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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

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

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Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

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

Nadia Al Sheikh, Founder & CEO of Flenco & Deal’n

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Nadia Al Sheikh has created a business module which incorporates philanthropy and business to empower others, and herself, she’s called her business Deal’n.

What’s your story?
My story is mirrored in my work. Flenco and our Singaporean eco skin care brand, “Flen” combines Dead Sea minerals from the lowest point of earth with Chinese medicine, which represents the wisdom and mystics of the east and these things represent my journey. I’m a single mother rediscovering my identity at a low point in life. Throughout my journey, determination, flexibility and assertiveness are the pillars of innovation. Thus Deal’n was born after years of groundwork in volunteering with various NGO’s and pursuing my masters degree. Transforming a vision, into a module that incorporates philanthropy and business, with tools to empower others and empower myself!

What excites you most about your industry?
The endless opportunities for improvement, innovation, creativity, free thinking which is mastered through interaction with other players in the market and customers creating a virtual place for brainstorming and the exchange of ideas. An evolving industry that challenges each and every person to use their skills, talents, expertise and utilise all their abilities to claim a slice of the pie.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Asia and specifically Singapore are my second home. It’s my spiritual and business safe haven that provides fair opportunities for everyone to succeed. If I was back in the Middle East as a single mother, I’m pretty sure my struggle would have been much longer and more difficult, however, it wouldn’t have stopped me from achieving my dreams. Singapore specifically empowered me professionally and Asia spiritually in redefining who I am as a person and understanding myself better.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore, although it’s a very tough and competitive market for entrepreneurs to start a business, it provides them with support and motivation through grants, competitions and subsidising the cost of exhibiting or promotional events to promote their business.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Success is measured by achieving your own personal goals and dreams and not what others think you should achieve.

Who inspires you?
Those who go unnoticed. From senior citizens, cleaning tables at food courts regardless of their wealth of knowledge and experience to single mothers, who are fighting everyday to overcome the social stigma and manage taking care of their children while earning an income. The amazing people who give their lives to start an NGO to empower others asking for nothing in return except the success of their beneficiaries, the humble members of our community that work in silence changing lives not for the spotlight but for their belief in making the world a better place.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
To step onto the balcony! In order to evaluate situations and understand people’s motivations from different perspectives and even to understand ourselves better we all need to step onto the balcony and become observers rather than participants. It gives you the power to see life through a variety of lenses.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’d be wiser with my decisions, evaluate situations from different perspectives and believe in myself and my capabilities. That all came with experience and the ups and downs throughout my journey so I guess, to be who I am today I would have accepted the rough times and embraced them because they were my best teachers. So I wouldn’t undo the past but I am changing my future.

How do you unwind?
Meditation, exercising, listening to music, reading a book and a walk in the botanical gardens.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Maldives, I love the peace and harmony in the simplicity of what it offers; beautiful beaches and wonderful people.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The Wisdom Of Crowds by James Surowiecki

Shameless plug for your business:
Deal’n provides opportunities for all members of the community to utilize their skills, talents, expertise, capabilities and abilities in various ways, aiming at empowering all users to become productive members of their community. Using the services of other users for all to grow and benefit, interact with each other through the Deal’n community, thus enhancing their self esteem, level of confidence and as a result, a more empathetic and happier community!

How can people connect with you?
Through my FB page Nadousheh, my email [email protected]

Twitter handle?
@nadiaalsheikh

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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