How We Started A $514K/Year Content Curation Agency With Just $35 [From India]
Hello! Tell us who you are and what you created?
I'm Vaibhav Kishnani, an engineer but a passionate writer by profession. I established Content-Whale in 2017 when I was in my third year of engineering. Going by the maxim that quality writing is everything, Content-Whale caters to 42 different content types that form the backstory of every company’s digital presence and marketing efforts.
For example, all the commercials we see are based on written scripts. All the blogs we read revolve around a storyline and problem-solving approach.
In a nutshell, content is all around us and will continue to grow till digital technology continues to exist and expand.
As content has now become a part of our daily lives, it is an integral part of running a business successfully and growing it. That is exactly where Content-Whale comes into the picture. We curate content, based on three main pillars: Business Content, Academic Content, and Graphic Design.
With such varied services under one roof, our primary clientele consists of digital marketing agencies, followed by corporates, start-ups, and students. To put it simply, our target client is anyone and everyone that exists in the market.
I started this content agency with a mere sum of Rs. 2,500. Today, we have drawn a revenue turnover of Rs. 4 Crores! In my opinion, it is not individual progress. Instead, a start-up is about connecting with the right individuals at the right time, who keep the show running ahead with their strife for perfection.
What's your backstory, and what was the "Eureka" moment that led to your business?
Content-Whale was an exceptionally impromptu venture. If you asked me about it 5 years back, I would say that I never had any plans of entering the dynamic field of content. It was something I just saw from afar.
This journey began when I completed my second year of engineering. I noticed that people around me were changing- they started getting more earnest towards their academics, started pursuing things more passionately, and started focusing more on their future possibilities. I ended up sitting idle.
But it didn’t last long. I began searching for opportunities with the sole motive of accomplishing something worthwhile. While I initially thought of getting a well-paying 9-5 job in the engineering industry itself, my grades guided me another way.
At that point, I chose the most lucrative part-time position as a Content Writer. Selected for my first entry-level internship, I went ahead with a rather low-paying remuneration. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I had an option. Yet, I was fired within 7 days.
Receiving a tough reality check, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how to create a well-written article. So, once again, I was fired from the second part-time job as well. The main reason: quality issues.
If you put your heart and soul into something, things are bound to fall in place, and everything will be as you imagined
But I did not surrender to my setbacks. Instead, I worked hard at each level to gain expertise. The following few temporary jobs worked out in my favor and I learned a lot from the organizations. It is here that I also came across the major gap in the Indian content market- unprofessional conduct from both the client and writer ends. I was now exposed to the global markets, and that was my Eureka moment- to bridge this gap!
Noting the unprofessionalism on both ends of the scale, it was imperative to create a safeguarded roof under which customers and writers could collaborate successfully, with someone being responsible for quality deliveries to the clients and timely payments to the writers. My idea was simple: align project-suited writers for a client, to give shape to the brand objective and achieve it via quality content. That is what set my business base.
Having an entrepreneurial mindset, my head has always been on the lookout for creating something simple yet innovative. I feel any business idea is sustainable when it is scalable by filling the void in society. My market experience showed that quality was lost at every stage. In fact, some clients were also being duped via digital writers.
Though I started small with a team of just 5 writers, the small milestones we achieved were huge boosters to my confidence. Thus, we presented an organization to the world- Content-Whale, and promised to deliver the best.
While I did not have any prior experience in this niche, my temporary jobs as a part-time content writer played a pivotal role in teaching my accurate content composition and the dynamics of outsourcing work. Fast forward from that time, today, I have professional experience of 5 years in the online content writing field.
The idea was simple - it was a mission to create quality content and supply as much as the market demands. This was validated as we scaled up and started connecting with unicorn clients such as Quikr, Canara HSBC-OBC Life Insurance, Testbook, The Boston Consulting Group, and Unocoin, to name a few.
To keep up with the nature of work, we employ only individuals with a substantial foundation in this field. This is, to such an extent, that every full-time employee at Content-Whale is a writer themself.
To transform this plan into a reality, believe it or not, it took me Rs. 2500/- ($35) which I had borrowed from a friend, being honest with him that I may never be able to return this sum if I was unable to succeed. Along with that, I used my pocket-money- Rs 3000 ($40) that my parents used to send, as I was studying away from home. Gradually, my calculated decisions started showing results.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I realized that I could either wait for things to fall in place or take matters into my own hands. Success, in my opinion, can be achieved with 80% hard work and 20% faith. It didn’t take us very long after the launch to gain steadiness.
Since we had limited bandwidth to hire experienced professionals, we strategized and my university batchmates became my co-workers, who were anyway looking for placement opportunities during the pandemic. This is what ended up being fruitful!
People talk about building a venture but shudder at the thought of investment. They are unable to fathom how to make optimum use of online resources.
For example, a website is the first prerequisite to starting an online business. It is very easy to make a free website via Wix and purchase a domain space at discounted rates, using promo codes. This is just one of the ways to minimize investment.
Next, to build a customer base, anyone can start by joining Facebook interest groups and doing small-scale promotions. In fact, LinkedIn is also a great platform.
When the leads start dropping in, we need to build a rapport, communicate confidently, and adhere to deadlines. A professional yet affable approach is the key to creating a sense of unspoken trust.
Now that you know how to launch a brand, this is exactly what helped Content-Whale reach where it is today.
I made a free site on Wix at the beginning to build an online presence with minimal capital. I continued making changes each quarter, as the company vision got more precise. Lastly, after almost two years from inception, our final, refined site was ready, comprising 53 pages.
Website in 2017:
Website in 2021:
Like I mentioned earlier, I began Content-Whale with just Rs. 2500 in 2017, which I had borrowed from my friend. I never imagined the company reaching such heights and being a million-dollar organization in 4-5 years
This journey has definitely been full of lessons for me. The hardest part of this journey as a young, ambitious person was to be patient, stop procrastinating, and not give up at the sight of adversity. I believe if you put your heart and soul into something, things are bound to fall in place, and everything will be as you imagined. I definitely learned a lot along the way, not just from experience but also from my peers.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our grit and resilience towards business have helped it grow to this stage. The vision, framework, and guides you initially have, are bound to change with time and adaptability. I believe that you need to consider five-year plans and continuously execute practices to meet them accordingly.
Learning from your mistakes and moving forward is very important to stay afloat in today's rat race.
At the end of the day, everything revolves around risks and returns. My only advice would be to think of the goal you set for yourself- any time when things are not going as per your plan, just think of why you actually started the company in the first place and what you are working for. It will sort your head!
Leads are a significant component for the smooth running of a company, and to turn these leads into clients, we diversified our endeavors in marketing and SEO to get recognition in our target market. I believe that adapting to the latest market trends and adopting necessary changes is crucial to growing a business.
Our marketing efforts consist of a consistent run-through of the basics like *email marketing, outbound, and inbound sales, ads, social media, campaigns, press releases, collaborations, and SEO.
While it is always enthralling to onboard new clients, we also center around the current clients by continually sending out informative newsletters to keep them updated about the company. We believe it is of utmost importance to keep in touch with our pre-existing clients and build a strong relationship founded on trust and transparency.
Along with everything we do, we also attempt to be in the eyes of potential prospects by collaborating for campaigns and balancing our top rank on Google. We always anticipate mentions on LinkedIn, Google, PR, and listicles and ensure to express gratitude towards everyone referencing us in their uploads. I'll share some links to articles referencing us hereunder:
- 12 Great Firms Offering Content Writing Services in India
- Transforming the global content market: Content-Whale
- Top 10 Content Writing Companies In India 
- Top Four Content Writing Agencies in India for Website
- Top 10 Content Writing Agencies in Mumbai (Updated)
- Top 15 content writing agencies to work with/for in 2022 [Updated]
- Top 12 Content Writing Companies In India [2022 Updated]
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
From day 1, our money model combined with a flexible strategy has helped us grow. It is to some degree the same strategy that Amazon, Ola, and Zomato follow. Amazon doesn't manufacture any item, Ola doesn't own any of the vehicles used by the drivers, and Zomato doesn't own any eatery.
Similarly, our work model is entirely based on the market demand and supply model. With clients from different niches and different requirement ranges connecting daily, we have a flexible model that bridges the gap between clients and writers, always maintaining quality. There is a strong network of premium clientele, subject matter experts, freelancers, and a team of full-time employees to keep a check that the content is up-to-the-mark.
We're excited for what lies ahead and hope to build a strong presence in global markets in the near future.
We registered Content-Whale as Content-Whale PVT LTD in 2021, turning it into a private limited entity. According to the projected revenue for 2021-22, we have exponentially grown our revenue by 230% from the past financial year.
Through our promotions, we have managed to generate 7000+ web traffic on our site each month.
Our keyword ranking has also been growing with our traffic. As of now, we are ranking for 362 keywords globally.
Right from the start, we have ventured into the market to turn each company into a content-led company through our products and services. Our company has taken great strides; we started with just four writers, but today we have a pool of 500+ writers and full-time employees.
Our pool of writers goes through a rigorous training process that incorporates 42 types of content writing services. We are hoping to venture into graphic and academic content shortly.
The worldwide content market is valued at $412.88 billion, driven by 2.5 million organizations. Our long-term objective is to build a presence in this community. Our short-term goal is to generate valuable content and be a market leader in the worldwide content market.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Business in itself is a test for entrepreneurs. A major chunk of the new businesses fails either due to lack of funds, or lack of competent crisis management.
I have made my share of wrong decisions in this journey, but instead of counting them as mistakes, I think of them as lessons. Now I know what not to do.
Learning from your mistakes and moving forward is very important to stay afloat in today's rat race.
A few aah moments were when we happened to hire the perfect individuals at the perfect time. Our directors, Kritika Kanodia, Pavithra Parthasarathi, Hoshang Ramwani, Aditya Bhattacharya, Rumit Kadakia, and Shamreen Kadar, were not with us at inception. But, one by one, I was lucky to find these talented gems that have proven to be huge assets to this company. We believe that these people were meant to join us when they did, and with them, we have come a long way with no end in sight!
I have confidence in the karma variable, and I have always believed that if something is meant to happen, it will happen; all you need to do is lend a hand, and fate will work its magic. I have learned a lot from our customers and mentors. I thought our company would be on the verge of bankruptcy like other firms during the pandemic. But on the contrary, our customers and mentors siphoned our work and incomes to continue onward.
My faith in myself and this company helped me push through the bad times and come back stronger. I started with nothing, but I have always believed that I can lead the company to success simply by being consistent with the quality of work, being resilient, and having a sense of responsibility.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Being an engineer, I love to chop down the extra cycles and automate however much I can. We have been using Zoho and Jira to tackle 90% of our daily and long-term tasks.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
If you're in any way similar to me, digital recordings or YouTube channels might be your go-to source for information. A couple of digital broadcasts gave me the best and most real data you can find on the internet.
Some brilliant podcasts like Everyone Hates Marketers and Writing Excuses have taught me more than any book could have. I appreciate the fact that they are so frank about the real world. The transparency in these podcasts is what I admire the most.
One more podcast that I got to learn a lot from is The Marketing Show, hosted by Dave Chesson. He covers subjects like dispatching with reliable deals, picking between independently publishing versus customary distributing, and different themes all creators or creators-to-be ought to know.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to start or are just beginning?
Assuming you are just starting, don't hesitate to do all the work by yourself. There might be times when the limited people you hire may not be able to deliver what you expect. It may take a while to be satisfied with the outcomes. The best way forward is to not expect a lot and deal with the lags one step at a time.
I have observed some standard errors that business visionaries make. They are either unclear about their business objectives or work on the business as a part-time gig, which won't sustain them in the long run. You can't sail in two boats simultaneously- you need to pick one. If you want to succeed, you can't treat your business like a backup option.
While I was in my last year of engineering, I got a placement with a package of 8 LPA. I come from a working-class family, and my folks were very content with the compensation. At the back of my mind, I knew that I wouldn't be happy working there, but I wanted to get to Mumbai and have a stable cash flow, so I accepted the position and moved ahead with it. At one point, I was stretching myself too much. It was tough to juggle the job and business simultaneously.
My days were long, and nights were even longer. I used to start my day at 6 am to work on the start-up, and by 10, I had to switch roles and start working in the corporate office. I used to get back around 9 pm, after which I used to work until midnight. After a point, I could only work on the projects I was getting but didn't have enough time to work on the development and growth of the company. On the 22nd day, I took a leap of faith (I quit) without thinking twice; it was the best decision of my life.
To be honest, I was focused but relatively clueless at the time. I didn't know where to begin because there was a lot to do, and I constantly felt like I was running out of time. However, things started to fall in place, and today, I can't express how proud I am of my team for where we stand and what we have accomplished.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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