Tito Vatapilly is co-founder and CEO of Node Technologies India, one of the fastest growing CRM product companies in the country whose clients include the likes of IBM, Apple, Airtel etc.
Tito is a Belgaumiite who completed his schooling from St.Paul’s and college from GSS and Gogte BBA. He finished his MBA in Marketing from Times Center of Media Studies and started his career with The Times Of India, New Delhi in 2000. He then joined advertising and worked with agencies like SSC&B Lintas and J Walter Thompson. He’s worked in the account planning and client servicing roles in advertising and quit JWT to take a plunge into entrepreneurship in 2007. After 3 years of trials and errors entrepreneurship he came down to Bangalore and founded Node with a friend.
Team AAB caught up with Tito on his recent visit to Belgaum –
Tell us about your company and what you do at Node Tech.
Tito Vatapilly ———-> Node is a product company based in Bangalore. It’s a pioneer in the enterprise mobility space for salesforce management in India. Currently more than 10K sales people from various companies on the field use SalesGo, Node’s flagship product as a tool to improve sales efficiency and effectiveness. Node currently works with clients like IBM, Apple, Lenovo, Schneider Electric, Airtel, LIC etc. Most importantly, we’ve got one of the coolest engineering teams in the country.
I happen to be one of the co-founders of Node as well as the one given the executive responsibilities of running this company as CEO.
What’s unique about Node?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> SalesGo from Node is a David in the conventional CRM space. The fact that we’re small and India focussed helps us derive most of our USPs.
We’re mobile first thinkers – we imagine the world where the mobile is the first screen so all product UIs are mobile first even reporting dashboards. We make apps even for basic phones, not just android and iPhone and windows.
We pioneer the Customer Success Approach in CRM which is to ensure that clients draw benefits from the product day on day as opposed to just paying to acquire the product. Node ensures SalesGo delivers for its clients. Compare the output based pricing in services. Adoption on SalesGo is 100% by users as opposed to the conventional 40% to 50% by most sales force CRMs.
We’re one of the few companies to have strong sales organisations buying-in into the product at the early stage. Such clients have actually helped co-develop SalesGo into what it is today. IBM and Apple are examples.
What are the main challenges to overcome?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> Being bootstrapped, we found it extremely challenging to get started and stay the course. They say one out of 4 startups survive till the fourth year of operations and rightly so. It’s one thing to get your first client / project and quite another to get the 2nd and the 22nd one. Scaling up, creating and catering to demand is and always has been a challenge.
You started this startup in 2010, what made you start this?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> Node is technically my third shot at entrepreneurship. The first one being Digital signages and the other a Digital Agency for mobile as a medium. So the motivation was the lack of room for failure. I dreaded the thought going back to an advertising job again. Entrepreneurship, according to me can make one unemployable in many respects by the conventional yardstick, I was one such case. So going back was no option.
What was the motivation behind Node?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> Before Node, I was partner with Einstix Technologies, a company specializing in building mobile apps during a time when few people knew what apps meant. Einstix made some kick ass applications for clients in the US. I believed in the potential for such apps in the Indian market for both the consumer and enterprise space. Me and another partner ran Node as a division of Einstix then, trying to explore this space as a digital agency for the mobile medium. The agency idea didn’t take off but we hit upon an opportunity to build an app for the IBM STG partner sales teams in India. One thing lead to another and we spun off Node as a product company to target salesforce enablement in India.
Aren’t you afraid, what if the company fails?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> No I am not
How did you fund it? All with internal accruals or personal savings?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> In many ways IBM with its first project also became the angel in Node. Since then we’ve managed to grow somehow without the need for external investment. Also as an entrepreneur in the initial years, I guess the line between personal savings and the company blurs quite a bit. I am also thankful to my close friends ( from Belgaum ) and family for helping us with initial capital by digging into their savings.
What are your future plans?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> SalesGo as a product is brutally focussed on the India market and we intend to build on that. We believe there’s a strong enough base in India to make us count globally, like Lenovo the world’s 3rd biggest smartphone maker thanks to its leadership in China. We aim to be among the top 10 CRM companies in the world in the next 10 years.
How and what was the reaction of your parents and friends when you told them about this startup?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> My Dad always encouraged me to start on my own. So I got all the support from home. My wife was already earning enough to run the house. She gave me the courage to venture out. My peers were jealous that I was brave yet foolish enough to press the eject button. Close friends had sympathy, ones who thought I was too naive to be in the big bad world of business.
What keeps you motivated?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> The freedom to think differently and actually implement such ideas. In my advertising career we were always forced to think differently but execution was the client’s prerogative. More often than not clients would reject different ideas. Most people ultimately play it safe. Node’s culture encourages different thought and action and I love driving that culture. It keeps me going.
What would you advise the youth, so that they are focused and achieve their goals in life?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> I don’t think I’m advice-giving worthy yet. But one mustn’t miss Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford.
What is the one thing you miss being away from Belgaum?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> I miss friends. One thing a place like Belgaum lets you have are genuine friends and plenty of them. I’ve never been able to build such strong relationships later in life. Guess it’s me more than the place but my connections with friends from Belgaum are deep.
Another thing is the food. And yes to this blog, Belgaum food feels a lot closer. I’m sure lots of Belgaumiites love those feeds of mouth-watering vada pavs and bhel puris. Keep them coming.
Lastly what do you think about this blog?
Tito Vatapilly ———-> Few people take the initiative to drive such blogs. Here’s an honest, sincere attempt to keep our umbilical chords with Belgaum intact.