Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I am Aayush Jain, a biotechnologist by education, a .net developer by profession, a presentation artist, and an entrepreneur by accident.
Currently, I am the Director and Founder of INK PPT, a niche presentation design agency that was formed in early 2015 with a passion for “Help People Present Better”.
Interestingly, my background is in software development, but my passion for designing presentations led me to embark on this unique path. At that time, the market for corporate presentation design in India was still emerging, and many organizations hesitated to outsource this work.
Today, our customers are majorly the Chairman’s office team for large enterprises, Marketing & brand managers for Fortune 500 brands, and brand marketing & experiential marketing agencies across geographies.
With all the operations of INK PPT and a team of 30+ members, we can clock an average revenue of $45K per month.
Today, INK PPT stands as a testament to resilience and the power of pursuing one's passion, even in the face of adversity. We've completed over 6,000 projects, served clients in more than 12 countries, and achieved an impressive 96% customer satisfaction rate.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Before founding INK PPT, I had a successful career as a software developer at Infosys, one of India's prominent IT companies. While I was thriving in the world of technology, it was during this time that I stumbled upon a hidden talent – the art of crafting compelling presentations.
The idea for INK PPT was born out of my own experiences at Infosys. I frequently found myself tasked with creating presentations for executives within the organization. As I delved deeper into the realm of presentation design, I began to realize my genuine passion for this creative process. It became clear to me that a well-designed presentation could be a potent instrument for conveying ideas and leaving a lasting impression.
I never had the idea nor inclination to do something related to design, but my early career days as a .net developer at Infosys gave me a chance to improve the design of a presentation for my delivery head for an upcoming high-profile meeting.
The journey of designing that presentation for him changed the entire course of my career and I started realizing that design is my true calling and I naturally love to design things. After that presentation, I requested more such projects internally and was regularly engaged in designing presentations one after the other.
While my background as a software developer equipped me with technical expertise, venturing into the world of design was a thrilling leap into uncharted territory. To validate the idea and my abilities, I began taking on freelance projects in presentation design. The positive feedback and growing demand for my services reinforced my conviction in the field of design.
After designing presentations for almost 6 months at Infosys, I stood at a crossroads in my career. My role at Infosys provided financial stability and security, but my passion for design as a subject was an irresistible force propelling me to quit and explore a future in design. It was a leap of faith, inspired by my newfound purpose and a deep desire to pursue my creative calling.
I left Infosys to join a brand consultancy where I learned about different facets of brand building & explored design as a holistic field. In this company, I learned everything from brand research, brand identity, and brand strategy to brand design and enjoyed my stint of close to 3 years with them. While all this was happening, I could not stop thinking about Presentations and found a dearth of skills in people when it comes to presentation design.
Interestingly, the decision to start my own company was solidified during a road trip to Spiti in the Himalayas, where I had the time and space to reflect on my aspirations.
The particular reason that made me see great worth in the business of presentations is my exposure to senior business leaders & fast-paced marketing teams, who, don't have much time to usually work on their presentations and as a result, fail to present their hard work and excellence in a presentable form which sticks around with the audiences and catches their attention, creating a right value of their work.
Almost all the external presentations I used to attend then failed to engage the audience in a meaningful way. I thought, I could change it & the field of P2P (Peer to Peer) personal communication has a lot to offer. In 2015, I single-handedly started INK PPT from my dining table and worked alone for almost a year where I was taking care of website design, business development, delivery, finances, and operational activities related to the business.
INK PPT's inception wasn't just a business decision; it was a personal odyssey of self-discovery and a testament to the belief that following one's passion can lead to unexpected and immensely rewarding outcomes.
Take us through the process of building the first version of your product.
In the early days, INK PPT was started as a Presentation template marketplace offering $1 pre-made high-quality templates for anyone who needs them. The marketplace business failed to attract a lot of eyeballs and neither did it generate much of the business in the initial 3 months.
During this trying period, I received advice from friends and a successful entrepreneur, both suggesting that INK PPT might be ahead of its time. It forced me to contemplate whether to continue nurturing INK PPT, the startup I had poured my heart and soul into, or explore new ventures.
So, after 3 months, I made all the templates free of cost and launched a custom presentation design service for brands who look for tailor-made presentations for their unique needs from corporate profiles, product launch presentations, and employee induction decks to sales & marketing presentations.
INK PPT is not just a Niche Presentation Design agency and consultancy; it embodies a vision. Our mission is to make distinctive and substantial improvements in the way individuals and organizations worldwide communicate through professional design and communication services.
Since then, we have been getting a great deal of work requests from Start-up founders, and Fortune 500 companies for custom presentation design & training needs.
Our flagship product is our expertise in creating captivating presentations that resonate with a diverse clientele. We serve 50+ Fortune 500 companies, and bootstrapped startups, and even offer free resources to students and teachers through our platform. We pride ourselves on efficiency, with a record delivery time of as low as 20 minutes from briefing to completion.
Our expertise has been in “Leadership keynotes for Product launch” during the events. I have worked for 100+ business leaders for their Media launch events from Mobile phones, servers, cars, 2-wheelers, SaaS products, E-commerce features, FMCG products to much more.
We have crafted and designed our business model in a unique way to assist business leaders in developing high-impact presentations with a very quick turnaround time and to assist them with quick & dynamic change requests. Our business model offers a unique flexibility to design an entire presentation in as little as less than 24 hours if the need be.
The pricing challenge:
Defining the right pricing for my service was one of the biggest challenges that had to be solved, since the service was new in the Indian market, no known players existed to offer this capability so there was no set format or template for this specific industry so I had to undergo an organic discovery route to arrive at a pricing strategy.
In this experimentation, we tried Per slide, Per day, Per Project, Per Hour and Fixed time fee, Retainer, and other established pricing strategies. Every strategy stuck a bottleneck at some point. The biggest of all was the Mindset of the client to pay for a service that they have been doing for so long.
It was like “Asking a client to pay for making them wear a shirt”, without the existence of this service, people have been handling it on their own. But to make customers pay you for this service had to be strongly demonstrated to realize a need to pay. Here are some of the issues with each of the pricing issues and how we solved them.
Per Slide Model: The model failed at a point where complex slides required an entire day to craft a final design visual while the client was only agreeing to pay the basic per-slide design fee without realizing the complexity involved in crafting one.
Per Day Model: Sometimes the client is not fully ready with their expectations and a lot of days get wasted in finalizing the content which increases the client cost significantly.
Per Project Model: The client gets into the mode of asking for endless revisions thinking they don’t have to pay for the endless requests they have since they have already agreed to a lumpsum project fee
Per Hour Model: The client always questions the speed at which the designer works and hence there were discrepancies in the final amount of time spent on the projects and the nature of delivery
The Final Solution: A hybrid mix of different pricing for different use cases & customer persona
For event projects: Per person per day model worked since there is no limit to the time a person works and also the number of slides he/she generates and the number of changes they do since in events, a lot of things happen in real-time.
For evolutionary products and services: For products that are newly launched by companies or for which the content is highly iterative, we arrive at an hourly cost, and for every change in brief or work request, we create a fresh Statement of Work against the no. of hours involved and seek pre-approval from the client before proceeding to avoid last minute surprises. Even if it takes more time than anticipated, we charge a flat fee.
For fixed time-bound projects with clearly outlined deliverables: Project fees linked with milestones worked well under these circumstances and helped us nail the right solution while keeping the delivery expectations in check in real-time with the client
For Bulk quantity standard requests: Per the slide model worked here we have the expectations categorized into 2-3 unique bucket types and hence we demarcated three pricing possibilities for each of the buckets based on the set of work received, we would do a pre-analysis to see which slide type falls under which bucket and delivered accordingly
Itemized pricing strategy: For some clients where a ballpark number did not work, we broke the entire process into multiple steps and asked them to remove the steps and things that they didn't want us to consider and accordingly the pricing can come down. Just like we customize our Pizza while ordering, so simpler the solution, the lesser the cost. The key heads were Talent seniority, Animation need, Iconography, Stock assets, template creation, and likewise. This gave customers the power to choose their preferences and decide what works best for them within their budgets.
Design Subscription: Clients were hesitant to work with us at regular intervals due to the financial complexity and the process they would need to follow internally to get a piece of work done from us. We simplified by creating fixed-hour packages that clients can utilize as per their will to get minor or major edits as and when they require based on their preferences without getting into financial hassles every time.
With time, we added more interesting deliverables to the list so that if a brand has requirements beyond presentations, they can use their hours to get those also designed by us.
While we weren't dealing with physical manufacturing, the challenges were still significant. Finding the right team of designers, consultants, copywriters, and presentation designers was crucial. We wanted to ensure that every aspect of our service was of exceptional quality.
One of the key milestones during this phase was landing a project with Samsung. I vividly remember being constantly at their office, delivering our work, and witnessing the tangible impact our presentations had on their teams. It was a powerful validation of our vision and capabilities.
Regarding startup costs, our initial investment primarily went into setting up the necessary infrastructure, acquiring software tools, and assembling our team. As we delved deeper into the presentation design landscape, we navigated the legal aspects, ensuring we complied with regulations and intellectual property rights.
From those humble beginnings, we've come a long way, and today, INK PPT is synonymous with exceptional design and communication services. Our commitment to helping individuals and organizations present better continues to drive our evolution and growth.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching INK PPT was a significant milestone in my entrepreneurial journey. We took a bootstrapped approach, using our savings and early project revenue to finance the business.
Our launch strategy centered on building a strong online presence through our website, and SEO services, showcasing our portfolio and work in a meaningful way. The three key sales & marketing strategy that worked in our favor includes:
- Investment in Website and SEO
- Diligently working on business referrals
- Never getting into pricing wars and always differentiating through Value
We were extremely frugal in our approach, keeping costs in check, focusing on essentials like setting up our workspace, acquiring software, and building a talented team. Crowdfunding and credit cards were not part of our financial model from day 1. We would wait for a year to buy a new machine but would never buy it on EMIs.
One of the key lessons we learned was the importance of resilience and adaptability in the face of challenges. We also realized the value of continuous learning and staying up-to-date with industry trends. These principles have been instrumental in our journey from a bootstrapped startup to a respected player in the branding and communication consultancy field.
Some unchanged principles at INK PPT from day 1:
- Keep all the payments to your vendors completed and never hold their payment even if you are not paid by the client
- Never work for free
- Keep every transaction profitable, even if it's just $10 of margin
- Always pay on time to team
- Keep things frugal in every aspect, buy less but buy good
- Only work for clients who respect your team
- Say no to bad customers (Disrespects the team, don’t stick to their words, over-demanding) even if it means losing a lot of revenue or incurring a loss
- Charge high for your service and don’t enter any pricing war with the competition
- Don’t cheat your customer, if you are charging your client for something, offer them that value
- Maintain a good level of Emotional Quotient in your work so that you love what you do
- Appreciate mistakes and reward people who make them, we have Goof-up awards every year in September where we give cash rewards to people who have made the biggest blunders around the year.
Not being unique is okay, if you hold the position tight for a long time, competition may fade away.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Our marketing and traffic efforts primarily revolved around organic growth. We did not rely on paid ads, as the nature of our services was communication-led, requiring a different approach. Instead, we focused on SEO to improve our online visibility and partnered with event agencies to expand our reach within the experiential marketing space. We also diversified our services to cater to different presentation needs in the market, ensuring that our offerings addressed a wide range of client requirements.
Our SEO Strategy is driven by a passion for presentations and a desire to make professional design accessible and help visitors with micro queries. As we grew, so did our determination to become a reliable resource for presentation-related queries.
1) Addressing the Micro Queries:
People are constantly looking for solutions to specific issues. In our case, it was about opening EPS files in PowerPoint. I decided to create a blog titled "[How to Open EPS Files in PowerPoint: A Step-by-Step Guide.](https://www.inkppt.com/post/how-to-open-eps-file-in-powerpoint%23:~:text=Export%2520(A%2520Feature%2520under%2520%25E2%2580%259Cfile,do%2520this%2520by%2520drag%2520%2526%2520drop.)" The blog provides a detailed, step-by-step guide to help users tackle this specific problem, ensuring it was understandable for both beginners and advanced users.
2) The Power of Keywords:
Understanding the power of keywords, we delved into exhaustive research to identify the most relevant and high-traffic terms related to our topic. We sprinkled these keywords strategically throughout the blog, from the title to subheadings, which boosted our visibility on search engines.
3) Educational and Authentic Content:
Our content went beyond the 'how-to' aspect. We wanted them to understand what these files were, why they were important, and their compatibility with PowerPoint. This additional educational content added depth and authenticity to our blog.
4) SEO-Friendly Structure:
We ensured that our blog had the right HTML headers to make the content organized and easy to read. We also incorporated internal and external links, where necessary, to provide readers with more valuable information and resources.
5) Pillar Content Strategy:
In the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and content creation, a well-structured pillar content strategy is crucial. Strategy interlinked with the pillar content, creates a clear content hierarchy. Comprehensive coverage, SEO-friendly structure, quality, multimedia elements, user engagement, consistency, and analytics all play vital roles.
6) Quality Over Quantity:
We never opted for quantity over quality. We focused on creating in-depth, high-quality blogs that comprehensively covered the topic. It's the depth that Google values and rewards.
7) Analytics and Continuous Improvement:
We monitored the blog's performance using Google Analytics. The data we collected allowed us to make continuous improvements based on user feedback, updates in the field, or shifts in search trends.
Retaining existing customers has been a core part of our strategy. We achieved this by maintaining a world-class consultative services process, which involved understanding our client's goals and providing expert guidance. Below is a detailed explanation of our process and service:
Agile & Refined 5D Methodology:
At INK PPT, the foundation of our exceptional services is our robust 5D Consultative Process. Let me take you through this journey, illustrating how we transform ideas into visually compelling presentations.
Collecting Mood Boards:
Our journey begins by collecting visual mood boards that represent your unique vision. Each image and inspiration sets the tone for our creative adventure. It's about ensuring that every element aligns perfectly with your vision.
File Sharing on WeTransfer:
To keep our communication seamless, we use inkppt.wetransfer for secure file sharing. This ensures that every piece of information reaches the right hands while safeguarding your data's integrity.
Project Visibility Dashboard:
Transparency is the cornerstone of our project management. Our Project Visibility Dashboard, powered by Click-Up, offers a comprehensive view of the project, respecting confidentiality. It's the compass guiding us and keeping everyone aligned, even in complex projects.
Asynchronous Collaboration with Loom:
Our Loom recordings ensure that everyone stays connected and informed. It's a way for us to share insights, updates, and project walkthroughs, fostering collaboration and clarity.
Zoho Sign Enabled Contracts:
In the "Zoho Sign Enabled Contracts" phase, we ensure that our agreements are legally sound and transparent. Creating contracts and agreements is now secure and efficient with Zoho Sign.
Employee Brand Training:
Quality extends to our team. We provide comprehensive brand training, including hands-on courses with industry-standard tools like Adobe. This empowers our team to maintain the highest standards in their work, ensuring you get nothing but the best.
File Naming System Policy:
Consistency is our promise. Our "File Naming System Policy" ensures that all project files are organized and accessible whenever needed.
Secure Data Protection on pCloud:
We believe in protecting your data for a lifetime. Our "Secure Data Protection on pCloud" ensures your information is safe and accessible whenever you need it.
Believe it or not, sometimes customers have come to us expecting a hefty quote for something that can be achieved in a matter of minutes and is not even required in the first place to be done, so we have advised our customers to not even start the project and redirected to right reading material which makes it easier to achieve their goals for free. They value this and you become their go-to advisor for any such future needs. In the long run, they become the most highly-paying customers of all time.
The quality of our work has always been of the utmost importance, and we take pride in delivering projects on time, even under tight deadlines. This commitment to excellence has led to customer loyalty and repeat business. We intentionally take up projects filled with chaos and tight timelines since we know one thing for a fact that such projects have a definite end to them as someone has goofed up the delivery so far and the client is in the mindset of closing it now and they are priced more than the normal ones.
We have developed our own proprietary 7 Step QC process to check every work of craft our designers make from 7 lenses to catch the basic design issues at the core ensuring our customers get the best of what they expect.
One memorable experience that highlights the effectiveness of our approach occurred when we worked on a high-stakes project for a car brand customer who was launching in India for the first time and was not being advised right by various service providers leading to a lot of time wastage and delay in the work.
Despite the pressure, we delivered an outstanding presentation that left a lasting impression. The client was so impressed that they not only became a long-term customer but also referred us to other companies, which significantly boosted our growth.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, INK PPT stands as a thriving and profitable venture. We have remained profitable from day one, having adopted a bootstrapped approach. Over the years, we've grown from a one-person operation to a dedicated in-house team of over 30 experts, along with an extended pool of more than 100 specialists.
In terms of financials, our gross margins are robust, standing at around 12.50%. What sets us apart is our focus on organic growth; we haven't incurred paid advertising costs. Instead, our investments have been directed toward building a talented team and optimizing the cost of service. Few interesting financial KPIs to look for:
Customer Lifetime Value: $3000-$6000 per year
Monthly Traffic: Being in a niche market, we get close to 20K unique visitors on our Google Business profile and website combined
Social Media Followers: Our social media journey began like many others, sharing Random stuff, the usual updates, and design trends but later we decided to switch to more People and Social proof posts which adds a layer of authenticity, highlighting our clients' success stories and their experiences with our services.
Linkedin: 4,564 Followers (INK PPT - LINKEDIN)
Facebook: 7.8k followers (INK PPT - FACEBOOK)
Instagram: 594 Followers (INK PPT- INSTAGRAM)
Our operations today are highly streamlined. From the initial client inquiry to pitching our services, assigning work to teams, and ensuring timely delivery, we've honed our processes to ensure efficiency and customer satisfaction. We have divided the entire delivery into 5 unique teams which are mapped against the types of projects they can handle.
Three fully virtual teams handle brands and projects where physical meetings & travel are not required at all, Then we have 1 team that works on a hybrid model and also meets with the customer on an occasional basis and lastly, we have a team for events who are always on travel and have a highly customer facing profile in their job role.
Looking to the future, we have exciting plans in the pipeline. We have recently launched our design subscription service named INKLUSIVE and our focus is more on having some initial customer base for it and taking it to newer heights over the next 6 months.
We are experimenting with a lot of things for the first time including investment in YouTube ads, LinkedIn ads, Account-based marketing strategy, Influencer marketing, and customer referral and affiliate growth program.
In the short term, we aim to continue providing top-notch services and expanding our client base. In the long term, we envision becoming a go-to destination for comprehensive design and communication solutions.
Our growth journey has been marked by continuous evolution, and we're eager to see where the future takes us as we continue to help individuals and organizations present better through professional design and communication services.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting and growing INK PPT has been a journey filled with valuable lessons and insights. One of the most significant lessons I've learned is the importance of hiring the right team. Building a diverse and talented team from various spheres of life has been instrumental in our success. Trusting our team members and empowering them to excel in their roles has created a strong foundation for our company.
The force out of our control that had a significant impact on us was the COVID-19 pandemic. While it presented immense challenges, it also pushed us to diversify our services and adapt to the changing needs of our clients. We learned the importance of flexibility and resilience during challenging times.
One of the blunders we made during this time was to change our complete website and as a result, when people were searching for presentation design services to nail the virtual communication challenges and issues, our ranking on keywords slipped significantly and by the time it bounced back, we lost a lot of business to competition.
We were literally off the Google search for almost a month since coordinating with so many different virtual stakeholders created altogether new challenges and many gaps in website migration SEO made us miss the growth ride that which pandemic offered for services like ours.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
In our business at INK PPT, we rely on a comprehensive suite of tools and software to deliver exceptional design and communication services. Our toolkit includes a range of industry-standard software that allows us to create captivating presentations and motion graphics.
Some of our favorite tools include Microsoft-365 powerpoint, Keynote, and Google Slides as the foundation for presentation design. Additionally, we utilize Adobe Creative Cloud, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and After Effects, to craft visually stunning graphics and motion design elements.
Our commitment to delivering engaging presentations extends to the video production realm, where we use tools like Adobe Premier and Final Cut to edit and enhance video content. These video editing platforms enable us to incorporate dynamic visuals and storytelling techniques into our projects.
In addition to industry-standard software, we leverage the Zoho Ecosystem, ClickUp, and micro-task tools including project management and collaboration tools, to streamline communication and coordination within our team.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of the most influential resources that has shaped my approach to presentation design and communication is the work of Nancy Duarte and Duarte, Inc. Nancy Duarte's books, such as "Resonate" and "Slide:ology," have been invaluable in guiding my understanding of persuasive storytelling and visual communication.
Their dedication to creating visually stunning presentations and innovative storytelling serves as a continuous source of inspiration for me as I aim to elevate my craft in presentation design.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Reflecting on my journey, I can't help but recall Aayush who returned from a soul-searching bike trip, and the person I am today. It's been a transformational experience filled with moments of doubt and exhilaration, and I want to share some personal thoughts with aspiring entrepreneurs. I have captured my entrepreneurial journey in a LinkedIn article as well.
The Aayush who started INK PPT was driven by an unexpected passion for presentation design. That same passion fueled my determination when I faced skepticism from many who believed my venture was ahead of its time. But I persevered, and INK PPT evolved into more than just a business—it became a testament to the resilience and the power of pursuing your passion.
Through it all, I've learned the importance of staying true to your vision, no matter how unconventional it may seem. It's your passion that will guide you through the darkest moments and keep you moving forward.
I've also come to understand that every entrepreneur's journey is unique. There's no one-size-fits-all formula for success. Embrace your failures as opportunities for growth, stay adaptable, and never stop innovating. Surround yourself with a team that shares your vision, trust them, and together, you can turn your vision into reality.
So, to all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there, remember that your journey may be challenging, but with passion, persistence, and the right team, you can achieve remarkable things and inspire others along the way.
In summary, I have four pieces of advice for you:
- Not being unique is okay, if you hold the position tight for a long time, competition may fade away
- Don’t take shortcuts or wrong means to grow your business, it will fall back sooner or later
- Keep every transaction positive, and don’t work on future assurances given by some customers
- If budgets are less, invest in 1 medium but do that good
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are constantly on the lookout for passionate individuals to join our diverse team at INK PPT. Whether you're a designer, marketer, or part of our dynamic sales team, if you share our vision and are eager to make a meaningful impact, we welcome you to explore opportunities with us.
Our positions are full-time, and you can learn more and apply by visiting our careers page. Join us in our mission to help people present better and bring creative excellence to the world of design and communication!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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