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We See New Opportunities In India’s Enterprise Market: Zendesk CEO

Zendesk, a customer service software company headquartered in San Francisco, sees India as a high-growth market. The company completes a decade in the IT industry, leading as a customer experience platform. Zendesk opened its first India office in October 2016 and thereafter has seen huge success in the region, despite competition from both big and small players. In an interaction, Mikkel Svane, Founder and CEO, Zendesk, talks about the latest technologies and trends that would excite business leaders, the startup ecosystem and Zendesk’s growth plans with a focus on the India market. Excerpts.

How important has India been to Zendesk achieving its global growth plans and what potential do you see in the Indian market?

Mikkel Svane: We’ve set up Zendesk’s first office in Bengaluru, India in October 2016, and the past 18 months have been really exciting for us. We surpassed the halfway mark to the $US 1 billion revenue goal we’ve set for 2020. We also reported a stellar first quarter for 2018 with the share price at an all-time high.We see such strong potential for our products in India, given it’s a highly service-driven market coupled with the government’s digital initiatives. This was also an important move in realizing our grow th plans for APAC, as well as globally.

Earlier this month, we reported 38 per cent year-on-year revenue growth globally for Q1 this year, and India was a key contributor to that success. Our team here, led by KT Prasad, secured some impressive new deals and instances with ITC Foods, Devfactory, Fareportal, Myntra, tmw.com, and FoodPanda India, which has helped to bring our growth figure in India to 50 per cent for Q1 and a total of more than 2,000 paid accounts.

This is a great sign for us and our future in India. We are seeing new opportunities coming through from the Enterprise space, which is a key component of our global strategy, and continuing to see solid growth in the Startup space, which is where we have always performed well.

We have a strong offering for Indian brands in the retail, travel, gaming, sharing economy and IT services industries, and it’s promising to see the brands that are coming to us share our vision for putting the customer at the center of their business and being the company, their customers want them to be. We have also doubled our headcount since we entered the country and based on this we believe we have the capacity to more than double in the future as the business opportunity warrants.

Who are some of your key customers in India? Why do you think they have chosen Zendesk and not one of your competitors?

Mikkel Svane: We currently have over 2,000 paid customer accounts in India, and they span a wide range of industries such as fintech, retail, health services, travel, and education.

Brands like Ola and VFS Global have been with us for many months now, and we recently secured new deals and instances with exciting brands like ITC Foods, Devfactory, Asian Paints, Furlenco, tmw.com, 1mg, and FoodPanda India.

What’s most exciting about our customer based in India is that each of these businesses have promising growth potential, which is where Zendesk can play a key role. We’ve purposely designed our products to help businesses, no matter their size, scale quickly. Agents love our products for how they integrate to provide a more seamless customer experience with a more user-friendly interface. Furthermore, our focus on working with our customers to help them develop and drive their omnichannel customer experience strategy is resulting in increased CSAT scores across the board.

As we look to keep up our pace in India, a strong focus on channel partners will be key to success for us in India. We recently signed an agreement with Target Integration, adding to our existing relationships with Amrut Software and CloudCover. Our technology partners (Cloud Telephony Integrators) including Knowlarity, Ozonetel, Exotel etc help enrich our product offering with out-of-the box integrations to deliver Zendesk Talk solutions in India.

What are your thoughts about the startup landscape in India? What advice can you offer to Indian startups that are looking to follow in Zendesk’s growth footsteps, and how does Zendesk support growing startups

Mikkel Svane: It’s hard to ignore the talk that India is a key incubator of new startups outside Silicon Valley, and what I’m hearing is super positive. In a time where we are seeing a lot of replication in the startup space, I love hearing about businesses like 1mg and Furlenco who are doing some really cool, innovative things that are looking to provide a game changing customer experience.

In addition to the startup space, it’s encouraging to see some great tech talent coming from India supported by initiatives like Make in India, Startup India, and Digital India. Our own team has doubled every quarter since we opened our Bangalore office, and will continue to invest in finding and growing great talent.

The most important pieces of advice I can offer to any startup that’s currently looking to scale their business, be it inside or outside of India, is, first of all, choose to build your company in a place where you are supported and inspired. Starting in Copenhagen gave us time to really focus on building the initial product, but once we came to a place the embraces startups we were even to take it so much farther. Secondly, be humble and act in ways that people can actually relate to. We try to do that in our product, and in the way we do business inside and outside the company.

Thirdly, and very important, care about your customers, employees, investors, and community. It’s the only way to build a lasting – and fulfilling – business and life. We’ve been blessed to have our headquarters in a part of San Francisco where we’re active in the community through volunteering and activities, and we’ve brought that spirit to our offices worldwide. It’s transformed our culture and helps broaden the perspective for everyone at Zendesk.

Finally, boring is sexy. Pick an area of an industry that is overlooked and pick a problem to solve that might be perceived as boring. Many companies have had success with this (i.e. Dropbox, Amazon, etc.)

Can you share what you are seeing as global trends in Customer Experience, and what are most relevant or unique to the Indian market?

Mikkel Svane: Customers are distracted. People are overwhelmed by digital interruptions and multitasking all the time. The reality is that no one needs another distraction and that’s the basis for how customer experience is changing.

Everything should be designed to make it easier and faster for customers to get what they want when they want it. Technology plays a major role in making this possible – from Machine Learning and AI to simply helping companies do what they say they’ll do and have a cohesive, coherent conversation with a customer regardless of how they reach out.

India is at the forefront of redefining this modern age of customer service, accelerated by its service-driven economy and investment in widespread digital initiatives.

Zendesk’s products are a key part of this evolution, helping Indian companies of all sizes define the country’s new era of customer experience, while also supporting their plans to grow both within and outside of India.

What are some of the leading or up-and-coming technologies that are changing the future of customer experience? Which ones is Zendesk focusing on investing in?

Mikkel Svane: The future of customer experience is all about staying one step ahead of your customers. In order to understand the issues they’ll face, be proactive and do it at scale, companies need to be able to predict customer behaviour, automate and learn from customers to constantly improve engagement. Companies also need to be able to communicate with their customers whenever and however they reach out. Zendesk is investing in technology like AI and Machine Learning to help our customers understand their customer’s behaviour. For example: Answer Bot and Guide Enterprise with Content Cues (Content Cues learn from behaviour so businesses can solve issues before customers reach out).

We are also helping businesses build the kinds of experiences and interactions modern customers expect. For example, making it possible for customers to communicate with businesses any way they want without having to start over when they switch from chat to email to phone or back again.  As I’ve mentioned, India is at the forefront of so much of the technology redefining the future of customer service and Zendesk is delivering the products that help companies here and all over the world meet their changing needs.

What can customers expect from Zendesk this year and as you build momentum towards 2020 and recognising your goal of reaching $US 1 billion in revenue? What new products or enhancements can we expect to hear about?

Mikkel Svane: As I mentioned, 2018 has already gotten off to a strong start – we launched Guide Enterprise 2.0 in April, surpassed $500 million in annual revenue run rate, and announced 38 per cent growth in Q1 with more than 125,000 paid accounts globally. Customers can expect some exciting new product announcements and enhancements in the coming months, which we will share more on soon. We’re continuing to invest strongly into our omnichannel approach as we continue to move upmarket into the Enterprise space, while building out our Professional Services team, particularly in APAC, to support this.

In India, I’m aware the team is working on some exciting events in the coming months, and we look forward to welcoming our Indian customers to Singapore in August for our signature events series, Zendesk Presents the Future of CX, which will be a fantastic opportunity for them to meet with other customers from around the region and hear from some of the brands who are leading the charge when it comes to being the brand their customers want them to be. – CXO Today

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