months, I guess, three to four months, because we were using it for internal purposes to solve the problem which awe are facing right now.

Andrew: So, your model is, “We’re going to throw a bunch of things out there, see what works. Whatever works we’re going to expand on and the rest we’re not going to close down but we’re not going to spend a lot of time on. We’ll just allow it to languish for a while on its own.”

Vipin: 100%. Now we are changing it as well because as we are a mature company, we can’t experiment on so many aspects. So we are trying to do a lot of market research nowadays like this thing, okay, our Mobikul team is trying to build a kind of POS system. We got to know that there is a huge gap in the offline sector because right now everyone is looking for the online and the offline combined so we are trying to build a POS system for the Magento.

Andrew: Just to be clear, the Mobikul team takes people’s ecommerce stores, turns them into apps on Android or iOS and you’re saying some of these people who have online stores also have offline stores like maybe they’re at a farmers market and they want to sell something at the farmers market. We need to allow them to sell it and keep track of what they’ve sold using our software.

Vipin: Yes.

Andrew: So, you said that you’re doing a lot of market research to understand whether you should even pursue these kinds of opportunities. What’s the market research? What do you do?

Vipin: The biggest market research we have is our customers.

Andrew: So, what do you do with your customers to understand that they really need a point of sale product?

Vipin: It’s like what is happening nowadays is people are requesting us, that, “I am running a local–it’s a kind of offline retailer shop. We are also having an online retail shop. But we are also running a small offline retailer. But can you build a kind of POS system for us?” And then we [inaudible 00:37:54] it up. Okay, this thing does not exist. For the OpenCart, there are already less people. No one is there. For the PrestaShop, there is no kind of POS system.

Andrew: I see. So it all goes back to saying what are people requesting, then is there someone else who’s doing it? Do we think this is actually with our experience going to be a successful product? If we do, let’s hire a team or put together a team and have them do it.

Vipin: Exactly, 100%.

Andrew: That’s it?

Vipin: 100%.

Andrew: And you mentioned Alphabet. Alphabet is the parent company of Google right now. The way that they’ve structured things is they have a person who’s in charge of each business, Sundar Pichai, of course is the guy in charge of Google, but each one of their other products has a leader too. And that’s what you’ve done. Actually you have one of your leaders here in the room. I’d like to bring him on camera here in a moment. But let’s think about how you think about structuring the business that way. What is your approach?

Vipin: Okay. Approaching what way, in the managing people?

Andrew: Yeah. Is it that you consider them full CEOs and you’re like investing in them? What’s your relationship with these people who are running your products now?

Vipin: Okay. It’s simple. Because what we really believe in, that if the person is good at something, you should give some kind of task to them. What is happening most of the time, if someone is good, especially in India, if someone is good at the coding or the programming, people promote them as a manager.

So, the coding and the programming and everything is like everything is void. So, instead of doing programming, he’s just managing people and that’s bullshit. That is the kind of thing we are ignoring. What we are really doing is, “Okay, this person is really good,” and having a lot of interest in something.

Let’s say Ratnesh is having a lot more interest on the Java on the mobile side, also he’s the kind of ecommerce enthusiastic person. We thought let’s do experiment because we are also getting a lot of requests from the people that we should have a mobile app at the same time. So, we discuss with Ratnesh because the problem is if someone like Ratnesh invested his four or five years on building stuff on the web–

Andrew: Ratnesh is the guy who’s running your Mobikul app.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: The Mobikul business. He is taking people’s websites and turning them into apps. His name is Ratnesh Kumar. He’s the guy who’s in the room. That’s who you’re referring to. So, you’re saying he was working with you, you saw he had an interest in this. He has good leadership skills so I’ll make him the leader of that department.

Vipin: Exactly. Even in the starting days, I started Magento stuff, but everything he executed from his end. He invested almost his three to four years in Magento and after that started building it for the mobile. So, it was very hard because if you ask someone that you invested your four valuable years in building an application on the PHP and you ask someone, “Let’s start on the Java,” then he will say, “No, I’m not going to do the Java because I’m a PHP pro. I will welcome the PHP all day.” So, it was very hard but I trust him and he realized that okay, this thing we can build something and now everything is history.

Andrew: I see. So, he decided I’m going to set aside my experience in this other area and I’m going to start leading this. All right. Let me do a quick sponsorship message and then I want to come back and talk to you a little bit more and then we’ll get Ratnesh on camera, cool?

Vipin: Sure.

Andrew: The second sponsor is HostGator. Before the interview started, I asked you if you have any conflicts with HostGator because I plan to bring them up and you said no, actually you said, “I have experience with HostGator.” What was your experience with HostGator?

Vipin: Okay. So, the HostGator is like a wonderful hosting company. I really appreciate that even because of HostGator we are here.

Andrew: What do you mean? What was your connection to HostGator?

Vipin: In the starting days we could not afford AWS because right now we are paying more than $4,000-$5,000 USD every month to AWS, Amazon Web Services. At that time when we have a monthly budget of like way less to manage everything from the AWS. So, at that time, HostGator helped us a lot. But the prices were not that much and the hosting was quite good at that time.

Andrew: You’re saying you started your business by hosting on HostGator.

Vipin: Yes.

Andrew: You did?

Vipin: Yes, 100%.

Andrew: This is the business that we’re talking about right now was started on HostGator, WebKul?

Vipin: Yes, it was on the HostGator.

Andrew: Wow. So you picked them because their prices were right and the website stayed up.

Vipin: And the support was wonderful.

Andrew: And support was wonderful and it is wonderful. Actually, they’ve been getting so many customers recently that when I started doing ads for them, it was 90 seconds for them to pick up a tech support call and actually have a human being on the phone. I know it’s been taking a little bit longer because they’re getting more customers and people call me out on the fact that I said it was 90 seconds and not it’s taking a little bit longer and I like that they’re doing that.

But I’ll tell you that they are improving it, they’re bringing more people in, they’re making it easier for their customers to get on the phone with their tech support people because they know and acknowledge that this is one of the things they’re known for. I’ll ask you one final question about HostGator, if you were starting out today, 2016 and you had no money except $12 a month for food and a HostGator account, what business would you start?

Vipin: For sure I would start–the question is, correct me if I’m wrong, the same thing I’m going to replicate in 2016, that is the question?

Andrew: Yeah. What business would you start in 2016 if you had nothing but a HostGator account, no money, no reputation?

Vipin: For sure I would try to start building some kind of SaaS-based application.

Andrew: Because with SaaS you get recurring revenue?

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: And would it be a plugin business too?

Vipin: Plugin will work as well, but nowadays what is happening, because the commerce is like getting heavier. Like Magento 2 now requires a dedicated hosting. I know HostGator provides dedicated hosting. But at that time, we were using the shared one. So it wasn’t that kind of heavy hosting, but in the SaaS business you don’t need to have that. When you scale it up, you also required good hosting and kind of [inaudible 00:44:33] kind of scale. But I think I would start a SaaS business, for sure.

Andrew: So it would be a standalone, not a plugin, a standalone SaaS business.

Vipin: Exactly.

Andrew: I see. Is there one topic, one area that you would consider going after because it’s easy to start with?

Vipin: No. It’s very hard to start with.

Andrew: It’s much harder now to start a SaaS business.

Vipin: It’s very hard. It’s getting like–because the selling point if you’re building applications for Magento and building applications for the iOS, there is already a brand called the Apple or the Magento. So selling is easy. But if you’re building everything you need to start it from scratch, no one knows the Uvdesk maybe because Andrew Support will get a lot of customers, but I think the thing is like you really need to not execute it very fast and SaaS is very hard.

Andrew: Why wouldn’t you recommend a plugin? It seems like it’s easier to build a plugin than a standalone software on your own website. It seems like it’s easier to do it. It seems like you have a built in audience for it.

Vipin: Okay. So building the plugin–in the plugin business, starting is hard, starting is easy but the scaling is hard.

Andrew: I see.

Vipin: If you scale it out, it’s very, very hard. You can’t scale a plugin business to more than 500 or 1,000 or like 20,000 people or 50,000 people. You really need to have a kind of system directing money like highly, highly required.

Andrew: I see.

Vipin: As we are in the bootstrap business, we don’t have any investor, so we really need to get everything, like okay this thing, this thing is in like the SaaS thing is not working well, then we need to try some other business, some other vertical. So, we are doing it this way, but yeah, SaaS is wonderful. It’s easy to escape. It’s hard to start but easy to escape.

Andrew: Okay. All right. Whether you want to start SaaS or a content business like I have at Mixergy or anything, go to HostGator, set it up. They have great support, really good service and if you go use my special URL, you’re going to–I think they’re still doing 50% off–yeah, 50% off. Just go to HostGator.com/Mixergy.

You structure your business, lots of different people who are each running each department. Ratnesh is not running one of the departments. Why is Ratnesh in the room and not, say, the person who’s running Uvdesk, your helpdesk software? What is it about him that made you want to include him in this conversation?

Vipin: Well, for me, everyone is important. We have a lot of people. Ratnesh is a kind of–like everyone is like–even the person who has started Uvdesk, his name is Nikhil. He is kind of a gem. All of them–they are working from like when we were nowhere, we were kind of just starting. So, all of us are very, very important because Ratnesh is a very hard worker, he’s still up at like 1:00 at night in India, you can imagine.

So, he’s a kind of–I thought, “Okay, this person is here and he’s working very hard, actually. He was kind of very early. He was, I guess the employee number, I guess, fifth or sixth. He must get the reward.

Andrew: Let’s get him on. Is he still there?

Vipin: Yeah. He’s still here.

Andrew: Let’s do it. Ratnesh, do you want to come on camera?

Ratnesh: Yeah, sure.

Andrew: Hey, man. Good to see you.

Ratnesh: Hello.

Andrew: Hey. So, when you’re running a business that’s within another business, there’s more support, more security, but you don’t get the upside. Do you ever say, “Why am I doing this thing here within another business? Why don’t I just go and become an entrepreneur on my own?”

Ratnesh: Yeah. This is a good question. When I joined the WebKul, I was nowhere. I was just in college. I trusted Vipin Sahu and joined the company. And from then, from that day until now, I improved a lot. So I have complete trust on him and I know building a company is a very hard thing. But working in a good condition is very easy. I have the hobby to do something new. He supported me a lot.

So, why do we started a company and do everything by my own when I have a better invested and moment to do the same things. So, I just trusted him. He showed me the path and I just followed him and it worked very fine.

Andrew: Do you guys set the strategy together for Mobikul or is you now largely leading the strategy?

Ratnesh: No, no, no. When we have a conversation about what we have to do for what are the drawbacks, what do we need to do and then on the combination of everything, we pinpoint certain points and we work on them.

Andrew: So what’s one thing that you guys discussed and now you’re going to be focusing on?

Ratnesh: Actually we are creating apps for the–for the first time we created Mobikul for the Magento. Then we moved on OpenCart, CS-Cart and PrestaShop. We also built a team of around 10 to 12 guys and it’s working very well. So now we decided to work on the POS system that he already discussed.

Andrew: Yeah.

Ratnesh: So, these are the strategies. Let’s have a team who works very carefully on the particular system. If it’s matured, then we’ll move to the next step.

Andrew: I see. So, it was you guys discussing it and then you take the lead on it. Do you start hiring or does the bigger company hire?

Ratnesh: We do the same, but the [inaudible 00:51:00] he do the first step and later on I’ll do the second and so on.

Andrew: I see. But he does the first round of interviews.

Vipin: Interviews.

Andrew: Okay. All right. So, once you do it, what’s the interaction then with the rest of the company? How much of it is you guys running it by yourselves?

Ratnesh: I didn’t get that.

Andrew: I’m wondering how autonomous are you? How independent are you of the bigger company?

Ratnesh: Okay. We are actually most of the things are dependent on us. He trusts on us. That is the biggest part. We never let him down. We do the things that are beneficial for the department and beneficial to mature the product always. That’s the major point, I think. We are totally autonomous in the WebKul.

Andrew: What’s worked for you for getting new customers for Mobikul?

Ratnesh: Yeah?

Andrew: You get the customers for Mobikul, right?

Ratnesh: Yeah.

Andrew: What’s worked for you? How do you get customers?

Ratnesh: Actually, when the customer comes, they first are not a big name behind any of our customer. They are not a big player. They started from the bootstrap also. So first they go for the website, then they visit our website. They get to know that we have also a solution for the mobile application.

Andrew: I see. They get to know the main website looking for plugins for whatever ecommerce software they’re using and then they see that you guys also do this, which is an app and they say, “All right. Let’s sign up for that. That’s where you get most of your customers?

Ratnesh: Yeah, exactly.

Andrew: I see. So, it’s not even a standalone strategy. You don’t SEO on your own. You’re not doing a lot of ad buys from what I can see, right?

Ratnesh: Actually we do not do anything like that. But actually we don’t need to. We also don’t need to do this because once these in this time, when a customer, person wants to publish it, then you also want to publish it to the app also. So, we are the players and we provide all the solution. Then obviously it will come to us.

Andrew: Okay. What’s RarelyImpossible.Slack.com? Is that your Slack channel?

Ratnesh: I don’t know.

Andrew: You don’t know Rarely Impossible. Okay. It seems like that’s your internal–do you guys use Slack to communicate internally? No?

Ratnesh: No.

Andrew: Okay. I’m hunting around trying to find what you guys are doing for traffic for example. I saw you get a lot of traffic from WebKul and then also a lot, even more traffic from that Slack channel. I thought I’d pry and see if there was something there but apparently there isn’t. All right. So now you represent about a third of the revenue at the company with your business and you’re going to continue to grow it. The next thing is point of sale to allow people to sell in person. Then after that do you know what you’re going to do?

Ratnesh: Then I guess you would ask me how marketplace for the web, we have mobile applications, we have POS. I guess we have one more product, that is Chatty for the one-to-one communication with the clients or with the merchant with the seller.

Andrew: You created that, your part of the business?

Ratnesh: One team is working on the Chatty for this business model.

Andrew: It’s called Chatty?

Ratnesh: Chatty. Chatwhizz.

Andrew: And it’s a way for customers to chat with the person who owns the ecommerce store?

Ratnesh: One to one conversation.

Andrew: I see. Well, congratulations on all the success. We did an interview two years ago when the business overall did a $1 million in sales, now your part of the business is doing about a $1 million in sales. I feel like every couple of years we should do another interview and keep tabs on where the business is growing because it’s growing so much.

Ratnesh: Thank you.

Andrew: Thanks. And thanks for staying up so late to do this interview.

Ratnesh: Thank you.

Andrew: Cool. All right. Vipin, if you’re back there, thank you so much for doing this interview a second time. Congratulations to you. I’ll say to everyone who’s listening to this interview thank you so much for being a part of Mixergy. If you’re out there building something incredible too, please email us at Mixergy and let us know what you’re up to. In fact, my email address is Andrew@Mixergy.com, but you always have a way to submit new guests, even if it’s not you on Mixergy.com. You’ll see it there.

My two sponsors are HostGator–go get them at HostGator.com/Mixergy. And Pipedrive–you’ve got to sign up for Pipedrive too, Pipedrive.com/Mixergy. And Vipin and I have talked about so many dig products. The best place I think, Vipin, for them to go check out your stuff is to go to–should they go to WebKul? Yeah, probably WebKul. Kul is spelled K-U-L. So, it’s WebKul.com, right?

Vipin: Yeah.

Andrew: All right. Cool. You must have gotten great results from the last interview because now you’re back. I hope you get such good results that you’ll want to keep coming back. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy. Bye, everyone.


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