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'Our biggest competition in India is spreadsheets'

Sonal Khetarpal     November 27, 2019

Automation and digitisation have become buzzwords where companies are trying to transform work processes to reduce drudgery and create value for the firm and its clients. Shahid Nizami, Managing Director (Asia Pacific), HubSpot says, "there is still lack of awareness among small-to medium-sized businesses in India on digital and automation."

He says, they are focusing on strengthening their India presence. The reason is simple. He says, "We find several SMBs even today continue to use spreadsheets to maintain sales records."  The problem with is data on spreadsheet is as good as a list without insights on when the customer was last contacted and if they ever checked the firm's website. Lack of this data makes it difficult for firms to make sales and marketing decisions, he explains.

HubSpot offers a full stack of software for three functions: marketing, sales, and customer service, with a free CRM tool at its core. It focuses on SMBs across industries with workforce that varies from 10 to 2,000 employees.  While their top three markets are Australia, Japan and Singapore, India is one of the largest markets with free signups.

"India is a cost sensitive market so the freemium model works for us since companies are growing very fast here. We want to catch the young firms and growth with them," says Nizami. The firms usually start with using their free software and upgrade to paid version when they require specialised features. He adds, "Though I admit that this motion is relatively less fast, as compared to the other mature markets."

 From their three core offerings: Sales hub, marketing hub and services hub, India is seeing traction for their sales product. HubSpot's co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah says reason is automating sales leads is the first step a company takes in its digital journey before moving on to the inbound marketing.

Shah refuses to share data on the percentage of companies that upgrade from free to paid version. Globally, the conversion rate in a freemium model is from two to five per cent.  

But, Shah says he is in no rush to get companies to upgrade. "If they want to enjoy the free product forever, we're totally cool with that," says Shah. He explains it has several business benefits.  It gives a huge pool of consumer insights on the product feature and the word of mouth marketing.

Founded in June 2006, HubSpot has 68,800 customers in over 100 countries. HubSpot recently hired its India Sales Director Adarsh Noronha who was earlier General Manager at Oracle India. Delivery services firm Dunzo, real estate developer Kohinoor, coworking cafe company Coffic, market research firm Markets and Markets are using Hubspot software in India.

The US-based firm has raised $100.6 million in six funding rounds and has acquired 12 companies till date.

(The writer was invited by HubSpot to attend its digital marketing conference GROW in Singapore)

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