“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than in creating content people are still not ready to pay for.” – Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder, SocioSquare
SocioSquare is a social media marketing firm founded two years ago by Gaurav Mendiratta, the entrepreneur famous for his earlier creation NyooTV, a social Bollywood entertainment portal which offered paid content in 2009. Mendiratta started NyooTV in Philadelphia, US, while working with American entertainment firm Comcast.
While NyooTV was still in the beta stage, Mendiratta felt the need to capitalise on his social marketing skills and shifted focus to SocioSquare in 2011. The company focuses on social media marketing products and services about 20 clients, including the Zee Group, the Times Group and The Mobile Store. SocioSquare host of services include social media optimisation, search engine optimisation, Twitter advertising, Web site development, customised social media tool creation, Web and social app development, digital media planning and buying, and email marketing. It has developed two products that solve common problems for brand marketers in the realm of social advertising and social content creation.
“I saw opportunity in social media marketing rather than just creating content for which people were still not ready to pay for,” says Mendiratta, who started SocioSquare in India. In the last two years the company has raised two rounds of angel funding and is present in Mumbai, where it is headquartered, San Francisco and Delhi. The plan is to enter more cities in the US and the Asia-Pacific in six months. Menditratta joined Comcast after a Masters in Telecom and Computer Networks from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I loved my job but always wanted to do something of my own. Ever since graduating, I kept meeting my thesis advisor and mentor Kartik Hosanagar every three to six months to brainstorm new ideas with him. Kartik is an advisor, investor and a director with the company,” Mendiratta said.
On his entrepreneurial journey, Mendiratta said that the initial days were full of struggle. He had started NyooTV in Philadelphia and recruited two developers in his home town Bhopal.
“I rented a 300-sq-ft room. During the day, I used to work with Comcast and at night I worked with my developers in India. It was a painful eight months till I raised the first angel round of $250,000 in September 2009. I quit my full-time job and moved to India in March 2010. When we pivoted to SocioSquare in 2011, we were a team of 10 people, which has now grown to 35,” he said.
However, switching from NyooTV.com to SocioSquare was a difficult and painful task as Mendiratta had to let go of several team members, who had been there from the beginning, as the company was unable to pay their salaries. But the switch was required for the company’s sustenance as NyooTV was not generating revenues. The Indian market had not evolved to the extent then where people would pay for content.
SocioSquare, which is a profitable company now, now wants to transform into a SaaS (software as a service) company and develop product that will help clients do real-time online advertising bidding. It is launching two products in the next three months, in Asia Pacific and the US. The company is targeting revenue of $5 million by December 2014.
Mendiratta feels that the Indian start-up ecosystem has come a long way since he first started. India is a very different market than the US. In the US, you can still raise angel funding on a great idea or a demo product, you can raise venture capital funding if you show a great product and early customers, but in India a solid revenue stream is a must or at least a few paying customers are required to a raise even angel money, he says.
Advising young start-ups, he said that they should invest in good talent no matter what cost that comes at. Besides, a revenue stream which can get going within the first six months of launch is critical as it will help pay 70 per cent of the total cost.
This post had first appeared on The Hindu Business Line and has been re-published here.
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