From the inquisitive dreamer to an established entrepreneur journey of Varun Shoor of Kayako
21st, September 2017 - International Startup
In the present times of ever burgeoning education boom, with the college graduates increasing every year to the figures of multiples of millions, the prospect of a steady income stands on slippery grounds. Finding a stable job has never been harder, and sounds rather nightmarish without any college degree. At a tender age of 16 when most students of his age were busy tackling their 10th boards, Varun Shoor decided to develop software to trade it away as an open source.
The circumstances were not always favourable, ₹75000 of his dad's hard earned money had been wasted for Varun's web designing experimentations. But it seems not all his experimentations were profligatory. There were many websites for Varun to test his latest code, Web Hosting Talk was one among them. At a time when "programming" was not common knowledge and was one of the pastimes where people stared at the screens, Varun taught himself how to code at the age of 13. His experimentations with codes and web designing considered crazy, didn't auger well until he stumbled upon a company that sold customer support software for $2,000. Varun had credible experience in programming as he had been learning FoxPro and Visual FoxPro in his spare time. As inquisitive as Varun was he tried his hands on a piece of software. He completed it within 6 months but as it steered his vital focus away from his studies, his father was not pleased and urged him to discontinue and refused any monetary assistance.
Undeterred, Varun plodded on to hire a domain by the name of Kayako.com. Asked about the name's significance he goes on to reply smilingly "a friend of mine referred me Kayako.com, and the reason is it was free and was expiring in 3 months. The friend who had a hosting company had no use for it. This is all there is to it, it is a random name", said Varun in a voice clothed with honesty. Varun had to practise discretion with his e-commerce management because of his father's explicit disapproval. Luckily his father had incorporated a company in his name and a third party company helped him with his transactions with a minimal fee. Once his payment problem found a solution he had everything at his disposal to start selling his software, but there was a catch, promotion and advertisement were still important requisites to divert traffic to his website. He created 20 different identities on Web Hosting Talk from different IP addresses and helped other users to develop credibility of some form. After countless many word of mouth promotions from multiple accounts he got his first order and a payment of $1000 with it. His parents were quite sceptical about his foray and his earnings but were left quite confused when earnings found its way to his pockets.
His hobbies had morphed into a business, and his passion was now fuelled further by a steady cash flow of ₹40000 per month. With a whole lot of courage Varun's father acquiesced to his conducting of an online precarious business. But the compromise came at the cost of college education. Varun's vested interests asked full commitment and Varun wasn't loath to it to keep his newfound business standing. The business was breathing well, well enough to attract prospective buyers and Varun had to tackle them by projecting an outward semblance of "big business". "If they knew I was a 17 year old kid on the other side of the world, they never would have purchased the product", he fondly remembers. He redirected the calls to "different departments", while he was actually operating the entire business from his home.
Varun continued to expand his business and by 2005, he was able to manage a revenue run rate of $1.5 million. The business was booming now, at a rate that overshot both Varun's expectations and his preparations. Inexperienced in people management skills, the newly opened office imploded miserably as it struggled to conduct its operations. The employees left in droves as Varun tried to contain the disaster. Challenges were galore as Varun had made another crucial mistake, he had underestimated the true size of his market, something that he realized in a trade show he attended in Hanover, Germany. "Many companies that I never heard of were making 10 million", he said and thus his own shortcomings helped him put things into perspective. There was another problem to be solved - dearth in the number of engineers as only 4 engineers shared the workload out of his 60 employees. Varun eventually decided to open a new office in Delhi and hired more engineers to extricate his company from the quagmire it found itself in.
With a cloud based venture, SaaS (software as a service) product to boot, the expansion of business reached a range of 8-12 million (in dollars) in 2013. With 3 out of 8 Ivy League universities using Kayako, it has become a force to be reckoned with and that is without any expenditure on marketing, purely based on word of mouths and search engine rankings. About 50 per cent of incoming clients are from customer referrals. Whatever limited marketing or no marketing at all that Varun uses seems to be working as his company now serves 50000 customers in over 100 companies and that includes Peugeot, De Beers, NASA, and The American Motorcyclist Association.
From the inquisitive dreamer to an established entrepreneur, Varun's journey was one filled with challenges, scepticism and failures. From his home office that was restricted to a chair and his x286 computer to the one he opened in London, his business grew beyond his dreams. What once were his wasteful hobbies are now building blocks of his business. Ranking 12 in the Top 15 CRM Companies to WORK for, it manages revenue of ₹1-5 billion per year as of 2017. Discussing the possible opening of an office in Silicon Valley, Varun who originally hails from Jalandhar shares his mantra "pursue what you wish to, with hard-work".
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Neelanchal is a student who is currently pursuing his B.Tech in computer science. His interests are many and diverse and it mirrors his personality. He takes a special liking to creative literary writing and in spite of his technical background devotes substantially to the written word. He is eternally devoted to his pursuit of knowledge.