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WhatsApp is the most popular communication channel in the world today, with more than 30% of Indian businesses using the platform diligently. With 54% of customers expressing a preference for receiving marketing updates via WhatsApp, the need for improved automation of workflows and customer management within the application is paramount.
At the age of 49, Karthik Jagannathan co-founded Gallabox in 2021, a no-code conversational commerce and SaaS company, with the mission of helping small and medium-sized businesses convert leads into deals and conversions using WhatsApp. Karthik exemplifies the idea that there's never a perfect time to hit the reset button and launch a startup.
During a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, co-founder of Neon (a VC firm) and host of The Neon Show, Karthik discusses the significant role that small and medium-sized businesses play in India's economy, the lessons learned from Gallabox's journey thus far, his personal growth, and much more!
Overcoming Hurdles with Entrepreneurial Resolve
Karthik's strong sense of responsibility stems from his not-so-easy personal life where he had to take on a leadership role at a young age to make ends meet. This served as an excellent source of inspiration for his entrepreneurial journey.
"I don't wish people around me to find themselves in a crisis. My key takeaway is that when you find yourself in a challenging situation, forced to take responsibility and need to take action, you don't have the luxury of choice. You must step up to the occasion and do whatever is necessary to resolve it."
These challenges extended beyond his personal life and affected his professional life too. During his ten years at Sulekha, Karthik and the company encountered significant difficulties during the 2007-08 financial crisis. They had to carry out extensive layoffs, with the primary objective being to navigate through that tough period. As Jeff Bezos wisely puts it, "Complaining is not a strategy." This means that one must work with the resources they have and adapt to the circumstances.
Building Gallabox for Small and Medium Businesses
The Ministry of Commerce reports suggest that there are around 63 to 75 million small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in India, and around 20 million of those are on the cusp of the next leap, their growth phase.
“In the last 12 to 18 months, my heart just warms up to witness the impressive and seamless transition of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to higher levels of operation. They are now able to effortlessly purchase software and are wholeheartedly embracing technology.”
Having joined Sulekha in 2007, Karthik has observed that the process of discovery continues to pose a significant challenge for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). 'One of the most prominent obstacles faced by SMBs back then, and this remains true even today, is the challenge of discovery.'
Unlike large-scale companies, SMBs couldn't afford advertising on multiple platforms such as TV or print ads. Therefore, going digital became their sole viable option. Karthik noticed that SMBs were eager to experiment with new strategies, demonstrating a remarkably high appetite for risk.
With a vested interest in the SMB space, Karthik decided to venture into the industry to help SMBs get to the next level, particularly because they account for approximately 35% of the country's total GDP. Today, Karthik sees the space ‘maturing beautifully’ with the current generation understanding that Excel Sheets and pen and paper are not enough to keep growing exponentially. Consequently, the entire SMB segment is evolving and progressing!
Learnings from Gallabox: The Journey to Scale
Digital marketing has played a crucial role in the overall success of Karthik and Gallabox. Their initial 100 customers were acquired through various organic channels, with customers discovering them via platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media channels.
In addition to these organic efforts, another channel that received significant attention was referrals. Karthik explains, 'We realized that a satisfied customer not only boosts our Net Promoter Score (NPS) but also acts as a walking billboard for our brand. When a customer recommends our product to a friend, it's akin to tattooing our brand name on their forearm. This approach has proven to be highly effective for us.'
Another important realization for Karthik was that the product should also serve as a marketing tool. This is especially crucial in an automated e-commerce platform, where promoting the product to digital marketing agencies that could benefit from a solution like Gallabox proved highly effective in attracting organic customers.
Gallabox's name is inspired by the Galla Petti, a cash register that symbolizes a thriving business.
Karthik's motto, "I work as if my family name is on the building" truly reflects his core values.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
People say you are as young as your faith and as old as your doubts. Karthik is a living example of the success that can be achieved by reducing self-doubt and embracing greater belief in oneself.
You can tune into Karthik’s full episode with The Neon Show by audio here ↓