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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.

directors

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

Jonathan Oh, CEO & Co-founder of Supplycart

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Jonathan Oh’s enquiring mind and love for learning has led him on an entrepreneurial journey, with him starting Supplycart which helps businesses manage their offices better.

What’s your story?
I am a person that just can’t sit still. I was always intrigued by how the world spins and how people connect. Spending a lot of time outdoors, I had an affinity with exploring new paths, thus leading me to become a serial entrepreneur with experience in creating, operating and building new companies. I am a firm believer there is so much to learn in the world and I love talking to people about ideas, what they are passionate about and what drives them.
Starting off my career in the medical industry, I realised I had a flare to create something that mattered, something that impacted other people’s lives. After exiting my first company in 2014, I continued my journey with two other ventures with a purpose to look towards impacting businesses in the region together with like minded individuals, and here I am.

What excites you most about your industry?
Being able to part of the SME tech industry and seeing how technology is moving SMEs to go digital to improve workflows and efficiencies is an exciting space to be in. Users are consumers. More and more, they are familiarising themselves with using technology in their everyday lives. We foresee the SME space to be the next area where adopting new technology would become vital for any organisation to remain relevant. As I have dabbled in this industry for close to nine years now, I am really looking forward to working with more people in the business community to make a change.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Born in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to go abroad and I realised there was so much to do back home. Spending time in Melbourne, Australia for a couple of years and recently Silicon Valley, it has provided me with experiences and insights into the difference a multicultural community can make. It also made me aware that Asia is still a very culture driven economy, as each country has its unique differences. I believe that the time is right to be in Asia now. We are a growing economy and a lot of exciting stuff is happening in this region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Malaysia. I believe Malaysia is still a very attractive destination for business as it’s close to other neighbouring countries within the region and travelling between the countries is easy. There is also proper infrastructure in place, an affordable cost of living and a sizeable pool of talent. The government also has numerous initiatives for technology companies to apply for MSC status that permits companies to hire foreign companies without restrictions. Malaysia is the perfect launchpad to start growing businesses regionally. From a culture perspective, we are multicultural, which promotes diversity in business and language is never a barrier here.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“The difference between a businessman and an entrepreneur; one does a markup and the other creates value.”

Who inspires you?
I would say the people around me inspire me. I wouldn’t narrow it down to a particular person but lump it up with family, workmates, entrepreneurs and friends. From my eyes, everyone has a certain drive, a certain glow and strengths that sometimes they do not see, and that inspires me. I believe the journey to success is never alone, it’s with people.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Something recently that blew me away, made me realise, visually about how much time I have left. I was reading and stumbled upon the writer doing this. This might sound morbid but I drew a horizontal line and started plotting the year I was born all the way up to when I think I might go. It showed me that I have spent 25% of my life growing up, I am going to spend another 55% of my life working and the final 20%, maybe retirement. It got me remembering all the milestones I have achieved and to be thankful for and above all, how I want to spend the 55% of my life doing what matters the most.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I believe that I am exactly where I need to be because of the experiences I have had before. Thank god for the journey so far. It has been filled with ups and downs, new experiences and people along the way these have moulded me. I guess a small thing, if I had my time again, would be to pick up playing a musical instrument which I think still possible now. You are never too old to learn anything.

How do you unwind?
Unwinding for me would be spending time with my family and my two little boys. The little ones are such a bundle of joy. Reminding myself to have balance in terms of not missing the early years with them. Other than that, having coffee with other entrepreneurs, sharing ideas and learning from them is also another way I unwind.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
A term I would use would be “cuti cuti Malaysia.” This means heading to a local destination for some R&R to save on the cost of going on overseas to travel. Top of my the list would be heading to a farm or the jungle with clear river waters and a waterfall all to myself. Staying the night, out in the open under the stars, with a campfire and heading back to nature. The other option would be taking a boat to one of the furthest islands in Malaysia, just before the border of Indonesia, to get away from civilization.

Everyone in business should read this book:
I would actually recommend two books that everyone in business in the early years should read. ‘Founder’s Dilemma’ and ‘Start with Why.’ After being in a couple of businesses and many mistakes later, I came to realise the importance of starting it right. Both these books address the whole mind-set on what founders need to have from selecting who is it we start a business with to why are we starting the business. The business foundation is built from the founders and moving forward everything is built from there. Sometimes we are so into the business that we forget we need to be on the business as well. I would have definitely avoided a couple of bumps if I came across these much earlier on.

Shameless plug for your business:
Manage your office better, that’s our motto. We are always on the lookout to work with organisations, suppliers and partners in this field for partnerships and collaborations.
Supplycart is a B2B procurement platform addressing a need for a change in the way companies manage their office supplies, products and services. We enable suppliers and companies to adopt digital technology when selling and procuring for their business, resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce.
Supplycart provides an easy to use, convenient platform that streamlines the whole procurement process by allowing users to quickly order and reorder, receive instant quotations, obtain quick approvals from necessary approvers and fulfilment items are coordinated/planned to ensure a timely a speedy delivery.
Businesses can now focus on the more important matters in growing and sustaining their business while leaving managing the office to Supplycart. Our vision is to be the number 1 office platform for businesses across South East Asia. “Your office will never be the same again.”

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/ohjonathan/
e : [email protected]
w : www.supplycart.my

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

Trung Nguyen, Founder & Managing Director of Advertising Vietnam

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Having initial success with his first start up in the ad industry, Trung Nguyen went on to start other ventures in the ad world in Vietnam. He now has the largest agency community in Vietnam.

What’s your story?
Three years ago I got my first job in the advertising industry. I worked for a local agency in town, and I fell in love with the creative industry. In June 2015, I founded Agency Life Community in Vietnam. It quickly became the most engaging community in the ad industry. The main content focuses on entertainment. After six months we had over 30,000 organic followers, now we have 120,000 followers.

Because the industry had been good to me, I decided I had to something for the industry to help the industry be better. So, I opened http://AdvertisingVietnam.com – a creative industry ad site which keeps advertising informative, creative and inspiring.

After more than a year in the ads industry in Vietnam, I figured the industry needed a better solution for the recruitment of good staff. Given I own the largest advertising community platform, why don’t I utilise Agency Life to help connect talent with ad agencies. So, I founded job site, AdJob.Asia in January 2017.

What excites you most about your industry?
The ad industry is a creative one with very passionate people who are always challenging themselves. The exciting part for creatives, in the morning they might be working on a baby brand and in the afternoon they are answering a beer brief. There is so much diversity. Every day is the new journey.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I am Vietnamese.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Thailand. The Thais are the kings of the creative industry in SEA. Thai ads are very smart and creative.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Do what you love.

Who inspires you?
My friend, mentor and partner Mr Nghi Nguyen, founder of BrandsVietnam.com. We started our businesses at a similar time. He doesn’t see us as a competitor but rather, he believes that we share the same passion and we are working to provide better knowledge for the ad community.
Mr Nghi also guided me a lot when I first opened the business. I am inspired by his vision to make our marketing industry better.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Our business is a startup company and as a founder I do everything from operations, business development, planning and strategy. However, this is not the good way grow our business. You have to share the workload – find a co-founder or hire a great employee to help share the workload. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Quit my full time job sooner.
During the first year of running my business, I was still working as an ad manager for an agency. However I lacked focus at work due to the overload of work and it affected the company I used to work for. I strongly recommend people who have an idea to start their own business, quit their job early on and focus 100% on it from the get go!

How do you unwind?
Play with my cat.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
I love to travel throughout all of Asia. I enjoy new places and meeting new people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Carpenter: A story about the greatest success strategies of all.

Shameless plug for your business:
AdvertisingVietnam.com is a site where you can quickly update yourself on the advertising news in Vietnam. We have 15,000 unique monthly readers who are professional people in the advertising and communications industries.

The Agency Life, https://www.facebook.com/agencylife is largest agency community in Vietnam. This is the right place for ad agencies to share their creative work.

AdJob.Asia now has more than 160 agencies in Vietnam who use our services. We are a leading recruitment service for the advertising industry in Vietnam.

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/trungnx26
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/trungnx26/

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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