Building Enterprise SaaS Business: Deep Dive with Khadim Batti, Co-Founder & CEO, Whatfix

Khadim Batti, Co-Founder & CEO Whatfix chats with Shripati Acharya, Managing Partner Prime Venture Partners.

Listen to the podcast to learn about

03:00 - GPS for Software

09:00 - Finding PMF & The Right Customer Segment

15:30 - Pricing & Product For Enterprise

21:00 - Building Sales Cycle & Sales Force in US

29:00 - Four Pillars of Category Awareness

36:00 - Start Selling to Enterprise

Read the complete transcript below

Shripati Acharya 00:45

Hello and welcome to Prime Ventures Podcast. I am absolutely delighted today to have with me Co-Founder and CEO of Whatfix, Khadim Batti. Khadim, welcome to the podcast.

Khadim Batti 01:00

My pleasure, Shripati. Very glad to be back, talking to you after several years.

Shripati Acharya 01:05

Absolutely. And today, we are going to go into all things SaaS and as Whatfix has scaled from zero to 10s of millions of dollars of revenue, I think it is a terrific journey, wherein you can go into a lot of detail about what it takes to build a really global and successful SaaS business. So we’ll get to that, Khadim. Could you give a quick overview on what is Whatfix? What is the product, and what problem is it solving?

Khadim Batti 01:30

Yeah, so at the macro, Shripati, there are like more than $750-800 billion worth of enterprise software sold every year. And if you translate back to enterprises, they’re spending several hundreds of millions or at least a billion or two every year on buying the softwares. On an average, enterprises have more than 900 softwares today, 30% being SaaS. SaaS is growing fast anyway. Now, they would not realize ROI on this hundreds of millions of dollars they are spending until and unless employees use the software efficiently and effectively. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. We’re trying to create a layer of experience, a layer of guidance on top of underlying software stack, be it CRM, ERP, custom software, whatever employees are using internal to organization. Ensure they get the right nudges, the right guidance at the moment of need, on demand in application, which makes them more productive, ensures the ROI is realized by the organization. It’s a new category, which is called digital adaption solutions, and we are on the forefront players in this category.

Shripati Acharya 02:35

Got it. So essentially, instead of asking the employee to go ahead and read the manual or go look up help and all that kind of stuff, this is in context help, which is right then and there, so that you can start using this software much more effectively, much more quickly. Am I putting it correctly?

Khadim Batti 02:55

Yeah, another simple way to put it, we are a GPS for software.

Shripati Acharya 03:00

Perfect. All right. So let’s rewind back to 2014 I guess, in your very early in the days of Whatfix and looking at the journey from zero to one, so the first million dollars, which by many measures for a SaaS company is the most difficult period. And see, if I could rewind the clock back to then, Khadim, so what was the product then? Let me just ask what problem you’re trying to solve then, was it the same or was it different?

Khadim Batti 03:30

So let me tell you a little story actually how this problem itself came up for us actually. So me and my Co-Founder colleague, Kumar, who is based in Valley now, we both were in Bangalore. We were trying to build a software to help small businesses to improve their social media and search visibility. So in 2011, ’12, ’13 timeframe, the businesses wanted to leverage their online presence. So we wanted to help them out. Our hypothesis was that since small businesses can only pay $20-$30, we need to give them a solution, which is more self-serve.

And that’s where somewhere we got stuck. People were subscribing to it. They were churning in a few months because they were not realizing the ROI out of that. They were not implementing the bunch of recommendations that we were giving them. So either we had to wrap up with services around that particular solution or we had to make our solution, which was called SearchEnabler at that point as a fully self-served. While trying to make it self-served, Whatfix came out as a byproduct. So we used to have a button called fix it. When you click on a fix it button, it will show the business owners what are the parameters they need to fix in their websites or their social media handles and so on.

Many of them came back to us, saying, “Can I use this for my customers?” And that made us start thinking that, “Okay, this is something else as a byproduct or as a feature came out, which actually is solving a different problem, where many people wanted to handhold their customers, so that their support, their training needs come down. And their product engagement goes up.” So we debated a bit and then we pivoted. And that’s how the name also derives from the fixit button to Whatfix. To cut short answer to you, we wanted to actually help small businesses at that point to use Whatfix to reduce the support queries by ensuring that support articles and FAQs can be converted into interactive guidance, which we had built.

Shripati Acharya 05:20

Okay, so the software comes out and you’re initially getting some traction. Did you immediately start focusing on clients outside India or where did you start?

Khadim Batti 05:30

So it was very clear somehow because of our prior experience of SearchEnabler for a couple of years, what we tried. We somehow started believing that the majority of the market is in the US and outside India. And sooner or later, we’ll have the focus. But it was easier actually to get inputs and the validation of the product with the local people, local customers around Bangalore. So what we did initially, like we were only two people startup. So my co-founder used to get me 20-25 email IDs every day, primarily SaaS companies or small businesses, startups in Bangalore. I used to write them custom emails, send them across, had one or two landing pages.

And as soon as we get some response, we used to actually go and meet them and demonstrate the product very quickly. In three months, we got some 30-35 demos, we got four, five customers. And we got somewhere close to product market fit. Now, we didn’t want to spend too much time in India. It was just to validate our product, validate some amount of features and expectations, what would we have. Immediately, we started focusing on US. So we are getting started in a similar model, start going outbound to US, again getting that first three customers. In first 10 customers, we had six to seven from India, two from US and one from France. So right from very early days, in the first six months itself, we started focusing internationally.

Shripati Acharya 06:45

Okay. And I presume the outreach was the same. You send emails, and then probably followed up with phone calls. There was no Zoom then.

Khadim Batti 06:55

Yes, we used outbound. We didn’t know other methods much at the point. So it was more online calls and get those potential customers on call, so that we can see the reaction pretty quickly before we build any hypothesis. The point when we sold eight, nine customers our product, we started realizing the repeatability in the pitch, some of the wow factors in the pitch, which was resonating with them. What problem statements were getting repeated again and again? So somewhere when we got the repetition of the pitch, I think that’s when we realized that, “Okay, now we need to start scaling and reaching out to more customers.” And we hired our first sales guy.

Shripati Acharya 07:30

Understood. What was the size of these customers? Which kind of customers were you targeting in this phase?

Khadim Batti 07:35

So we typically went behind customers, which have like, $5 million-$10 million kinds of fund raise they would have done because we wanted to price our product at that point $2,000 to $3,000 a year. So that’s how we started. Of course, it changed and all in a few years’ time.

Shripati Acharya 07:48

Sorry, how much was it?

Khadim Batti 07:50

$2,000 to $3,000 a year. Yeah, could of hundred MRR. Iinitially, we thought our product would be more relevant for … We’ll start with SMB globally, but then gradually realized that we have to move up the segment. Today, we have a product market fit, our sweet spot is enterprises.

Shripati Acharya 08:10

Okay, but we’ll get to that in a second, Khadim. I want to ask when and how you transitioned to enterprises. So the first million, so how long did it take to get to the first million ARR after you had actually started this process, after you got the first customers in India or US?

Khadim Batti 08:25

We might not be a very good example for that. We took around almost three years because we started with, as I was mentioning, with small businesses. So the first year, even though we started getting customers, we couldn’t reach because we were charging only a couple of thousand dollars. We could reach only 100 grand 20k first year, and then 300k odd in the second year. And then, we started realizing our product market fit into larger segments, in the enterprise segment. And then, in the third year, we got over a million dollars.

Shripati Acharya 08:55

So let’s talk about the product market fit. I mean there’s something which you just mentioned. And that is like realizing when you have product market fit, when did you get that feeling we actually have PMF?

Khadim Batti 09:10

Yeah. See, I would say reaching PMF is multiple stages actually. So the first stage was actually when we got a problem statement very clear. The solution that we were proposing, that whole pitch we were giving them, the sales process, I think that repeatability was the stage one I would say, where we thought, “Okay, we are actually getting customers regularly and they’re resonating with our pitch. Now, it’s time to get a couple of sales, right?” So that was the stage one when you can say kind of a pitch being more clear.

The stage two was actually when they bought the product, and they started deploying and utilising it. So when they started deploying and they started seeing some ROI and they were renewing it without churning or they were at least getting the value out of it, I think that was a stage two. I think the combination of stage one and stage two, I think I would say a PMF. Since our product actually initially as I was mentioning was targeting small businesses, we used to see a lot of churn there. So we were able to repetitively sell, but we were not able to retain because it was kind of a nice to have. It was not a burning problem for them. They didn’t want to put enough effort, and when they didn’t put enough effort, they would not see ROI. And we would see a churn. That’s why we went to a segment, which was a little larger or let’s say 500 to 1,000 people company. And they started seeing benefits out of it because they could put the effort, and they can see an ROI. So that’s the reason I would say the product market fit was when we changed the segment.

Shripati Acharya 10:35

So you’ve got maybe a couple of years into the product when you moved from SMB to enterprise?

Khadim Batti 10:45

Yes. Couple of years into the product and around half a million ARR.

Shripati Acharya 10:50

Understood. I think that’s a fairly common theme in the sense that getting SEs to a retain is just a much bigger challenge. However, selling to enterprises is a very different motion. So how much of a product change did you have to make to now start addressing the enterprise? Now, you said that you had the problem with SMBs, so what was the thinking process in terms of both the product, and then the pricing when you started thinking about enterprise?

Khadim Batti 11:20

Yeah, so let me come back to the pricing actually. There were three or four different use cases we had identified. So when we were going for small businesses, the primary use case, as I was describing earlier, was to help the small businesses to ensure a better support or self-serve based support to their customers. Now, here the target person was product manager or a founder or CEO, CTO of the company. Now, since these were small businesses, the problem statement they were trying to solve currently with the knowledge base of ease of support desk and all, the paying capacity was $2,000-$3,000 in itself. Maybe I would have got more if I would have bought into the enterprise segment for that particular use case.

The second use case, which actually we started moving towards was going behind a company enterprise, which has let’s say a few hundred sales guys. And they are using a CRM like Salesforce or Dynamics. Now, they are not getting an adoption on top of CRM, which they have already spent a couple of million dollars on. Now, when they are spending a couple of million dollars for a 400-500 licence of a Salesforce or something, I think for them to see an ROI, it won’t be a problem to write $50,000 to $100,000 checks. So the price point started evolving based on this particular use case because the value of what we were giving them was much, much, much higher.

Shripati Acharya 12:40

And did you discover this use case when your customers themselves started asking you for it or they were already using it that way or how did that come about?

Khadim Batti 12:50

Yeah, so we actually discovered it when we were attending one of the events, Dreamforce in the US. So before that, we started getting some signals about these use cases. So we said, “Okay, this would take a while for us to get the validation, so why not attend an event, where we can actually in two to three days, we can talk to a couple of hundred people and actually decide, ‘Okay, this is where the sweet spot is.’” So we took a chance. Actually, we went to Dreamforce. We had a booth there. And the three days, we spoke to almost 300 people. In three days, 300 people from day one, first pitch to the last pitch, I think it changed dramatically. A lot of things changed, and we iterated while speaking. We iterated the price point. I remember one story, like when we told one of the person, they have 1,000 sales people in their organisation. And they asked for the price. And when we went there, we said, “Okay, we’ll tell higher price.” $8,000 was what we decided. At the time, we didn’t know about the 50k and all. We told the person, “Okay, it’s going to be $8,000 as a price point.” He said, “Okay, 8 into 12, $96,000 looks fine.”

So for us, it was $8,000 a year. He thought it was a month because he was spending $5 million, $6 million on a CRM, he could never imagine somebody is going to give me this kind of a solution for 8k. It doesn’t make sense, right? So along with the pitch, along with that use case, we started identifying the price point as well. Apart from that their people started saying, “Okay, not only Salesforce, I have my CPQ, I have CLM. I also want my people to actually get engaged on the those softwares.” Suddenly, we started realising the TAM, which we were seeing maybe half a million or a billion on that particular use case one. Now, here the TAM seems to be pretty huge now. So the TAM, the fitment, the pricing point, everything actually started resonating very well.

Shripati Acharya 14:45

Definitely a very pivotal moment, right? I think that I would say there are several founding moments in a company’s history, right? It’s not just one moment when it gets founded. And it seems like the second founding moment for Whatfix.

Khadim Batti 15:00

For sure actually, it was so exciting, very tiring. Like every day, we used to … We were only three, four people company at that point and going into the booth and meet so many people was very, very exciting moment for us.

Shripati Acharya 15:10

So then, you decide to start focusing on enterprise, and I guess completely rethinking your pricing. So what about the sales motion now because now this is not DIY or at least, I don’t know whether you can do a $100,000 sale remotely. So how were you thinking?

Khadim Batti 15:30

Yeah, so since initially even for small businesses, we were outbound because we wanted to learn. That was not the motion we wanted to build, but we wanted to learn. And we had some experience of that particular motion, so we started scaling the particular motion. So for driving the demand generation, since events worked for us, at least to get the validation, so we started doing more events across the year. At least, five, six events every … Like one or two events every quarter, get those demands. We started doing Google advertisements to drive some traffic. That was number two. Then, we used to qualify those opportunities, and then give it to sales guys for the process what we had built. Yeah, by that time, I think as I was mentioning to you, we were getting close to a million.

And also, being a new category, a lot of people didn’t know what exactly this product contains, like how do I use them, how do I realise? It’s more seen than described. After the initial discussion and some brief demo, we used to encourage customers a lot to do a POC with us. And we used to say that, “Okay, within 15 days, we’ll show you how quickly this can be integrated, deployed and some ROI can be generated off it.” So we used to encourage them for 15 days, 30 days demo. And once they see the demo, we were actually enabling the champion to go and actually show the same thing to their other colleagues in the company and get the budget because this is a new category. There was no budget. Somebody had to evangelise internally as well. So we had to enable the champion as well. And they used to get the budget.

So you had asked earlier one question, which I didn’t answer. I didn’t get a chance to answer about the product, changing the product from small businesses to enterprise, right? So one of the first friction points what we see was the security. Now, many of these large enterprises and enterprises wanted you to be ISO compliant, SOC compliant, like a lot of certifications they needed. Initially, many of the companies don’t have that or it takes a while, six months, 12 months cycles to get those. And even if the company has those certifications, sometimes the trust is not established because maybe we’re trying to get the first Fortune customer or the first large enterprise. So what we did, we did a quick hack on our product. End of the day, it’s a guidance platform, so somebody has to create the guides, and then it has to be deployed.

So what we started doing is we used to start creating like … You create the guides using Whatfix on the cloud, on your test environment, which doesn’t have any issues with security or compliance need and all. Once you do this, I would give your module, where you can actually download everything, whatever you created, like a package and deploy it on your server or in your premise, which can be used by your employees and no calls would go to Whatfix cloud or anywhere outside. So it’s completely safe. And since it is deployed on-premise, you don’t need any certifications or anything. That’s how I got my first three, four enterprise customers. We called it Export Mechanism, so that was the one hack we did for our software.

Second, since we were getting deployed in an enterprise environment on the use case like CRM that’s a Salesforce or a SuccessFactors in HR, we don’t have access to the source code of Salesforce or anyone. So we can’t inject anything via script, which we typically would do for a company, which is owning a product. So now, we need to have a different mechanism to inject Whatfix. So what we did was we used to identify like, “Okay, one is the standard browser mechanism, which companies are using.” And typically, it’s two or three, right? Most of them is Chrome or some version of IE now Edge, and Firefox. So mostly, IE and Chrome we used to figure out. So what we did, we created a browser extension. And we said, “Okay, we will work with your IT department, create an IT policy, where the browser extension will be deployed across all the employees of the department, and that would inject on top of Salesforce or SuccessFactors. You wouldn’t need to integrate any source code. So that was a second change we did on our product to work with this enterprise internal use case actually.

So some modifications for the product, definitely some modifications for also to ensure that we can work around the security. But as we got more companies on board, we definitely got all the security compliances. So today, when we show anybody that okay we have 70 or 80 Fortune companies on board, nobody asks for most of the issues, and they say, “Okay, fine.” So gradually, we gradually reverted back, like we canceled those export mechanism, which was a workaround because now we wanted a single mechanism for everyone. So that we got rid off. In between actually, when we got first Fortune 10 customer, they were so fixated on, “Okay, I want everything on-prem.” So we even gave two on-premises also, but gradually, we convinced them and we also moved them to cloud. So now, every customer is on the cloud.

Shripati Acharya 20:15

That’s a really fascinating story about the on-prem export module because basically, it’s sort of like trial software, right? It’s a completely different code base probably and customers getting used to it, terrific hack. Let’s go to the sales motion now, right? What were the sales cycles like because going from an SMB, where the sales cycles maybe might be a few weeks I am thinking for them to agree, what were you seeing as the sales cycles in enterprise?

Khadim Batti 20:45

Two things changed Shripati. One, sales cycle definitely, sales cycle started being somewhere around four to six months from four to six weeks, which was a initially, but of course it’s compensated with a good amount of price point. And the second is even post sales, the go-live period. So the go live period also started going to three months, four months, five months. So two things, we saw dramatic change. Again, the work for us was actually create more demand, create more pipes. So if we have a salesperson working with eight to 10 opportunities in any given quarter, subsequently, at least two of them will start closing. So the predictability started baking in. The transition initially took a while.

In fact, Alok, who is on our board used to give a lot of heads up, saying that, “Khadim, if you want to get X number in three quarters down the line, you have to encounter the six months sales cycle, three months of sales ramp up, and three months of hiring a person, right?” So quota capacity, planning and all those, which didn’t come naturally to us because we were graduating from SMB to enterprise. So having someone with experience on board helped. And that took a while. I think six to eight months, I think it took a while for us to realise, but then it got baked into the plan.

Shripati Acharya 22:00

Wonderful. So have the sales cycle kind of reduced over time, I’m just trying to see what enterprise when a mature product looks like and if so, how much does it reduce by?

Khadim Batti 22:05

No. Actually, I think sales cycles are still around average 4, 4.5 months, 5 months Shripati. Some of the deals even take 8 months, 10 months and 12 months as well if the deal size has even further gone up, like 50k, 80k, which I was saying. We started closing half a million dollar deals, sometimes 800k deals, 600k deals because our customers are also actually getting so much aware of our category. They’re coming to us and saying, “Okay, this is fine. I bought your CRM. Now, actually, this is lovely. I want to use this on 20 other applications. Now, these 20 other applications, spread across three, four departments. There are five different stakeholders, buyers, four VPs involved, CIO involved, sometimes more. So the cycles are even longer.

But of course, the deal sizes are $500k-$700k and it starts going up. So it compensates there. New customers, which are trying our category for the first time, also started saying, “Okay, I want to start with four applications. I’m doing a digital transformation of complete ERP stack or CRM stack. And my partners have recommended that I should use an adoption solution, otherwise, ROIs will take a while.”

So a lot of awareness is actually helping us to get larger deals now, but sales cycles are kind of constant because security evaluation, IT evaluation, vendor registration, those things anyway will take a couple of months.

Shripati Acharya 23:20

Got it. Talk about the sales force then, like the kind of people because now I would think you would require an on the ground sales force in the geography, where your customers are and your geography is being as you mentioned, perhaps Europe. So how was it like go through the process of building a sales force in the US?

Khadim Batti 23:40

Yeah. So it has also evolved. I think our learning is quite different from many of the companies here because we started selling from India initially. We didn’t have enough money to hire at that point in the US. So we didn’t have a choice. And it worked because new category, hardly any competition, people wanted to start small. That was a kind of a blessing in disguise in a way because everybody wanted to experiment and try it out. So most of the companies started with a single application license. And single application licenses used to be anywhere between 50-80k kind of price point for us. And once they see ROI for a single application, they used to start expanding to multiple applications. Now, multiple applications will be across different departments, across different projects, and all.

Now, for getting into multiple applications, you need to have lot of relationship building, create the champions, use champions to navigate, do internal kiosk, workshops, do some internal marketing within a larger enterprise. For example, if you take any large company, whether it’s a J&J or Cisco, they have thousands of softwares where Whatfix is required. So we need to do a lot of marketing within the company itself, so a lot of on-the-ground work is required. Whereas if you land into those companies, if they’re writing you 50-80k check, they have figured out some kind of a use case. So it’s like there is an already an intent. It can work even remotely. So over a period of time, what has happened for a company like us, the model for sales has evolved is land from India, and expand in the region. So I have 30-40 territory sales folks, sitting out of India, selling in Europe and US. They are primarily landing and acquiring those at a 50, 80, 100k kind of a price point. Occasionally, we also get $200,000, $300,000 or $500,000 deal.

But once we land, we have account directors or account managers in different parts of the world, who own six to eight logos. And their job is only to build relationships with these logos, identify the new projects and new budgets and keep expanding. So that’s the model which has beautifully evolved for us, and it’s paying us very good dividends.

Shripati Acharya 25:50

So that’s really very interesting. I have not heard of that kind of model often when talking to SaaS companies. So what kind of situations or what kind of products do you think that model can work? And where do you think you probably need to actually have even the land piece done with a field sales force?

Khadim Batti 26:10

Yeah, so specifically because it was from a new category. New category, majority of the enterprise, whether it’s a Fortune or a large enterprise, they want to start small. They want to experiment at first. So their experiment budget is $50k-$100k. So your remote land would work. But once you want to expand on get enterprise wide or department wide, across 30 applications, 50 applications, those kinds of multimillion dollar deals, I think we need to have a lot more touch points on the ground. That’s number one. That should work for a similar model, where we have small and expand big. That kind of model doesn’t matter, should work with this kind of thing.

The second one, now where we need to actually even for land, now as we are getting more bigger lands also have started because the category awareness has increased. So if you’re getting a Fortune 500, or global 1000 group or strategic account, where they want to actually start even at quarter million or half a million or a million, some kind of more touch will be required. So what we have tried is in this case also, some strategic AEs for land we are positioning in the region, but many of them are still able to do it from India with a cover fire from a sales engineer who’s sitting in the region.

So again, it’s an experiment you have to keep thinking and what’s the best way to balance out and make things work in a more efficient way.

Shripati Acharya 27:25

Absolutely. Let me ask you one more question around that, which is I’ve seen a lot of startups when they are doing overseas sales face a challenge that starts with respect to hiring in the sense that assembling the right team, it takes a while. And there can be a lot of mistakes. People churning and everything else. How was it for you? What was the experience like?

Khadim Batti 27:45

So I think everybody has their fair share of mistakes, even we did actually. Specifically that expansion part if I have to explain, right, so we thought expansions will come naturally. It didn’t come so naturally for us. Then, we thought, “Okay, sales guy who have done the deal would do the expansion as well.” Now, expansion came out to be a lot more outbound, but the sales guys are getting inbound in some other events. So they became very transactional. So they were not focusing on expansion. If it comes naturally, it is a bonus for them. So the science was not getting established there. Process was not getting built.

So we thought, “Okay, now, after sales is done, the relationship has been built by customer success department, so customer success department has to do expansions.” So we moved that responsibility. That also didn’t work because of course, new dollars, everybody gets carried. The focus of the ROI and value delivery started reducing. And being a new category, it was very important for us. We didn’t want to compromise there because the onus is on us to show the ROI and we make everybody learn from the enterprise, like how this has to be build, how to build COEs.

And so again, we thought, “Okay, this is not the right place.” And the third iteration we did this was, “Okay, have a dedicated sales guys for expansion, which we call account managers now.” Now, within those account managers also, we had some iterations. They were hit and miss. Now, we realise many of the account managers in the market are truly relationship builders. Okay, I have relationships established with you, I have sold you ERP, I’m selling three more products. But in our case, it was not that. “I will sell you something. Then, I have to go to another department. I was selling on CRM and I will sell on ERP, which is part of maybe finance. Then, I will sell into procurement. Then, I will sell into HR.” There are hundreds of applications in different departments. So it’s not only, only relations. Along with relation, some amount of hunting capabilities were also required. So that iteration also was required. And we got deeper, and we realized, “Okay, this is exact DNA” So once you figure out exactly the motion of the type of sales, type of sales DNA motions required, accordingly, the JD should change, and then you would figure it out.

Shripati Acharya 29:45

That is fascinating. I really like the way you described that, which is the person who is actually doing the expansion is also actually doing some hunting. And boils down to being really close to understanding the decision making process of the buyer, a really deep understanding of that. So how often do you talk to customers, Khadim?

Khadim Batti 30:05

So every trip when I go, I definitely meet at least four to five customers, try to talk to them, figure it out like how they’re using Whatfix, so what are the ROI parameters they’re looking. Apart from that, actually I think another interesting thing, which might be useful for many of your audiences because we didn’t want it to go too far away from the customers, including many of our leadership. And being a new category again, we feel the solution has to keep evolving because no true solution has been built. It’s a journey, right?

So what we did is we came up with, we call it executive sponsor program. So every VP and above at Whatfix from product, from engineering, from all the departments except sales, would be executive sponsor for three logos. Like I’m personally executive sponsor for three logos, I would be directly connected with those. They can reach out to me for any bottlenecks or anything, I’ll be talking to them every quarter at least once. And whenever I travel, I have to meet.In that way, we were covering 25-30 different logos. I would go to the depth of even implementation, what’s happening, what’s not working, what’s working, what are the tickets at least for that three logos, if not for everything.

Similarly, we at some point, like 24 months back, we also created a couple of advisory boards of customers, customer advisory board. For two or three different use cases, we identified everything, CRM and for complete employee experience use case, identified six or seven different customers and their decision makers or stakeholders, similar profile. We get them every quarter. We present them three problems, what we are working on, what direction we’re going and get their inputs. So that’s a second way, where we participate in a collaborative group. The executive sponsor is another program. Apart from that, there’s always firefighting. Somebody wants me to meet some customers. So that keeps happening, but this is more a structured way. We are trying to involve as many senior folks from Whatfix as possible.

Shripati Acharya 31:55

Makes sense. I guess these advisory boards are now virtual, I mean in the world of Zoom?

Khadim Batti 32:00

Yes, as of now, it’s virtual. We want to now take them to in-person.

Shripati Acharya 32:05

Wonderful. So you mentioned new category several times in our conversation. So what all did you do for awareness building of that, for this category?

Khadim Batti 32:15

I think we’ve been doing too many different experiments. So one is thought leadership. A lot of content we’ve been writing is getting hits of around quarter million a month now actually. And it’s not like writing about Whatfix and all. Writing about the broader problem statements like writing about digital transformation, how this fits in the whole digital transformation piece, how this fits into the chain management piece. So writing those articles, so that I don’t want to convert them. But I want people to start understanding that this is a crucial piece of digital transformation. And gradually, it took a while for us to get those traffic kicking in. But now it’s pretty huge. It’s just exploding.


The second one was actually most of the CXOs for large enterprises make decisions after talking to the analysts. So there are analysts like Gartners, Forresters, IDCs. And there are Everest and there are several specific to industry verticals and all. So pretty early, compared to many other startups, we created an analyst relationship program. So we hired a dedicated person for that as part of our broad marketing group. And today actually, we are doing almost 40-45 briefings every quarter.

So if you just look at Gartner for example or Forrester or IDC, there is an analyst identified for our category now. But that is specific to us. But there are so many other analysts which can influence. So there’s an analyst specific to CRM. Now, they should also know when they recommend CRM to someone, they should also recommend that. An analyst referring HR software like SuccessFactors or Workday. Analyst is referring ERP. Analyst is working for insurance programs. Analyst is working with SI or GSIs, like Infosys, Accenture, Wipro, where they should also say that in your CRM practice something that’s … So we started briefing and doing really horizontal, apart from focusing on our DAP analysts as well.

So it needed a lot of effort and a lot of focus in going into that. So that worked for us, content I was mentioning.

Third, we started doing a lot of events. So today, virtually and physically combined, I think we might be doing 40 to 50 events a year, which would be generating at least 10,000 to 15,000, top of the funnel contacts or leads for us. And that’s another way of creating that market. In fact, after getting to the stage, where we have 600 plus enterprise customers, when I go to an event,, still 60 to 70% of people who come to our booth, they say, “Never heard about this software.” So we are still so far away. And it also shows, “Okay, there’s too much head room to grow and keep running.” This one is the third, so events, content, AR, yeah, I think these are the three most important aspects we tried on category awareness actually. And apart from that, we focused because inbound will be limited for us because not many people can search for this. They don’t know about this.

The fourth one, we started focusing on building proper outbound engine. So we almost have like 60, 70, 80 team, which does a lot of outbound. They also start their cadences by not selling directly Whatfix, but actually sending them white paper, sending them case studies on what is this category and all right from the awareness stage.

Shripati Acharya 35:15

Got it. Four things that you mentioned. You mentioned events. You mentioned outbound and you mentioned the analyst program. And I feel that, I’ve seen a lot of companies do the first three, but the depth with which your briefing, you said 40 to 50 briefings a

quarter, which is like a couple of hundred a year, I mean that level of focus is something, which I have not seen too often. And I think that it is very important to our listeners as well, who are looking at enterprise software that the analysts play a very key influencer role to the buyers, to the CIOs and CTOs of the organisations, where enterprise sales decisions are being made.

So we’re running a little bit short on time. Khadim, this is a terrific conversation. So let me actually just close with a couple of questions for you, so which is if you had to go back and no pun intended, fix one thing in the Whatfix journey, now that you know so much and been through this evolution, what would that be?

Khadim Batti 36:20

I would directly start selling to enterprises without worrying too much because we spent a lot of time graduating from each level and all, right? So I will directly price it really high. Start selling to enterprises that would maybe save three years of our journey.

Shripati Acharya 36:30

Go direct to enterprise because the product, so much is different. Basically, the SMB step doesn’t buy you too much to paraphrase it differently. And final question here, so what would your advice be to Indian SaaS founders, who are looking for global markets. So what would your advice be to founders, who are in the zero to one journey right now and looking to go global? How should they think about it?

Khadim Batti 36:50

So if they have decided that sooner or later, they want to go global to build a large company, I would say as soon as you get your basic product market fit, like eight, 10 customers or whatever initial phase, immediately start going global. Start figuring out US or whichever territory you want to because I have seen many startups saying, “Okay, things are working out well in India, I’ll get to million, 2 million, 3 million, 4 million.” The more time you spend, the more that particular geography is getting captured by some other competitor. So I would say right as early as possible. Don’t wait, don’t spend too much time saying, “I’ll go later.”

And also, focus on one or two geographies, like if you are going for US, focus on US because operations are hard because if you are selling from India, if you are supporting from India, if you are demand generation from India, people have to work for a US shift, which is five to three in the night. So same person also doing for your Southeast Asia and all this becomes very hard. So if you have a really focused geography, like I am going to do for the US, you can align the whole operations and time zones accordingly. People respond on time, things start moving fast.

Shripati Acharya 38:00

Very, very good points. Thank you Khadim for sharing your insight, really frank and wide ranging conversation and a really good deep dive into SaaS and building up a big business. All the best for Whatfix.

Khadim Batti 38:15

Thanks Shripati and hope people find some value out of this.

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