About a decade ago, it was believed that if you were building software out of India for the globe, you could only cater to small businesses. The expectation and perception at that time were that if you wanted to sell to a larger enterprise, you needed to be physically present in that geography. Since India was at a nascent stage at that time for startups building software, Khadim Bhatti, CEO and Co-founder, Whatfix, believed that if he built enterprise software and sold it in the US or Europe, his company would need to be present in that geography. This is what led him to start his first venture, SearchEnabler, with Vara Kumar, CPO, and Co-founder, Whatfix, which catered to SMBs globally.
Realizing that their previous perception didn’t hold anymore, Khadim saw many businesses were democratizing their purchases, and both small businesses and large enterprises were ready to bet on startups. Over the last three to four years, he observed that it doesn’t matter where you are located, you can actually build software for enterprises and sell globally from anywhere. During the pandemic, this has further accelerated. Now, you can build any type of company from anywhere. “Another aspect that has drastically changed is gaining local funding. When we started our growth stage and late-stage funding, we saw a greater preference for investments in consumer startups. Enterprise startups had to typically look at US investors for funding in these stages. Now, a lot of funding is available for SaaS startups in India”, adds Khadim.
A Passion for Innovation
Born and brought in Mumbai, Khadim completed his Bachelor’s in Electric Engineering from the University of Mumbai and Master’s in Information Technology from the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore. Before Whatfix, Vara and Khadim had worked together for almost 9 years at Huawei and shared a common passion to build an innovative global product company in India, which made them realize they could work well as a team to start something new. Having vast experience in the software industry, Khadim has over 20 years of experience in leading technology teams and has worked at Kenexa, Applabs Technologies, and CMC Limited, while Vara has spent nearly 9 years at Huawei in various roles from Software Engineer to Systems Architect.
Working for an MNC, which was a huge part of his career, Khadim noticed that he typically worked a lot more in the background than in the forefront which did give him very few opportunities to work with customers. It was difficult for him and Vara Kumar, Co-founder of Whatfix, to see their ideas materialize without interacting with customers. “Vara and I are engineers and we have always been building products rather than working with customers. There was always an eagerness to work closely with customers and build something of our own, and that pushed us on the path of entrepreneurship”, says Khadim.
Started in 2011, Whatfix was founded when Khadim and Vara decided to start to target SMBs by marketing SearchEnabler, an on-demand SaaS tool that businesses could use to implement recommendations for enhancing their organic search visibility. While SearchEnbler received good traction and gathered about 100 customers within a year, they faced a newer challenge – the product was not being adopted effectively as most customers wanted extensive support and hand-holding. Building smart flows to solve this core pain point led to the inception of Whatfix.
Whatfix offers a unique Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) that helps with simple in-app walkthroughs, videos, and guides for using new software solutions and features. In a world where sophisticated software such as CRMs, ERPs, and HCMs require significant training and time before they can be used to their full potential, Whatfix is enabling faster, more efficient onboarding and usage for all types of organizations. The platform is designed such that customization and authoring of outflows is one of the easiest. “Our content can be easily integrated with the learning management system (LMS) of the organizations and the entire engagement can be tracked in analytics for further modifications as well. Today, we play a significant role in the digital adoption process, while still allowing our customers to learn and adapt to digital transformation at their own pace”, points out Khadim.
In 2019, Whatfix acquired Airim, a company that provides an AI-powered Personalization Engine for users and customers. By incorporating Airim’s capabilities, the company is working on providing hyper-personalized in-app guidance at the user’s point of need such as analyzing clickstreams, how long a step takes and where users get stuck or abandon the process completely. “Gartner has recognized our category – Digital Adoption Solution – and positioned us as one of the pioneers in the space. We have been recognized by Deloitte and Everest Consulting as well in industry reports on this category. Recently, Whatfix has been featured in the LinkedIn Top 10 Indian Startups 2020 list, showcasing how we have emerged as one of the leaders in the digital adoption solution category”, says Khadim.
Growing Despite Hurdles
Successfully building a new category, many understood the problem Khadim and Vara were trying to solve, but they did not necessarily understand that there is a solution available to them, which they are currently tasked to solve. “We are invested in our mission to empower companies to maximize business outcomes by eliminating technology complexities for their users. We will continue to innovate while delivering enhanced customer experiences consistently”, opines Khadim.
A global leader in DAP, Whatfix’s growth has been on a strong upward curve. Their customers have shifted their entire workforces to remote working, necessitating them to find new ways to remotely engage with their employees. Due to this, in-app engagement with employees by their customers through Whatfix has increased by 150% every month, as compared to the pre-Covid period. Additionally, the company has seen a 2X increase in revenue. This was strengthened through the addition of over 130 enterprise customers including Center State Bank, Vivial, AkzoNobel, Ciena, Aurecon, and more, adding additional support for desktop and mobile applications, in addition to browser applications.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to an accelerated pace of digital transformation across industries. A great part of digital transformation is the adoption and optimal utilization of critical platforms and tools. Whatfix plays a significant role in ensuring that an organization’s entire employee base is onboarded and effectively using the tools at their disposal. Their SaaS offering is helping businesses increase the output of companies while reducing the costs of tech enterprise tools. As a company with the majority of its employees based in India, yet selling to global organizations, they were well-equipped to keep everything running smoothly from customer support and sales perspective.
In the current remote working environment, users no longer can turn to the person on their left, or easily reach out to a colleague to walk through sophisticated solutions. At such a time, it becomes even more critical to enable independent production and make everyone more efficient to sustain business momentum. “As organizations navigate their digital transformation journey and make significant investments in software solutions, our platform will be a protection of those investments”, says Khadim.
Raising their Series C round of funding in February 2020 and bring a total of $50 million, Whatfix continues to grow its teams to meet the high demand of the digital adopting space. Whatfix has a unique advantage in being able to integrate our solutions with almost any form of application. Continuing to innovate, re-invest in their development and technology, Khadim concludes, “We have recently expanded our product footprint to desktop and mobile applications. We are currently focused on expanding Whatfix globally in the ANZ, EU, and SEA regions. We now can focus not just on our existing customers, but expand the scale of our offerings to provide our services to enterprise organizations”.