I’ve been running a digital agency with 2 co-founders since 2010. I personally take care of the Middle East Market and have managed to scale the Middle East business to over $1.2m in annual revenue. Though I’m happy with the way we’ve grown, in an agency model, there are 2 major limitations - liquidity and global scalability. I’ve been thinking of ways to automate what we do with standard processes but in a creative business such as ours, a lot depends on personal relationships between people and not processes. If the marketing manager from the client’s side is comfortable with our account manager he/she is working with, whenever the manager switches the job, he/she gets us on board. The same applies when a new marketing manager replaces the one we were working with and within no time, we are out and a new agency comes on board. To conclude, a creative agency business is PEOPLE’s business.
Knowing that automation is not possible with an agency model, we tried to come up with ideas of a model which would not only be scalable but could also be automated with strong standardized processes where quality of work matters more than the relationships of people.We decided to come with a subscription model to automate one of the most important services we provide - Design services. That is how designoye.com was born. Designoye provides users dedicated design support for $369 per month.We provide an inbuilt chat system within our user dashboard for each request where the user can directly chat and share their feedback with their account manager.
Our USP is Unlimited Brands. Unlimited Designs. Unlimited Revisions. No contracts. Cancel Anytime.1 Project at a time.
How did you get your first three customers?
Our target audience is anyone who needs graphic designs - startups, business owners, marketing teams of medium to large sized corporates, bloggers, youtubers and podcasters looking for graphics for their web properties. Anyone and everyone across the globe who has design requirements is our target audience.
Most of the paid subscribers have come from our existing network. We’d just meet them and take them through our product, show them the demo and they’d fall in love with it. That’s how we’ve closed most of these subscribers. We’ve recently started Google, FB and Instagram ads. We’ve been getting some quality leads. We are hoping to close a few this month from these sources. We will also be working on a full fledged content marketing strategy to ensure we get discovered by our target audience via various avenues.
Have you encountered unreasonable customers who requested multiple revisions but in the end rejected the output and back out? How do you handle them?
There was this client who submitted 40+ requests on Day 1 and was expecting all of it to be done within 4 to 5 days. It was quite a task to explain to him that we work on 1 request at a time and if we try to deliver 40 requests in 4 to 5 days for all our clients, we may have to shut the shop. He however liked the quality of our designs and stuck around.
There was this other user who submitted 30+ requests on Day 1. All of them were pretty custom and required multiple pages to be designed. 3 days before renewing the subscription, he asks our support that if he cancels his subscription, will we continue working on the remaining requests he submitted since they were submitted when he was a subscriber. He did not renew the subscription. However, he was quite happy with the quality. He may subscribe again later whenever there is a requirement.
How did you fund the idea initially?
We have neither raised any money, nor intend to do so.The venture is bootstrapped. I am the sole owner of the venture. At the moment, it’s my personal savings.I believe this concept can be bootstrapped to a 6 digit MRR if executed well.Since I already run a digital agency, I could leverage the team to assist me with Designoye.com. There is certainly an opportunity cost but it’s a conscious decision to invest in automated / subscription based business model to scale the business globally
Did you run any companies prior?
Yes, I run a digital first creative agency. I am also currently running two other subscription based businesses: Serverfellows.com - A web hosting platform and Banaa.com - A website builder for startups and small businesses.
What motivated you to start your own business?
After completing my graduation in Finance in 2006 , I got placed with JPMorgan in Mumbai, India via college placements. I worked there for 26 months and put in the papers a day after receiving a 30% hike post appraisal. The money was great and growth opportunities were immense and I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity I got. However, 9am to 6pm was never my thing. I quit my job to start a blog advertising network called Blogertizeworld. I ran it for 18 months and eventually lost all my savings.
At 25 with $30 in my bank account, I was broke and my parents were not sure what I was upto. It was one of the most depressing periods of my life. When one door shuts, the other one opens. The guys who developed my Blogertizeworld website were my colleagues at JP Morgan. They quit their jobs too to start a web development agency. I think they had a team of 5 when I decided to shut the shop. I had learnt a lot about digital marketing during my first-startup phase. Be it SEO, affiliate marketing or content marketing, I became pretty good at it. They approached me and pitched an idea to start a digital agency together. I pounced on it and there was no looking back then. Since then, we’ve grown the agency to over 200+ team members across 3 countries.
What motivates you when things go wrong? What is the end goal?
One needs to understand that nothing can be perfect. Things will always go wrong. It could be bugs, technical glitches, payment module failure, mistakes in designs, mistakes in hiring etc. I’ve made too many mistakes to even count them.Once is a mistake, twice is a habit and thrice is sheer stupidity.All I work on is to ensure we do not repeat the same mistake.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
For someone who is starting out, my advice would be: It’s alright to fail. It’s alright to make mistakes too. It’s however not alright to give up. Get on with it. People will talk. Put your head down and give your best. If however you feel, the idea you were working towards is not going to work, it’s alright to accept that and move on with something else. Falling in love with a business idea you know will fail is the most dangerous thing that can happen (I’ve experienced it).
What has driven the most sales?
We just started last month. I expect a chunk of our sales to come organically over time via content marketing and affiliates. I like what we are doing with our FB and Google strategy and have been seeing some quality leads come off it. I expect it to be a constant source of paid subscribers too.
How do you protect yourself from competition?
The only way one can protect oneself from the competitors is by keeping the customers happy. Quality of execution is of utmost priority for us. It’ll be difficult to keep all the customers happy (Especially the ones who would try to exploit the service). However, losing your loyal ones to your competitors due to quality is something I don’t think any founder should accept
What are the top 3-5 apps your business could not run without?
- Google Analytics
- Tawk.to (For a startup, it’s great since it's free. We’ve got a few converts off our online chat system.
What are your favourite books and podcasts?
Books: 7 day startup and Rich Dad, Poor Dad
Podcast: Nathan Latka
What are the next products you’re working on?
Currently I’m working on 2 other subscription services
- Serverfellows.com - A web hosting platform
- Banaa.com - A website builder for startups and small businesses
With Banaa.com, we plan to ship our e-commerce module by the start of the second quarter and intend to target those who are looking for a reliable e-commerce platform in the region.
Within 5 years, we intend to have a suite of productized subscription services and SAAS based businesses under our belt. The focus for now is to touch the $1mm ARR with these 3 products at the earliest.
What is current revenue? If you don’t mind sharing.
MRR (monthly recurring revenue) for DesignOye is $5,166 per month. We’ve achieved this in 30 days of launch.I’d like to touch the magical figure of $83,333 by the end of this year - A pretty ambitious target but I am quite confident of my team delivering the same. If not, I’ll have no complaints if we achieve this in 2021 too :)