‘Kung fu Panda’
The protagonist, Po, in the movie ‘Kung fu Panda’, rises to the occasion by discovering his inner talents. We too should allow ourselves to discover our destiny by being open to ideas.
Santosh Panda, Co-Founder, and CEO of http://www.explara.com met the entrepreneurs of Mysuru on 5th August 2016 as a part of ‘Coffee with CEO’ series organized by Young Indians, CII, Mysuru.
A brief summary of the interaction:
This is his third venture. He had attempted workflow for higher education and peer recruitment. Somehow these ventures couldn’t scale and had to be wound up.
A caller to an FM station called in inquiring about an event. The proverbial light bulb struck Santosh as there is hardly any organized data available on events happening around your city. A quick survey convinced him to pursue this opportunity. The rest, as they say, is history.
Dare to do all the mistakes you can. They are the greatest teachers.
While still with ebay.com in London, Santosh incorporated Signure Technologies Pvt Ltd. The school of hard knocks taught him the importance of branding. The original idea was a venue management software. As the team went out to execute this, there was a constant request from event organizers to help them with onboarding of participants. They listened to the voice of the customer and pivoted. What followed was a ground up development of explara as a DIY(do it yourself) event organizing and discovery platform.
Explara believes in testing and building features fast. 70% of their event organizers are repeat customers. 60-65% of them have either attended an event and went on to become an organizer themselves. Word of mouth marketing helped them. As a result, they have a very low customer acquisition cost.
Santosh believes in the product. Spend your effort and energy to improve that. Be a customer listening enterprise. Genuinely care about them. Put yourself in their shoes, try removing as many pain points and discomforts as possible. This can’t be faked, it has to be in the organization DNA/philosophy. It is important you imbibe those qualities as your team learns by looking up to you.
Explara is a freemium platform. It has a certain viral nature as more and more people participate in registration helping the brand recall. He calls it the ‘pull factor’. Event organizers used to have sleepless nights regarding how many participants would attend their events. The David Guetta India tour was a game changer for explara.
Today the platform has complete payment solutions, pre-event, in-event, and post-event support. They are also working to ensure the event organizers succeed. For example event specific merchandise. Also in future, there could be a bunch of services for the organizer to choose from like catering, branding, etc.
Explara differs from other platforms as it is not just transactional. It attempts to build communities. The next time you organize an event, you have all the data of the participants, so that you don’t start from square one.
Transactional platforms can charge more as it is just sell my tickets. In Explara it is more like help me sell more and give participants a good experience. You control your destiny.
Santosh believes in thinking global. He says you would work hard, nonetheless, might as well dream big. Have the faith to take on the large global players.
There is a difference amongst investors too. Entrepreneur turned investors are able to better understand the bird’s eye view as they have gone through the journey themselves. They are likely to be patient.
Always appreciate guts. The daring. Push the boundaries. It paves the way for the next set of entrepreneurs. Attempt big and fail. No loss of glory. Build something ground up. Don’t take the shortcuts. Be humble and hardworking. Network. Pay back. Believe in karma.
He recalled how he used to do customer support chat late into the night. This gave him great insights. Customer loyalty comes from such small gestures.
Would he do something different in hindsight?
He answered that he would attempt going global earlier and wouldn’t bootstrap for as long as he did.
In some ways, the evolution of explara is the evolution of the event organizing industry. Today with the launch of emaxio there can be unprecedented participant engagement, with an event-specific app, 10000 notifications, polling etc. All this will help event organizers succeed, and in their success is explara’s success. Taking it to the next level, they have the explara APIs to help people build event-specific websites on top of explara platform.
Execution has always been a cornerstone for team explara.
Getting confounders having complementary skills, few key team members were the secret to their success.
Entrepreneurs are a creative lot. They get easily distracted. But for success, you need to be focused, like Arjuna. Build a working prototype and test it in the market. The market will tell you how to evolve. Learn from parallel industries. Create the company to run itself.
Look at how Amul uses the cartoons for brand building. It doesn’t cost much.
Santosh is a hands-off manager, believes in clear communication and sets high standards.
You need to figure out fairly early as to how you would be making money and how you can scale the venture. It has to have a large impact.
Google is developing an App Stream, by which you needed not install an app, there will be all the functionality of an app in the browser!
Santosh also spoke about the acquisition of India stage, a play and theater ticketing platform.
His friend Haji introduced him to Rajan Anandam, who went on to invest in explara.
He sees the next big challenge is to scale an idea globally like uber did. Global idea, executed from India.
We just need to unshackle and remove all bottlenecks to see our true potential.
Thank you Santosh Panda for sharing your wisdom. Thanks to Santosh Galgali. Thanks team Yi, Yi learning & Startups of Mysuru.Pictures courtesy: Hannan & Chetan. Artwork: Nikhil Furtado.
As Po discovered that he is the ‘one’, we too need to realise our own potential.