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Building the D2C success stack | BIK
In a gold rush, the best businesses are the ones that sell shovels!
One such company that is selling shovels in the current e-commerce gold rush is Bik, previously known as Bikayi.
Bik helps companies increase the sales of their online stores through AI-powered customer engagement and communication tools.
They want to help brands achieve better returns on their investments by improving the way businesses sell products through conversations, by leveraging channels like WhatsApp, Instagram etc.
Sonakshi shares the journey of first building up Bikayi as a WhatsApp commerce tool for small businesses before making the pivot to Bik which offers solutions to large global enterprise clients.
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Sonakshi: Hey guys, I am Sonakshi Co-Founder and CEO of BIK the dreams was always about starting my own company, starting my own business. That was the aspiration since even I remember when I was 10, 12 years old, that was the only thing that always used to pop my mind. And I was, since I was super good in mathematics, I chose science as my academic path.
Then I got into IIIT. It's again, a place which is all about, spending four years with people who are top notch in algorithms, computer science, and then, getting placed into top notch companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook. So I worked at Microsoft after, doing my graduation from IIIT in Computer science, and that's where I met my co-founder as well, Ashu.
We both were batchmates in the university and I worked for Microsoft for three years as software developer. But as I said, always there was this itch of starting my own company. Throughout those journey of three years, it was always about thinking what I can do next, what I can build.
Maybe I should go back and join my family business, always. This, the mindset of startups so reading about them made me, choose this path. And by 2018 was when, after working three years at Microsoft, I had a discussion with Ashu. Ashu was in Canada during those days.
He was working for companies like Zen, Square and, we had a discussion that maybe we should start something of our own. He moved back and that's how you know Bikayi was born.
Akshay: So did you have a clear idea when you started talking to Ashu?
Sonakshi: No. One thing was clear, we wanna do something of our own.
There was no idea as such what we want to do, but surely, during my days at Microsoft, I was trying out multiple things. For example there was, a lot of startups who were trying out things on helping kids with education. I thought of, thinking of some building something on those lines, but I never executed anything to while doing my job.
And then, we thought of building some something related to restaurants while we were quitting our jobs, respective jobs. And it was more about, these days you must be seeing QR codes on the restaurant tables who like, while scanning. So that was our idea that time. And very soon, like just after quitting the job, we understood it's more salesy kind of business like it's not more about product building and we are not, very good at sales right now.
So we thought of, no, we don't want to do this. We didn't have anything, quitting our jobs.
Akshay: How did you finalize on the idea of Bikayi.
Sonakshi: As I said, I belong to a family who runs their own business. So I and Ashu like I remember Ashu moved back to India. I was in Hyderabad that time.
So he moved to Hyderabad with me and we were together for two, three months, building that restaurant thing. But then, we thought that maybe this is not something that we want to do. So we moved back to our respective hometowns for a month during New Year's, and that's when, I was spending a lot of time with my family, their business, understanding the model.
And that's where, they also run a small kind of grocery store. And they had accept, started accepting orders on WhatsApp chat. And that made us realize that, there's so much potential. Like literally our customers used to send messages of the items, list of items they wanted to order.
And my family was okay, like we'll deliver it. So that's when they thought there should be a tool to help them out. And we started looking up for tools. We found Shopify, we found Indian versions of Shopify. But none were I would say suitable exactly to those kind of profiles. By profiles, what I mean is people who just know how to use mobile, they have no idea about, the complexities of desktop
today we have, and also people who understand internet is about WhatsApp and YouTube, they don't know anything beyond that. So that's how, we searched for solution, didn't find any, and that's when, Ashu suggested, why don't we build one? And within days Bikayi was born as an app in play store and it was launched.
So this is how we begin.
Akshay: So Bikayi was like a app to create a digital storefront for people who are not tech savvy, they could very easily download, create a shop list items with the price. And then send that link to their neighbourhood customers that order through this.
And then what would happen once they sent out a link to customers,
Sonakshi: Yeah, so then, the customers can easily browse opening that link. They can easily browse kya kya milta hai what is there in the store, what they have to offer, discounts, et cetera, and place the order. Once they get the order, then, first we improved the showcasing experience where customers are able to see it easily.
Then, post order experience where the shop owner or the, the merchant who's able to now easily able to manage orders. For example, they're getting hundred orders in a day, or let's say 20 orders in a day. Seeing them in a place, understanding, okay, this is delivered, this is out of stock, so maybe I should cancel it, et cetera, et cetera.
So these were like two major use cases we wanted to solve.
Akshay: and but this did not have real-time inventory. Like that inventory would be manually updated and this did not have payment gateway they would pay cash on delivery, something like that.
Sonakshi: Yeah. Initially it didn't have, but within couple of months, when our software, because Akshay I still remember, although we build it keeping, my family business in mind.
Very soon the acceptance of this product from businesses who were, selling clothes, apparels cosmetics, et cetera, started popping up and, because of covid it picked up really well during that time. And that's
Akshay: when did you launch this?
Sonakshi: So this was launched in 2019, mid and it was very close to Covid.
So within six months, like a full blown-up organic acceptance of this product started happening. And that's when, we built the payment gateways as well because now these stores, like who are selling apparel pan India, they need online payments, et cetera. So we ended up building a full-fledged ecommerce website builder for SMB's
Akshay: okay. So you built an app, like version one, put it on play store. Did it get downloads or did you spend money to get it downloaded? Like market?
Sonakshi: Yeah, it also has a very interesting story, and, like the background that I come from again, for them business success honay ka meaning hai profitability us ky alava there is no, other difference like raising money, et cetera, that didn't even exist in our dictionary.
Profitability was the ultimate goal for me and Ashu when we were starting off. And so whatever you think your thinking process, then, takes a different path when you have a different thought process altogether. So when we started off, what we did was we joined a lot of Facebook groups like for example, Mumbai Wholesale group.
Delhi wholesale groups and started posting our app ka link that, if you're a wholesaler, if a retailer, this is the app you can use to create your own insurance stall. And, I still remember with zero likes, zero comments. And of course zero installs. So then, like I was with because I said like I was at my hometown back then, understanding everything.
So my cousin was there, he told me
That's when you thought, so why are you not writing that? So yeah, this is actually such a valid point. And then, I rephrased my post on groups and I started writing, do you want to increase your sales on WhatsApp in comment yes! And you know that each individual post used to give us 800 likes. 400 comments people commenting
yes. And then I used to reply back. Okay. Then I have sent you a message on your DM. So this is how we started growing in initial one, two months because we were bootstrapping and profitability was the goal. And also, we clubbed it with, since we had friends working at Facebook that time used to give lot of credits, add credits to their employees.
So we used to get 35,000 rupees ka credit from every employee and we had five, six friends, so we started pitching that as well. That's how.
Akshay: Okay. And how did the product evolve then? Product V1 was there for how long, did you make V2 post lockdown tell me that evolution.
Sonakshi: Yeah. So yeah, so Akshay when we started off simple cataloguing tool, it didn't even have order placement capabilities, the version one of the product. Within a month we launched order placing capabilities because we understood like order management is a very big use case within a month. Then I remember by June, which was the second month, we understood because we started getting lot of calls and I and Ashu were managing customer support that time.
So we started getting lot of calls that, hey, I want to replace bikayi.com/my store link to my store.com. So we said, okay, this is doable like first we thought nai nai mana kar dy ty hai we don't have capability. They just say no. But then we thought chalo haan bol dy ty hai asked them, can you pay for that? When we told them, yes, we can do, but it is chargeable, it's not free.
So they said yeah, take money. And I still remember it was one guy said, 250 rupees hi dy paoun ga mai I cannot pay you 400 rupees that we asked for. So said, okay. Okay. 250 do because for us, quitting our jobs last year in September, and now it was June, 2019, it felt even 250 rupees felt really good, like making some money.
So we said, we agreed, he, transferred us 250 bucks and then we, sat throughout the night and you understood, okay, how can we do it? Then we launched a version where you can create your own website, a white labeled website. And once we did that, Akshay after that, the evolution of product became super speedy because now, people started seeing the capabilities of the product that now we have gotten our own website.
So we need payment gateways, we need ways, very capable ways to search product listing. We need really capable ways of showcasing like different themes. Then, they also started, slowly evolving towards asking loyalty programs. They started asking subscription as a model on their website and lot of things, product reviews, et cetera.
So eventually, you know this, in fact, we didn't have any product managers six until six months ago. So everything was built by what customers were saying. So evolution has been all customer led Akshay.
Akshay: Tell me about some of these features. So subscription for whom? These are retailers, right? What kind of subscription?
Sonakshi: Yeah, so let's say like Big Basket Daily, BB Daily. So if someone who's, selling milk, so now they want subscription for their consumers who can, have this daily subscription of getting milk on their doorstep. So this is one kind of, then there were people who were selling subscription boxes, like for example like a Dollar Shave Club sort of thing.
So there was like huge demand of subscription as a service model form
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. And product reviews is obviously on that website only, like on that shopper's site only.
Sonakshi: Yes. And also other thing Akshay that happened was since our vision since beginning was to make businesses successful, we wanted to make our family business successful.
And that's where we launched this product. So now always that vision used to wander our minds that giving them a website, giving web SMBs a website, is that enough to fulfil that vision? We agree to the fact that we are giving them access to tools who can take them online and opportunity they can become successful.
But our vision of making them successful, are we fulfilling that? And, that made us think very deeply. And, somewhere last year, around November we came up a feature I would say, or maybe a new offering, which was Marketing Solutions. And we started offering them digital marketing as a service.
So whoever owned a Bikayi website, we said that, okay, you can come to us, we'll, give you we can run Google and Facebook ads on your website and, you can just relax. You don't have to worry about how you can get new customers. So we started off, we did pilot with just 15 customers, but within two and a half months it exploded like thousand plus businesses using our digital marketing as a service.
So that's how we evolved in the, in our production.
Akshay: Tell me how the numbers evolved. Like what kind of downloads were you getting month on month?
Sonakshi: It is, very, I would say Akshay dependent on how much we spend on digital marketing. But I think we were approximately doing 5,000 to 6,000 installs per day.
Akshay: Wow. This is in pre covid or post covid?
Sonakshi: This is post covid. I would say like these numbers are around November, December last year, 21.
Akshay: Wow. Amazing. So once Covid hit how did the numbers change? Do you remember that? Pre covid, post covid?
Sonakshi: Yeah. Pre covid, I still remember per install we used to get 30 rupees, even a dollar, like 75 or 80 rupees per install.
But during covid it was never beyond 10 rupees. It was always below 10 rupees install and post covid. I would say it increased a bit, but it has not gone to a levels of what it was pre covid. So people have adopted this solution to their, natural habitation to run businesses.
Akshay: This, you're talking about your cost per install, like how much ad spend you had to do per install. Okay.
Sonakshi: Yes, correct.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. And like what made you feel that this will become a big business? I believe you also raised your first round after Covid hit. Tell me about that maturation phase. Once you start talking to investors, then it's a different level of maturity.
So you know what's signs did you see that? Yes, this is going to be a mature business and I need to raise funds for it.
Sonakshi: Yeah, so Akshay as I told you, we didn't have any clue about what VC means. VC hai bi ye bi nai pata tha humay to pata tha startup shuru karty hai, and then, you make it a successful business, go IPO et cetera. I didn't know anything about VC fundraising.
During Covid we were sitting idle. So I, and Ashu had this tendency to play tennis for three, four hours a day. That stopped because of Covid and we found ample amount in our lives and what we can do with that, apart from product building. I started researching on internet found about Y Combinator.
This was March, 2020, I found about Y Combinator. I still remember seeing a quote from, on Twitter from Michael Seibel that, YC has gone all remote and we are also accepting applications who want to, attend this remotely. So then I read about it. Understood more applied to YC. We got in, fortunately they had asked for one video, ki submit kar dy na ek min ka we made it, but we never knew that this is going to change everything for Bikayi.
Because like when we got into that first they offered I still remember ek call aya tha from his partner at YC. He said that, congrats, you have got into YC program, we'll offer you $150,000. I just went straight away to Ashu and said $150,000.
And back then, but when programs started, they taught us about fundraising, how to scale up your startup, how to think big, how to, get everything into place. How to work really hard to achieve such numbers that you are committing to. Those were ethics, I would say startup ethics on an entrepreneurial ethics that YC taught us and those three months were super, super amazing.
And when we came out of that program, we realized how much potential, this app has not just the organic reach that we were already getting, that never made us realize the amount of potential it has. But the education that we got in YC Combinator, which was about thinking of TAM, thinking about, how you can even expand your use cases to even get greater revenue opportunities from those TAM how to, think of challenges as something ki ye toh temporary hai like there is like still miles to go and things to achieve.
So all those things were taught at YC and after three months when we raised money, I would say honestly it was easy because, once you get out of YC there are always lot of angel investors reaching you out, and especially if the numbers are growing month over month and especially, YC there was this saying over there that if you focus on just on growing your business for three months, instead of focusing on fundraising funds, will.
Come to you, it'll walk to you. But if you don't do that, then it becomes difficult. So we just focused on increasing our revenue month over month. It involve a lot of product building. For example, Akshay you are selling a subscription at 200 rupees per month. Now you suddenly have to increase your revenue next month.
The only two way you can do is you can increase the number of customers coming in. Or what you can do is increase your check size to increase your check size what you can do is you can increase the number of features in your product so that existing users. So we knew we don't have money because YC money is also take some time to reach our account.
We didn't have money, so the only way to do was what we had to build product quickly within a month we did that. All our existing, merchants started upgrading to the higher package and we were actually seeing hundred percent month over one month growth on our revenues for three consecutive months in YC and that's how we raised our first round. So this is what happened.
Akshay: and, oh. So This's 200 per month, which that pre YC that subscription package. This was just for the domain, custom domain.
Sonakshi: Custom domain tha. Just for example, in free, we'll give you access to uploading hundred products versus in paid will give you a thousand products.
Those small features.
Akshay: Okay. And how did you increase this ticket size? So what plans did you introduce? What did they include?
Sonakshi: So we understood, because again, customer support was being done by me and Ashu altogether. So we understood their weaknesses, their fear. One was like they liked, look, their website should look pretty well.
So we introduced themes.
Ki man lo ap groceries bechtay ho toh apko aisi themes achi lagay gi if you sell up So that was one pain point that we understood. And the other pain point that we understood was around inventory management. Since SMBs are really small, they cannot constantly put in puri ledger what they have. They need some ease around ki jaisy un ka out of stock hogaya, so a simple switch that I want to remove this, and agr hai toh bas on kar do don't put bohat saray numbers.
So making that so easy. So now people started, and then we also launched abandoned cart feature, which is now very common, but back then, giving them data about people who didn't end up ordering from their website. So these, couple of features. What I used to do was Akshay that merchant is still, very close to me, but I still remember whenever we had to increase our check size, I used to call up schedule a one-hour Google meet.
I used to ask them kya kya problem hai Bikayi mai batao. They used to give me a list acha haa ye dus bara feature hogaye thk hai so hum isko ek package bana ky upgraded version we will launch. So this is how we evolved.
Akshay: Amazing. Amazing. Okay. And like by the time you finished YC what kind of revenue were you doing there? Like what was the number of users and,
Sonakshi: yeah, it was not much. We were very small. The number I still remember was, I think we were close to around 20 to $25,000 of MRR
Back, but we were out of, so it was around that is what I remember, yeah, I think so. It was not huge, but I would say good enough for a seed state company.
Akshay: And maybe like 10- 15,000 paying users, something like that.
Sonakshi: No. That's huge. It was competitively lower than that. But our check size was also, I think we had around 3000 to 4,000 paying users by December. Yeah.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. So what was that experience of raising funds like? Like you raised your seed fund by the time you finished YC what was that experience of pitching? What did you pitch to investors? What was the big picture vision that you showed?
Sonakshi: During YC or like after later that
Akshay: like for that you did a 2 million seed round, right? So, for that,
Sonakshi: yeah. Okay. For 2 million. Okay. So one was definitely revenue growth that we had shown. Second was, the TAM because, we wanted to show that even though we charge really low amounts, like 200 rupees 300 rupees, but TAM is so used that it's going to, counter and can become a billion-dollar company.
And then, third is about the passion towards what we are building. So these were like three major story lines that we, used during our seed round of fundraise and passion, comes very naturally, does not require any kind of practice, honestly because in the end, if you're not loving what you do, it'll end up becoming, because starting off is really easy, but somewhere, if the passion is not there towards the product or towards the pain points or the problem statement that we are solving, then you'll end up losing your path or your weight for it, because product team will keep coming back to you asking ki ab kya banana hai next sales team will keep coming asking.
lot of, question that becomes unanswered. There's no passion. So that becomes really important when say raising seed round that there should be real honest passion towards what you do. And then growth is a
Akshay: The Chainsmokers is one of your investors, right? How did that happen?
Sonakshi: I think Chainsmokers are really good friends with one of YC partner and they had emailed me on Gmail, on my Gmail, not, or even on my @bikayi.com email Id, they had emailed me on Gmail saying, and their email unka email bi na plain Gmail vala hi tha it was not saying official Chainsmokers.
So they had emailed me saying that we want to invest, we are really good friends with Brad Flora from YC and we want to invest because you are the best company in the batch. So first I had, shown this message to Ashu and told him ye mail aya hai. Bolta hai yaar fake hoga
Let's reply. I'm sitting free, I'm sitting idle. I'll just reply what Im replying. And then they quickly got back saying that, yeah, we want to meet, have a Gmeet tomorrow. We scheduled a call and, in the call, as well Akshay Ashu said it was 8:00 AM in the morning because of the US timings. And Ashu said vo thodi na aye gy, whoever is managing the fund that guy will come.
I said no, they've written, they'll also come, I'll go at right in time. So Ashu was like mai 10 min late aoun ga I was like nai I will go so when I went there, the first person was sitting was Alex the chain smoker person. And like they were so down to earth, so grounded Askhay like I would have never imagined them, speaking that way.
And they were like all using appreciation words. And in that same call, which was of 30 minutes. They said we want to invest and we want to hear a yes from you. There was, nothing about, okay, what are your numbers? Tell me more about your passion. How are you going to build this in a billion-dollar business?
Like none of these question, it was, they said we love the energy in the call and we want to invest and want to hear a yes from you. So this is how it happened. And they have been one of the most supportive investors throughout the journey of Bikayi honestly Akshay, like super supportive very supportive people.
Akshay: Amazing. Amazing. Okay. So how did the way you were running the business change after this initial 2 million seed round happened?
Sonakshi: Yeah, it was, I would say a very interesting time and also very challenging at the same time Akshay because now you have money and you have no clue of what needs to be done with that.
And you have no experience whatsoever in terms of, how well you can utilize this money utilization to koi bi kar sakta hai like kahi bi ap invest kar do but how well you can utilize is the question that needs to be answered. And I had no clue, but went with the flow people suggested, you should focus on acquisition. We focused on acquisition.
We spent a lot of money on acquiring new customer. That worked well because during Covid these were covid days and it was a great opportunity for us to, utilize on that. So first was this we'll put a lot of money on acquisition. Second was building a right team for product. We didn't think of building sales team because organic revenues were healthy and product team, banana Start Kia. We hired one product lead of sorts in the company, but that didn't work out eventually for us in long run. But yeah, we hired one product lead, hired few people as a tech intern, junior tech full-timers as well. And the first, and the foremost thing that we did was because there were a lot of organic reach, we built a customer support team.
So we hired eight people in customer support. That was the first thing that we did even before hiring tech and other people. Train them, make them fully capable of what our institution stands for solve that. And then we hired tech and product. So that's how.
Akshay: You get a lot of inbound calls or do you do outbound calls to customers like this customer support team? What is their role?
Sonakshi: Inbound fully inbound. How we are structured is we have a WhatsApp helpline number. Our customer support team they Akshay what they do is once someone installs the app, we start pushing them notifications that if you're interested in let's say buying our VIP pack ultimate pack, then you know, click on this.
And whenever they used to click, it used to come to our WhatsApp where our support agent would sit and say, okay, these are the offerings if you want to buy here is the link. So that was their job. And also technical assistance. That is the most trickiest part to crack Akshay in SMB space. Technical assistance, if they even pay you 500 bucks 1000 bucks, they will expect a Mercedes class assistance.
You'll have to spend lot of time with them to make them understand how solution works, how in the best capability they can use it. And the most fortunate part for us was they were ready to listen. Like they were the ones who were reaching out and telling aur samjao aur samjao because, everyone had time back then it was covid. So that was where, support team helped us a lot.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Got it. Got it. Okay. And like how did the the product strategy evolve, post that like you told me, you introduced subscription feature and reviews and themes and custom domain how, and some basic inventory management.
So how did the product evolve after that? Like after the fund round?
Sonakshi: Yeah, so after fundraising product kept evolving in terms of features that we were adding. Not something out of the box. I would say it was more about enabling the existing TG even more like these features. But
Akshay: Give me some examples like what kind of,
Sonakshi: I still remember there was huge demand of people understanding more about they wanted to more understand more about their consumers. Evolving more towards analytics was one thing that we really focused on. For example how much time a consumer is spending on viewing a particular product that much, an SMB was particular about getting analytics off.
Improving, like digging very deeper on analytics, who's viewing, when he is viewing what products are getting more views, et cetera. So analytics was one part that we improved highly on. Then second thing was, aesthetics, again, coming back to as I said, themes. So aesthetics again became very important.
For example, the checkout experience of merchant. So they had to, they wanted something which can be very quick. So for example you get an option. Either pay online or pay COD, so COD if some consumer chooses COD apka loss hai ku ki vaha p RTO losses bohat zyada hai. But if you only enable online, then apka kya hai ki orders kum hojaty hai . So it was a tricky thing to solve when no one has solved in the world because ye problem to sirf India ka hai.
And we were like the Indian players to solve this. So we got in a third option, which we called it as, Partial COD. So what it meant was
Ap 100 rupay abi online pay kar do ap ka order confirm hojaye ga baki 500-600 rupay you can pay it later. So this is something that we introduced. It picked up really well Akshay lot of people started immediately using that because it was a bridge between COD's and now online payment kar na hai, although, your number of orders reduced if it would have been COD but, it was, it had picked up really well.
So those kind of features, getting deep into their insights, understanding thought process, and building it.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. So you give a dashboard to the business owner about which products get the maximum views and which products are most added to cart and like that kind of analytics.
Sonakshi: Yes. Correct. Correct. And in parallel, we also started building our own platform where, delivery apps can list their apps. So for example, the first app was WareIQ, since they were our Batchmates in YC we got into this deal. They listed, they built an app on Bikayi platform like a Shopify app store, like we call it Bikayi platform.
They built it. Then Shiprocket also joined the wagon Delhivery had joined the wagon so like these three, like we became a platform where, these delivery apps can put their apps on Bikayi and our merchants can use it.
Akshay: Amazing. The for the payment gateway service you is that something you monetized?
Do you earn from that or you just charge them that whatever is being charged to you?
Sonakshi: Payment, we were monetizing even now we monetize. So we take around 1% of the total commission that we charge from our merchant comes to Bikayi and rest goes out to the payment gateway that we use.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Got it. And what is your numbers now? What are the pricing plans today?
Sonakshi: Yeah, now we have another set of offering, which we call it as BIK.AI which we can talk about that later. But in Bikayi as a product we have three versions, like one is free, then we have a VIP package where we charge 600 monthly, or if you want to pay yearly, then it's 6,000.
And there is third called Ultimate, where we just sell annual package, which is 30,000 annualized.
Akshay: And what does Ultimate give you? Like more analytics and
Sonakshi: more analytics, more like loyalty programs, et cetera, come in this thing. Ultimate then you also get a dedicated business coach that comes in ultimate these are the people who will help you set up your store.
We internally have a full-fledged show set up team who, literally takes whenever you buy a package, they'll come, they'll set up your store, they'll create banners for you, et cetera. Everything end.
Akshay: Okay. For both VIP and Ultimate your team will do this or only for Ultimate?
Sonakshi: Only for Ultimate 30,000.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. And this loyalty program is what, like customers get some points every time they do shopping and those points can be redeemed? Okay. Okay. Okay. Got it. Got it. Interesting. Okay and what about the trajectory of revenue? Like how did that change?
Like cost of funding and,
Sonakshi: Revenue has been, healthy in terms of the growth that we have seen. Like we have been varying from 10 to 30% month over month growth for Bikayi after, the fundraise that we did. And that kept continuing after, raising the funds as well. Pre-funding it was more like a 100% growth because revenues were small revenue, small tha toh vo tha after funding, 10 to 30% vary karty karty month over month growth tha hi tha Akshay
Akshay: amazing. And what do you do now? What's your monthly run rate currently? Or what is your target for this year or next year? What, like what is the number you're chasing
Sonakshi: that is, like since now we have a lot of offerings, like BIK has been introduced and it is more for mid-market and enterprise, merchant.
We have really high expectations from revenue. We are targeting around, I would say, at least a 10 million ARR by year end. But, let's see.
Akshay: Wow. Amazing. Amazing. Okay. So tell me about BIK.AI.
Sonakshi: Yeah. Yeah. The journey as you were asking, the journey of product evolution kept happening for us.
And by November last year we launched our marketing solutions, which were very, manual. I would say any merchant that we were onboarding, Unka, digital Ads runner, running their Google ads, Facebook ads, it was a tedious job, running an agency. Yeah. So onboarding thousand plus merchants on that agency model, you imagine the workforce, that we ended up hiring to, support them.
That made us realize that, we should productize this. This is not going to, help us when we want to scale up. No productizing it got this thought process again in our mind ki kaisy karna hai like how do we do it? Google ad Facebook ad what should we do? But then we took a step back.
We, understood the problem statement. Problem statement is helping them, acquiring merchants, helping them growing their business. So it's about marketing their solutions. And what is marketing? Akshay if you see, honestly, it's about understanding who your target audience is and then showing them the right set of communication at the right time.
So if we are able to productize these two problem statements, then it's done. It's not about running ad somewhere. It's about solving these two problem statements. And that's how we came up with BIK. BIK ended up becoming a platform where, you’re solving both of these problems, how you're solving, like you being a Bikayi store owner, or you being a Shopify store owner, or you're being any kind of store owner, e-commerce store owner, you can integrate it to BIK your data about your consumers, like who purchased what and when will flow to BIK and BIK then gives you very smart segmentation. So let's say for example, BIK would know share if, you are doing segmentation of let's say Nykaa.com. So if Akshay is visiting, he usually buys. By end of month, but he hasn't purchased anything in last 30 days. So this is one segment who are becoming potential inactive customers.
No, let's say like we, help them segment whatever data that we gather from their store and then recommend them these are communication that you can send to this particular segment of consumers. So let's say if you didn't purchase anything for the last 30 days, we'll show you, let's say there's a discount on the product that you usually buy 50% off.
And then also give these brands a communication channel, which is today, WhatsApp. So if we give them broadcasting capabilities that ye segment hogaya iss mai 500 loog aisy miltay hai then you know, you, this is the recommended message that you can show. And here is just one click by, clicking on which in 500 logun ky WhatsApp p vo marketing message chala jaye ga.
So this is the capability that we built BIK with initially we thought we'll take it slow. We will understand the user behavior segments, et cetera. But, within a month, Akshay, we launched it on June 20th, but within a month we realized that it has picked up well stickiness is great, so we would like to expand it.
So that's where, the companies focus became that since we are now beyond Bikayi like we are more than just an e-commerce enabler, we should rebrand ourselves to BIK and BIK also, in a way it's more about, it's a name that is, that will also have acceptance from international market.
It's not a Hindi world, so that's how we evolved towards BIK Akshay.
Akshay: So BIK is remarketing basically, if you. Yeah. If you wanna get your existing user base back to your store for the next purchase, or you want to get them to increase the ticket size so that is where you use BIK probably abandoned cart
also, you, it would automate that, like you have products in your cart there they're running out soon or stuff like that. Basically what Amazon does, you, you're giving that power of what Amazon does to small retailers.
Sonakshi: Yeah. But BIK is more for like we are opening up mid-market and enterprise merchants as well with BIK because if you see like data segmentation karna they code, like the P zero thing is that you should have data and small retailers might not have enough data to, leverage the segmentation for their stores. So this opens up as a company for us, gate towards mid-market and enterprise level brands as well.
Akshay: To really use this you need to have say maybe 10,000 transactions at least happening on your store every month. Otherwise it's not,
Sonakshi: otherwise is not enough information to present. Yes.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay, got it. And how is BIK monetized? What is the pricing for that?
Sonakshi: Still very early in pricing journey, but we are targeting around $20,000 of ACV annualized. So that comes around to 14, 15 lacks of annualized payment. The brands will have to do to use this.
Akshay: Okay. Is this based on usage, based on number of customers-based number of messages?
Sonakshi: Yes. They overall if you see our ideal customer profile, Akshay it's, as you said, right? We said they should have more than 50,000 customer base already. They should be doing at least a lakh of monthly visitors on their website. So no, keeping all those in mind, this was the average ACV that we came out to be.
But our pricing depends on three lever one is, fixed platform charges. They are there, they'll always be there. Then you know the number of subscribers or the consumers, unique consumers that you have that's second not based on the number of messages that you send that, something like if you're using WhatsApp as a channel, then that it will be calculated.
And then, third is since BIK has more evolved, which we can talk later as well, BIK has now even evolved more than retargeting it as evolved to a BIK CRM or BIK bot. Even a BIK growth I would say module to it. So the third aspect is the number of, the agents that you add, the number of users that you want to add to use BIK. These are like three levers that we
Akshay: okay. Okay. Got it. Got it. Okay. So what are these add-ons? BIK CRM, BIK bot, BIK growth.
Sonakshi: Yeah. While running our pilots Akshay with this retargeting tool, we understood that message. Whatever we used to broadcast, always had a reply message from consumers.
So a single person cannot handle it, and if you're not handling it, then the whole loop toot gaya and you'll not end up having conversion. That eventually led us to build a CRM module as well. inside BIK. And what it does is it gives you capability that you can split your charts between the agents that you add your WhatsApp chat.
You can also tag them basis. Let's say for example, somebody's messaging you for refund, somebody's messaging you to know more about your product. You can label them up. So that's another thing. Then, third thing is you also need automated bots to reply. Not just so they can, you can automate it because there's a full integration that happens with your e-commerce store.
So we know the product details, et cetera. Pricing details, the discount you are currently offering. So everything that gets imported, you and your bot can reply to it. And also, we also understood that these brands would also need certain acquisition help as well apart from just retargeting.
So we introduced a module in BIK and what it meant was, Akshay we are giving them capabilities to introduce on their website, whether it be Shopify website, Bikayi website. Let's say for example, you open up a website called AkshayDatt.com and you see a spin pin the wheel widget on top of your website, just, for attracting your consumers and making them fill the phone number.
So we are giving them those growth widgets that also would be Akshay based on the cohorting. So let's say we know this set of if Akshay is visiting my website, he would like to see a spin the wheel discounts related to men grooming products versus if a female is visiting, they'll want to see something else.
So those are like growth or modules that we give.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. Fascinating. Like Bikayi as a product is now like a, probably going to be a very minor part of your revenue because BIK is obviously a much higher ticket size product. And it's a global product, right? Like you, you're looking at going outside India.
Sonakshi: Yes. Like it's a global product from day zero. We have already opened up our gates for Australian and New Zealand.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. And this rides on the back of Shopify
Sonakshi: Right now Yes. On Shopify and Bikayi stores.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. But I'm guessing Bikayi stores would not really be a major source, right?
Because. Small merchants. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Does a Bikayi store owner also get a CRM? Can he see who are my customers? This is their number so he can. Call them.
Sonakshi: They have everything. So we already had a CRM capability in built on Bikayi app but when we launched BIK, we made sure that our Bikayi merchants are not left out.
So in Bikayi app, insight we have given light version of BIK and they see, they get all the capabilities inside. Akshay
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. Amazing. So today you are essentially not a e-commerce enablement, like a digital shopfront company. You're more of a SaaS company now SaaS company for e-commerce marketing. E-commerce sales rather. I would say
Sonakshi: yes. Marketing, e-commerce solution now.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. So what about the agency business, like you were acting as an agency for, merchants are you still doing that?
Sonakshi: No. So yeah, we are doing, but we are, we have stopped acquisition for that model and that acquisition stopped on September 1st.
Like we want to, there are merchants who are using our service. We want to keep continuing our efforts on them. But we also take some hard calls, Akshay on people I would say whom we couldn't, deliver great results and would tell them that, okay, we cannot continue because, eventually, right?
If until now we haven't been able to deliver great results, we won't be able to deliver even in future. So that part we are stopping. But the merchants whom we had cracked, which were majority of our merchants cracked really well, we're getting really great products for them. We'll continue to offer our service until they want, but eventually we'll move them to BIK, because we also truly believe that BIK would be a better solution than them, running such manual ads on Google, Facebook.
It's an alternator. And if you see macroeconomics of the environment right now, Akshay D2C brands like the fundraising has become really difficult for them. it's all about, spending less and getting more ROI and BIK is the perfect solution for any business who's running online or even retail businesses.
I would say crunch more from your existing users, or even if you're acquiring new users, acquire at a lower cost. So use BIK instead of you know doing manual ads
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. Do you wanna productize that agency business of doing ads for SMBs because that could be a big opportunity. right For India. I mean
Sonakshi: it is Akshay it definitely is a huge opportunity, but the analytics that we have so far, Akshay it says that SMBs try to put in a lower budget on, the advertisements they want to run. So let's say they cannot spend. For us the sweet spot was the average check size they were putting on ads was 30,000 rupees per month.
And we used to charge 20% of the ad spend. So it was great business model. But in, from a perspective of the amount they want to put 30,000, it becomes difficult to deliver results in an automated version. If it's a managed service ap optimization karty raho gy you'll spend a lot of time, you'll do it, you'll deliver it in the end unit economics workout nai kary ga because you have to put in man force but automate kar ny p vo chala jaye ga and then in the end, there will be no results. So thoda problem hai in that business automating.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. You need a much bigger monthly ad spend to, to release, Show Results. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay, got it. Got it. Okay. Okay. And how did you go global? You know does it mean like setting up a sales team or a marketing team or like what is the way in which you go global?
Sonakshi: So Akshay like I, when we were building BIK, it was a small project of sorts. I still remember talking to one of our product manager telling him,
ki Hawaii jana hai kya tujy bola ha jana hai Mai ny usko bola ki thk hai toh chalo ye product baty hai Bola acha bana ky ap Hawaii ly jao gy Mai ny bola ki nai nai revenue aye ga jab we hit hundred million, dollars then we'll go to Hawaii bola thk hai That's how it started. I would say going global is more about culture internally. It's about the mindset that you have to change because just, hiring a salesperson, asking him to, start prospecting leads from a different geography and selling to them, it's not how it works.
It is doable. But, as a brand, as a culture, as a mindset of employees who are working here, they should feel global first. So for that, what we did was we did lot of. Number one activities of dos and don'ts.
ki dekho aj hum instagram p apny aap ko aisy dikhaty hai Do you think an American would like it? If answer is no, that means it's not right. Second thing, if you are, coming to office, you are not even greeting people aa kar baith gaye ho apna headphone laga kar This is how it happens in US if answer is no. So this is not how we are going to do it. So we first, changed ourselves Internally, it took us a month.
Then, automatically when everyone starts thinking global, everyone starts thinking international is when, the ideas that gets implemented becomes international. So even product thinking Akshay like if the culture is not set of a global first company, and for us it was difficult because we were coming from an SMB background.
If the culture is not said that way, you'll just, pick up your call, you'll call Indian D2C brand, ask them apko ye ye chahiye thk hai I'm building this product. No. This is not how it works. You have to think of it first in product, in brand building, in the support that we offer in the customer success team.
In the sales team. So first we did that. Now is the time when we are setting up our team for, global markets, for example, sales, et cetera, product thinking. It's a continuous product process that will keep evolving for building a global. So that's how we did.
Akshay: And how are you acquiring customers?
For BIK like Bikayi It would've been largely Facebook driven, right? Because the easiest place to target SMBs. And what about for BIK
Sonakshi: For BIK it's different because check size is high. So we first select, people who may want to onboard and then reach out and post them. So they're very different like our bound,
Akshay: like prospecting and that kind of got it. Got it. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. And so then you subsequently after that 2 million round, you raised another round in 21. Tell me about that.
Sonakshi: Yeah, it was our city day and again, we didn't have any plans of raising funds, honestly. So it was April. Late April when, we were doing our normal work sitting at homes because again, I think Covid second wave had ticked in and we couldn't go to office.
So we were sitting at home wondering if.
There are a lot of things that you, that can be done and we thought like things are great in terms of the growth that we are seeing. But there were a lot of models in the market Akshay Who were making lot of revenues. We started exploring them. Not our space, space who used to sell subscriptions, but baking.
So for example, health ka space, Healthify, me, et cetera, ed-tech space where, they were selling courses, et cetera, and making money. So that intrigued us a lot. Akshay ki ye log kaisy beech rahy hai subscription because we didn't have any sales team.
Jitna orgain arah tha kar rahy thy toh hum ny socha hum kaisy sales team bana sakty hai agr ye log aisa beech rahy hai toh we started, studying their models and we thought, okay, so we are also selling subscription. We should also build our sales team, but for sales team we need money. So that's how, email to Sequoya and like within it was very quick. The round was closed soon. And yeah, it took three months in the paperwork, et cetera.
And that's how, the idea of raising funds came into our minds and we did the round,
Akshay: and this was relatively easy because you already had track record of revenue growth and YC tag also like all of these things would've helped.
Sonakshi: Yeah, this has helped the image, major thing that has helped us is, keeping that differentiating factor in the market.
Still, that time when we were raising a, there was none of the companies who were actually selling subscriptions in the SMB space. We were the only ones doing it. Our differentiating factor of only catering to quality merchants was something that made it easier.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. And for, I guess your competitor there would be something like a Dukaan.
Sonakshi: Yeah. From outside it looks like it. But if we see holistically, you know the people who actually pay 30,000 bucks and use the solution, they were none. Because, even these smaller players either back then they were just free or they were charging 5,000 rupees annually, 6,000 rupees annually.
But if you see from check size, 30,000 would be paid by a merchant who are at least doing, I would say 70, 80 lacks of annualized turnover. So it was a sweet it is a sweet spot, I would say. Akshay because competitor wise kuch problem nai huva in that.
Akshay: Okay. And Dukaan is more of five, 6,000. They're more mass market.
Sonakshi: Yeah. That's what I see on website at least.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Okay. So there's no direct competitor for you at that? Like a slightly bigger size.
Sonakshi: Acquisition was never a problem for Bikayi since beginning that because we had a head start, like initially we were charging something, others were free. So vo hum quality merchants hi acquire karty gaye and we kept increasing our check size, so switch
Akshay: okay. Yeah. Yeah. Most of the other Kirana tech companies Are going the free route and.
Sonakshi: Correct. Yeah. For us, like I, whenever there was this article about Kirana Tech or the Dukaan Tech they always said players like
Bikayi was never focused on Kirana I would say journey started from grocery stores, but that grocery store also looked very different. It was not that neighbourhood, very small Kirana store who was doing I would say 1 lakh 1.5 lakhs monthly? No, there have been always like bigger merchants using Bikayi but they also SMBs.
Akshay: Okay. Okay. Amazing. So what's your vision for the company now, like next couple of years? Where do you see it going?
Sonakshi: vision is the same as what it was on day zero when we were starting out, which was to make businesses successful. And maybe, that vision has brought us to build BIK that vision has brought us to start marketing solutions.
So vision remains same, but from an execution point of view, Akshay it has changed completely. Like we want to become that global company whom people don't see at. For example, if you see any Indian other size company, they are taken as a cheap version of the existing solutions, let's say for CRM market, et cetera, they think haa matlab ye India ki company hai adopt their solution ye cheaper cost mai ajaye ga but is as efficient as others No Like we want to create a mindset that we charge even higher than our global competitors. But the things that we provide you are world class. So our vision is to become that world class SaaS company who's giving you things which are world class, but at an additional cost. It's not a cheap alternative to the things that you see in the market.
Akshay: Are there alternatives to globally companies which are helping in. E-commerce sales and marketing.
Sonakshi: Marketing. There are a lot of companies, but not any direct competitor if you see the offerings, because it has become a one-stop solution for your marketing and also support needs retargeting, kar sakty ho you can enable growth, you can do CRM et cetera.
It's because, our insights three years of insight into e-commerce has made us build this product and running marketing solution for at least five, six months. Managed services has made this product, so none of them cater to this offering, but there are a lot of companies who are doing, working in the e-commerce marketing spaces its actually a very big space Akshay
Akshay: Okay. The way in which you help businesses to market is largely WhatsApp chats.
Sonakshi: Right now? Yes. So today evening we are launching a new version, which will have Instagram and Facebook Messenger as well. So evolving it. Because there are major West countries who are not using WhatsApp as their primary channel.
They use iMessage, they use Facebook Messenger, they use something else. So we'll have to get to that.
Akshay: Oh, okay. Okay. What about notifications like that would need
Sonakshi: co engage, et cetera. Does it? Yeah. Those kind of notifications?
Akshay: Yeah, I guess that would need the customer to have an app, right?
If they don't have an app, then notifications won't work. No, like calls and notifications are not like
Sonakshi: Yeah, they're not a big use case, but people do ask. This notification could be something that our product roadmap could evolve to Akshay but right now we haven't thought of anything like we are right now focusing more on conversational use cases like WhatsApp and other channels getting introduced with other channels and also, building right capabilities to support those channels like CRM bots et cetera.
And at the same time, because this product relies on the number of customers this brand has, we wanted to introduce a growth module, which will help them to increase the number of customer base they had. So they can put widgets on their website, they can put a really good reel on their Instagram. So this would be the focus right now. And then we'll keep expanding our
Akshay: What about emails or again, Email is. like Not a big, the open rates are dismal, like 1% or less.
Sonakshi: It is in India, but outside. But yeah, definitely even in US, if you see iMessage is better than emails. And also emails is a very crowded market Akshay There are really great players already have done this, executed this game really well.
So maybe it could be something that on a very late roadmap just to have a full solution.
Akshay: Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Because for a customer he would not really like to have a separate place for his email marketing.
Sonakshi: Correct. Correct. Correct. It should be one stop solution. Should have. Yeah.
Akshay: Yeah. Especially I think abandoned cart like at least most e-commerce size do a lot of email marketing around that.
Sonakshi: Correct? Correct. In fact, we did one broadcast of, the segment that our strategy manager had created for the brand that we had recently onboarded, and they ended up getting 600 X returns from. the campaign that we had sent. So it's like early signs are early positive
Akshay: Amazing. Amazing. Okay, cool, cool. What is your headcount now?
Sonakshi: So we are around 150+ people in the organization Akshay
Akshay: And what's the split like? How many in customers support, how many in sales, how many in tech?
Sonakshi: Majority are tech in products. So around 110 people are in tech, in products. So we are heavily investing in R&D 40 are, even in 40 10 are in hr. Seven, eight are in finance. So our support and sales team is very small right now. Around 20 people. 20, 25 people. Not more than that.
Akshay: And that's because of the product mindset, like you're trying to build a product that's so strong that it doesn't need support.
Sonakshi: Yes. Investing heavily on R&D and especially, you see it's a great time to invest in R&D You can build a product in the, like looking at the market sentiments right now, build a product for them and then scale it up when the time is. right
Akshay: Amazing. Okay. And why do you have a 10 member HR team like that sounds overkill.
Sonakshi: thank you for your feedback. But they are also multitaskers, I would say. So they help in managing the office building like admin so two, three, people do that. Then we are also hiring our sales team because now we have to scale up our multi geography sales team that we are building.
So waha p help ho jati hai So these are like multiple use cases and performance management. Yeah, it's an overkill, but I really love all of them and they're .
Akshay: Got it. Okay. Okay yeah. Have you felt that being a woman founder is tougher than being a male founder or any lessons for women who are aspiring for entrepreneurship?
Sonakshi: Oh, there is nothing tough in fact, I feel I have not been a man myself, but I feel that it's easier to be a woman founder than a male founder because, first of all, people will never, treat you bad in the first call. At least, they'll have some decency when they come to you.
So that's one thing that I felt. And I feel it's a power. It's a power that a female founder should leverage while building the company that no one will, treat you badly, at least in the first instance. But later it can evolve to, depends upon the nature and the culture of the person.
But fortunately, never, in our journey of company building, fundraising, or any interaction, I have felt any kind of disadvantage being a woman founder. And also from it also Akshay I would say Too much depends on your upbringing. So in my family, I never even got this thinking in my mind that males and females get different treatment.
I have my brother in my house, and in fact, I feel I get better treatment than him. being, the little child in the house. So never felt that in the upbringing so maybe that could be a reason. Whenever I go through something, I never see the negative part of it. I always see the positive aspect of everything I do.
So never felt. And, the message to all female founders would be never go into what they read in media that, they are just 5% or 6% of female led companies becoming X, Y, Z Never read that. It's never this is like a random analytics that people are throwing outside in the world.
Just, believe in your skills, believe in your talent, and believe in your passion. I would say.
Akshay: So what are your top three lessons as a founder? Things which you realized that you needed to change about yourself.
Sonakshi: Still in the learning phase, but I would try to collate like few pointers.
Number one is keep your ego small. This is something that takes some time to digest. And, ego, I would say is there will be a lot of setbacks. There will be people coming to your face and telling the you that this is not going to work. This is completely bullshit. You should not even focus on that.
Those are like few lines that you will keep hearing in your journey, especially if you're bootstrapping early in your journey. This will be very common statement that you'll keep hearing. Don't listen to them, but at the same time, keep your egos low. Just, don't just go back and say ki kya bakwass kar raha hai please don't do that.
Keep your egos low. Stay grounded, but keep working hard. That's one lesson. Second is challenges will come. in, everyone's life. It'll be in one form or other, and it should not be taken as a setback. It should be taken as a comeback of sorts. And there, the more you grow, the more would be the people or the circumstances that will try to pull you back.
Just always take it positively that if someone is pulling you back, that means you have grown to a standard that they've felt of pulling you back. Just take it positively again. And third Akshay be honest and do the right things. That is like very easy to slip into lot of things.
Maybe it could be pressure from anyone in your company or externally making you do things. those are not right. Or maybe, there would be things that you really don't support. So let's say for example, if you're not liking someone's work and, but you aren't able to, communicate to them that this is not the right place for you.
Because somewhere, emotion comes into the picture ki how do I fire this person, et cetera. Please, do the right thing for the company. Do the right thing for the people who have believed in you and just, follow that. So these are like few things.
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