Meet The SHEROES: Kabandi Saikia
Omnify is an E-commerce and scheduling software for services. Omnify has everything you need to sell and manage your services online. Here are the excerpts from the interview:-
Q) How does Omnify help in accentuating business opportunities?
A) I am the Co-Founder of Omnify Inc. There are about 50 million small and medium sized businesses globally and with increased dependency on technology, consumers dictate how they want to interact with the Businesses. Technology is changing how businesses do commerce. With Omnify, we have built an e-commerce and scheduling platform for small and medium sized business. Businesses can use Omnify to manage scheduling for their services and sell them across multiple channels - web, mobile, social. Omnify is a bundled software which also helps them manage their day-to-day operations, customers, payments, marketing and more.
Q) Describe Omnify’s layout, and how it proposes to engage potential entrepreneurs?
A) With Omnify, we have built an extensive yet a very simple platform for these businesses to manage everything from one place, while also trying to automate most of their daily operations. Our platform is used by 550 businesses across 180 cities in 42 countries. Our goal is to hit $1 million ARR, (Accounting Rate of Return i.e. amount of profit,or return, an individual can expect based on an investment made) in the next 12 -18 months. Also, we have crossed $150,000 in online transactions within six months of launching online payments via our platform. Being a Co-founder, I end up doing everything except programming. Though, I mostly look into Marketing, Sales and Operations. One of our main strategies is Inbound Marketing and we have been heavily dependent on inbound traffic for that. I am a self-taught Marketeer and trying different things every now and then. I do a lot of Demos across time-zones. The reason we push people for demos is because it helps us understand their use cases and also get feedback on the product. We have stopped building features in isolation, we build only when there is an actual need for the same.
Q) What was your childhood ambition?
A) I was quite good at studies in school. I used to be an active quizzer, used to play Table Tennis at district level. I used to do pretty innovative things, like starting a hand written magazine and selling the same. Imagine the effort that went into it! I never wanted to be a doctor or an engineer. That was too conventional. I wanted to be someone who makes it big and make a difference by doing something noteworthy. Small towner dreams!
Q) Was your education aimed towards pursuing your career?
A) Not at all. I did my schooling in Sivasagar, Assam. My parents are both doctors so Medical was an option but (fortunately) I did not clear the entrance. Obvious choice was Delhi University. I graduated from Daulat Ram College with a degree in Zoology. Those 3 years taught me two things:-
a) I was not cut out for conventional studies and
b) how to survive on my own.
I then moved to Manchester Business School for my Masters and got myself a Business Degree. 3 years in Manchester helped me shape my career and also taught me to be more focussed. It also taught me that there are no small jobs. I worked as a Stockroom Assistant at Next and really liked it. It was physically taxing, but the discipline and work ethics was what I took away from this job. Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS, was my first proper job and everything I apply in my startup, from talking to customers, to selling, is courtesy my time at RBS.
From a Zoology Hons to a Banker to now running a Startup, I am sure I could not have planned it anyway. But if you ask me, this time of my life, I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!
Q) What led to your involvement in Omnify?
A) I call myself Accidental Apprentice. I used to work in a Bank in England and I was mostly occupied with the day to day operations. I used that time to build my skill set. Simultaneously, I was in a lookout for better opportunities but the job situation was pretty bad at that time. I decided to move to USA and get settled there. All thanks to my Sister-in-law who has been one of my biggest support till now. But I wasn’t very sure and moved back to England within a couple of months. It was a challenging time as I wasn’t sure about anything. However, in US I was introduced to the startup culture. The dinner table talks with my brother were mostly about the new startups or the new innovations. I was pretty intrigued by tis concept. I came back to India for good in 2013 and worked with a company only to quit it in 3 months. I took a 6 months’ sabbatical just to figure out what I wanted to do. I started to look out for startup jobs. Then, I met my Co-Founder via a Facebook Forum and hit it off instantly. Though we both did not know how I was to contribute to the company (that time we were building LinkMySport). But I still got on board and since then there has been no looking back. It’s been 3 years of learning and hustling. We pivoted to Omnify and launched it globally in July 2015.
Q)Tell our readers about the hurdles you had to face?
A) I won’t call them hurdles but challenges. The first is obviously the financial challenges. When we started, I had to take a huge salary cut. I had some savings but they also ran out pretty fast. Bangalore expense, tell me about it! My parents supported me for few months but they were quite clueless about what I was doing. Worst, I was also figuring out. I think the initial stages of a start-up is the toughest. One, there’s absolutely no time to do anything else and two, you’re low on funds. But we never gave up. I strongly believe, You fail only when you quit! We kept working harder. We iterated and now we are in a much better place. My parents have been very supportive throughout. They had their doubts initially, but I think they believed in me. Also, special thanks to the PM, Narendra Modi, for the Startup India initiative. What we couldn’t, he did in a single day :)
Q) What is the equation between you and your co-founder?
A) I have the best co-founder one could ask for. He has always treated me with respect. It’s been 3 years and we spend 13-14 hours in office daily. It would not have been possible if there wasn’t a positive environment. Also, I think regardless of gender, merit is what counts. I have never asked for privileges because I am a women. I have always believed, I will get my due if I deserve it. And also, Internet is the greatest leveller. It’s the product that sells regardless of the man or woman behind it.
Q) What do you see changing for women professionals in India?
A) Absolutely. This is our time. Women are born multi-taskers. We have natural flair for management. I wish we have more and more women to take up programming. We should encourage girls in school to take up coding. It’s a life skill. Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook, Lean In), Reshma Saujani (Girls who code) etc are promoting it. We should incorporate it in our schools and there will be a huge change. Also look around small towns, we have women running Parlors, tailoring shops, schools and many more. It’s only natural for women to get at the forefront and break the glass ceiling. We already have it in us!
Q) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A) Interesting question. I don’t think I have an answer for this. I can only hope to keep pushing myself to do greater things.
Q) What motivates you?
A) Hope and Ambition. Also, I am an eternal optimist. I believe, if I want something, I have to work harder for it, and if I work hard enough, it will pay off someday. That is good enough motivation for me. When you are starting up there are more failures than success. But then every day is a new day. It just takes one good day to change everything.
Q) How do you unwind yourself?
A) That’s a very interesting question to ask someone who spends most of her time at work. But I travel, not very often nowadays, but once or twice every year I take solo trips. Also, I love reading and binge watching TV. These are my daily rituals.