Communicating with KOMMUNICATE

Intelligent chat-based support, giving customers the best of both AI & human-touch.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” -Maya Angelou

A dream is something good to have. It is strenuous and it takes perseverance to make that dream come true. Let us go through the journey of Devashish Datt Mamgain, who pursued his dream of setting up a business in automated customer support using Kommunicate.io.

YC - Let us start with a brief background of your childhood and early years.

Devashish - I am from Dehradun. My father was an advocate, and my mother is a housewife. I have five sisters and a brother. We had financial challenges as it was a big family, and my siblings have played a crucial role, supporting me in my education. 

I did my schooling in Dehradun. During my school days, a computer institute near my school initiated a program for students to learn computers for a reasonable fee. They introduced graphics, floppy disks and other such technologies, which instilled curiosity in me. So I took up Computer Science for my higher secondary.

My father was strict, but he paid a lot of attention to our studies. After twelfth, I was doubtful whether to join NDA or Engineering, but I realised that I ultimately was more interested in Engineering.

YC - How were your college days?

Devashish - It was inspiring. I had a lot of friends there who had struggled, and have gone through a lot in their life. I decided to join a government college waiting for two years since I couldn’t afford the admission fee of a private college. Despite these socio-economic barriers we did a lot of experimenting, and organised tech fests. We even got selected for the top 100 of the IBM - The Great Mind Challenge. Starting from software to event management, we learned many things from these experiences. 

YC - Tell us about your journey to Kommunicate?

Devashish - 2009- I got selected through campus placement, but it got delayed due to the recession that hit the industry during 2009. So I went to Bangalore for the ‘eLitmus’ test and joined Webyog. I worked there for four months and then joined Xora. I was in the server team, developing the technology behind the fleet tracking system using GPS enabled services. 

2011- It was while working in Xora, I developed The ‘MobiTexter’ app, an android application for SMS texting from a web browser. It showed a notification on the computer screen while one received a text message. The user could access it with a chrome extension, use it for broadcast messaging and many more. Those were the times when social media was not as common as it is now, and people found many use cases with our app. We gained around 1.5 lakh users for it. As the SMS culture shifted, we lost our customers, and that was when we thought of entrepreneurship seriously. To start a company, there were a few things that I wanted to learn beforehand.

2012- I joined Azuga. Inc, for the reason that it was at a very early stage. I could get a lot of exposure from building a product from scratch, to team building, hiring, management, and many other things. After a year, I decided to put my theory into practice. I had a few of my friends willing to join me.

2015- I resigned from my job and started working on Applozic Inc. I have been working on Applozic since then and formed Kommunicate in 2018.

YC - Tell us about Applozic. What were the early challenges you faced?

Devashish - In Applozic, we provided chat APIs and SDKs to companies. Customers were able to embed chat within the app. They would thus be able to monitor the customer-dealer interaction. The customer could use this for enquiries, without using other third-party apps or phone calls, and the companies could stay informed. These were car companies, healthcare, and schooling etc. 

The first challenge was capital. Satya and I had invested in Applozic. We have not raised money from outside yet. Since we were bootstrapping, we could not hire people beforehand. We first generated the revenue and then went for the required expertise. We were not funded, and it was a sacrifice we had to make.

Another challenge we faced was building a name. Many customers were prejudiced that Indian products might be of less quality and preferred products from the UK and the USA. We were able to prove them wrong with our quality and transcended the challenges effectively. 

YC - What was the inspiration for Kommunicate?

Devashish - We faced a challenge in Applozic where it was difficult to get a support agent with the required tech expertise. The support queries that we used to get in Applozic were very technical, and those were directly coming from the developers. We thus had to cover the support agent part ourselves, and I realised that there were a lot of challenges in the customer support domain. We understood that the customer support agents spend a lot of time answering repeated queries that could be automated. It solved our problem, and we developed the idea to help others too to solve the customer support part, and the effort ultimately led to Kommunicate. 

We initially started the beta version within a project, but then we separated the companies. Adarsh and I realised that Kommunicate has immense market potential, and we went on to start a new company to automate customer support. 

YC - Can you brief on your team, customer base and sales cycle?

Devashish - We are a team of 30 at present. We are planning to increase it next year with a projected employee strength of around 50. We are also looking to raise our funding to 1-1.5 million. Kommunicate is now bootstrapped, with around 600 paying customers. 

The companies who are into the b2b space, and who have a large number of users are the ones using Kommunicate. The hybrid customer interface using chatbots and customer support agents allow them to maintain easy customer support. The bot keeps learning, making it easier for the future. Our customers are mainly from the US.

Our sales cycle is like 30 to 45 days. We follow product lead growth. A free trial customer can come to the website, try the product for free for the first 30 days. They can do the trial and then buy directly from the platform. 90% of our sales happen directly through the website, even without our sales team getting involved. They try the product and buy it directly, usually within 45 days after signing up.

YC - What is that one thing that keeps you going? Also, what will be your suggestions to the budding entrepreneurs out there?

Devashish - I have always believed in ,

“You can’t fail unless you quit.

It has always kept me going. I chose to have the required experience before pursuing my dream, but don't necessarily urge others to follow the same. Even if a person who lacks experience pursues entrepreneurship, it is fine if they have the confidence. 

“Confidence and the awareness of what one is doing is the key”.

To believe in oneself and take necessary actions at the right time is very important. One should find opportunities in circumstances where others see hurdles to be a successful entrepreneur. Timing is also crucial, as the right decision taken at the wrong time shall not serve its purpose. 

YC - What are the three learnings from your entrepreneurial journey that you would like to share with our readers?

Devashish - I have done things right and have equally committed mistakes throughout my entrepreneurial journey. However, I wish to share a few thoughts. 

1.   Management of the capital. The initial phase of our journey had us bootstrapping, and we realised the importance of having ample financial reserves. Even during the pandemic, we were short of money, and these times were a reminder for us to ensure enough capital in the bank account throughout the year.

2.  Investment in human resources. We used to compromise quality at times in human resources. Compromises will not last as there is a limit to educating people on things. The quality of our resources matters, and there should not be any compromise on the people we choose.

3.  The product design. We pay much attention to the product design, and this we learnt in Applozic. We even hired people to ensure quality on building the initial product. That helped us in making a product self-sell. We are confident to open our product to people to try it out. We are more design-focused than technology-focused.

YC - What is the key to a successful SaaS startup?

Devashish - 

1.  Recurring revenue - The basic understanding of the various metrics used in the SaaS is most important. For example, in SaaS, 'recurring revenue' is more important than one-time revenue. The success of any entrepreneurship depends on a deep and broad understanding of the domain. 

2.  Target audience. Some companies focus more on customer accumulation than customer retention. No matter how fast you are in acquiring customers, you are not succeeding unless you retain them. You should ensure that you are getting the right customers or the target audience. Their use case should match your product usage. Understanding the core use case of the product is very much important.

3.   Feedback - Once you find the right customer, it is essential to stay in touch with the customer. We follow the use case of a customer and receive regular feedback. This helps us to understand their present use cases better, and adapt to the new use cases of customers. 

It has been wonderful hearing you. Thank you and best wishes for the journey ahead. Hope to see people globally communicating with Kommunicate.

We'll meet again for more stories! 

Thank you for reading.