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Providing virtual numbers, numbers which are like your real landline or mobile numbers but they can make and receive more than one call, yes, multiple calls and messages at the same time. That is what exotel’s innovative service is all about.

The interesting story is, it all started when they were trying to solve their own pain point of handling multiple number of voice and messages and exotel was born, which also led them to the idea of helping small business with the same.

We got an opportunity to talk to Vijay From Exotel to know more about this innovative service and their entrepreneur experience.

Almost 2 years since the launch, Exotel has been a lot in the News for all the right reasons. Please share with us your thoughts on the journey so far and any important milestones.

Really can’t pin point a few milestones as per say, but touching 100 customers last year around this time, and now doing 400+ is something we are happy about.

We are trying to change the way SaaS businesses are built in India, and are pretty surprised and happy by seeing the response to growth has not been hampered by the strategy. In an India focussed target market, you expect a different sales and marketing approach, but we have kept to our guns, and are seeing some very interesting behaviour online by Indian businesses.

I think it is unfair to say that self served will not work in India, I think businesses and companies have just not tried hard enough.

How has been the response to API Toolkit released for 3rd party developers? Have any interesting apps come to your notice that have been developed using this toolkit? Also, tell us how these apps will fit in along with the cloud telephony solution provided by Exotel.

The response was fantastic, but we ourselves have chosen our first few partners to build on top of our API toolkit, we will be soon launching the 1st 3rd party app soon.

How the apps work is simple, they add all the intelligence onto a telephone number which when left alone is just dumb. A smart phone became smart because of the software, and the same way a business phone system will be smarter with software designed for solving business needs. The apps could be vertical focussed based on use-cases of businesses or could be based on functionality like Support, Sales etc.

This Startup requires high technological skill and innovation. How do you achieve that?

To be honest, most of the team is technincally very strong, that is our strength, 8 of the 14 people can code, and have built systems, products at companies like Yahoo!, Microsoft, Ebay, CISCO for over 6+ years each, so that helps, and we are very confident when it comes to the technology.

For someone who wishes to enter high-tech startups without the technical expertise, would you think finding a technical co-founder would solve the problem?

I personally believe technology knowledge in-house solves a LOT of problems, and if the co-founder can’t find someone technical to join, then he/she should go and learn and try to build the most basic version of the MVP, which will actually excite a potential technical co-founder to join and come on board.

You have already received Funding from Mumbai Angels and Blume Ventures. Please share with us any further funding plans. Also, tell us how the company is performing financially.

We are planning to break even in the next couple of months, and will look to raise funding after that depending upon our situation after a few months. Once the business model is kicking and growth is there with normal SaaS metrics, funding or no-funding is secondary.

We are currently 2 years old and have 400+ customers paying us every month. An average customer gives us Rs. 5000 – so you can do the math.

Although still not crowded,  there are established players ( like Knowlarity) that have already made their mark.  What would you say is your biggest USP compared to your competitors, and how do you plan to make your presence felt in the SMB and Startup segments?

A common question faced, the answer might appeal to some, but might not:

“We are focussing on executing and scaling in a pure play SaaS way and we believe it is possible by building a great product. We are a small team and enjoy being small and focussing on the customer rather than measuring growth by the number of people in our team.”

We hope to continue nailing and improving upon our online marketing strategies and continuously try exploring more new remote strategies to reach out to SMB’s across India. The referral rate is pretty high for us.

Where are the lessons learnt during the journey of Exotel?  Share with us your proud moments and moments which required you to shift your thinking / change your strategy.

We are very proud of the team we have, and the way all of them enjoy building this company with us. That’s our USP as well actually, the execution, the product, the experience – everything will come from the team.

We changed strategy into a complete online pure play SaaS product almost 6 months back and are so proud of ourselves to do that, because else, the market in India starts dragging you into the services sector mode, and with the pricing models, you can’t build a sustainable business by hiring Feet on the Street and having then literally no margians because you are paying your sales guy so much. It was difficult because we let go of possible immediate revenue surge, for growth in no. of customers in the self served fashion.

What would you like to advise entrepreneurs getting into Cloud Startups?

Not sure if I can advise (still lots to learn), but would be glad to help anyone in anyway possible 🙂

We hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as we did doing it. All the best to Exotel team!


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