In this episode of SaaS Origin Stories, Phil speaks with Indus Khaitan, CEO of Quolom, the best way to buy SaaS through the use of a simple card. Prior to this, he was the Chief of Growth at Chargebee, an Advisor at Sequoia Capital, the Senior Director of Product Management at Oracle, and the Co-Founder of Bitzer Mobile.
They discuss how Indus found the problem points of SaaS and marketing products, how to handle feedback rejection as a startup (as well as why timing is soimportant), and the best way to find new customers in different communities. They also take a deep dive into how difficult it can be to start an entirely new product with no one to compare against.
He is a very experienced individual and we’re lucky to have him as a guest.
Guest at a Glance:
Name: Indust Khaitan
About Indus: Indus Khaitan is the CEO of Quolom, the best way to buy SaaS through the use of a simple card. Prior to this, he was the Chief of Growth at Chargebee, an Advisor at Sequoia Capital, the Senior Director of Product Management at Oracle, and the Co-Founder of Bitzer Mobile.
One of his past colleagues, Melanie Fortman, said: “Indus has been a great coach, mentor and inspiration to me at Chargebee. He challenges me to be creative, think out of the box, and continually learn.”
Topics we cover:
The Abuse of Sales and Marketing Tools
When starting Quolom, Indus was looking out for the problem points that plagued content and marketing tools. He noticed that businesses were using up to five products to do one job; he didn’t want to cancel these products out, he wanted to make sure the customers were happy with the product and that he could provide the best service for them. Such an overabundance of clashing products meant that they were being abused, and he wanted to mitigate that.
“Our job was to figure out how you, as a customer, can be the happiest user of the product, rather than having five overlapping tools and then canceling them properly at the end of the year.”
Searching LinkedIn for Customers and Handling Rejection
Indus didn’t have any CFO connections on LinkedIn when he first started Quolom, something which he thought would be a massive problem. However, through his own contacts he was given recommendations and immediately started connecting and building his network. All of them gave him the same feedback: the product was good, just not something that they’d use right now.
This, naturally, got Indus down a little. But after a few days, he went back to the drawing board and made it what it is today!
“So, the first version of the product only focused on tracking the usage [...] But what the tool does is, you have to be in the flow of money. How much money are we spending on products, and then tell me what to do.”
Search for Customers in New Places
There are more places than LinkedIn to find B2B and SaaS customers (despite what others might have you believe). If you scour the internet for communities on places like Twitter and Reddit, you’ll be able to find an abundance of new customers. These people might not even be customers, they might just help to inform you on how to alter your business. This can be extremely valuable for you to grow.
“We also looked at people who were complaining about software waste and software usage on either forums on Reddit, LinkedIn, or Twitter, and then we started doing an outreach. We also started looking at companies who were using some of these bigger tools.”
The Challenges of Starting a New Category
Being innovative and disruptive in an industry with a new category is an incredible thing - in fact, it’s encouraged. But there is a slight problem that you will face in your unique journey: the lack of competitors. On the surface, that sounds like a dream, right? Competitors can also be seen as a jumping off point, as someone to copy or imitate and figure out how to improve upon what they’re not doing so well at. With Quolom being so unique, this proved quite the issue for Indus.
“If you’re building something which is brand new in a brand new category, that’s a struggle. There is no competitor to go after; nobody can tell you ‘hey, go look at that competitor and copy them’. For us, SaaS spend management or procurement, it was an absolutely brand new category and we didn’t have anybody to look up to and say ‘oh, I want to be a better version of that’.”