Working the sales machine

Working the sales machine

Accel Partners-backed MindTickle has re-positioned itself as a sales readiness platform and partnered with Salesforce.com, to deliver skills training to sales teams across companies

MADHUMITA PRABHAKAR

MindTickle, a cloud-based and mobile training solutions startup, was born out of a passion that each of its founders, Krishna Depura, Mohit Garg, Deepak Diwakar and Nishant Mugali, held for constant innovation. “Though each of us were pursuing a successful career, we were very passionate about exploring new ideas and trying new things. That’s when we kick-started a project called Tera Mera Idea through which we created the world’s first Wiki movie, the first online music band and such,” recalls Depura. It wasn’t meant to be a commercial business until a treasure hunt app developed by them, gained popularity in the corporate world. “The idea was to create an app that would be fun and at the same time, help users learn something new, like history, geography or even news on scams,” he says. Incidentally, this was in 2011, at a time when Facebook and Zynga were gaining popularity. “It so happened that a few companies tried the app and it became a raging success. That’s when we got serious about this business. Though the project was a side initiative it taught us a lot about current marketplace trends, the growing impact of gaming tools in companies and the increasing penetration of social media and communication,” says Depura.

That’s how, in 2011, MindTickle came into being. The vision when it started off was to develop interactive gaming tools to combine learning with business results while keeping in mind the end users’ perspective. “Typically, most employee engagement activities are designed by companies without understanding the interest of the end user. It’s important to combine these two aspects to get tangible results,” opines Depura. Today, the startup offers templates in which companies can package their own video and content and share this with their employees.

One at a time

The first opportunity MindTickle saw was in the on-boarding space. “On-boarding is the lowest hanging fruit. If dealt with in the right manner, 80 per cent of the corporate issues can be tackled at this stage. So, we created a platform using social, communication, mobile and analytics tools,” shares Depura.

However, within a year, the founders realised that though on-boarding is a promising space, it was still further away from impacting business results. They went back to the drawing board, spoke to business leaders and tried to identify where on-boarding can have a greater impact on results. The answer was, through customer support, sales and marketing teams. “They need to be on-boarded well because they are the face of the company,” points out Depura. He calls this process ‘sales readiness’, in which powerful gamification and social tools are adopted to keep sales teams prepped to sell in the marketplace. “Once the employees come into the company they are on-boarded in a very systematic way. We have also developed deep analytics to track and assess the progress made by sales teams and developed a two-way system for them to share feedback and have informal discussions,” he explains.  In fact, after this shift in focus, the startup itself changed its positioning to being a sales readiness platform. In line with this, MindTickle has recently partnered with Salesforce.com, a U.S.-based technology and customer relationship management cloud software, to deliver skill training to sales teams across companies.

End-user comes first

One advantage of operating a business on a cloud-based platform is that it allows you the flexibility to experiment with new, innovative tools. Particularly, since MindTickle gives an equal importance to end-user experience, such a platform allows it to test tools internally, before opening it up for companies. “On the research and  development front we mainly try to understand human psychology. Every time we develop a tool, we ask ourselves, what does the customer support or sales team need, why should they use our tools and how will they benefit from it?” explains Depura. In fact, the founders also strongly believe that once companies are embraced as partners in their vision, the companies will ensure success for themselves as well as for the others. “There have been many instances where companies have come to us and shared feedback on a particular tool or shared some of the challenges they have faced. This helps us understand client needs better and helps make our tools more relevant,” he says.

For example, a Fortune 500 company had once approached MindTickle with a challenge; it had to bring together 200 senior executives and inform them about the company’s latest products and policies. “At that point, that challenge was something new to us. So we suggested that we combine story-telling with education to convey this information to the executives. In fact, through our tools, we could also track their progress and identify if they understood what was being said to them,” recalls Depura. At first attempt, the tool achieved the objective successfully. In another instance, instead of rewarding employees through prize points, a company had decided to give out free iPads or iPods to employees who achieve the desired targets. “While the activity saw the most engagement it left a few employees with bitter experiences. This made us realise that we need to be careful when developing engagement techniques; it should neither be highly rewarding nor too plain,” says Depura.

An eye on growth

In October 2014, the three-year-old startup raised US $1.8 million in seed funding from Accel Partners and Moneta Ventures. “We are currently in the flywheel mode, where our focus is going to be on hiring the right teams, creating the right product market fit and developing an effective sales strategy,” says Depura. He further indicates that the investors are helping a great deal in gathering consumer insights and global market trends and sharing access to a larger network of clients.

India has always been a service-oriented economy. Thus, when Depura and his co-founders decided to build a product company, that too in the gamification and education space, they knew that it could very well be a recipe for disaster. “But, where there was a challenge, there was an opportunity too. There were a lot of early adopters who supported us in trying to disrupt the industry,” recalls Depura. A second, extended challenge they faced was in building a company based on a concept that was still remote in India. “While it initially warranted extensive market research, eventually, with global validation, came validation in India as well,” says Depura.

Currently, while MindTickle has a physical presence in India and the U.S, its products are sold globally. With clients such as eBay, Vodafone and SAP on board, in a span of five years, it aims to become a global leader in the sales readiness domain. “We are in the process of building a platform where a lot of independent developers can leverage the MindTickle platform to create applications. We are also actively looking to partner with companies to deliver better results for our clients,” shares Depura, on a parting note.


Snapshot

MindTickle 

Founders: Krishna Depura, Mohit Garg, Deepak Diwakar, Nishant Mugali

Concept: A cloud-based and mobile training solutions startup which develops interactive gaming templates to help companies engage better with its sales and customer support teams

Year: 2011

Investors: Accel Partners, Moneta Ventures

Five-year vision: To be a global leader in the sales readiness domain


Key Takeaways 

The startup created tools keeping the end-user perspective in mind 

While the initial focus was on creating applications in the on-boarding space, the focus shifted to sales and customer facing teams to better impact business results 

It embraced clients as partners in its vision, which resulted in clients sharing active feedback. This helped the startup build more relevant tools.    

Building a product on a cloud-based platform allowed it the flexibility to experiment with new, innovative tools, and to test its applications internally, before opening it up for companies. 

Though it built a product in a largely service oriented economy, and on a concept that was still remote in india, there were many early adopters, and eventually, with  global validation came validation in india as well.

Accel Partners MindTickle sales engine Sales readiness platform

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