His entrepreneurial journey has been far from seamless though. His first tryst with a start up, calling for a massive salary cut, was a grand failure in material terms. Even as his close associates sympathized with him as a spent force, he moved over to another start up. This one got acquired by a bigger fish in due course but with a parting gift – a paid job in the merged entity. Just when people conferred the ‘settled’ tag on him, he called it quits to initiate his own start up. After an elongated coil of failures, he finally saw light at the end of the tunnel with the support of a great co-founder and a go-getting team…and WebEngage was born.
Meet Avlesh Singh, CEO of WebEngage. Co-founded with friend and Burrp colleague Ankit Utreja, WebEngage was an incredible upshot of observing and analyzing the archetypal nightmares that make life difficult for the online marketing tribe. Whatever their need – running promotions, introducing targeted offers or just about anything else – the development team is invariably dismissive about it given their customarily chocked pipelines that leave absolutely no room for magnanimity. “Our assumption was that this couldn't be a ‘Burrp only’ problem. Thankfully, it turned out to be valid.” says Avlesh with inimitable humility.
Founding duo: Avlesh Singh and Ankit Utreja
For those unaware of the WebEngage universe housing thousands of esteemed brands like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Cloe, Zivame, Indiatimes, Reliance, Coinflash and Getit, here’s a quick foreword.
WebEngage is a customer engagement suite residing atop a tripod of Survey, Feedback and Notifications that carry way more value than what the dictionary meaning of the titles imply. Offered in four flavors – Basic, Standard, Premium and Enterprise, (14-day free trials available for all plans, ready-to-run for the first three and on request for the last mentioned) WebEngage makes online engagement a fertile, UX-rich two-way street, bringing home the intimacy of a brick and mortar store interaction sans the subjectivity of human interaction. Unlike those pushy pop-ups that serve no purpose whatsoever - neither for sellers nor buyers - a WebEngage survey captures a host of insightful prospect information linked to the whole range of product options and versions including prospective interest in would-be schemes and buying preferences based on gender, geography or demography. WebEngage Feedback, unlike the typical droning forms we fill by default, can be tailored to address specific actionable needs and is even response-sensitive based on the choice made at the visitor end. E-commerce entities couldn’t have asked for a more potent tool than the WebEngage Targeted Notifications which enable you to influence your target audience in different ways – from announcing seasonal discounts and system downtimes to enthusing non-moving and slow-moving visitors towards concession-driven cart conversions.
Watch this video for a better elaboration: Rescue abandoned carts using WebEngage
Are there any proposed additions to the WebEngage suite - beyond the feedback, surveys and notifications? “A whole lot of them”, informs Avlesh. “Among other things, we are creating a category called "on-site marketing" and defining the rules for it. Second, we are releasing a customer engagement suite for mobile apps. This is coming up Mid June. Third, we are superbly focused on data analytics. I don't want to spill the beans here but expect us to do some release some cool things in a couple of months.”
All WebEngage nudges are linked to actual conversions on store owner sites – whether in terms of increasing sales, reducing cart abandonment, improving newsletter sign-ups, generating leads, or boosting website registrations. More than mere enablement, WebEngage also helps you measure conversions in real time. In a recent enhancement, WebEngage has makes analytics radically actionable through its Leave Intent Targeting feature. The title may sound cryptic, but not the value proposition. It simply implies the ability to shoot surveys and notifications to users about to leave the site in conjunction with customer-specific rule(s) of choice, whether based on page URLs, geographies, traffic source, specific time intervals or value of purchase. Sensing the mouse movement of visitors, a pre-configured survey/notification can be popped up the moment the user is found approaching the close button or moving towards a different tab in the browser window. This last-ditch attempt at extending discounts to users on the verge of quitting makes a big difference to the given website’s conversion fortunes.
WebEngage Wizards …as formal as they could possibly get
Given its compelling value prop - for web store and portal owners, blog authors and just about any website driven by user interest – coupled with its flexible subscription-based pricing model, WebEngage surely holds an edge in a crowded marketplace. But how does it rate its competition and what are the plans going forward?
Avlesh contends, “On-site marketing automation is a great space. One, the space has been ruled by turnkey solution providers - some of them became really large over a period of time. We saw a unique opportunity in being DIY and took on the challenge of carving our niche there. In what we do, there is very little direct competition. Close to 20% of our customers are Enterprises. BFSI, Brand and EdTech players, predominantly from the US and UK, constitute over 30% of our business. These include Avaya, Intuit, Money Advice Service, Kaplan, Udemy, Lynda, HDFC Mutual Fund, Kotak, IDFC and the like.”
Backed by seed funds and investment management entities of the likes of Capital Group, Bloom Ventures and Indian Angel Network, WebEngage is aggressively focused on expanding their US, UK, EMEA and APAC exposure. Having set up overseas teams, mostly remote to begin with, they plan to command a physical presence in three to four countries outside of India in the near future. In doing so, the company will continue its growth trajectory based on its intrinsic value, avoiding any marketing tie-ups with prominent and dominant players across verticals. “We dread the very thought of such tangential arrangements primarily because our potential is yet untapped. The room to grow and govern has not been even explored. We are just about getting started. Any market-driven arrangement that comes in the way would be counter-productive. The future is unpredictable. In the world we live in, things change overnight. But what I can assure you our edge will drive as many as 100,000 websites by the end of 2016. When that happens, we'll tell the world what else we are doing. Right now, we are at the 26,000 mark and counting…” Avlesh reveals.
As epoch-making as its disruptive value prop is the firm’s clarity and courage of conviction. The WebEngage team is a wonderful assortment of mavericks in motion, distinctly open source in thought and action, whatever their defining tag – designers, developers or marketers. Workplace to them means a green house spiced by beer, bread and banter, but they strictly mean business and deliver it with market-leading agility. There’s plenty of office room for ambition but none whatsoever for mediocrity, negativity, empty gut feel or egotism. The revered emphasis is on unconditional elucidation and sharing of grass roots experience, free of the curse of knowledge – whether specific to seeding of ventures, software development or marketing campaigns - with the community at large. It’s worthwhile to check out their highly informative blogs – both corporate and engineering. From broadcasting customization and integration breakthroughs to elucidating the intricacies of Representational State Transfer APIs and Webhook documentation, backbone of an Open and interoperable Web, the team even shares the delight of transitional milestones in a congenially self-deprecating tenor worth adulation and emulation in the same breath.
Aspiring tech startups can learn a lot from Avlesh’s free and freewheeling counsel. No heavy sermons in his plea, only heartfelt sentiment. Way more edifying than CB Insights chief Anand Sanwal’s ‘54 mistakes of a Startup CEO’ but at a fraction of Samwal’s popularity emanating from a bullet point-obsessed US of A.
Note Avlesh’s stress on the need to set up basic communication channels like email summaries and blog posts apart from smart demos and fit-for-purpose articulation of product stories from end-user perspective. “Unlike popular perception of a blog post’s short-lived shelf life, it is amazingly "discoverable" on Google forever. What better marketing tool you expect, free at that!” Avlesh asserts. “Startups, by definition and nature, are ad-hoc. Businesses aren't - they have processes in place. If a startup has to move up the ladder and become a business, it has to put processes and templates in place. The sooner that realization kicks in, the faster you'd be climbing up the value chain to become a really large business. Else, good luck.”
Beyond doubt, the more-than-confirmed non-conformist team of WebEngage is a rare species, God sent for the future of tech-driven entrepreneurship in a country known for mammoth maintenance factories humming in the name of design hubs and tariff-driven body shopping outfits masquerading as development firms.
Avlesh cautions, “An entrepreneur is NOT a businessman. The former has a much larger motive as opposed to money making alone. So if you empathize with an entrepreneur, take the effort to believe in his or her vision. Be the force of good beyond the confines of your comfort zone. That’s exceedingly critical for tiding over the taxing gestation of umpteen failures before success can hope to surface above. This indefinable faith has no locus standii, precisely why entrepreneurship can’t ever be illustrated, it can only be experienced.”
For the awesome power and pertinence of its innovation engine, the WebEngage literature unfolding it for the public at large seems somewhat constricted. Knowingly or unknowingly, this is a common trait of an ever-evolving lab bursting at the seams in real time, all the time. The WebEngage website exploration, for all its wealth of information, is currently led more by interest than instruction, especially for first timers checking in as community stakeholders. Add to that the unintentionally enigmatic naming conventions and even an interested user could get needlessly overwhelmed by the enormity and elusiveness of the information stack. Maybe a smart summary packing the value prop in pithy paragraphs on the home page could prove the perfect curtain raiser for a deeper dive into their phenomenally engaging knowledgebase. Prospects or suspects, all will benefit from the ensuing traction given the fact that WebEngage is essentially an evangelist practitioner, not your everyday e-provider.