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Vipin Sahu, Co-Founder of Webkul

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Meet Vipin Sahu, co-founder of Webkul, a company that grew to more than $2 million in revenues without any seed funding.

Vipin graduated during the summer of 2009 with a degree in electrical engineering and was very much involved in web development, focusing mainly on developing plugins and modules for various open source platform during his college days. Being a self-starter, he decided to start his own company called Webkul along with several co-founders instead of joining the corporate world.

He now runs a company that has completed 5 successful years, made over $2 million in revenues, runs a team of more than 100 people and has over 40,000 customers worldwide.

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What exactly is Webkul?

Webkul is one of the world’s largest online marketplaces for open source plugins for most web platforms including Magento, Prestashop, Joomla, Opencart, Shopify, Virtuemart and Openerp. These plugins are solely created by the developers at Webkul.

 

How did you come up with the idea of Webkul?

Webkul is a combination of two words, Web and Gurukul. Gurukul is a word, derived from ancient India language, Sanskrit that means a school. Since our operations were web based, we decided to keep our name as Web Gurukul and later shortened it to Webkul, a word with two syllable, easy to pronounce and unique in nature.

The main intent to launch Webkul was to help users scale and add features on most platforms such as WordPress, Joomla and Magento using open source plug-ins since there were many gaps experience by the users. For example, Magento is a brilliant system for e-commerce platform, but it lacked a multi-vendor marketplace solution that time. Our team at Webkul built that open source plug-in solution and it is now being used by many corporations globally.

 

Could you walk us through the process of starting up Webkul?

It all started during our sophomore years at college when Vinay and I were roommates. We were thrilled with the concept of open source while working on our course projects and started developing small open source applications. Being a college student, it was the best time to experiment our entrepreneurial ambitions and if for some reason we failed then we would still gain experience in developing real world applications that could help us in our careers. Hence, we started developing open source applications and documenting information in developer blogs. Finally in 2010, we registered the company with three co-founders. Today, we are proud to have more than 100 people in our team.

 

Could you walk us through the process of developing Webkul to date?

In the beginning, we were bootstrapping our operations and hence to minimize our expenses, the two of us were actually living in a single room apartment. This was hard because we did not borrow money from any venture capitalist, family, friends or even relatives. We initially started developing applications for platforms like Joomla and Facebook and after getting some tractions and operating smoothly, we decided to increase our scale and scope to other platforms like Magento, Prestashop, Opencart, Openerp, Shopify, WordPress, X-cart and Woo-Commerce.

 

Did you find anything particularly difficult during the startup?

We faced a lot of difficulties during the startup process. There were many general startup issues but the most difficult were the social acceptance of entrepreneurship and lack of resources. In most Asian communities, family expects their children to land a lucrative job in a multinational firm after graduation. Entrepreneurship is still a new and growing

field and less socially accepted after graduation due to its instability. Hence, trying to prove ourselves was scariest and the most difficult decision of our lives.

When we hired our first intern, we didn’t have basic resources like a desktop computer for him to use, so we worked during night hours so that he could use the desktop computer during the day while we were sleeping.

Surviving on operating revenues was also a huge challenge since our revenues were less than $300-$400 per month and we needed to regulate our budget efficiently. Profit is oxygen for any business especially if you are a bootstrapping company, otherwise you will fail.

 

What was the initial response you received from the market?

It was really good, because we researched on what problems were faced by users, what functionalities were missing in the major platforms and connected these two dots to provide open-source solutions to users that were also scalable to their needs. Moreover, we were also posting related useful information in our developer blogs to help the community.

 

What is your strategy against your competition?

Honestly, there is no strategy but to innovate continuously and solve problems faced by users worldwide. The fact that we have a lot of competitors and the entry barriers are low, pushes us keep innovating and improving our solutions. We add brilliant customer support to keep our customers happy.

 

Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?

Web development is a constantly growing industry. It has become very much scalable since people have got used to existing frameworks, templates, CMS and platforms instead of developing from scratch. They want ready-made solutions because it is easy to use,

takes less time and is more cost efficient. WordPress has about 9% of global market share of Internet website platforms, Joomla has about 3% and Magento is 1% and these numbers are growing every day. Developers worldwide including our team at Webkul have been able to narrow the gap between platform based websites and powerful websites that were created from scratch since platform based websites are now able to provide full feature set and functionality to the end user.

 

What is the future of the industry in your opinion?

Open source is the way to go. We are now seeing many technologies adapting open source platform including world’s most used mobile operating system, Android. There is so much talent globally that we will see many exciting developments in future. In future, we see more people being able to create powerful websites using plugins and platforms because it is easy to manage and lowest cost solution. This increase in adaption will require more features and plug-ins as users would demand more functionality or faster processing and hence more opportunities for us to develop solutions. That is why our philosophy is to constantly innovate.

team-building

What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?

I think it is both easy and difficult. The initial costs of resources related to the startup is cheap and easy to setup. However, the difficulty lies in convincing and selling software applications to people who are already accustomed to using existing services or do not rely much on software and are hesitant to use new solutions. I guess in the western countries, acceptance is better.

 

What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?

Personally, I have always desired to “learn and improve things”. The main principle I have always followed in life is “to do what you love”. If you do not love what you are

doing then soon you will get tired of it. So you must always have a passion in whatever you do. This has been the most important guiding principle of my life that has uplifted me personally and I love every bit of what I am doing.

 

What is your definition of success?

Success is a very ambiguous term – I don’t consider making money as success only. My definition of success is happiness while making money. When our customers are happy, we are happy and this helps us make money.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

We just wanted to do what we love and we realized that the best way to do it was to start creating things the way we wanted.

 

Any parting words of wisdom for entrepreneurs out there?

There are a lot of things that I have personally learned in this entrepreneurial journey. Firstly, every company has a unique story and you should always build upon it. These stories may be your customer support; wide ranges of products or even brilliant technology. Secondly, there is no rule to starting a company you desire, you just need to remove obstacles that are between you and your vision. Your company should always be your first priority. Be honest to yourself not because starting a company is pretty fancy in society but for your long term happiness. You should always try to keep your customers happy and be ethical in every business dealings you may undertake to achieve long term success for your business.

team-webkul

Callum Connects

Denise Mossis Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

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Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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