By guest author Shailesh Otari
Today’s Deal Radar goes back to India, to a Bangalore-based product company called Webyog. Webyog is a leader in GUI and monitoring tools for MySQL databases. Its flagship product, SQLyog, is a graphical environment for MySQL. The company also provides MySQL monitoring and advisory tools called MONyog for MySQL DBAs. SQLyog is available in two editions – an open source community edition and an enterprise edition. According to the company, the community edition has been downloaded 2 million times. Webyog is also venturing into other markets. For example, it has recently released a Gmail plug-in, Mailbrowser.
Webyog is a great example of accidental entrepreneurship. Rohit Nadhani, an early adapter of programming, was an active programmer from his high school days. In 1994, he created a product that cloned the features of Tally, a well-known accounting software program in India. Nadhani started his first venture with this product but did not manage to make it very big. Moving his attention to the new wave of open source database, Nadhani started working on MySQL. The entrepreneur soon realized the problems of working with MySQL using a command line interface and, with his brother, created SQLyog, a graphical interface to make programming efforts. Unlike with his earlier efforts, Nadhani had no intention of monetizing this product and made it available to everyone on the Internet. Active in various MySQL forums, Nadhani promoted his software to a large number of MySQL users, who started using the product and provided feedback to improve it. After generating a loyal follower base, Nadhani wondered if his software could be monetized, and he took plunge in his second entrepreneurial venture with the enterprise version of SQLyog. The venture took off, generating $5,000 in revenues in the first month, and Webyog was incorporated in 2004.
Since Webyog was never planned as a business, Nadhani had not done any market research. There also were no efforts made in marketing, as the product had gained traction before the business was launched. But of course, running the business was not an easy task. The company faced tough competition from MySQL’s official GUI and other leading Web-based MySQL tools like phpMyAdmin. Nadhani believes that Webyog’s technical superiority has enabled it to take on the competition. “Compared to a Web-based admin tool like the popular phpMyAdmin, we provide a snappier and powerful interface in the form of a desktop application – improving the overall productivity of MySQL developers and administrators,” he said.
Webyog did not target any specific industries or verticals, although it recognizes that certain customer segments are particularly important. Small Web development companies and Web 2.0 companies that use MySQL for dynamic Web pages are prime targets, along with the IT departments of big companies that use MySQL for their internal applications. Webyog currently has over 17,000 customers, including Google, IBM, Verizon, and Amazon.
The company was completely bootstrapped and has remained debt-free thus far. Initial investment in the company was low, since the product was built on a home desktop computer and no other infrastructure was needed. After launching the paid version of the product, Webyog started receiving regular revenues that helped it to grow organically. No external investment was sought for expansion. Over past five years, Webyog has grown steadily, and it surpassed the $1 million revenue mark in the financial year 2008–09. The company has a lean operating model and enjoys healthy profit margins. Marketing efforts are low in cost, and Webyog believes that user communities are still the best advertising channels for word of mouth, which is the only marketing method. Salaries are currently the greatest cost.
Nadhani is helped by his wife, who handles non-technical functions such as accounting and administration. Other non-technical team members are two salespeople and a marketer who maintains the company’s blog. The remaining employees in the 25-person company are engineers who work directly in product development. Nadhani is regularly involved in product management. Communities serve as a great resource for both feedback and customer interaction. Customer feedback and complains are studied carefully, and Webyog is always adding new features. “We believe in a ‘release early, release often” philosophy,” explains Nadhani.
Webyog had a difficult time hiring software engineers in its early years. “Since we were based out of Bangalore, in the vicinity of IT giants such as Infosys, it was difficult for us to hire talent initially,” recalls Nadhani. The company chose to hire people straight out of college. Nadhani notes that such an approach keeps the enthusiasm in the company high and at the same time helps employees to mature early in their careers by giving them responsibilities. Webyog, now in healthy financial condition, pays market salaries, although the situation was not so rosy in Webyog’s early years. In the past few years, job aspirants have started appreciating the advantages of working in start-ups and product companies. In the beginning it was difficult to convince someone to join a company like Webyog and not India’s IT bigwigs.
Although MySQL products have been the company’s sole focus until recently, Webyog is now entering new areas such as email management. Mailbrowser release a few weeks ago has gotten a lot of press coverage. “We need to move into newer and broader markets, as we cannot have all our eggs in one basket,” Nadhani explains.
Although excited about the maturing entrepreneurship environment in India, Nadhani is not satisfied with the rate of improvement. “India has [come a] long way since 2000, but we still don’t have a mature system for nurturing Web and software entrepreneurship. The fear of failure is very high,” he says. He is optimistic that more product companies will come out of India and would like young people to try newer paths. “Indians have a great family support system and we should take advantage of that. Also, ideas need to be shared and not kept secret, because it is not the idea but the execution that matters. When you share your ideas, you get feedback early, which helps you focus on the right things,” is his advice.
Note from Sramana: Readers, I would like to hear from you if you are an Indian startup and have hit the $1 million milestone. Please email Shailesh Otari [shaileshotari.mba AT gmail.com] with your information. Shailesh is working with me with a specific focus on Indian startups.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2010