On a sunny Sunday afternoon in May, the IBD class of Summer 2016 walked into a Berkeley Haas classroom in eager anticipation for what was to come. It was then that we would learn where our IBD adventure would take us, and which of our classmates would be coming along for the ride. We were thrilled to meet each other for the first time and discover that we would be heading to Bangalore – the “Silicon Valley” of India. Although we started out as a team of acquaintances at the time, the 8 week IBD experience would transform us into a tight-knit family.
We hit the ground running by setting up our first client call within days after the first class. We were assigned to work with Lucep, a startup that built a tool for lead management and sales acceleration. This tool appears as a widget on the customer’s website and is similar to a “Contact Us” box that requires fields of information to be filled out (name, company, phone number, etc.). The information that’s submitted is sent to a salesperson’s mobile phone in which the salesperson is then able to connect with a customer in 60 seconds or less. The idea behind this is that businesses (especially startups and small/medium businesses) need to engage with prospective leads as soon as possible to prevent businesses from losing leads to their competitors.
Lucep then shared with us their challenge. How do they go to market in the U.S.? How do they go to market in India? Can a single strategy be applied in both countries? Or would each country require its own unique game plan?
Since we all hailed from different backgrounds, we knew that gaining an understanding of the product offering would require a considerable amount of research. We decided to focus on 3 main pillars:
- First, we looked to industry news, articles and blogs to learn as much as we could about sales acceleration and lead management. This meant keeping up with the latest industry news and articles on sites such as TechCrunch and following relatedt tech blogs.
- We then analyzed the competition by downloading whitepapers, watching informational videos, and even contacting competitors directly to get a more in-depth understanding of their products and how Lucep might differentiate itself.
- Most of our research insights were derived from interviews. We reached out via our personal and Haas networks to learn about which SaaS products were currently being used by companies in the high technology indstury. Also, we ascertained whether these companies placed an emphasis on fast response to prospective leads (Lucep’s core value proposition) and companies’ feedback on Lucept’s product.
We spent the first 6 weeks of IBD (up until we left for Bangalore) vetting out the U.S. market only. The focus switched over to the Indian market once we arrived in Bangalore.
Day of Arrival
The day had come and we finally arrived in Bangalore after enduring a 20+ hour travel time from San Francisco to Bangalore. Our client graciously sent a car to pick us up af the airport. As we traveled from the airport to the office, one visibly difference between the US and India became apparent. Bangalore traffic is unlike we had ever seen. There is endless honking coming from a mix of rickshaws, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and bikes that weave in and out of each other and avoid cows and other animals idling in the middle of the streets. Yet, there seemed to be a hidden sense of order underneath the seemingly chaotic traffic since no accidents or road rage were observed and locals seemed to have mastered the art of the “near miss” when driving through a tangled web of people, animals, and cars.
After 2 weeks, we learned that the keys to successful driving in Bangalore require 3 things – a good horn, good brakes, and good luck.
Similar to our approach in the U.S., much of our research in India was based on interviews that were mostly set up by the client. We had the opportunity to speak to a wide range of professionals including those working in sales, marketing, and even CEOs and founders of established Indian tech companies. This was an incredible and eye opening experience and really brought to life some of the cultural differences between the U.S. and Indian markets.
One of these differences is the idea of “jugaad.” This word, originating from Hindi, refers to intelligent hacking to find a low cost solution. We learned that SaaS has not been a successful model because of this juggad. Rather than purchase a SaaS solution, many companies choose to “jugaad” a solution by creating their own in-house customer relationship management (CRM) systems, adopting the use of spreadsheets for complicated tasks, or installing pirated software. We found that this greatly differed from the Silicon Valley startup scene where SaaS products such as Marketo, Hubspot, and Salesforce were fully adopted and paid for by organizations ranging from a handful to thousands of employees.
To supplement our research, Charlies Salazar was sent on Berkeley Haas Team’s behalf to attend the TechInAsia conference, a gathering designed to connect Asia’s tech ecosystem. Conference attendees included a multitude of reps from startups across Asia, guest speakers, and investor panels. The conference culminated in a pitch competition in which one lucky startup received financial backing to pursue their idea.
Looking back on the experience, it was nothing short of incredible. We were extremely lucky to have been assgined to such a amazing client and wondrous country. Lucep were incredible hosts and we were able to learn a great deal about the Indian technology and startup scene from them. We thank the IBD program and Berkeley Haas for giving us this precious opportunity that definitely a trip of a lifetime.
For a more visual look into our trip, please check out our video blog: