Third time's a charm for MoEngage co-founders Dodda, Kumar

Third time's a charm for MoEngage co-founders Dodda, Kumar
(L-R) Yashwanth Kumar and Raviteja Dodda, founders of MoEngage
29 Jul, 2020

Lack of end-to-end solutions for customer engagement in the mobile-first world led Raviteja Dodda and Yashwanth Kumar to start MoEngage in 2014.

The IIT Kharagpur alumni worked on multiple ventures before MoEngage took off -- in college, they experimented with a small scale startup in the SMS marketing space, which didn’t last. Eventually, Dodda joined Cisco and Kumar worked at Mentor Graphics for 11 months before setting up their second venture Pipal Tech Ventures in 2011. They launched a location-based coupon targeting app SaveZippy, formerly called Delight Circle, but had to shutter this venture due to lack of growth capital.

With two failed startups behind them, Dodda and Kumar set up MoEngage in 2014. Being incubated in an accelerator, called Alchemist, provided them a platform to fine tune their idea, try different iterations of the product and experiment with it.

The value proposition of San Francisco, California headquartered MoEngage lies in sending targeted communications to bring mobile users back to sellers -- this idea struck gold as the company launched the platform in 2014, at a time when consumer facing apps were taking off.

“If you look at the mobile apps back then when we set up MoEngage, there were solutions like Google Analytics, which told you what's going on, but did not provide us with inputs as to what has to be done,” Dodda said. “Other solutions, such as email marketing tool Mailchimp helped with targeted marketing activity, but did not work for today’s mobile apps.”

MoEngage started its journey with a 15 member team. Aimed at building an integrated and intelligent platform that could analyse customer data, provide insights and drive cross-channel automated engagement, the founders soon realised the vast untapped territory in the market.

The company rolled out its market analysis platform Sherpa in 2016, pioneering the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in mobile marketing. This propelled the startup to the top in a sector that had firms from Mumbai to Mountain View, California, racing to solve a host of evolving marketing challenges and strategies for big technology companies.

Sherpa, designed as a set of ML capabilities built into MoEngage, automatically optimises and predicts the audience, content and time for any consumer application -- the key components of any marketing campaign.

Dodda said its clients witnessed measurable improvements and were often able to attribute it to the MoEngage product. The companies have seen 20%-30% improvement in key metrics such as click-through rates (CTRs) and push notification open rates due to Sherpa, he said.

Currently operating with a team of over 280 employees, serving customers in 35 countries with offices in San Francisco, London, Berlin, Bengaluru, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Bangkok, the company has come a long way.

“We recently launched predictive segments under the Sherpa AI offerings. Predictive segments help marketers personalise marketing initiatives at scale. The predictive engine automatically segments app users into like-minded groups based on behaviour, brand preference and spend pattern. In addition to the above, it helps narrow down customer needs and expectations to target your marketing spend accurately,” Dodda said.

Additionally, Fortune 500 brands, such as McAfee, Samsung and Vodafone, along with internet-first brands such as Ola, Oyo, BigBasket and Tokopedia are among companies across over 35 countries that use MoEngage to engage and retain users on their mobile and digital channels and drive KPIs for their brands. It also counts Flipkart, Airtel-Wynk and Deutsche Telekom as its clients.

“Our platform has amassed hundreds of customers and is serving more than 400 million active users for them each month,” Dodda said.

The company offers a vast suite of products to help clients with their customised requirements.

“With our Dynamic Product Messaging (DPM) feature, we are doing what Facebook and Google did with ads to push notifications and email marketing. Using DPM marketers can drive AI-powered recommendations to their users based on their behaviour, thereby driving reach and conversions,” Dodda said.

Features like push amplification helps brands solve push notification delivery issues and boost its campaign performance using Smart Triggers, one of the company’s offerings.

Smart Triggers is a technology that helps marketers automate most marketing campaigns that would otherwise require intensive manual efforts. For example, in an ecommerce app, when a user adds an item to the cart but forgets to check out, Smart Trigger automatically gets back to these users, reminding them of the pending items in their carts. Doing this manually at a scale of millions of users is nearly impossible for marketers, as it is both a time consuming and employee-intensive task.

It also offers NATIV, a product that provides companies more control over their in-app engagement campaigns by eliminating dependence on coding and development teams to create and launch such campaigns.

On the pricing details of their products, Dodda said: “We are a SaaS platform. So we enter into an annual or multi year contract with our clients, but bill them every month. Our pricing is calculated on monthly tracked users (MTUs), which refers to the number of users actually active on our app or website – a core metric that we drive for our customers. Our pricing is the same for all clients. However, we recently launched the MoEngage Growth Accelerator Program, where we are looking to partner with fast-growing startups to help them drive hypergrowth through users”.

For the financial year 2018-19, the company saw net sales of $3.64 million and total expenditure of $3.8 million, compared to $1.38 million and $1.93 million a year ago, respectively.

Dodda expects that the company will grow at a rate of 200% year-on-year, and aims to touch $25 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) in the next 18 months.

In 2014, MoEngage raised a seed capital of $750,000. In 2015, it bagged $4.25 million in a Series A funding round from Helion Venture Partners and Exfinity Ventures, along with Snapdeal co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and TaxiForSure founder Raghunandan G.

In 2018, it bagged $9 million in a Series B funding round from Matrix Partners India and VenturEast, followed by its most recent fundraise in February this year, when Eight Roads Ventures, F-Prime Capital, Matrix Partners and Ventureast infused $25 million in the company as part of a Series C round of funding.

The company used the capital to deepen relationships in Asia, integrate advanced capabilities into the product mix and scale operations in the USA and Europe, which were two of MoEngage’s fastest-growing markets.

The startup competes with firms such as Social Capital-backed Webengage and Tiger Global-backed Clevertap.  

“We have an initiative called #Growth, which is a community-building initiative where we help companies with peer learning so that they can get best practices and insights in what are the best way that they can drive engagement. We have courses, we have webinars, roundtables as a part of their growth,” Dodda said.

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