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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

Jace Koh, Founder of U Ventures

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Jace Koh believes cash flow is the lifeblood of your business. Understanding it will enhance your ability to run and manage your business.

What’s your story?
My name is Jace Koh and I am the Founder of U Ventures. I’ve always been inclined towards investment and entrepreneurship. I’ve played a hand in starting businesses across these industries – professional services, cloud integration, software and music. I believe that succeeding in business is tough, but that’s what makes the rewards even sweeter.

What excites you most about your industry?
Everything excites me. These are my beliefs:

  • Why is accounting important?
    The accounting department is the heart. Cash flow is like blood stream, it pumps blood to various parts of the body like cash flow is pumped to various departments and/or functions in a business. It is vital to the life and death of the business.
  • Is accounting boring?
    Accountants are artists too. They paint the numbers the way they want them to be.
  • What makes a good accountant?
    A good accountant can tell you a story about the business by looking at the numbers.
  • Why is budgeting and projection important?
    Accountants are like fortune tellers, they can predict the numbers and if you wish to understand your business and make informed decisions, feel free to speak to our friendly consultants to secure a meeting.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore, and here’s where I want to be.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore is my favourite city. We have great legal systems in place, good security and people with integrity. Most importantly, we have a government that fosters a good environment for doing business. I recently went for a cultural exchange programme in Hong Kong to learn more about their startups. I found out that the Hong Kong government generally only supports local business owners in terms of grants. They’ve recently been more lenient and changed the eligibility to include all businesses that have at least 50% local shareholding. But comparing that to Singapore, the government only requires a 30% local shareholding to obtain government support. In the early days of starting a business, all the support you can get is precious. It’s great that we have a government that understands that.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The best time ever to plant a tree was 10 years ago as the tree would have grown so big to provide you with shelter and all. When is the next best time to plant a tree? It is today. Because in 10 years time, the tree would have grown big enough to provide you shelter and all.

Who inspires you?
Jack Ma. His journey to success is one of the most inspiring as it proves that with determination and great foresight, even the poorest can turn their lives around. I personally relate to his story a lot, and this is my favourite quote from him, “If you don’t give up, you still have a chance. Giving up is the greatest failure.”

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve faced multiple rejections throughout my business journey, and recently came across a fact on Jack Ma about how he was once rejected for 32 different jobs. It resonated very deeply and taught me the importance of tenacity, especially during tough times.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. I live a life with no regrets. Everything I do, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, happy or sad, and regardless of outcome, it’s a lesson with something to take away.

How do you unwind?
I love to pamper myself through retail therapy and going for spas. I also make a conscious effort to take time off work to have a break outside to unwind as well as to uncloud my mind. This moment of reflection from time to time helps me see more clearly on how I can improve myself.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Taiwan! Good food with no language barriers and the people are great!

Everyone in business should read this book:
I don’t really read books. Mostly, I learn from my daily life and interactions with hundreds of other business owners. To me, people tell the most interesting stories.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re not just corporate secretaries, we’re “business doctors.”
U Ventures is a Xero certified advisory firm that goes beyond traditional accounting services to provide solutions for your business. You can reach us on our website: http://uventures.com.sg/

How can people connect with you?
Converse to connect. You can reach me via email at [email protected] or alternatively, on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacekoh/

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

Ray Ferguson, Founder of Caber Partners

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Ray Ferguson left the banking world and returned to Asia to explore exciting fintech opportunities.

What’s your story?
I am the Founder of Caber Partners, a Singapore based MAS Licensed Fund Manager and Financial Advisor investing and working with companies focused exclusively on the intersection of finance and technology. I work specifically in the areas of payments, insurance, wealth management, alternative lending and blockchain.

I am also Chairman of Singapore Life which was founded last year. It is the first new local life company in Singapore. Concurrently, I chair Youtap a business which is creating a cashless e-money processing backbone providing real-time interoperable settlements of all consumer e-money payments to the merchants, e-money providers, retail and FMCG distribution groups, and banks across emerging markets.

My 30 year journey as a banker had its main leg with Standard Chartered Bank, where I held multiple country chief executive and regional leadership roles across four continents. I spent 6 years as Regional CEO, South East Asia and Chief Executive, Singapore. After Standard Chartered, I moved to Bank ABC, Bahrain and assumed the role of Group Chief Banking Officer where I took care of the group’s banking businesses worldwide.
Last year, I decided to step down after 3 years from my role with Bank ABC to return to Asia to pursue interesting and exciting opportunities that fintech disruption was providing.

What excites you most about your industry?
The sheer pace of technological innovation in the financial sector, and how it is up-ending the traditional models and traditional players. There are huge implications and benefits for efficiency, transparency and importantly financial inclusion which will drive growth in emerging markets.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I have lived in and worked in Asia for more than 30 years. I first came to Singapore in 1994 and today I am a proud Singapore citizen, and to me Singapore is home.

Its an invigorating environment. Asia is in the middle of an historic transformation. If it continues to follow its recent trajectory, by 2050 its per capita income could rise sixfold in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms to reach Europe’s levels today. It would make some 3 billion additional Asians affluent by current standards. By nearly doubling its share of global gross domestic product (GDP) to 52 percent by 2050, Asia would regain the dominant economic position it held some 300 years ago, before the industrial revolution. This is a big deal and I’m excited to be part of it!

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Definitely Singapore! Singapore is known for being a business-friendly country and it was crowned the best country in World Bank’s “Ease of Doing Business List” and ranks as the top 3 in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitive Index.” Singapore is an attractive hub, for both businesses and has a great community to live in.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Listen intently and you will know what you don’t know.

Who inspires you?
Nelson Mandela

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
That the global mobile wallet market was valued at approximately USD 594 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach approximately USD 3,100 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGR of around 32% between 2017 and 2022.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have learnt to code.

How do you unwind?
Exercise, golf and sailing large catamarans.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Phuket. Easy to reach, Thai people and service, breadth of choice of locations/accomodation and great sailing weather.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Good to Great – Jim Collins. It’s about how companies transition from being good companies to great companies, and how and why most companies fail to make the transition.

Shameless plug for your business:
Caber Partners team is uniquely connected with our networks and experience in fintech markets, investing and banking and business growth solutions throughout Asia and across the emerging world.

How can people connect with you?
Come connect with me through my LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rayfergusonscb

Twitter handle?
Rayferguson888

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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