CloudCherry Analytics’ SaaS-based customer engagement platform spans 17 channels of communication, assesses and alerts brands on customer engagement real-time and provides end-to-end support for brands to get to know their customers
Here’s an honest disclosure; before I met Vinod Muthukrishnan, I hadn’t paid much thought to the finer nuances of customer and brand interaction. Sure, the customer finds a mention in the vision statement of nearly every company that exists but how many do more than just putting the customer on a pedestal? As Muthukrishan says, most of this interaction happens when extremes are at play; moments of complete customer delight where flaws are overlooked or moments of utter disappointment where all good is negated. The brands that use data to better understand customer experience in totality are few and this is where CloudCherry Analytics (CloudCherry) wants to make a measurable difference. “Our platform is omni-channel, real-time and end-to-end,” says Muthukrishnan of the company’s SaaS-based customer engagement platform. The company was established in 2014 and its founding team comprises Muthukrishnan, Sriram Subramanian, Vijay R. Lakshmanan, Nagendra C.L. and Prem K. Vishwanath.
Muthukrishnan, who began his career with the merchant navy and later, spent over seven years growing the sales function at another startup (Saas-based trading solutions provider, Market Simplified), tells me that there came a point when he considered the idea of going back to school. As fate would have it, he found himself in a meeting with the management team of Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai. “This is where I met my Vijay (chief evangelist at CloudCherry) and he had architected the prototype of a business that the GLIM team was interested in,” says Muthukrishnan. He elaborates that the idea was so compelling that it soon evolved to be an entity of its own. When the founding team ran with it and established a company in 2014, it was bootstrapped with friends and family stepping in to help pay salaries. In the time since, it has grown multi-fold and is on verge of closing its Series-A in this quarter of the fiscal.
We are targeting small enterprises or the lower end of large enterprises in these markets (U.S., Singapore, Middle-East) and at present, the deal sizes we are closing here are the average deal sizes we are closing with larger companies in India.
Making new conversation
CloudCherry’s platform was built on helping brands develop a 360 degree understanding of customer perception. At the very beginning of understanding this experience is customer engagement and Muthukrishnan states that this must be omni-channel. CloudCherry’s access extends to 17 channels including tablet apps, chatbot, sentiment analytics, Twitter, email, pop-ups and more. Next, this engagement must be real-time. “A CEO cannot read of a customer complaint in a report issued three months after the incident. By then, the customer has moved elsewhere and taken 5,000 others with him/her by talking poorly about your brand on social media,” sums up Muthukrishnan. In this regard, the company aims at enabling brands to improve loop-closure (the redressal of a customer complaint) rates by taking action in real-time. As Muthukrishnan states, this is imperative as there is a direct correlation between loop-closure rates and net promoter scores (NPS) that brands receive from customers. The final step in the process is to create a customer journey map by retracing the steps taken by your customer to gain a holistic understanding of what the customer and brand share.
At each stage in the journey, CloudCherry provides brands suggestions on ways to better customer experience. “One of our clients, an e-commerce player retailing a high-end product sought our help to do a case study on why its NPS was below par. It found out that delivery, which was outsourced, was letting it down and took the steps necessary to remedy this,” shares Muthukrishnan. There are other examples which include identifying and addressing overflowing checkout and billing queues, parking woes for customers and a lot more.
Knowing the brand first
Today, CloudCherry works with over 35 large enterprises in India and nearly 80 SMBs across India and other markets such as the U.S., Middle-East and Singapore. At present, 70 per cent of the company’s revenues come from India while the rest comes from other markets. However, Muthukrishnan sees that changing in the very near future as CloudCherry aggressively pursues opportunities outside of India. It has groomed an inside sales team based in Bengaluru to remotely service the SMB market in the U.S. and has recently set up a sales team in Singapore with another in Dubai in the offing. “We are targeting small enterprises or the lower end of large enterprises in these markets and at present, the deal sizes we are closing here are the average deal sizes we are closing with larger companies in India,” shares Muthukrishnan. Undoubtedly, a remote sales model tilts the cost efficiencies significantly in the company’s favour. Yet, when I ask about the SMB play in India, he admits that this will take its time in adopting to a business proposition like CloudCherry’s. “Low levels of technology penetration and a lack of card-on-file make it difficult to do business with SMBs in India,” rues Muthukrishnan.
Interestingly, the deployment of CloudCherry’s product platform happens almost instantly. Muthukrishnan assures me that for SMBs, even those that are serviced remotely, deployment is at times less than half an hour. For larger enterprises with a complex environment of multiple touch points, it takes one working day. This speed can be attributed to CloudCherry’s methodology of understanding the brand first. “For larger enterprises we go through an exercise called CX discovery where we determine what drives the brands and shapes its customer interactions,” says Muthukrishnan. Irrespective of the size of the business, the company identifies touch points, suggests channels of communication and designs relevant, contextual questionnaires to draw better customer response.
CloudCherry’s revenue model is subscription based and is structured on the anchor channels of each brand. “We charge per touch point or on the basis of large feedback volume as a per feedback billing with larger enterprises restricts our scalability,” says Muthukrishnan.
Finding able partners
I quiz Muthukrishnan on the travails of establishing a SaaS business in India and he shares that the biggest challenge CloudCherry has faced is finding investors. “We invested our own money in this venture and it was tight in the beginning. In November 2014 we won the CII Startupreneur Award and we met the Chennai Angels. A year later, in May 2015, IDG Ventures, Chennai Angels, Capillary invested Rs. 5.1 crore in us,” he recalls. Now, having grown its business considerably, CloudCherry is on the cusp of its Series-A. While Muthukrishnan doesn’t give away too much he seems excited about the quality of investors that are coming on board and how their mentorship and support will impact the company’s growth. “I can tell you this much, this will be a fairly substantial investment for an Indian company in the SaaS space,” he teases.
For Muthukrishnan and the management team at CloudCherry, one typical problem that startups face, that of finding the right talent, was never something to worry about. Perhaps not by design but by action, the company has created a work culture that young India finds attractive. There are cricket sessions on the terrace and the pantry’s always stocked up. You can wear what you please and call in to let the boss know that you just don’t feel up to working today or better yet you can invite him to come watch Kabali with you. I’m not surprised that freshers are lining up to be a part of this work movement. Muthukrishan, however, states that hiring is anything but casual and every hire must be justified. Currently, there are 48 employees and this number is likely to touch a 100 over the next two years. “We are a holocractic organisation and every team leader that has been hired has been a first hire in his/her team and has worked ground-up,” says the co-founder. At CloudCherry, there are no policies, only principles that everybody lives by. The beauty of it is that when there’s implicit trust, it’s rewarded, attests Muthukrishnan.
While all this sounds like a lot of fun, there’s no mistaking the serious business intent behind the workings of CloudCherry. It is benchmarking performance against the emerging SaaS startups of the world and so far, Muthukrishnan is pleased with what he’s seeing. “ In three years, we want to be at an ARR (annual recurring revenue) of US$ 15 million and right now, there are no signs of that not happening,” signs off Muthukrishnan.
Founders: Vinod Muthukrishnan, Sriram Subramanian, Vijay R. Lakshmanan, Nagendra C.L. and Prem K. Vishwanath
Industry: SaaS-based customer experience management platform