the drive: creative control

Leaving a secure job with a good paycheck to start a company is daunting, but the drive of an entrepreneur is a powerful thing.

Creative control was that drive for Subrat Basnet and Amit Chaudhary. While working for an outsourcing company, the childhood friends realized that they wanted to be able to choose what product to create and how. Now, as Co-founders of Grepsr, they have complete control over the webcrawling company’s product development.

Control to them means involvement as well. They not only do the coding, but also the marketing and customer support. Their hands on approach includes replying to secured and prospective clients’ e-mails within an hour, even at 3 am, instead of the several days Grepsr’s bigger competitors usually take. Because the founders directly interact with clients, they can quickly negotiate on a price. Bigger web crawling companies, on the other hand, have to go through multiple channels of approval, coming up behind in the competition.

In their journey to secure creative control, Basnet and Chaudhary had to first give up free time. During the evenings and nights, the young professionals could be found at home, using their programming education and tech industry experience to create a product that would attract international clients. After six months, when their product became viable, they quit their jobs and worked full-time on Grepsr.

The customers were nowhere to be found for the first two months. Because Grepsr’s target was international companies, marketing itself in Nepal wasn’t going to help. Thankfully, advertisements through Google Adwords pulled in companies interested to have data extracted from the web and converted into comprehensible documents. Basnet and Chaudhary learned since launching Grepsr 1.5 years ago that convincing companies, especially the bigger ones, to try the product wasn’t easy. “Once they find you, communication is key,” said Chaudhary. “Acquiring big customers can take you anywhere between 3 weeks to 3 months. You have to explain things like how you won’t be out of business in 6 months.” By being able to illustrate why and how a small company like itself is stable and reliable, Grepsr has been able to provide its service for more than 500 companies thus far. The tech company’s client list includes internationally recognized names like Target, the Boston Consulting Group, and AGCO.

Another way Grepsr conveys its professionalism is through its website, which has been modeled after Silicon Valley companies and includes a video. While making the video took 3 months instead of the projected one, Basnet and Chaudhary stuck with it since they understood
the importance of impressing potential clients visually. Their resolve paid off, because clients have liked it so much that they have asked who created it. “Be a perfectionist in terms of what you show to your customers,” says Basnet, as advice for entrepreneurs seeking to secure international clients. “Even in Nepal, as more and more educated people look for services, they’ll care more about what they see,” said Chaudhary.

Making a highly appealing website isn’t enough if people don’t know it exists. To increase its recognition and credibility in the US, Europe, and Southeast Asia, Grepsr will now heighten its marketing and branding efforts. One of its goals is to appear on popular tech sites like techcrunch.com.

Its other goal is to become a multi-million dollar company in 5 years (see side bar). In their quest to get there, Basnet and Chaudhary have learned a few lessons:

  • Don’t price the product too low. Potential clients will think the price reflects the quality. When Grepsr’s prices were half of what they are now, they had no customers.
  • Let customers know your company is based in Nepal. Nepal doesn’t have a reputation the way countries like Bangladesh and India do, yet. Clients have become wary of those countries because some small companies withhold quality to keep their prices low.
  • Stand your ground. Securing a big client doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or getting the short end of the stick. Negotiate wisely and professionally. By making changes that reflect the lessons learned and continuing their hands-on approach, Grepsr may well reach the multi-million dollar mark in a few years.
  • 10: The approximate number of seconds people stay on a website before deciding to leave or stay.

    The product or service technology, in some way, is secondary. “To get the customers interested,” Chaudhary said, “what you show on the outside is more important.” Grepsr has created a clean, informative, and inviting website to draw in people.

    $10,000 a month, or 10% a week: Silicon Valley tech startup recommended growth rate.

    Grepsr is growing 5-10% every month in terms of revenue. Basnet and Chaudhary see this as a good sign for a company in Nepal.

    $1,000,000 dollar company.

    That’s where Grepsr sees itself becoming in 5 years. “We didn’t start out to be a million dollar company,” started off Chaudhary. “But it looks feasible,” ended Basnet. His and Chaudhary’s plans to get there includes automating a lot of tasks, doing more marketing, and hiring the manpower to help the company grow.

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