This startup aims to revolutionise office communication

Name of the Company: Flock Launch date: 2015 Founding team: Bhavin Turakhia Location: Presence in India, the US, the UK, Russia, Brazil and Spain. Funding raised in 2017: $25 million commitment from its founder, Bhavin Turakhia (in March’ 17) Overall funding raised since starting up: $20 million initially, followed by another $25 million commitment early this year. Strength: 150+ Industry: Team messenger and enterprise collaboration (CPaas-Communications Platform as a Service) For a market less than one per cent tapped, enterprise communication is a segment where every inch is bitterly fought for. However, for Bhavin Turakhia, who co-owns 11 companies along with his brother, Divyank Turakhia, this is his biggest bet. Out of the 11 companies that Turakhia juggles his time between, Flock commands around half the time he spends working every day. Since his workday expands to 14-15 hours, it is quite a substantial amount of time- and a strong indicator of the potential co-founder and the CEO of Flock finds in the market of enterprise communication. Another strong indicator is the money Turakhia has poured into Flock-the startup recently raised $25 million. Keeping with the tradition, the $25 million came from the brothers’ own deep pockets. Just a few months ago, the duo turned overnight billionaires after they sold their startup to a consortium of Chinese investors for $900 million. Massive potential, low acceptance Turakhia feels the market has the potential to grow to 600-700 million users in the next seven to eight years. Compare that to the current user base of just 6-7 million, and the segment looks highly attractive to those selling communication solutions. “The team-messaging ecosystem is actually very nascent. Even today, majority of teams across the world tend to use e-mails or personal messaging tools like WhatsApp to communicate and collaborate which are not very effective. And it is only recently that team messengers have come into limelight, and people have started adopting them. But it is extremely nascent,” Turakhia says. While internal communication is an inherent component of a business, many still rely on tools like email, WhatsApp which compromise the efficiency and, in some cases, even security of an enterprise. Given the reluctant acceptance of a tool specifically designed to enable and ease communication, Turakhia says his attention is now focussed on educating and promoting how Flock can change the way an enterprise communicates. “The biggest challenge is that it is a new form of communication which requires a behaviour change for organisations. Think of it as how e-mail was, some 25 years ago. Today, it is a ubiquitous tool; there is not a single person in professional capacity who does not use an e-mail. But only 20 years ago, people did not feel it was required. So, there is a behaviour change required for communication which is a potential challenge for the industry,” Turakhia says. First the converted, then the masses While it may take some time to convince the enterprises set in their ways of the benefits of adopting a messaging and collaboration app, Flock is simultaneously going after the converted. In early June this year, Flock released a migration tool to the users of its biggest competitor, Slack. Turakhia claims Flock offers more than Slack for far less than Slack. “We are 50% cheaper than Slack and integrations are richer than Slack. Also, Flock is far better in terms of admin capabilities and user interface for an entire company to adopt. If a small team starts adopting Flock and then grows to the rest of the company, invariably the managerial capabilities are far easier in Flock than in Slack,” Turakhia claims. In around two months, Turakhia claims, Flock has enticed thousands to migrate to it from Slack-with zero data loss. “I don’t have an accurate number but speaking intuitively, out of the 25,000 plus teams that have been created so far, there are a few thousands who have migrated from Slack,” claims Turakhia. However, Slack is not Turakhia’s primary competition. He says the scope is wide enough for many players to exist and, in fact, a joint effort to fight the bigger enemy-reluctance of businesses to adopt such tools-will help everyone in the ecosystem. “I think the more players exist in the ecosystem right now, the better it is. In any new industry where existing consumers need to make a behavior change, it is always useful when there are multiple parties for convincing the consumers to adopt a particular product,” said Turakhia. A majority of Flock’s 50,000 active users are startups and other early-stage companies. But, for Flock to meet its target of getting a million users within the next one year, it has to convince established companies with larger workforces and multiple offices. And this is exactly what Turakhia is concentrating on. While Slack is a competitor, Turakhia says, informal communication apps like WhatsApp and Skype are a bigger roadblock. “If you look at the competition for team messengers, the real competition is not the existing competitors. The real competition is e-mail, WhatsApp, Skype and those kinds of tools which enterprises are using today,” says Turakhia. With Facebook planning to launch a business version of WhatsApp, will this put a spanner in the works of companies like Flock? “Flock is light years ahead of WhatsApp, in terms of capabilities and integrations. It is a huge gap in comparison. Even our basic version is significantly ahead of WhatsApp. I do not anticipate that they will be directly competing with us,” Turakhia says. Adoption over monetisation Turakhia claims that the company has doubled its growth in the last four months and is adding 2,000 new teams every week. However, the target of a million users will only be achieved once the solution becomes a mainstream offering, and that, Turakhia says, would take another two years. While the company offers a premium version ($3 per use per month), Turakhia feels at this stage it is more important to drive adoption than monetisation. “As of now, we haven’t really focused on monetisation, and paid users are at a few thousand. But for us, the real crux is convincing people to move to a team messenger that provides far higher flexibility, capability and productivity. The premium version is meant when it really gets ingrained in your organisation, and you need unlimited history and other features. We expect when we aggressively launch our monetisation, 20 per cent of our user base will be on the premium version and the rest will be on the free version for a fairly long period of time,” says Turakhia. Flock is currently available in the US, the UK, Spain, Brazil, Russia, Australia and Canada, besides India. Turakhia says the funding raised would meet his expansion plans for the next 18 months.
Source: ET

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