How ValueFirst is Fueling India’s CPaaS growth

(L to R) : Gurmukh Singh (COO), Vishwadeep Bajaj (CEO), Himanshu Kumar (President, Strategy & Initiatives), Debmalya De (CTO) - ValueFirst
(L to R) : Gurmukh Singh (COO), Vishwadeep Bajaj (CEO), Himanshu Kumar (President, Strategy & Initiatives), Debmalya De (CTO) - ValueFirst

ValueFirst connects business with their consumers over telecom (SMS & Voice) and internet (Chatbot, Email, OTT) channels. Some of the leading companies that rely on ValueFirst are Google, IndiGo, TATA Motors, P&G, InfoEdge and Axis Bank. 

Introducing the founder

ValueFirst was founded in 2003 by Vishwadeep Bajaj. Vish is the Chief Executive Officer at ValueFirst, a Twilio company. Vish has 30 years of experience in the IT & Telecom industry. He has held corporate roles at CMC India, Siemens (Germany & UK) & 0800Freedom UK before plunging into the world of entrepreneurship. He holds a General Management degree from MIT Sloan, US and a Masters in Computer Applications from MITS Gwalior, India. 

Motivation is what drives us to make the things we want happen and Vishwadeep Bajaj reveals what keeps him motivated. In the words of Vish, “I love focusing on diversifying ValueFirst on a product and global level in this exciting world of enterprise communications. I have always looked at ValueFirst as a postman- delivering a business’s message to its consumer. I have believed in enjoying the moment and it keeps me going. I’m a firm believer of the fact that if one door shuts, let’s do something else.”

Genesis 

As Bajaj’s UK business wasn’t doing very well, he was looking to pivot. It was during this time that he decided to return to India given its humongous size and potential. He realized SMS as a business wouldn’t be capex heavy and the market fit was bang on. That’s how ValueFirst came into existence.

The early phase

The first few years are very important for startups and according to Vish, the initial phase was about evangelizing businesses with the need to use communication channels such as SMS.  They spend time on problem statements and finding solutions for them. The next phase with competition coming in was increasing the portfolio with offerings such as Voice. And the third phase was geographical expansion into countries such as the UAE.

Fundraising 

ValueFirst raised funds from venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA), the global venture capital firm. The firm first invested in ValueFirst in 2008, when it committed $6 million (around Rs 30 crore). It then followed this up in 2011 by taking part in a $15.15 million (around Rs 70 crore) round. ValueFirst had also bought several companies prior to its own acquisition. Some of these include Octane Marketing, Cellnext, Cellcast, and Gingersoft Media. 

Journey been so far

The journey so far has been joyful for the team at ValueFirst that started with 14 people and now is home to 400 free-spirited souls. Vishwadeep says he is fortunate to work with some incredible people on some incredible business offerings. ValueFirst has made a difference in the way businesses talk and they take a lot of pride in it. The brand’s recent acquisition by the world’s largest CPaaS player, Twilio was a true testament to their hard work.

Team Strength and Management during COVID-19 pandemic

ValueFirst is close to 400 people spread across the globe. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the first quarter de-grew by 20% at ValueFirst. A large chunk of ValueFirst’s clientele is in the travel, aviation, and FMCG sectors. As they were impacted, ValueFirst also saw an impact. However, the outbreak ensured a rapid acceptance to digital transformation. Eventually, ValueFirst was able to ride the wave and turn things around. 

During the pandemic, ValueFirst launched some pathbreaking products such as Botsup (no-code chatbot platform) and NotifyHub (carrier routing switch). The pandemic also saw the ValueFirst family grow with around 90 new family members who joined the CPaaS leader virtually. 

Competition & USP

The competitors or rather similar players of ValueFirst include Infobip, Kaleyra, Netcore Solutions, GupShup, Sinch and similar companies. 

ValueFirst stands out on two parameters: 

a) Impeccable customer support team that is available 24*7 across the year to handhold each customer of ours 

b) ValueFirst is a one-stop place for every business pursuing conversation with their consumers. ValueFirst offers SMS, Voice, Email, and Chatbots in very evolved ways. ValueFirst is also the official partner of Google and Facebook to deploy solutions such as Google verified SMS and WhatsApp API. Any business can just plug and play its entire CPaaS needs with ValueFirst. 

Challenges being faced by entrepreneurs

Availability of finance is critical for the start-ups and always a challenge to procure sufficient amounts. The requirement starts increasing as the business progresses. According to Vish, “The biggest challenge is the infusion of this capital. Additionally, team building has been a critical factor. To get the right people for the right task is of paramount importance.”

Market Growth & Response in the CPaaS sector in the post-COVID-19 world

CPaaS has been traditionally utilized for integrations that allow enterprises to generate SMS notifications. As the pandemic sped up the digital transformation, the CPaaS industry also saw a rapid upgrade. Moving beyond its traditional use-cases meant complex, real-time and interactive integrations. Integrations such as voice, email, chatbots, and video seamlessly integrate into marketing automation and contact centre systems.

While next-generation integrations might sound fancy, companies have already seen actual implementations and success under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic. ValueFirst worked closely with the Government of Karnataka to set up a WhatsApp-based COVID-19 helpdesk. The chatbot would help people answer queries about the pandemic, request help, and solve multiple problem statements. In the coming future, there will be no limit to the types of use cases that can be created to help businesses and consumers streamline workflows and enhance their conversations.

CPaaS is closely linked with digital transformation. While the concept has originated from the Western countries, India is all set to show significant growth owing to the CPaaS industry. Asia being the biggest mobile markets in the world with pervasive connectivity, the future looks bright. 

There are various benefits such as extremely low overhead costs, negligible risk factor and increased ROI potential that make CPaaS the essential revolution for businesses in 2021 and beyond. A report by Future Market Insights predicts that the CPaaS market will see YoY growth of 18.1% in 2021, with APAC leading the growth. The study also forecasts SMEs accounting for over half of the CPaaS market by 2031.

Government’s role in supporting startups

Applauding the government’s efforts, Vish says, “India is a free-market economy, and the government has placed itself as an enabler to reduce ecosystem friction and increase innovations. Initiatives such as Startup India, Digital India, and regular boosters for the SME segment have been a game changer. With other initiatives such as tax benefits, ease of registering companies, and infusing FDI have really given a push to the ecosystem.”

Vishwadeep Bajaj, CEO and Founder of ValueFirst, a Twilio Company

Future Plans

For Twilio, India is a very important market. It is a sizable business and several of Twilio’s clients in the US have customers in India. What ValueFirst brings to Twilio is the local knowledge of how to conduct business in India with regulatory compliances – as the business is regulated by TRAI. Also, ValueFirst has more than 2,500 customers already and ValueFirst will give Twilio a ready market to scale. 

The current management of the company will be running the business as an independent subsidiary of Twilio. Vishwadeep Bajaj will continue in the company for the foreseeable future. As CEO he will report to management of Twilio, but the rest of the organizational structure remains unchanged. 

ValueFirst is all set to work closely with the Twilio leadership while sharing knowledge, insights, and connections to grow the market even more. 

Awards and achievements

Over the years ValueFirst has swept the prestigious awards at every industry conference and marketing associations. Some of the recent awards include: 

  • Best Digital Campaign by IAMAI 
  • Best ICR Platform by World CSR Foundation 
  • Most Trusted Partner by DMA Asia 
  • CMO Choice Award by DMA Asia 
  • Technology Fast50 by Deloitte 

Messages for budding entrepreneurs/young generation

Motivating startup enthusiasts, Vish conveys a short positive message, “Have the courage to want things. Life always has its unique way of delivering them to you in the most unexpected and surprising ways.”

Hope this success story would motivate all the aspiring entrepreneurs. It is a part of our startup profiling feature story/interview series. We are on a mission to bring forward the inspirational journey of successful entrepreneurs in order to spread some motivation during these tough times.

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