Raviteja Dodda is one of the co-founders of MoEngage, which he also runs as CEO. The company is an “Intelligent Customer Engagement Platform,” which was designed specifically to meet the needs of a “Mobile-first world.”
At MoEngage, Raviteja Dodda makes sure that consumer businesses can “understand customer behavior across touch points and instantly act on those insights through personalized engagements across Mobile, Web and Email, with auto-optimization towards higher conversions powered by machine learning.”
MoEngage and Raviteja Dodda understand that “traditional marketing clouds are expensive to implement, hard to learn, and rule-based.” So, the company spends much effort to build an “enterprise software that is easier to use, elegantly designed, fully integrated and learning-based.”
Prior to MoEngage, Raviteja Dodda also co-founded Pipal Tech Ventures, which is a “technology company, focused on developing cool mobile, social and location based products.” One of these products is SaveZippy, formerly known as DelightCircle. SaveZippy is India’s leading offers and coupons network, whose mobile apps have been downloaded over 175,000 times by users across Android and iPhone. The app was also named as one of the Top 6 Smartphone Apps in India, and one of the Top 8 Innovative Product Tech Startups, among others.
For his success, Raviteja Dodda has also been recognized as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Enterprise Tech in Asia, in 2016. He was also named as one of Business World’s Disrupt 40 Under 40 in 2018.
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Raviteja Dodda: Yashwanth Kumar (MoEngage’s CTO) and I co-founded MoEngage in 2014, but it took us some time to get there. We had completed our undergrad degrees together at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. When we graduated, we both went our separate ways, but still stayed in close contact. After working in the corporate world, we soon realized that we wanted to build our own products, to make a real impact. We started DelightCircle in 2011 — a mobile-first local offers and coupons network. There were few mobile companies in India (and globally), at the time. While growing DelightCircle, we figured out how to acquire users optimally. However, we realized that it was much harder to generate adoption, retain acquired users, and continue to drive growth and conversions. Even though third-party analytics tools provided the data on what wasn’t working, they didn’t provide the ability to act on that information.
We felt this pain was big enough — and global enough — across companies, and that is how MoEngage came to be. We wanted to start MoEngage so we could make a difference in how brands engage with their customers. Today, we have offices in nine countries and our insights-led customer engagement platform serves more than 1,000 customers worldwide. We’ve also been named a highest-rated private cloud computing company to work for during the Covid crisis by Battery Ventures, and recognized for our innovation by industry analysts such as Gartner and Forrester.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Raviteja Dodda: As most founders do, we faced multiple challenges starting our MoEngage journey. I’ll talk about two examples in particular.
When starting a new business, one of the most important aspects is to establish a product-market fit so you can determine your target customers and how to solve their problems. When we founded MoEngage in 2014, we focused on establishing a product-market fit in India, first, as that was where we lived and knew the market best. It’s important to be honest with yourself about product-market fit and the problem(s) you’re solving for customers. We continued to ask ourselves, “Is what we’re building at MoEngage valuable?” We didn’t want to go back to square one. We leveraged a lean startup approach, and continued to get feedback from the market along the way, confirming that our solution was worth the cost. While this exercise took time, it helped us establish the ideal product-market fit from day one.
India is a large market, but we knew we’d have to expand to continue our growth; this proved challenging. We moved into Southeast Asia and North America first, around 2016. This required us to establish product-market fits in multiple geographies and establish ourselves as an enterprise-SaaS company, which was challenging in the early days. We had to learn several different aspects of business, make the right hires, and position our product to solve the right pain points. We were able to replicate our playbook to a large extent, but adoption levels, technology proficiency, and use cases varied by market. We had a strong mentorship in place with Alchemist Accelerator, a program that helped us in multiple areas, including B2B selling, fundraising, and customer development. It was difficult to get into the program, and there was a high bar for selection. Having a strong problem statement and product-market fit really helped us during the selection process. I’d suggest for any first-time entrepreneurs to consider these types of investment/mentor programs, as they can provide a lot of support in growing and scaling your business.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Raviteja Dodda: This wasn’t exactly a mistake (okay, maybe in a way, it was), but it is a funny story. Getting started, I was the lead salesperson at MoEngage. When we started our expansion into the U.S., I moved to San Francisco to gain experience in the local market and be available for networking as opportunities came up. When I moved to The States, I was, still selling to our India market and working in India’s time zone. There were a lot of sleepless nights. Looking back, I could have spent those first 18 months differently — maybe training and coaching someone locally in India — so I could focus 100 percent of my time on the U.S.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
Raviteja Dodda: Based on my own experience, a great company has a strong mission, a clear sense of purpose, and a set of principles and values to follow. These will guide you in terms of how you build and operate your business, both in the present, and future. The fifth ingredient is the right product fit. This one is critical. Building a great culture is important to helping your business thrive; I suggest coming up with a set of values that your company stands for to help initiate culture change in the organization. Refer back to it often. Make sure every employee understands the “Why.” For example, at MoEngage, we encourage our team to embrace our core values, which consist of having the freedom to execute on goals and ideas that bring us closer to our mission. We also focus on adding people who share our values of being data-driven, being open and transparent, driving ownership, thinking of the customer first, and most importantly, having fun.
In great companies (and even good companies), customers should always come first. Customers are at the heart of our business, from building products that solve customers’ problems, to supporting them throughout their digital transformation. We are building the customer engagement platform of tomorrow, and we continue to invest in our product roadmap to deliver value to our customers and help them stay one step ahead in their customer engagement strategies.
Great companies have the courage to challenge the status quo. For example, in 2015/16, it was the status quo to forge a startup in North America, and then build a large, global busines from there. But we didn’t do that. We trusted our gut and chose not to follow that path. At the time, few were looking at the Indian and Southeast Asia markets in our space. We felt that ours was the right strategy, to stay local and build our brand there first, and it has contributed to our success. Continue to ask yourself, “How can we make change happen versus being a follower of the change?” Continuing to challenge the status quo helps you become a pioneer and differentiate.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Raviteja Dodda: Every company should have a purpose beyond profit. Doing good and making a social impact ties you back to the community, while fostering a stronger culture and motivating your team as a result. In the end, this will only help your business. Teams are motivated by the impact the company is making for the community, end users, customers, etc. Sometimes, this is driven by philanthropic efforts, how a product/company is improving the lives of its customers, or by having an impact on the community at large. At MoEngage, we’ve provided a complimentary version of our solution to certain community organizations, such as GrowthHackers, to support their growth. As mentioned above, we’ve also created a #GROWTH community and academy, an exclusive portal for growth marketers and product owners that covers all aspects of delighting their customers — giving them the tools and expertise to fuel their success.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Raviteja Dodda: While conversion strategies can differ, depending on the industry and business, I’ll share some examples of how MoEngage helps our customers convert and retain business. MoEngage provides companies with both deep insights and the tools to communicate with their audiences across multiple channels.
If a consumer adds a product to their cart, but doesn’t purchase it, brands can leverage our smart triggers capability to re-engage the consumer and complete the transaction. Smart triggers enable your brand to have a one-on-one conversation with your customers, providing an in-context message that’s timed, based on their journey. Customers can use our smart trigger interactions in the form of a push notification, in-app message, email or even a web push channel. We’ve seen smart trigger campaigns drive four times as many conversions for our customers.
Testing and experimentation can also lead to conversions. For example, experimenting with multiple variants of a message in small control groups allows you to pinpoint the message that outperforms, so you can communicate it to a wider audience. Our platform makes it easy for marketers to test and experiment, and it provides recommendations on the best path. This way, our users can engage their consumers with the most relevant messaging to lead to conversions.
Focusing on micro conversions to move consumers along the path to a macro conversion is also a good strategy. Micro-conversions can be small but powerful actions, like opting into your SMS campaign, signing up for your email newsletter, or reading your content. Tracking micro conversions will help you understand what’s resonating with consumers so you can tailor your strategy accordingly and re-engage your audiences to the point of conversion down the road.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Raviteja Dodda: The key to creating a trusted, beloved brand is continuing to put your customers first in everything that you do. I talked about this previously when I touched on building a great company; customers are at the forefront of our business. Their success is our success. We welcome our customers’ feedback and ideas to help drive our product roadmap. Establishing trust with them means delivering what we say we’ll deliver and helping them achieve success. We have a robust customer success program that focuses on onboarding, training, and supporting clients throughout our relationship. We provide services, consultancy, and #GROWTH resources to help them succeed.
Furthermore, establishing a team that believes in your brand will contribute to your company’s success. As mentioned above, we strive for a culture that is built on ownership and trust. Creating a transparent environment helps employees thrive while motivating and empowering them to drive success.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Raviteja Dodda: They can follow or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter, or read my blogs on MoEngage.com.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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