After 3 failed attempts, Harishanker took advantage of his previous experience in the field and created a simple-to-use solution for companies to configure their employee’ devices without the help of an IT team. They niched SMBs and grew to $400k/month organically.
Hi Harishanker! What's your background, and what are you currently working on?
Hi Rich! I am Harishanker Kannan. Based out of Pune, India, I am the Co-Founder and CEO at Scalefusion.
Scalefusion is a simple-to-use Mobility Management platform tailored for businesses to get up and running quickly. With Scalefusion, companies can configure their devices such as laptops, smartphones, tablets and other digital devices for business use without hiring a specialized IT team. This includes, configuring the devices to run only business-related apps and websites, preventing data copy from these devices and ensuring that only authorized users have access to the device.
These devices can be used as customer-facing devices, for eg. for self-ordering at a take-away, can be used by employees- eg, the handheld devices used by last-mile delivery guys or used by students- for eg, the tablets used in classrooms.
In an office setup for example, when an employee is given a smartphone or a laptop for work, Scalefusion ensures that it is used only for work and nothing more. Companies can define the usage policies, block entertainment websites, gaming apps etc and ensure that employees are not distracted at the same time making full use of digital devices.
No complex onboarding or complex policy-driven flows, just plain and easy-to-use Mobility Management Platform for every business. I look after the overall strategy, products, operations, customer support, hiring and partnerships for Scalefusion.
The co-founder of Scalefusion is Arnab. He looks after the technical side of the product and is the CTO of the company.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started out my career working in a startup based out of Vizag, India called NetSavant. Working at NetSavant gave me the exposure, energy and the entire ‘vibe’ of a startup. This is where I was acquainted with the ups-and-downs of a startup ecosystem. I very soon realized that it resonated with my working style and consciously chose to work with startups.
For the next decade, I worked for around 6 different startups- some that made it big, some that didn’t. I believe that my work experience at each one of them shaped me into my entrepreneurial journey. Looking back, I am glad I chose to work in startups!
Right before Scalefusion, I was working on my first startup- QuadNode, which was founded in the year 2011. At QuadNode, my co-founders and I built three different products with varying degrees of failure. It was a great learning and very humbling experience indeed. As they say, you need to feel and know when it is not working to stop chasing that product and we did just that, when our third product failed to surface the market.
During our time at QuadNode, we had spent considerable time studying, experimenting and building Kiosk Technology amongst several other ideas. Kiosk Technology, as I mentioned above is when businesses can take any smartphone, tablet or a laptop and make it run exclusively for business. Think web browsing laptops and tablets in airport lounges, self check-in devices at the airport and hotels, devices displaying audiovisual ads in waiting areas or wayfinders in zoos, museums and shopping malls and devices used in school where students can explore educational apps and nothing more.
We were deciding which was the one most worth pursuing and needed time, freedom and of course cash to chase our product ideas.
This is when we started out-sourced product development at ProMobi Technologies- the parent company of Scalefusion, to keep the money flowing in and this bought us some time to research more on the one idea that seemed the most promising- Kiosk technology. We offered specialized mobile device management services which also helped us to understand what the market really wanted- we started creating custom kiosk solutions for our clients considering their industry-specific needs and feature-demands.
How did you build Scalefusion?
We started off by offering services in the kiosk technology and understanding what the market lacked in terms of the MDM industry. The growth of mobile devices in business is exponential and after having worked with multiple projects around the same lines, we saw a pattern. Although there were big players catering to the MDM market, we realized they were complex and pricey and had no focus on SMBs and their needs. We realized that we could scale our kiosk technology solution and that was our aha! moment.
The journey of Scalefusion (previously known as MobiLock) began from being a kiosk solution to a full-blown mobile device management platform. We published our MobiLock standalone Android App for free in the Play Store to test the market. Within the first 2 months, we hit more than 1000 downloads from 20+ countries, in the next 2 months, the number reached to 5000+ downloads and 35+ countries. We took the hint, the market was ready for us!
The prime motivation was to build a world-class product, which the world will love to use, from India. Along with my team at ProMobi Technologies, we built a simple-to-use product that focussed on the features the customers needed. We began working on the admin dashboard and the integration between the dashboard and the app.
After our initial dry-runs, we realized that our product worked just fine but the UI/UX was complex. Since our primary goal was to create an easy-to-use and clutter-free, my Co-founder and CTO Arnab took a stance that the product was not really what we envisioned. Our team geared up and re-designed the entire product, launching the Beta Version of MobiLock Pro in January 2015, with a 30-day free trial.
After our three initial months from January to March, we invited our free app customers to try out our platform. By the end of March, we had 10 paying customers and in April, we got out of the Beta version. Then, our customer base started building up. We partnered with Samsung and LG for their enterprise SDK support, onboarded 4 resellers for Europe, APAC and the USA and by the end of November 2015, we had 120+ paying customers in 50+ countries, managing 50K+ devices. Our team grew from 1-2 part-timers to 8 in Jan 2015 and is now 70+ in 2020.
It was an exciting journey, especially since we focussed on offering free customer support. We focussed on positioning the product ideal for SMBs and that really worked for us. For pricing, we went with the folks who knew the best- our customers. One of our customers suggested 1 dollar per device per month, we tested it with our other clients and went ahead with it.
Since then, we have extended our offering to multiple OSs- Android, iOS, Windows 10 and macOS. We also started building a large feature-set to match the competition, and this created a little focus-shift- from customer-oriented to feature-oriented. But we quickly realized that this might be the wrong move, and reversed our product building strategy soon after.
One of the major hiccups, that we didn’t quite expect was when we rebranded in March 2019. We were aware that the rebranding activity would cause a temporary blip, but the estimated 3 months low-period was extended until the end of the 6th month. Although, in the end, I feel it was worth it!
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Our initial marketing and sales strategy were pretty straightforward. We started off by catering to SMBs. Our marketing strategy was inbound, since this ensures less customer education and quicker conversions. Our problem-product fit was well-oiled.
We focussed on building organic growth via SEO and simple, easy to understand content copy on our website, blog, etc. We also dig deep into geo-marketing targeting specific geographies that were more suited as our client.
Our customer support is one of our key offerings and it has proven to be particularly advantageous for our growth.
One tactic that didn’t really work out for us was going after the mid-market and enterprise customers, too soon. After receiving considerable traction for SMBs, we started hitting the mid-market and enterprise customers but our product was just not ready then. And our ‘enterprisy’ copy overwhelmed SMBs, and scared them away too. But we soon realized this and reverted to what we knew the best and it has been amazing ever since.
What are your goals for the future?
We believe in sustainable growth and that’s what we shall be focussing on- be it with respect to expanding our team or to building new features. In terms of revenue, we aim to grow 100% year-on-year. Our hiring will be organic, when the need arises, we will continue to grow our team.
On a personal level, the goal is to inspire more and more people among the team to build their own startups. Creating a working environment that instills the confidence amongst our team members to build something of their own is a personal goal for me.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and obstacles you overcame?
Being a bootstrapped startup, managing cash was always one of the biggest concerns. We started off by setting month-on-month goals to have a positive cash flow. This concern eased out gradually when we started creating a run-way for 3 months, 6 months. But we had to keep a tight leash on our spendings, and couldn't take exorbitant risks and tried to play it safe.
On the personal front, being an entrepreneur is a lonely journey. You don’t have too many people to talk to, get directions from. On some occasions, you question yourself. But you have to overcome them, pat yourself on the back when needed, since no one else can do it for you.
Which are your greatest disadvantages? What were your worst mistakes?
One of the greatest disadvantages was that both me and my co-founder did not have a solid idea on the business side of things. Both of us come from a technical background, we had to pretty much learn everything on our own, use the trial and error way. If we had a third founder from a business background, it would have helped us early on with the business.
I am waiting to create my worst mistake yet.
If you had the chance to do things differently, what would you do?
I don’t have any regrets. Only if I knew this idea would be as successful as it is today, I would have taken more chances upfront instead of spacing it out over a five-year period. I would have tried multiple things within the first three years itself.
Where can we go to learn more?
To know more about me, you can have a quick glance here. You can read about what I do at Scalefusion on my LinkedIn profile. Building Scalefusion and scaling to what it is today has been a momentful journey. I’ve noted down some of the highlights of our first year in this blog post.