Highlights of my conversation with Tejaswi Raghurama

  • Save 300 administrative hours per month
  • Automates accounting for ecommerce stores
  • Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India
  • Increasing monthly recurring revenue and reducing churn

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Heather:        Hello. It’s Heather Smith here. Thank you for joining me today. I hope you are doing well. Today I speak with Tejaswi Raghurama which I’ve probably pronounce incorrectly but I refer to him as Tej.

Tej is a growth hacker at ZapStitch. ZapStitch is a data integration platform for small business to automate data flow across cloud business solutions. They are automating accounting for a thousand plus e-commerce business from North America, Australasia, Europe by integrating Shopify, Bigcommerce with Xero. ZapStitch automatically imports sales orders into your accounting application’s invoices. Discounts, taxes and shipping rates are sync’d seamlessly which is something he emphasises in the show.

An average business using ZapStitch saves 300 plus hours every month spent in manual accounting, freeing up their time so they can spend it with the customer and family. ZapStitch is the number one ranked and rated accounting add-on in the Shopify app store. Tej believes no human should do a machine’s job and small businesses can grow huge with automation. He places part by educating and working with customers.

When not learning from business, you’ll find him watching South Park. He joined ZapStitch in February 2014 as one of the first employees there. He was inspired by the vision of the founders, the fundamental impact the way businesses manage tedious processes. I started by asking Tej who was his favourite South Park character and why.

Tejaswi:       Awesome. That’s a great question to start with. I think Cartman because I’m fascinated by climatic and realistic people. I always look at the world around me, “This is good.” “This is bad.” But there are people who actually recognise it and live through it. I would see Cartman in South Park as being the most pragmatic and he is who he is. He doesn’t mould himself according to the people around him and he has his originality intact. Yes, he is cruel, I don’t recognise that spirit but I think he’s on his own.

Heather:        Sensational. I don’t watch South Park so I don’t know the character but I thought that our listeners might find that interesting. I know that my son watches South Park but I don’t.

Tejaswi:       Okay.

So Tej, can you tell me a little about ZapStitch.

Tejaswi:       Sure. ZapStitch automates accounting in commerce stores. In simple English, what we do is we integrate platforms like Shopify and Bigcommerce with accounting apps like Xero, right?

Heather:        Yes.

Tejaswi:       ZapStitch enables seamless data syncing between those apps. We sync data for all the customers and anything related to the invoice and sales tax automation. What we enable at the end of the day is exponentially faster reporting in accounting and accurate data and peace of mind. I mean the most common feedback we get from our accountants and from business owners who use ZapStitch is peace of mind. At the end of the day, accounting shouldn’t be an intimidating step in the process, right?

Heather:        Yes.

Tejaswi:       That is one feedback we often get. At the company level, our vision is to automate business apps across verticals. When we were founded … we are a cloud integration platform, so our long term two year or three year future is to integrate at least 300-500 business apps on the cloud.

Heather:        Oh okay.

Tejaswi:       We are starting with e-commerce and accounting because we believe there are immediate gaps in between them, and we want to solve as many problems in accounting as possible, and go in depth in accounting automation.

Who are your typical customers?

Tejaswi:       Typical customers are twofold. One is an e-commerce business owner or the business team of a 10-man or 15-man e-commerce team. The second end user is the accountant who has multiple e-commerce tools as clients or is working part time as the bookkeeper. Those are two end users but our business is somebody that’s doing let’s say a $2 million dollar revenue per year and who actually feels the pain of data entry, right? A typical business of where we work with spends at least 500 hours in accounting per month. If we can solve that pain point, I think that’s where our end customer is.

Heather:        That certainly makes … if you can resolve 500 hours at your price point, then that certainly is of benefit to the client.

Tejaswi:       Exactly.

Where about are you actually based?

Tejaswi:       We are based out of Bangalore in India. It’s called the Silicon Valley of India, so it’s the Bangalore start-up hub in India, yes.

Where about are your servers based? Where are the data for your company based … for the client data based?

Tejaswi:       We are based … we built it on AWS, the server side across AWS in Singapore if I’m not wrong but I need to get some technical knowledge there. The servers are on AWS and we don’t locally store data.

Heather:        Okay, so it’s not locally stored. It’s always a question that people ask us.

Tejaswi:       Yes indeed.

Heather:        It’s an unpleasant question I guess but the customer is always going, “Well, where is my data?” “Is it in the clouds?” “Where is it?” So it’s important to know.

Tejaswi:       Yes, just to add to that point, ZapStitch believes in transparency, so we don’t store any local data on any server for that matter. We only move data from A to B. there will be apps and I’m sure you’ve interviewed and talked to some where they’re stored locally and in the app they show the data, right? We enable seamless syncing of data and not storing of data. Yes, that’s a belief we are in right now. Maybe going forward when we add features like reporting inside the app we will look at storing data but right now we are only moving data and storing metadata like number of orders …

Heather:        I thought it might be like that.

What’s your internet connection like in Bangalore, the Silicon Valley of India?

Tejaswi:       Internet connection is a problem maybe sporadically but we have good broadband speeds in Bangalore. We have a speed of let’s say 22/30mbps. That serves our purpose and we haven’t felt the pain of internet speed at all. But sometimes the sporadic connection is due to the team load rather than the internet speed. When we grew as a start-up, there were logistical issues which were solved of course but yes, there is no problem with the internet. We are not consciously aware of the speed, yes.

Heather:        Tej, you describe yourself as a Growth Hacker.  What does that mean?

Tejaswi:       I mean that’s something I’m figuring out.

Heather:        It sounds very impressive. I actually like that title, ‘The Growth Hacker’.

Tejaswi:       Right, so how growth hacking works, it’s a term by an marketer called Sean Ellis who coined the term. He founded Qualaroo. What he says is like when you build a start-up, that is a predictable good … you can achieve. You can draw a straight line which is not a hockey stick but is like a 45 degree angle, right? What a growth hacker does or growth marketing is like it recognises certain bursts in the marketing cycle and exponentially reiterates it. If the growth hacking is successful, you find an unconventional way of growing and you make it repeatable success. So that’s how you differentiate your start-up from the rest of the competition. You actually blow the competition off because you have tested and repeated success with an unconventional method. That’s what growth hacking, the term is coming from.

Heather:        That’s interesting. I should mention in there … I’m guessing I’m right, you’re referring to grass hockey rather than ice hockey for our North American listeners which is … actually would he be referring to ice hockey rather than grass hockey?

Tejaswi:       He’s an Australian guy so I don’t know.

Heather:        Because they’re two very differently shaped sticks, I know that.

Tejaswi:       Indeed. I think I get your point now because …

Heather:        So I think it’s actually the ice hockey stick he’s referring to isn’t it because that’s the one with the 45 degree angle, whereas the grass hockey stick is actually quite … very, very short.

Tejaswi:       I know it looked like that.

Heather:        I’ll go and Google it and see if I can work it out afterward.

You have, in the first year of launch, you managed to attain 250 paying customers with inbound marketing. How did you go about doing this?

Tejaswi:       We have an install base of 1,000 stores but when the free trial ends, that’s when the subscription starts. We are a SaaS based B2B company, product company. At the beginning we were very clear that we were targeting certain markets where these platforms have good penetration. For example, US, Canada, Australia and UK, right, where the amalgamation or the integration can serve a purpose immediately. We targeted those and we founded the channels which were the app stores. As a company, we didn’t invest in a sales team. We didn’t hire any sales persons. We only invested in customer success.

When I joined as a third team member in February of last year, I was straight away sent to customer support as a role. I didn’t go to marketing for the first four months. So what we learned from that is if you actually delight your customers from day one, they sell the app themselves. They write reviews. They talk about you. They recommend you to users and the Shopify system is pretty vital in that sense. People talk about their issues.

So we actually focused on two things. One was the forums, community forums, across the business apps and the second is to actually get good reviews on the platform. People read reviews before they read features actually, often.

Heather:        I completely agree with that, yes. Okay, let’s examine that a bit further.

In terms of the forums you were looking at, what forums were you looking at? Was there a specific Spotify forum?

Tejaswi:       Shopify and Bigcommerce

Heather:        Shopify sorry. I said Spotify. Shopify, yes.

Tejaswi:       No, they’re very similar. Shopify has a very active business forum which is Shopify.com\forums. Even we actually got the business idea thanks to those forums because customers were talking about specific data, manual data problems, manual accounting problems. When you go to the forums, there will be these customers who talk about, “How do I move my data from Shopify to Xero?” “How do I manage accounting?” “What are the best practises of accounting?”

We position ZapStitch as a thought leader in those forums saying, “We know your pain point and we know how accounting can be a pain sometimes and how our solution solves it.” So rather than out-selling, we out-educated our competition in the forum. That’s a philosophy we believe in is that if you related the pain point, we talked about how you can move data seamlessly between Shopify and Xero, and automate the reporting and just focus on business reports rather than actually entering data. The forums were a great place where people were actually talking about the problems and we just plugged in ourselves as somebody who knows what they’re talking about and we can solve it.

Heather:        I think going on the forums is very smart. Also as well as it being authentic, I think it also probably gives you really good SEO because people go … I know I personally, I go in and search there, and I know people who have a high level of credibility and if they’re supporting a particular product I’ll go, “Okay, I don’t need to do extensive research on it because this person has said it’s okay, so I’m sure it will be okay.”

Tejaswi:       Right.

How did you encourage your clients to give you reviews?

Tejaswi:       Yes, that’s a good question. Many companies, product companies especially, have a way of irritating the customer in terms of reviews. They keep bugging the customer saying, “Why don’t you write a review?” “Give a link,” all those things. What we did innately or subtly was have a live chat support in our app. When the on-boarding happens, and TradeGecko is a great example where the onboarding is seamless, but when we started as a company we didn’t have that leverage of a beautiful design, an amazing out of the box design. We focused on simple and subtle design, and when the onboarding happened, the user got delighted and our automatic chat would plugin, “How did you find the experience?” “Do you need any help?” “What is the next setting you want?” All those things.

As the engagement happened in the live chat, we started to see the customers delighted and we can actually ask for review. It’s about instant gratification rather than sending them mail or calling them and saying, “How did you like the app?” The live chat client helped us a lot. I would recommend it to any product company starting out because that’s a great way to learn from customers on the spot and also solve the problems instantly and also, of course, write a review if the user is delighted.

Heather:        Yes, it sometimes amazes me that some of the companies are not as receptive to talk to an individual person. They’re like, “If you’re not a partner, I’m not going to talk to you,” and you’re like going, “Well, I need to talk to you before I consider becoming a partner.” Now, in terms of reviews, it sounds like you’re not focused on getting reviews on other sites. I know that Xero has an add-on marketplace and actually encourages people to review there.

Are you directing people to go and review there?

Tejaswi:       Yes, so with Xero, we just launched that Heather. We want to get as many reviews there but it’s just two to three weeks old and we actually started getting paying customers as well from Xero. I mean review becomes a natural …

Heather:        Progression in the cycle.

Tejaswi:       Yes, by-product of success. We want to ensure product success with Xero first and then the review I’m sure will be there but we are not biased in any platform as such.

Heather:        So for our listeners, we’ll just share with them that ZapStitch is now on the US Xero marketplace but you’re also looking for approval on the other country marketplaces. Is that correct?

Tejaswi:       Yes. I should give credit to Xero because they are one of the most active product support forums out there. They’re very transparent in how they deal with partners like us.

Heather:        That’s sensational.

Tejaswi:       So unless customers actually say that sales tax automation works with ZapStitch, they will not approve it. We have seen other apps which you are aware of, where community is like … you like your app, the customers like your app, okay you’re globally approved. Here it’s more like every country has a specific use case and unless you actually meet them practically and the customer talks about it, you are not approved. We had beta customers from the US and UK, so we got approved and UK should be very soon right now, and we want beta customers from Australia and New Zealand which has the biggest Xero user base, to approve it as soon as possible. That’s our main focus in February.

Heather:        Yes, sensational.

How many customers does ZapStitch need to be successful?

Tejaswi:       As a B2B company we are focused on two metrics, right? One is MRR  monthly recurring revenue, and second is to reduce churn. Rather than talking about the number of customers, we’re talking MMR in at least our philosophy, so we want to get to at least US$100,000 MMR by end of year or by next year, early next year. That’s how we are growing and our month on month growth, at least to reach that, would be 35%, we are at 30% this moment. We are going at a good speed but that’s how we look at our growth.

Heather:        Excellent.

You’ve targeted multiple markets to penetrate the cloud based software specifically in e-commerce and accounting, what have you observed through that and what have you learnt through that targeting of the different markets?

Tejaswi:       Right, so when we actually launched the beta product in 2013 end which is like December or November if I’m not wrong, I was not onboard. The founding team had tested it with Indian customers. The problem with Indian cloud or cloud eco system is they’re not very progressive or they haven’t understood the impact a cloud app can bring to their business. We still are believing in manual bookkeeping or CD based software of accounting, Excel sheets.

The penetration was getting harder and harder so we naturally went to the most progressive marketplace which is the US. They already know the pain points they have and they do actually look to build a multi-million dollar business within one or two years. The e-commerce stores there are built on Shopify or Bigcommerce were looking at, “How do I grow faster?” Accounting needs to be fast, needs to be painless. “How do I find the solution?” “Okay, ZapStitch is there.”

We got our first paying customers from the US, then Canada, so we started progressing in those geographies first and then UK and then Australia. So in terms of progressive eco systems for cloud software, we thought and we have analysed that US is by far the leader.

Heather:        Oh really?

Tejaswi:       Yes. In terms of multiple processes … they don’t look at one process to automate, they actually want to automate the whole business and focus on customer success, focus on sales, marketing, and the data is a burden to them. Right? They look at multiple apps to automate multiple sites of their business. Australia was a close second to that and Canada is very close to Australia.

Heather:        I would have thought from speaking to people, and I don’t have any stats behind me, it would have been New Zealand.

Tejaswi:       Yes, in terms of user base I’m talking.

Heather:        Okay, so in terms of user base, I completely agree because they’ve got such a bigger number.

Tejaswi:       Indeed, yes. I appreciate that because I was talking not in philosophy of approach to the business but in terms … I meant that, yes.

Heather:        The user base number, yes. As soon as you get the US buying into anything, you expand exponentially don’t you.

Tejaswi:       Yes, and I’m sure with Xero, we would test out the New Zealand market much better because with Shopify and the other accounting app, we didn’t have much user base in New Zealand so we couldn’t get real data measured with that. But I’m sure Xero … I have seen the data that Xero is more in Australia and New Zealand already so that should be good data to work with.

Heather:        Yes.

How can customer service be a differentiator for start-ups in a competitive market?

Tejaswi:       When you look at cloud based business, there’s no geographical limitation. For example: we are an Indian company but working seamlessly for a US audience, right? We work in their time zones. Our support team works at US and UK time zones. When you come to a company … company to a marketplace, you have to find a differentiator. It cannot be price always. You can’t be the cheapest solution out there. That’s not a good business model to work with.

Heather:        Absolutely.

Tejaswi:       What you want to do is you want to delight your customers and if your app is not at the self-serving mode in the initial days, customer success or customer support is the easiest way to get that because as I said, businesses want to talk to a human at the end of the day. They don’t want to just write them email and get a response. They want to talk to a human. They want to relate to their problems. They want to talk about their problems. Our initial days or initial growth has to be credited to seamless customer support and of course a great product which enables delight.

I think from our learnings we can safely say that if you actually put in place tools to automate customer support, to have things like live chat, email automation, and then actually have a product which is centric to the user and not to a developer. You don’t need to be a scientist to use an app. If you look at those three verticals as customer success, you are already in a good path to grow outwardly so that would be our learning in that space.

What tool do you use for your live chat?

Tejaswi:       We use Olark. We have been a huge fan of Olark.

Heather:        Olark, okay. What email automation do you use?

Tejaswi:       For customer support we have two things. One is the support which is on Freshdesk and for customer interactions we use Intercom. What Intercom does is it gives you the app usage of every user, you know, “Has he done a sync? What type of data did he sync? Is he actually happy with the product?” All those customer analytics. We use Intercom and we send triggered emails based on the actions inside the app. That’s how our customer support cycle works, onboarding works.

If you’re dealing with people during business hours in the US, it sounds like you’re not getting much sleep over there.

Tejaswi:       No, we don’t work 18 hours a day. How we divide this is like the marketing and product team works in Indian hours and the support and the customer success team works in US hours.

Heather:        Okay.

Tejaswi:       As we expand into markets, I’m sure the whole team will find a challenge in the one or two weeks but we are a global company so we should act like one.

Heather:        Yes.

Do you have staff outside of India?

Tejaswi:       No, we are a 15 member team in Bangalore in India.

Heather:        That’s really large. That’s a really large team.

Do you attend any of the Xero roadshows or Xerocon events, the big Xero conferences?

Tejaswi:       Yes, we would love to because there are these industry specific events. I know as you mentioned people like you hang out there but right now we are not focused on that. That’s one differentiator we have …

Heather:        Your support is online rather than showing up at those events.

Tejaswi:       Exactly, we don’t have a sales team. Yes.

Heather:        Sensational.

Can you share with us some of the businesses using your solution?

Tejaswi:       Sure. One of the most successful businesses who was an early adopter of Zapstitch  is Bolder Band. They won the Shopify build a business competition last year. Do you know about the build a business competition?

Heather:        No I don’t.

Tejaswi:       Okay, sorry. I’ll give a brief … what they do is Shopify promotes businesses who grow to a million dollar business every year.

Heather:        Oh, and of course they’d know wouldn’t they.

Tejaswi:       Exactly. It’s like a cross promotional activity.

Heather:        Yes.

Tejaswi:       What the build a business does is like you need to sell as much as you can in year one of your business, after launching your business. So whoever sells the most in that calendar year becomes the winner. Bolder Band is a Shopify store who launched in late 2013. When they adopted us, we were just one month old.

Heather:        Wow.

Tejaswi:       They had at least 200 orders per day, right? We were like blown away. Okay, this is a great store. This is a large store. They also became our product evangelist and they gave active feedback how to make our product better. How they function is like they have a very niche segment of customers. They sell head bands for people, you know, gyming and sports personalities?

Heather:        Okay, yes.

Tejaswi:       Who like anything – jogging, hiking and everything. They sell headbands and they grew to a million … I think they are now $3-$5 million dollar business within one and a half years.

Heather:        Wow, I didn’t know headbands had come back in … had made a comeback.

Tejaswi:       Yes, so they were one of the most successful leading customers and then Pop Chart Lab is one of the most creative businesses we have. They create charts on popular topics. For example: how did Nike evolve their shoes? How did Pop Culture evolve from 1800 to 2000.

Heather:        So people then buy the chart from them?

Tejaswi:       Exactly.

Heather:        Oh okay, that’s interesting.

Tejaswi:       So these two were the earliest and biggest customers. There are many but as customer successes, these are the first two that come up to my mind.

Heather:        Did you find yourself in the developer stage reacting to their needs?

Tejaswi:       No.

Heather:        They said, “Okay, we need this,” and you were able to implement something like that?

Tejaswi:       Yes, that’s a good question. As a product company building a cloud app, we necessarily don’t go by feedback from just customers. What we go by is data and market need. When we talk to let’s say five or six customers and they want sales tax automation, we build sales tax automation. But it’s not like building a customer solution for big clients or working with them over time to see what do they want and going in depth to their needs. We want to serve collectively as an ecosystem for Shopify users, Xero users rather than just a multi-million dollar business.

Heather:        Yes.

So if someone has your product in place, they’ve got Shopify, they’ve got Xero and they’ve got ZapStitch in place, what additional financial information can they attain through having that integration?

Tejaswi:       Good question. How ZapStitch works is we don’t store any local data. We don’t generate reports in the app but what we do for example is let’s say … I think this is one of our differentiators is that the sales tax, the other apps, don’t go to specific sales tax and invoices. What these apps do is they have one sales tax rate and they apply it to all the invoices they sync.

What ZapStitch does is it actually breaks down the taxes as is from the invoice and maps it to the Xero accounts for those sales taxes. That is automated and an accountant or a business owner just needs to go to the sales tax or account in Xero and just generate a report within a second. If you go to the manual side of things or non-automation, it would take at least five minutes to do for every invoice: entering the sales tax, mapping it to the right account and everything. So maybe one or two minutes is saved on every order.

If you look at a growing business like let’s say Bolder Bands, they get 300 orders per day that would be 6,000 minutes, right? If you click a button, we can automate the data sync in ZapStitch, so they don’t even have to login sometimes. That happens seamlessly and the accountant just focuses on generating reports and accurate data and non-duplicated data.

Heather:        Excellent. Tell me what the start-up scene is like in Bangalore.

Tejaswi:       Bangalore is a hub of start-ups in India. It’s maybe the most popular city in India in terms of start-ups and of our national capital New Delhi is a close second if I’m not wrong.

Heather:        Yes.

Tejaswi:       How Bangalore works is a lot of product companies exist here. Product companies need investment early on, right? There’s a huge overseas and Indian investors community here there are eco-systems partners like incubators and accelerators. We are still learning in the entrepreneurial eco system globally but in India at least, Bangalore is very progressive for start-ups and there are lesser challenges I would say. I’ll put it like that.

Are venture capitalists coming from India or are they coming from overseas?

Tejaswi:       Venture capital firm is mostly Indian who invest in Indian start-ups. They have global investors who are in contact with them and they actually scout talent but they don’t actually actively invest in Indian start-ups directly. Overseas investors don’t invest early but if a huge Indian venture capitalist has invested, then they see the talent, they scout it and the foreign investors come in.

Heather:        Yes. I think you’ve told me this but I’ve forgotten.

How old is your company?

Tejaswi:       We launched our product of February 2014 and we launched our company in December or November if I’m not wrong.

Heather:        So you’re coming up to your one year anniversary.

Tejaswi:       Yes, my own and companies as well.

Heather:        That’s amazing growth for a company that’s been around for a year.

What have you learnt in that time of growing the start-up in India?

Tejaswi:       One of the central things is if you want to build a fast growing or any growing start-up which doesn’t die in the first year, you need to focus on customers. One skewed emotion any start-ups have is they want to build a perfect product, right?

What we had learned very early on thankfully is that if you actually build a minimum viable product for, let’s say, our market, actually the customer will do the rest of the thing. They will give it the requirements. The market will drive your product rather than you building the perfect solution. If you focus on customer success and actually giving a damn about them basically, they actually give you back and more than you actually ask for: so in terms of advocacy of the product, advocacy of your customer success, giving active feedback in terms of their product needs.

I think that is one major learning and second challenge and learning is the marketing side of things. You want to build a repeatable engine of bringing customers, bringing progressive e-commerce businesses who want to try automation, who want to solve this problem. That has been one major challenge, you know, where do these guys hang out? Where do these guys talk about their problems? So building an inbound channel of customers is a challenge and we are still figuring it out but I think if we do our thing right, it’s just another start-up challenge.

Heather:        That’s certainly interesting. I totally agree with you in what you’re saying in the focus on the customer. It does seem to be what a lot of people are saying these days is, “Focus on the customer.” I know sometimes I’m speaking with people, like I’m going into the start-up places and I’m like, “Have you sold this? Is anyone using this?” “No, no, I can’t show it to them until it’s perfect.” It’s like, “Aww, that looks like you’re putting a lot of money in that.”

Tejaswi:       Also one thing is like no assumptions. We don’t assume that your customer is happy. You need data. You need customer interviews. You need everything to consolidate and, you know, actually generate actionable data rather than assuming you know customers are happy or you know they like this feature. Tools are important to measure everything actually inside the app.

Heather:        Can you explain what some of those tools are that you’re using?

Tejaswi:       Sure. For example, a classic case is Intercom. Intercom helps us analyse the product functionality: What is the customer actually doing inside the app? For example, let’s say our early customers came into the app, they set up the sync settings but they never ran the sync. If we see that the data shows that there is a time of login, there is a time of sync, and if their time between those two events is let’s say 15 minutes, we are on the wrong side of things. We want it to be less than 3 minutes or 4 minutes. He sets up that account and runs the sync.

So the product team looks at the data and wants to change the design, and then the design team comes along and says, “Okay, this is the button that’s not very inherently …”

Heather:        Intuitive.

Tejaswi:       Yes. “So let’s make it intuitive. Let’s iterate on the design and make the onboarding time less than 3 minutes.”

Heather:        That’s really smart.

Tejaswi:       Also one thing it allows you to do … any such tool like Intercom, it triggers emails or contact touch points with events inside the app. For example, let’s say you have an error in the app, a chat will automatically come and say, “Okay, I saw you had an error in the app, how can I solve it? I am your customer success manager.” So rather than relying on the customer to get back to you, you have to be proactive in customer support. These apps let you do that because they can trigger events based on customer actions.

Do the customers freak out that they think big brother is now watching them? You know, “Oh, I’ve made a mistake and then you’ve sent me an email telling me I’ve made a mistake.” Do they freak out about that?

Tejaswi:       No. I mean it’s complete contrary. The most successful of our customers actually understand that we are thinking for them, right?

Heather:        Yes.

Tejaswi:       Because when you deal with data integration, it’s sensitive data. If something goes wrong, you have to fix it immediately. So they are happy to let us fix it immediately rather than worrying about transparency or how did they know about it? Our customers are actually surprised in a pleasant way that as soon as they get an error, they are figuring things out and we are right there the solution.

Are you able to actually jump in to actual individual accounts and sort things out if necessary?

Tejaswi:       No. we don’t log into any accounts. What we do is we look at the metadata. For example, let’s say in an order case, the order didn’t sync. The development team looks at the metadata and sees okay, this is the date the order came from, this is the shop the order came from, so let’s read on that sync. That’s all we do from the backend.

Heather:        Sensational. That’s really interesting. I think people will find that really interesting to listen to. I completely agree that it’s good to have the automated identifying of errors. I just know that some people are like, “Oh my goodness, they’re in my data, they’re in my data,” and their freaking out. So it’s good to have that conversation and be open with them but like I say to a lot of my clients, I just say as part of the sign up, “I’m letting the company automatically access your data.” But it’s not accessing your data, it’s accessing … if there’s a problem it will get sorted out a lot quicker than if we actually have to go through that manual process of getting it out there.

Tejaswi:       Yes, but the more ideal case would be like … and that is a very common case. An ideal case is, for example, let’s say you are selling in multi-channels. You have multiple sales taxes across different regions, so you don’t know which setting to have in the app. What you want to do is like you are figuring out settings and you can ask the live chat support saying, “Okay, how do I solve this business problem with integration?”

That’s the automation we have built in rather than just error resolution because that’s a very common case. The support is more proactive in business cases, how to integrate for your business rather than just broadly integrate to apps.

Heather:        Yes, sensational.

What does the future hold for ZapStitch?

Tejaswi:       We were born as an integration platform. Our vision is to build a cloud integration platform across business verticals. For example, the next logical would be CRM or marketplace automation, for example: Amazon and EBAY. We want to logically progress through the verticals and integrate the most progressive apps and the most popular apps in those verticals. In a two year, three year time line, we see integrating 200-300 business apps across email marketing, CRM accounting, e-commerce.

Heather:        It would be interesting to see because I know some of them … like I know I’ve worked with Amazon and it kind of works in an interesting way in that 10 of the transactions are normal and then one kind of like is a summary transaction and it never comes across properly and you’re going … and the client sets it up themselves perhaps and they come to you and they’re like, “Wow, 90% of it looks fine but then 10% of it looks like it’s going to take me hours to fix up.”

Tejaswi:       Exactly. You know, you’re coming to the exact problem which ZapStitch is solving, is the reconciling of data. When you have different types of invoices, reconciling becomes a pain. What ZapStitch wants to do with Xero is become one of the very few solution providers which actually enable faster reconciliation and not just data automation. When we talk to one of our biggest customers, he had an Amazon store as well. This was the first point that he brought out that, “Bring support for summary invoice when you build integration because that is one of the major use cases in Amazon.”

Heather:        Yes, absolutely. As soon as you have something in place that makes it easy to sell, it means you can sell so much more.

Tejaswi:       Exactly.

Heather:        Like when I was dealing with this client, I was just like, “Stop selling stuff because this is a nightmare.” It was just like creating this bigger and bigger and bigger mess. Definitely installing a solution that simplifies the accounting process means you have the capacity to sell more which is exciting for the business.

Tejaswi:       Yes, and we know one of the … I followed the name of the customer once, this guy sells iPhone batteries. Most of the successful businesses we have are niche businesses: iPhone batteries, headbands, wine collections.

Heather:        That’s the joy of the internet, isn’t it, that someone can go out and go, “I think headbands should be brought back into fashion and I’m going to sell them.”

Tejaswi:       Yes, so this guy told us that his accounting team is spending money on watching Netflix movies more than accounting. He was very happy that we solved this problem but he was pleasantly not happy that his accounting team is now having a lot of fun which is good but …

Heather:        Oh okay, so they’re under capacity now.

Tejaswi:       Yes, he was saying, “I don’t want to fire people but this is how our team is, they’re having fun, I’m spending more time with my family.” I think the data is just a part of the business end. It shouldn’t become the business. When you actually integrate well, your customer should do what he likes doing, selling, customer success, or spending time with the family.

Heather:        I think this is part of the integration process when it goes in. I’m not sure whether … do you have cloud integrators come in and assist with the integration process or are you doing that yourself?

Tejaswi:       We have partnered with Shopify and Xero, so their APIs allow us to pull in and integrate any data we want for our customers. There are limitations of course. There are API limitations in terms of business use cases.

Heather:        But would a consultant like me come in and do the integration or would a consultant like me come in and watch you do the integration and just sort of sit in the background?

Tejaswi:       Yes, that’s a good point actually. As a strategy of building the right product, we want to onboard experts and consultants but when you actually run the thing, use the app, it’s like the click of a button. But in the backend when we build features, for example summary invoice, we can’t know about the requirement unless I talk to somebody like you. We bring experts when building the product but not when using the product. The using is like click a button. As simple as that?

Heather:        And they should be able to do it on their own. Yes, fair enough.

Tejaswi:       Yes.

Heather:        Thank you very much for speaking with me today Tej. I really appreciate it.

Tejaswi:       My pleasure.

Heather:        I’m sure our listeners have gained a lot from hearing you talk, especially if they have a Shopify client or are considering a Shopify client as something they’ll definitely look at. Now, I need to ask you before you go to see whether you know, what are the birds making all the noise in the background? Do you know what bird types they are?

Tejaswi:       No, actually not. My mum is a bird enthusiast but I’m not.

Heather:        They sound like seagulls but I didn’t want to be that bland and suggest that they would be seagulls. Are you near the water?

Tejaswi:       No, so how Bangalore works, it’s a bustling city.

Heather:        Okay, so it’s not going to be seagulls. You can send me an email sometime and let me know what the birds are.

Tejaswi:       Sure.

Heather:        It’s normally when I have these sessions my birds are noisier than anyone else’s birds.

Tejaswi:       Yes, I think I heard in one part, yes.

Heather:        My birds stayed quiet today and your birds went off on a racket. Thank you so very much for speaking with me today and I’ll leave links for how to get in contact with you in the show notes. I really appreciate it.

Tejaswi:       My pleasure Heather. If I’m not pronouncing correct – Heather?

Heather:        Heather.

Tejaswi:       Great. I mean you are an inspiration. I want you to know that because when you maybe record and publish the podcast, very few people actually talk to you about it, right, I mean physically. So I wanted to thank you that you’re an inspiration to all of us and our team actually looks up to experts like you, your stories and the podcast is an inspiration. I wanted to make that very clear. Thanks a lot of taking the time out.

Heather:        Thank you very much and hopefully it gives you an opportunity to hear the other add-ons and perhaps connect with them and learn from them and to move you from sort of cold to warm with these guys.

Tejaswi:       Indeed.

Heather:        Because we’re all in it together.

Tejaswi:       Thanks a lot Heather.

Heather:        Thank you. Cheers.

Tejaswi:       I hope the seagulls were not too noisy.

Heather:        No they weren’t. I like birds. They weren’t too noisy, I just wondered if you knew what they were.

Tejaswi:       No, I’m sorry. I’ll get that. Thanks a lot Heather. Bye.

Heather:        Thank you.

Tejaswi:       Have a good day.

Heather:        Same to you. Cheers Tej.

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