Repeat after me. Unicorns are NOT real. Unicorns are mythical creatures.
I’m the founder/Co-CEO of a SaaS company that’s scaled to tens of millions in ARR. We are by no means at the end of our journey — our objective is to grow to $100M over the course of the next few years. With that being said, a key part of our success to this point is working with a large, outstanding team in India across multiple functions (Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Customer Success). A lot of US-based, venture-backed companies cringe at the thought of working with a distributed workforce thinking that the talent pool in the US is the best and easiest to manage. I encourage all folks in that camp to take a step back and realize you are missing a gigantic opportunity in India.
First, some background:
We sell a cloud-based solution, and engineered ourselves using cloud-based technology. For us, it was important as a cloud-based company to “eat our own dog-food” and scale the company using cloud-based technologies. With the proliferation of VoIP, Internet, Mobile, AWS and everything else out there, what better way to scale the company than managing a distributed workforce? Talent in the world is moving where cloud-based technologies are coming together, and India is the best place in the world for technology and talent.
From a functional standpoint, what this means for us is:
- Sales — traditional thinking is that sales can only scale using US-based SDRs and US-based reps. That’s absolutely not been the case for us — we have amazing SDRs and reps based out of India, and they help us with around-the-clock coverage.
- Customer success — around the clock coverage for customer success — we’ve won Stevie Awards in recent years
- Engineering — we work with some amazing engineers in India, and because they understand/use cloud products to communicate with the US-based team, they are bought into what we do
- Marketing — we have amazing Hubspot, Salesforce, and SEO-trained folks in India, along with a great web development team
- Finance/other functional areas — we use all of the latest cloud-based technologies to manage our team in India, and keep track of collections, A/P, etc
Key to success #1 — Do not treat your India team as “inferior”
I see so many companies get this wrong, and I find it absolutely infuriating. We all know anecdotally that the Indian people are brilliant, well educated, and excel at STEM. Then why is it when most companies outsource to India do they treat anyone they work with as “doers” to perform their bidding? Like anything else in life, you will get more out of people when you treat them with the respect they deserve. Our Indian employees are able to think out of the box, perform at an amazing level, and produce great results because we give them a lot of rope to make mistakes/succeed.
Key to success #2 — Develop mutual training programs
If you outsource a good chunk of sales to India, as we do, you have to train employees to be successful on both sides of the Pacific. The US team has to communicate processes/best practices that work, but the India team has to constantly give feedback as to what is working/why/why not? If you don’t have a constant feedback loop where both the US team and India team can learn from each other, you cannot succeed at outsourcing a large chunk of work overseas.
Key to success #3 — Understand the culture
Indians do not work the same way as Americans. You have to make a concerted effort to understand the culture to get what you need. As an example, Americans may value a more “direct”, “blunt” culture, whereas Indians will be a bit more shy to give feedback unless given in person. It’s your job as a company to understand the culture and create a safe environment to give ongoing feedback.
Key to success #4 — Travel to India
You should almost always have someone from your US-based office traveling to India. This shows that you are bought into outsourcing and you treat your Indian counterparts as equals.
Key to success #5 — Timing is everything
You need to have work schedules sorted out in such a way that you are not constantly having scheduling difficulties with regard to calls and other matters. We have our Indian team working the night shift, which is the same as PST hours in the US. This affords us the ability to work with our Indian team during normal hours for our clients and others. We have a team of about 300 people in India, and we have around the clock coverage for any customers that have issues, and any sales needs. This has helped us scale to a global company.
Bottom line, I would recommend that any entrepreneur outsource a good chunk of their work to India. Aside from the obvious cost benefits, you will be working with some of the smartest, kindest people on the planet.