We all know that 95% of startups fail. It’s a phrase that’s been echoed time and again. But as Rocky says, “It’s not how hard you hit that matters. It’s how hard you get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
The startup journey of the founders of Wolken, Rohan Joshi and Sudhir Prabhu, perfectly embodies this famous dialogue from celluloid. They have seen their fair share of failures after starting Wolken in 2012, and they’ve implemented successful pivots to set new standards of excellence in the segments of IT Service Management (ITSM) and Service Desk solutions.
Today, Wolken is in its third pivot. It has a suite of SaaS applications that empower enterprises to streamline business processes, enhance internal and external communications, and manage IT assets across enterprises. Their success speaks for itself, with 30+ enterprise-level customers using Wolken, including Fortune 100 and 200 lists of companies.
ProdWrks reached out to Rohan Joshi to learn about the secret behind Wolken’s phoenix-like comebacks, and he shared some pretty interesting insights for startups today on how to pivot successfully, how to get enterprise clients, and how to scale to compete with industry giants.
Using Experience to Identify White Spaces
Rohan Joshi and Sudhir Prabhu started Wolken with a collective 30 years of industry experience behind them. In their previous avatars at L&T, Rohan was the Head of Sales for Europe, having grown sales from zero to over $120 million. Sudhir managed a P&L of $90 million and oversaw a team of 1200 professionals.
Their storied experience gave Rohan and Sudhir unique insights into the enterprise software market. They realized that there were a lot of white spaces in the market that could be addressed by either products or better systems integration.
“This was a time before APIs made integration simple. In the pre-API era, system protocols with ingress and egress points had to be coded individually for software used by enterprises to recognise each other and work in cohesion,” explains Rohan.
The integration complexities of that era sparked a realisation – modern organisations needed out-of-the-box, scalable solutions for ITSM, help desk and customer service.
Wolken today is in its third pivot, and the story behind each pivot teaches important lessons in management that you won’t find in textbooks. To start with, Rohan says, “You have to be very careful not to get carried away by your own ideas. You may think you are the wisest guy you know. But the customer knows the difference.”
In the first pivot from 2011 to 2014, Wolken had its product development in IT collaboration software and successfully reached various industries and sectors.
In the second pivot from 2014 to 2017, Wolken developed the IT service management tool for enterprises to monitor the company’s IT assets.
In their third pivot today, Wolken software set out to help modern organisations transform their relationships with customers and employees with out-of-the-box, configurable, and scalable enterprise-class service desk solutions deployed on the cloud.
Over a decade of pivots, the Wolken team learned that startups providing enterprise solutions need more than just a good set of features to get market acceptance, and Rohan explains why.
It’s hard to sell to Enterprises
The mismatch happens especially when legacy infrastructure is replaced with a newer one and the entry logs are not appropriately managed in a single platform. So, Wolken thought of putting in smart bots to automatically track and figure out the IT assets across an enterprise.
Rohan says that though the idea was great, it was too far ahead of its time as enterprises did not immediately entrust startups with their IT asset management inventory.
How did Wolken gain inroads with Enterprises?
In their third pivot today, Rohan shares three simple lessons that he has learned from his previous mistakes and the challenges of pitching to enterprises and building scalable sales models.
- Start by doing in-depth research on customers running your competitor’s product.
- Find out when their subscription ends and where you can pitch in.
- Figure out your true USP. Your USP cannot be only your price or lower cost of service.
Building for Enterprises’ Expectations
Why Brand Matters - Insights On Enterprise Decision Making
Rohan says that having a full-time CTO, an R&D head, and a chief architect who can create robust and exciting roadmaps in these directions can help startups bridge the branding game gap.
In the ITSM space, which is a $150 billion market, Rohan also advises startup founders to differentiate between actual enterprise B2B clients and those who are B2C product material, pretending to be a b2b.
Measures of Success
What’s next for Wolken?
Over the last few years, Wolken has established a strong presence globally in the semiconductor, electronic retail, banking, and financial services segments.
Rohan says that their goal now is to distinguish themselves by selling to customers who have a global clientele whose customers are Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, or Korean.
This indirectly plays to Wolken’s strength since they have localized products, and Wolken’s language system enables their enterprise clients in English-speaking countries to communicate seamlessly with their customers whose native languages are Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, or Korean.