While it’s exciting to see new-age SaaS companies emerging, it’s also important to talk about those that have managed to pivot to the subscription-based business model successfully. India-based Netcore Cloud is one such company. Started at the time when the website boom had just started, it’s currently one of the leading Martech SaaS companies. What differentiates it further is the fact that it’s bootstrapped yet profitable. So, we were excited to talk with its founder and MD, Rajesh Jain about his journey of more than two decades, what makes Netcore Cloud different, and the way forward.
PS: the interview has been edited for the sake of brevity.
1. Before we talk about Netcore Cloud, could you share your journey into the world of SaaS? What gaps did you see in the market before launching Netcore Cloud?
I completed my bachelor’s from IIT Bombay and went to the US for my master’s from Columbia University. My fascination for technology brought me back to India to ride the internet wave here. I kickstarted Asia’s early dot-com revolution in the mid-1990s by creating IndiaWorld, the country’s first Internet portal, which had the largest collection of websites, including Samachar (news), Khel (cricket), Khoj (search), and Bawarchi (food). After launching IndiaWorld, I diversified the business to build websites for corporates. From 1995 to 1999 (till I sold the company to Sify), we built and managed websites for nearly 200 corporates, almost all the prominent names in the country.
Gradually, these companies also wanted us to manage their emails. People would fill out the online forms during that period, and the companies would get emails. But the problem was that they didn’t have internal mailboxes. Technically, there would be one person who would get these emails to their personal id. That’s when companies started approaching us to set up a mail server for them. While there was Microsoft Exchange, it was an expensive affair to purchase the license. That’s when I created a small team that would set up Linux-based mail servers. We used open-source to set up mail servers on their corporate networks on their LAN. They would use this to manage their internal and external communications via email. They could also have multiple email ids and communicate directly with the people writing in on their website.
We gradually separated the internet business and the mail server business (the tech business). Today, the tech business is known as Netcore Cloud and has, after multiple pivots and evolutions, become Asia’s largest Martech SaaS company. Today we are a team of 700+ globally with a revenue rate of over $85 million. We help B2C brands create exceptional digital experiences with various products that help in acquisition, engagement, and retention. We have been making successful strides for over 20 years and serve over 5,000 clients across 18 countries.
2. How has Netcore Cloud evolved since its inception?
Netcore Cloud has gone through multiple transformations in the last 25 years. We began our journey with SMS marketing in 2007, helping brands communicate with their customers via SMS. Our next pivot was email marketing which saw massive growth after 2010. Towards 2014-2015, we saw a new trend emerging called ‘Martech’. There was a growing interest among brands to automate their customer journey to move from traditional manual campaigns to create a unique journey for each customer. We began working towards this and built a full-stack solution that catered to Indian and global brands.
There are three layers from what Netcore Cloud started, as to where it is now: the communications layer, the customer engagement layer, and the customer / product experience, which includes personalization, in-app nudges, and contextual walkthroughs. But what has remained common in these has been the use of AI. It has helped marketers make more informed decisions and develop more effective campaigns.
3. How many customers do you have now? Are there any specific types of companies that use Netcore Cloud or it’s being used across industries? Which are the biggest markets for Netcore Cloud?
Today we are a proficon (private, profitable, bootstrapped, and highly valuable). We are one of the few profitable SaaS companies in the country. We have a huge footprint in India as well as South-East Asia. Today over 75 percent of India’s and 50 percent of Asia’s email traffic are processed through our platform. 3 of 4 enterprises and 8 out of 10 unicorns in India use at least one of our products. In the BFSI and fintech segment, a whopping 80 percent of brands in India rely on Netcore Cloud’s solutions to enhance their communications. Ed-tech, e-commerce, retail, food-tech, media are some of the other key sectors for us. We serve over 5,000+ brands, including the likes of Byju’s, Crocs, Flipkart, Myntra, and ICICI Bank, to name a few.
4. The marketing automation software space is quite competitive, so how does Netcore Cloud stand out?
We are in a digital era where customers engage with brands via multiple channels. Hence, at Netcore Cloud, we are constantly working towards building on our vision of delivering “Intelligent Customer Experience” to every consumer across all the digital touchpoints. Today, it’s a multi-channel marketing platform capable of delivering personalization is an indispensable tool to increase the reach of potential customers with a consistent brand message. Multi-channel marketing makes decisions easier for brands and helps in reiterating the same message in different ways and ensures that brands get the recall that they are aiming for. Netcore Cloud is committed to empowering brands worldwide with its AI-powered full-stack solution – encompassing CDP, automation, analytics, personalization. and product experience.
5. Could you shed a light on your marketing strategy?
Netcore uses a combination of inbound and outbound marketing methods. Inbound is via high-quality content, success stories, and customer testimonials. Outbound is via SEM and ABM (Account-based Marketing). Like most other SaaS companies, we know the TAL (Target Account List). Reaching decision-makers in these companies is the focus of all our marketing activities.
The pandemic has had an impact on various industries across the globe. The subsequent lockdown was a primary push for many traditional businesses towards digital adoption. And amidst this, brands started working towards new strategies to reach out to customers, both existing, new, and prospective ones, who were now increasingly online for safety measures. Email marketing has been making a lot of noise in India and global markets. Netcore Cloud’s email and Martech business saw exponential growth of over 50 percent through the pandemic period.
7. What’s next for Netcore Cloud? Any new features or acquisitions in the pipeline?
Our dominance in the AI-powered customer engagement and personalization space over the last two decades uniquely positions us to capture a larger market share. We have robust plans to increase our revenues from international markets across North America, South America, and Europe to 30 to 40 percent by 2025 through strategic partnerships and acquisitions. We will also be expanding to other regions, including ANZ, the Middle East, and the African continent. Towards this, we plan to touch 1,600+ employees this year. Our strong global team will fuel the company’s dynamic growth and maintain our global market leadership in SaaS solutions.
The problem we are solving – helping businesses engage better with their customers to ensure retention and growth – will never go away. The methods will change because technology drives new habits in customers, forcing businesses to adapt. Some very exciting new ideas lie ahead as the Martech era dawns – Velvet Rope Marketing, Email2, Atomic Rewards, Progency. These are just the start. Netcore has a unique opportunity to build a “profipoly” (profits monopoly) – not just for ourselves but also for our customers.
We will complement our organic growth via acquisitions – for both new products and market access, especially in the developed markets.
8. Could you share your biggest learnings of building a global product out of India?
There are three key learnings. First, India offers an amazing talent pool across all disciplines – engineering, product, marketing, and sales. Second, India is itself now a large market – Netcore is one of the few SaaS companies which has adopted an India and Emerging Market-first approach in building out its business. Third, India also now is a good source of capital – we are hoping to list on the Indian stock market in the next year or so. Thus, India offers what a product company would need – talent, customers, and capital.
As an entrepreneur, nothing can be more exciting – lead the creation out of India with the power of our ideas and products. If we continue to execute well, Netcore can truly become a global company, with all the right adjectives – growing, profitable, enduring, great, forever.
9. What are your favorite SaaS software out there?
Netcore uses many cloud-based solutions – from AWS to Flock to Salesforce. Zoom is of course central to work now. I personally use WordPress for my blog at https://rajeshjain.com as I like its ease and simplicity. I also use Dropbox for managing my files and photos across multiple devices.