Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Saravana Kumar, founder, and chief executive officer of Document360, a software as a service (SaaS) knowledge base. I have been a Microsoft BizTalk server MVP since 2007, blogger, international speaker, and active community member in the BizTalk area. Before founding Document360, I set up two other enterprise software products: Biztalk360 and Serverless360. I own Kovai.co (parent company of Document360) that operates in 2 locations, UK and India with 200+ employees.
I launched an exclusive event in London called Integrate, meant for professionals in the Integration domain. Integrate went on to become Kovai.co’s flagship event, and is the most anticipated Annual Premier Microsoft Technologies Integration Conference.
Kovai.co is a fast-growing company focusing on B2B and SaaS products glo. Most recently Kovai.co was adjudged the “Bootstrapped SaaS Startup of the year” for the year 2020 by SaaSBoomi (a community for SaaS Founders and product builders shaping India’s SaaS Industry). Kovai.co won the title “Bootstrap Champ” at The Economic Times Startup Awards 2021.
Currently, Kovai has 5+ products and their latest product, Document360 has been rated the #1 Knowledge base product by Gartner Digital Markets. The product enables SaaS businesses to create self-knowledge bases for their customers and employees. The tool overcomes the functional challenges of traditional documentation and supports knowledge management across the organization. Apart from creating a stellar customer experience, the tool supports third-party integrations with chats, collaborations, translations, etc.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was born and raised in Coimbatore, a city located in the Southern part of India. I completed my Master's in 2000 and soon got an opportunity to work in London.
During my initial years in London, I worked for Microsoft as a software consultant, where I identified a very common problem in the BizTalk arena and started working on it as a hobby. Gradually, I realized the potential of the product and the benefits it can offer to businesses and decided to launch the product and eventually start the business.
I gave a demo of the product to a few colleagues and some industry influencers at a conference and received a lot of feedback from them. I incorporated all of them into the product before the launch. Soon afterward, I got my first client — an enterprise customer from Hong Kong and this happened without any reference or recommendation.
Now, coming to Document360, the idea came to my mind as we were searching for good documentation tools for our existing enterprise products. In the initial research, I understood that even though there were documentation tools in the market, those were not a good fit. No single tool was available for SaaS businesses. In addition, those tools had so many functional challenges involving collaboration, backup, versioning, etc. Around that time, I realized a good documentation tool is the need of the hour and started developing the idea into a viable project.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
After identifying technology and design, most of the initial tasks were completed, and I could easily come up with a prototype. Next, I dissected the product into small modules to better understand the functionalities and flow of the process. This exercise has also helped define tasks to achieve the end goal — building the product.
Challenges can never be permanent. This is one of the first lessons I learned as an entrepreneur. Yes, each challenge can take a longer time to carry through, but eventually, it will turn out to be how it’s meant to be
Mapping each task to the team was quite easier to a great extent. The reason being, as an organization, we were very clear on our teams’ experience and expertise.
I had planned the whole development process as a 14-day hackathon exercise. The whole team had undergone several training sessions even before the activity to ensure a smooth operation.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I had planned a 14-day hackathon for the development of the project. I had set up a core team for all the background work to support the 2 weeks rigorous activity that we had planned. After the base work, I announced the idea to the team along with mockups, prototypes, a task map, and how it is planned. I made sure the hackathon is 100% work with no frequent discussions or meetings that might take away from the assigned task.
Every day, project leaders would share the challenges and progress of their module. This exercise was mandatory for the overall advancement of the project and clears any deadlocks that arise due to the dependency on one or more tasks.
The hackathon practice has taught me several lessons and one of the most important ones is that any amount of preparation seems to fall short when you are doing it. Even though the project execution happened in just 14 days, the actual planning started a long time ago.
I analyzed and researched the hackathon for 3-4 months. Also, the groundwork already started before the development. So it took a total of 4 + months to complete the project.
Don’t get the idea that a project can be built in 14 days from scratch without any research. It’s important to have the groundwork ready before you start any project so that you don’t end up wasting time building a product that constantly fails and is not customer-centric.
We completely bootstrapped the business ($10MN) and across the company, we are investing the profits of their launched product for the development of their subsequent products.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our marketing team executes several inbound and outbound campaigns since the product launch. The activities include running PPC Ads, social media promotions, SEO optimization for product websites. In addition to that, the marketing communications team handles blogging and content syndication. The brand has created a strong presence in major review sites like G2, Capterra, Software Advice, etc. They had helped us to get the #1 rating in our product category.
Leads that we achieve from the marketing efforts are transferred to the sales team for the conversion action. We are a SaaS company, and we follow a typical SaaS sales process that involves prospecting, pitching, closing, etc.
Converted leads are transferred to the customer happiness team, which takes over from there and provides assistance to customers in migration, product training, etc. They frequently keep a check with the customers to take their concerns or feedback if there are any.
Also, feedback.document360.com allows customers to report bugs, feedback, new feature requests, etc. Our team consistently works to implement these changes requested to create a better user experience. This is one of the main tactics that Document360 employs to ensure that customers are retained.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
2020 has been a year of many milestones for us.
- We hired over 100 people in 2020
- We made our first acquisition with Cerebrata
- We crossed $10M in ARR
- Document360 acquired over 500 customers in a single year
In 2021 we have focussed on growing our products to the next level in terms of new features, enhancements, acquiring new customers, etc. We also put together a separate team & started working on a new product which will be launched in Q1 of 2022.
Our medium-term plan is to generate a $30M ARR within the next 3 years and our long-term plan is to be a SaaS Unicorn by 2030.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Challenges can never be permanent. This is one of the first lessons I learned as an entrepreneur. Yes, each challenge can take a longer time to carry through, but eventually, it will turn out to be how it’s meant to be. During my early years, I used to take advice from a lot of people. Whenever I was in a crisis, I would go to my colleagues or advisors for help. Despite their experience in the subject, they might have missed the context of the whole situation.
Blindly following their advice did bad, rather than good. I even lost one of my core employees because of this situation. I always say this to my teammates when it comes to decision-making — to follow the hunch and make a decision.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Microsoft OneNote captures all my to-do lists, ideas, notes, etc. It is a flexible tool — to manage my day-to-day tasks efficiently. Microsoft teams for communication and collaboration within teams. It is one of the powerful tools that helped us get going during the pandemic. Their integration with third-party collaboration tools makes them a very robust tool.
The team uses Adobe Photoshop extensively for designing dashboards and elements. It is their go-to design tool for image creation and graphic design. Microsoft Azure DevOps practices and tools provide support in building and deploying applications. It offers reliable support during each development lifecycle.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Traction by Gino Wickman has influenced my company. During our initial years, Wickman’s EOS (Entrepreneurial Operating System) methodology helped us to identify the key components of the business and align them accordingly.
I regularly listen to the podcast — SaaS interviews with Nathan Latka.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Pre-mature scaling is one of the major concerns that hinder the growth of startups. Most entrepreneurs think that someone will come and solve all their business problems magically. Entrepreneurs have to be extremely patient and vigilant in the business. You need to develop such a strategy to build a customer-centric business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking for suitable candidates for various positions across the company. You can get more information about it here.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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