Testing Times

That has left me thinking since 2 days. Here are some thoughts.

These are testing times for everyone. The last pandemic happened in 1919, so nobody on the planet has gone through something like this before, well, at least nobody who can recall what happened then. And hence everything is a test, and thus, testing times. 

The internet, which is our bread and butter, and a life saver in today’s times, is also going through testing times. So are our hospitals. And healthcare systems. And businesses. And not just in India, all over the globe. 

For all of those healthy and safe, let’s start with one of the most important things that is helping us survive during this pandemic, the internet. Just like people keep saying don’t put pressure on the hospitals and medical system, I would also request all of us to not put pressure on the internet too.

Just because we are home, doesn’t mean we need to be hooked on Netflix/ Prime/ Online gaming etc all the time. The more pressure we put, the more stretched bandwidth providers will get, and who knows, the internet might break down. And then you never know, some people might refuse to step out to fix – which might be a correct decision too by the way. And we don’t want to happen, right? No internet would mean not only just no entertainment, it would also mean reduced communication (no WhatsApp etc) and for companies like Niswey, no business altogether. I remember interviewing a candidate from Srinagar, about 6 months back. He was a developer who had just moved to Delhi. I asked him why did he move? He said “I worked in a 20 people IT company. Internet band kar diya government ne, to wo company bhi band ho gyi. All my friends are jobless.” since that day, every day I have thanked the universe that we have access to good internet. 

Let’s be grateful that we have good internet access. And let’s all ensure that we don’t put unnecessary pressure on the internet, too. We can develop new hobbies, like reading physical books, painting, cooking, cleaning. The last 2 are the ones I have been doing 🙂

If you are unsure of what/how to do, Google has a lot of resources, for eg: A course on Digital Well Being. Home Workout. Cooking. DIY – yes, they are YouTube links and need the internet – but after watching once, to actually implement any of this, you don’t need the internet anymore.
Choose your interest. And see if you can decrease some pressure off the internet. Will be helpful, in ways we cannot see. 

Thanks for your contribution. 

// Posted during COVID-19 outbreak //

Give

I was talking to a friend and he was complaining about no conversions. And i told him, at this time, how are you even expecting conversions. He had no answer. No one on the earth has the answer to that. 

After the call I started thinking, yes, everybody ‘wants’ something, but no one is willing to ‘give’. So why don’t we give? Ever since the lockdown happened, I’ve donated to 4 different NGOs. And every time I’ve donated, I’ve shared about the NGOs with a few friends. Some people say that now is the time to save, and not give. My answer to them is, didn’t you save on petrol for the last 15 days? Or on ordering from Zomato/Swiggy/Uber Eats? Or on your cigarette and beer? And maybe on more such things that you’d be spending if you were going out? So why not ‘give’, because right now, a lot of people ‘want’ it. And they cannot ask for it. 

By the way, money is not the only thing you can give. There is another precious resource, time. If you have old people in your house or in your family, you could spend some time with them. Talk to them. Ask them stories about the 2008 recession. Or the one in 1991. Or maybe the 1984 emergency – trust me, there are some great stories to hear.

And then, think for yourself, what stories are you going to tell you children? Or your grandchildren?  What did you do when this pandemic happened? Trust me, you want to tell them happy stories, and the great things you did, to make this world a better place for them. But to tell those stories 30 years later, you need to act now. 

// posted during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 //

Niswey has a 3rd cofounder, for more than 3 years now

It feels stupid to write this, but at the same time it feels important that this should be written. A lot of people know that Niswey has three co-founders, but in 2018 I realised, most people still don’t. I have been thinking to write about this, ever since my HubSpot CAM (channel account manager) asked this in October, today, I felt it just has to be written, because even my 3rd founder’s closest friends don’t know.

To set things right, here goes: Niswey’s third co-founder is Dhiraj Pandey.

So first things first, there are three directors (legal term for co-founders in India) at Niswey. There’s Suma, who leads the content practice; there’s Dhiraj, who leads the tech practice and there’s me, who does some bits of marketing. Let me share a bit of history to make things clear. Suma started her content solutions company, Knowiz, in 2005. I started the digital marketing company, Niswey, in 2011. In 2013 we merged our companies. In June 2015, we started building our own marketing product, Irayo. That’s how Dhiraj came on board. He joined in as a director in the company right from Day One. I am stressing on that because I figured even within our 15 people team, some new people don’t know this.

This post is mostly to let people know that Dhiraj is a co-founder at Niswey. While he came on board to build our product, he’s also been instrumental in driving a major part of our revenue, especially in 2018. The solutions that we built for Irayo, eventually led us to solve and build a lot of other things in the process. This has led us to provide tech solutions for our customers – mostly around building custom marketing and sales automations.

So when in October our CAM got introduced to him, and said she didn’t know Niswey had another co-founder, Dhiraj aptly replied, “I just work behind the scenes”. While he’s right in what he said, as a marketing person, I see it as a big failure at my end. I mean how could we have the skills and not let people know about it? That too as a services company? So with this post, I am hoping I can redeem myself 🙂

  • Because of our tech prowess, we now have
  • A marketing product – primarily meant for non marketers.
  • Been implementing NLP (natural language processing) techniques in SEO
  • Automated our sales pipeline engine, generating hundreds of leads each week
  • Built complex solutions around HubSpot API (like a Whatsapp HubSpot integration)
  • Migrated websites from complex CMS systems to HubSpot
  • A company wherein 80% people can implement code (60% of that, with no degree or prior experience in coding)
  • Brought down our cost of manual labour, thus providing better ABM solutions
  • A “think automate first” mindset within the company

That’s what is top of my mind, am sure there’s more.

To be honest, he filled the gap in a digital marketing team. We have co-founder leadership in all key areas of digital marketing – content, marketing and technology! That is indeed a rare thing in agency business.

Niswey Cofounders

Motivation

I asked a bunch of friends what motivates them every single day. Here’s what they said:

  1. Realisation of new possibilities
  2. I like to be better than every one around me. It gives me a kick and drives me
  3. Images (of):
    • Sometimes self…where i would like to see myself. Many times it is influenced by people I adore
    • Sometimes image for others.
    • Once i reach the point where i had wanted myself to be, another image captures the imagination. Vicious cycle
  4. ‘To feel something new’. Yes, to me that feeling of doing something for the first time and absorbing that moment keeps me moving ☺
  5. The change 😊
    The small change that comes everyday with efforts we make
  6. Almost endless list of goals that I have made to accomplish and that makes me happy. Endless, because it keeps evolving.
  7. To keep people around you happy
  8. Life
  9. Joy. Sense of purpose. Contentment.
  10. The same person in the mirror..it says u r alive..n much more to win today..hats off to that man in the mirror
  11. Learn new things and implement them
  12. To rise above it.
    What I do everyday is hard now, but it’ll become trivial one day, exactly as how it went with what I used to do. Once this becomes trivial, I’ll move on to fry bigger fish.
  13. A sense of purpose and a desire to achieve.
  14. Regular reminders of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Sometimes it also helps us refine the dream
  15. I don’t feel i have seen/done/felt enough yet hence i have to remain functional to reach that point of my life where it truly becomes a gift
  16. 1. Family & their needs
    2. To keep on learning
    3. To be successful in what ever i do
  17. My favourite answer:

So, what keeps you motivated?

Trust

A friend pointed out some days back that I trust people too quickly. I agreed and however many times I may have felt cheated, I still continue to do that. Why?

My logic behind this trust is, if I start any new relationship without trusting the other person, the relationship will surely fail. Here’s how.

If i don’t trust the person, the other person will never have full confidence in me. And thus, will keep doubting my intentions. We will both be second guessing each others’ statements and hence will never be fully committed to me. This will eventually lead to low motivations and the objective for which we joined hands, will never be met. Ultimately, there will be a failed commitment and a sour relationship.
In the end, I will just say, “see, I told you this person isn’t trustworthy” and prove myself right.

On the contrary, if I had shown full faith and trusted the person, the results would have been different. Clear intentions, high motivations, great results! And then also I would have proven myself right, “see i knew the relationship would work out”. Both ways, I will prove myself right. But its the latter, that will take me ahead in life and give me satisfaction, no?

I want to thank everyone who has shown faith in me and trusted me with their goals.

Discipline

Back in May 2012, Niswey used to work from a shared office space in Connaught Place, Delhi. I used to wake up everyday at 6.30 and reach office by 8.30. Nobody used to reach by then I used to keep a set of keys with me, open the office and start working. We were just 2 people then at Niswey. And had 2 customers. So we would work the entire day and left everyday by 8PM. The building had some security issues and had to be shut down by 8. So if we would be still working, the security guards would come over and ask us to shut down the office. Initially i used to get irritated with them but slowly I gave in. Looking back, this was a blessing in disguise as it put pressure on us to wind up the day’s work before 8. Some days I used to even reach before 8.30, to squeeze in another few minutes of extra work.

The office was 1 hour away from my place. So by the time I would reach home, I would just have dinner, walk a bit and then fall asleep while reading a book. I made it a point not to open the laptop at home, unless someone was dying!

Since we were just 2 people, it wasn’t necessary for us to go office everyday. We could work from home, unless we needed face time. But we chose to come to office, everyday. It brought a great level of discipline in me. Which, thankfully, is still there. Another, brilliant, thing that happened in me was that it increased my ‘focus’! Since I knew everyday I had a limited 12 hours, I just concentrated on getting. things. done. Period.

Friends & family didn’t matter for me. Not that I broke relationships with everyone but I cut down my time with them. Especially where I didn’t feel it was important. A lot of times I used to get invites for gathering at a friends’ place, but I used to politely deny. Just because everyone is going, didn’t mean I had to join. Similarly, just because the entire family was meeting, didn’t mean I had to go.

For a long time I carried on like that. Those who understood why I didn’t join them, had no complaints, those who didn’t, anyways were not important for me.

The best thing is, this focus and discipline has stayed with me since then. Niswey survived through tough times and is 10 people strong. To this day, I start work at 9 everyday, whether from home of from office, and make sure that I am in office everyday. Plus, I do ensure that I don’t work once I reach home. And I don’t have to spend 12 hours in office everyday either. Productivity levels are much higher!

Want to thank my well wishers and stars as I could learn such important life lessons early in my life 🙂

Business Plan Template: Free Download

I often speak to entrepreneurs, mostly budding or who’ve just started. Every now and then I get this question, how do I figure out how much money do I need or how do I find out how much capital/funding should I raise?

A few weeks back, I found myself answering the same question when I started another company, Irayo. When I ran this sheet through a set of investors, they seemed to be pretty happy with the amount homework done.

Then, in the last 2 weeks, another 3 entrepreneurs asked me this question again. Since now I had a sheet ready, I happily shared with them. When i did it the 3rd time, I realized there maybe a lot more people who might find this useful and I immediately decided to open source it.

In my understanding, this business plan template is useful for startups, small businesses, wannabe entrepreneurs, people pitching to investors – who will ask for your 3 (or maybe) 5 year plans, generating revenue model plans for SaaS (subscription based revenue models) or e-commerce businesses. If you think or in fact have used it in some other case, please do share, I’ll be happy to know.

I had created it for 3 years, so that’s what the template has, you can easily extrapolate it to more years if you want. Remember, there are formulae throughout the sheet, so be careful about them.

If you find it useful, please do remember to Tweet Business Plan Template / Share on Share on Facebook, Share on LinkedIn, Share on Google+ with your friends/followers.

The link to download the Business Plan Template

To download: In the menu options, Click “File-> Download As” and download in whatever format you are comfortable.

Thanks to Rahul Dewan for the base work on this sheet (done almost 2-3 years back).

Dear Student, If You’ve Got an Idea, then Just Do It!

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at an event where the objective was to spread awareness about Entrepreneurship among students. First of all, kudos to IIT Kharagpur students for starting an event with such an objective. All I can say is that I wish there were such events when I was in college 🙂

After I shared my journey, during the Q&A round I found a pattern of questions. Honestly speaking, I could not relate to the problem initially, but when students kept asking the same thing in one manner or the other, I realized it’s got to do with a basic human problem, Fear.

Students in 2nd, 3rd year of engineering wondering whether they should build their idea/product or not? My feeling was, why not? What’s there to lose? I just couldn’t get it! You’re not leaving a high paying job, you don’t have family responsibilities, you don’t have to quit college to start something, then why are you not doing it? All you might lose is a little bit of sleep and maybe some pocket money.

  1. One group said, “parents are not allowing it”,
  2. Another said, “they were not sure whether they will get funding”,
  3. A third said, “they were not sure if their idea will work”

And some other similar excuses is what I heard. Yes, I call them excuses because those are not real reasons which can stop you from doing anything.

To those questions, my questions were:

  1. Why do you need to tell your parents right now?
  2. If you’re building something only to get funded, then probably you shouldn’t be doing it at all!
  3. Unless you try it out, how will you know whether your idea will work?

Probably, there’s just one answer to all of them, just work on your idea and build something, and (in simple code):

if it works, then {

  1. your parents will be happy to know about it
  2. investors will trace you down and fund you
  3. you will know that it can work!
    }

If it doesn’t {

  1. you don’t need to tell anything to your parents
  2. anyways you don’t need funding
  3. either you will know that it won’t work or you will find out more ways to make it work
    }

Bottom line is what Nike says, Just Do It!

Remember, you’ve got nothing to lose!

How much should this service cost?

Friend: That sounds expensive
Me: Why?
Friend: I don’t know but this definitely sounds expensive
Me: Okay, how much should it cost?
Friend: I don’t know, but given the time it takes to be done, it shouldn’t be that expensive
Me: The cost of a service is not defined by the effort made by the service guy but by the “value” it generates for the consumer of the service.

Inbound Marketing Agencies in India

Inbound marketing is still in its nascent stages in India. And every time I talk about it, I see people getting more and more interested in it. Honestly, if you really spend time understanding it, you will notice that it’s worth exploring for your business 🙂

And then when people who are or get convinced about inbound marketing, they come back with the same question often, “Can you share the names of a few inbound marketing agencies in India?”. Since I could never find a list that I could refer to, so I  thought to make my own.

Disclaimer: I don’t know any of the agencies personally, apart from Niswey, and so the list is just names based on what was found on Google. So if you’re looking for an inbound marketing agency, here’s your goto list! (Last updated: February 21, 2018)

You can also view the list of HubSpot Certified Inbound Marketing Agencies in India on their partner directory page.

Thanks to #INBOUND17, I had the chance to meet some of the partners and relate/connect to a few of them now 🙂

Have categorized them based on cities.

  • Agencies in Delhi/NCR
      • Niswey: Niswey delivers ROI-driven inbound marketing to enable companies grow. With their content-driven approach which is strongly supported by analytics, they help customers  generate qualified leads from their websites. This helps their customers in building brands online and increasing web traffic in a sustainable manner. They are a HubSpot Silver Certified Partner.
      • Inbound Mantra:  Inbound mantra is a ROI focused inbound marketing agency, they have delivered business in India and US. They are a HubSpot Gold Certified Partner
        • Services: Inbound Marketing, B2B and B2C Lead Generation,Search Engine Optimization, Inbound Strategy, Social Media, Email Campaigns, Hubspot Services, Content Marketing, Website And User Analytics
      • NCMborz– They manage strategy, communications, websites, inbound marketing and online advertising performance.
        • Services: Digital Marketing, Web Design And Development, Content Writing, ORM
      • MWG: MWG / is the content marketing agency for world’s leading firms. We specialize in content that delivers ROI for clients, including Fortune 500 companies in US, Europe and Asia.
        • Services: Inbound Marketing, Social Selling,Content Repurposing, Video Marketing,On-Demand Publishing, Localization
      • Consurgys: Consurgys is a collective effort of professionals from varied backgrounds who believe in systematic approaches.
        • Services: Content Development, Web Consulting, Digital Marketing, Branding and Consulting, Image and Graphics, Translation Services, E-commerce Services, Data Entry Services, Application Development
      • Digital Flic– A Team That Offers Memorable Experiences in Every Project With a Keen Eye for Even the Minutest Details
        • Services: Strategy & Planning, Creative & Design, Web Development, Digital Marketing, Data & Analytics, Maintenance
      • ArmWorldwide– At #arm we love to work with businesses/brands to be able to achieve the planned & go beyond.
        • Services:Digital Marketing, PR, Content Marketing, Technology & Analytics
      • Konnect Infoline– Konnect Infoline Inbound Marketing Agency offers full service content marketing, inbound marketing, and graphic design services for growing companies.
        • Services: SEO, Pay Per Click, Inbound Marketing, Social Media Optimization, Content Optimization, Web Development
  • Agencies in Mumbai/ Pune
      • Brand Metasis– Brand Metasis is a result driven Integrated Inbound marketing agency that help transform your brand into a sales and marketing magnet with well designed online presence, compelling content, creative marketing designs and precisely targeted inbound marketing.
        • Services: Inbound Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
      • Lotus Inbound– It is a unified marketing product that enables a variety of channels, measurably enhancing marketing and sales productivity. Lotus Inbound is purpose-built for the needs of medium to large businesses in India.
        • Service:  Inbound Marketing
      • BM Consulting– BM Consulting is India’s leading organization in Inbound Marketing, they believe in helping your corporation grow through the internet network
        • Services: Inbound Marketing, Web Design, Digital Marketing, e commerce
      • Buzz Factory– Buzzfactory is a 360 degree social media & digital consulting agency that partners with businesses to spearhead strategy & execution of their digital initiatives.
        • Services: Social Media Engagement Starter Plan, Blog & Inbound Marketing Starter Plan, 360 Degree Social Media Pro Plan, SEM PPC & Digital Marketing Campaign Management, Mobile Engagement & Campaigns, Mobile & Social App Development, Customized Solutions
      • BluenoteCreative–  They develop effective content strategies for forward thinking companies.
        • Services: Web Development, Mobile App Development, Digital Marketing,Sales Optimization, Inbound Marketing
  • Agencies in Ahmedabad
      • Search Native: A bunch of enthusiastic, geeks, that wouldn’t rest until you get a branding experience beyond all expectations.
        • Services: Web development, Inbound Marketing, SEO, Pay Per Click, Social Media
  • Agencies in Bangalore
      • Transfunnel: At TransFunnel services, we offer to you end-to-end marketing automation consultancy services. In theory, marketing automation makes your inbound marketing efforts easier.
      • Fuegosys– Young, smart and artists of our own accord, have one objective; to make brands people love, bring together passionate, young, creative and out of the box thinkers.
        • Services: Inbound Marketing Services
      • Inboundsys– Inboundsys is an offshore Web Development & Inbound Marketing Agency based at Bangalore, India, providing quality & cost-efficient services Worldwide.
        • Services: HubSpot COS, Inbound Marketing, Web Services, E-commerce, Responsive Web Design, Hubspot Integration, Graphic Design, Marketing Videos
      • Esanosys–  Esanosys is a marketing automation agency which helps clients implement marketing automation and realize it’s full potential with best in class content, creatives and deliverables.
        • Services: Marketing Automation, Inbound Marketing, Sales Automation, SEO, Content, SEM, Social, Email, PR
      • B2B Inbound – B2b Inbound Is A Globally Recognised Indian Hubspot Partner Agency
        • Services: Hubspot COS Design, Hubspot Inbound Marketing, Hubspot Integration, Web Development, ECommerce, Creative Design
      • Blufig–  Blufig is what happens when mavericks of their own walks get together over coffee and coincidences. Diverse careers in branding, technology, marketing, and design come together to give you Blufig.
        • Services: Inbound marketing, Content and creative, Digital marketing
  • Agencies in Hyderabad
      • High Purple– Highpurple is an Inbound Marketing company that helps companies attract, engage, convert, and delight customers. It has a game plan for your success vision.
        • Service: Inbound Marketing
      • Pyrite– We offer digital marketing services in Hyderabad with SEO, Local, social media and content marketing to increase your overall business and eCommerce sales.
        • Services: SEO, Social Media, Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing,  e commerce SEO services
      • Triple Horn– Triplehorn is a Digital marketing agency primarily focusing on Responsive web strategy & Inbound Marketing for all types of organizational establishments.
        • Services: Web strategy, SEO, Inbound Marketing
      • The Smarketers– Inbound marketing and sales company.
        • Services: Web design, Inbound Marketing, Inbound Sales, Workshops
      • FractionalCMO – Fractional CMO is pretty new, started recently in 2017 and in their language, they ‘Help Start-ups to scale and grow the business’.
        • Services: Inbound Marketing, Content, SEO, PPC
        • Note/Warning: Don’t go by their claim that they are the only/top/premier certified agency in India. (HubSpot doesn’t identify its partners by any such terms – check below screenshot for HubSpot’s certified top partners in India)
  • Agencies in Chennai
    • Mirror Minds– Their goal is to create long term business relationships and become your partner for years ahead and we strive to make working with Mirror Minds an experience you’re more than satisfied with.
      • Services: Digital Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Web Applications, Virtual Branding, Mobile Application, Hosting Solutions
    • Inception Business Consulting– We at IBS, have created a plug-n-play solution- offering you instant access to a marketing team and services to fulfill several marketing roles.
      • Services: Marketing consulting, Inbound Marketing, Marketing coach

Last updated: 21 February 2018

Note: with the list getting traction, I’ve been getting requests from all sort of digital agencies to this list. For each such request, I try to verify the company/services/HubSpot affiliation etc. and then accept the ones which qualify. To ensure full transparency, below is a screenshot of HubSpot’s India Tiered Partner Directory Page.

HubSpot Partners India

HubSpot Tiered Partner Agencies in India