Co-founder Of CultureAlley, Pranshu Patni Cautions Tech Startups From Over Marketing
- IWB Post
- July 3, 2019
I have to admit that I was going to CultureAlley office with some preconceived notions, and I was surprised.
Expectation: Whitewashed walls that would have gone pale and small cubicles.
Reality: A big glass-room with soothing green fluorescent walls (matching green bean bags and yellow high stools at the reception area) and a terrace full of plants. And, Oh! The Culture Alley Signage.
Pranshu Patni, the co-founder of CultureAlley, told us an interesting story behind the inception of the company.
“Nishant, my husband, had to go to China; and not knowing Mandarin and being a vegetarian made it very difficult for him to explain to the locals what food he wanted. That’s when the idea was born. So, in 2012, we started with an app for Foreign languages like Mandarin, Spanish, etc. The whole idea was to engage the adult learner to provide them with a solution on the go. Having a teacher may be effective but it isn’t scalable, so we tapped on to this opportunity where people could learn and have access to different languages on their phones.”
A quick fact: CultureAlley’s product ‘Hello English’ is the No. 1 English learning and speaking app on the India Google Play store in the educational category.
“Nishant and I were both tech-enthusiasts and had jobs. After Sun Microsystems, I had worked at Pitney Bowes for three years. The decision to quit a comfortable corporate life came naturally; even when Nishant was pursuing his studies in U.S., we used to say to each other, ‘Kuch toh accha karna hai.’ We wanted to do something meaningful and scalable.”
In 2015, CultureAlley raised a whooping 6.5 million from Tiger Global Management. Their investor list also includes Sasha Mirchandani of Kae Capital, Rajan Anandan, and other venture capitalists.
Do you think it’s difficult to find investors for the women startups?
Pranshu: I don’t think any mature investor would overlook the startup only because it’s a woman. Of course, they’ll grill you to ensure that you are hundred percent into the business but that is regardless of the gender. Having confidence in self and a strong business plan is the key.
However, if any woman feels that an investor doubts her startup idea on the basis of gender, then I would say she should not raise funds from that investor. I would advise her to wait and look for other investors.
Have you ever faced any gender bias in the industry?
Pranshu: The one and only time I was questioned for being a woman was, unfortunately, by a woman. She said, “Just because you are Nishant’s wife, don’t even think you’ll be considered a co-founder of CultureAlley.” We both were shocked. I believe the least we the women can do is to support each other.
Women are often less confident compared to men when it comes to technology. Your thoughts on it?
Pranshu: Now, you’ll see more and more women in the IT field. The perception and mindset are changing. I had been raised in a very forward-looking environment in Udaipur. My mother is a homemaker, but she never restricted me from pursuing my dreams. She always pushed me to take part in extra-curricular activities and enrolled me in all possible hobby classes, so I could explore my interests and choose what I wanted to do.
So, I believe that ambition has to be seeded at a very young age and girls should be told and encouraged to take up any profession or any career of their choice. The parents should not label any career as a man’s profession. Women can be and do whatever they want to.
Pranshu: No, we always hire as per their skill-set and caliber. I don’t believe in gender discrimination against or for women. Of course, I proudly say that two of my sharpest engineers are females.
Pranshu: Firstly, they should try to solve a real problem and not just something that’s in “trend.” She should analyze if their product or service is worth their customer’s time. They should take into the prospect whether it will create a void in their customer’s life if they stop delivering their product or service. Secondly, market research is a must. One should create a simple package that is easy to use. The design should be attractive but one should focus initially on the basic package and test-run to know its viability and acceptability. Thirdly, measure your data and then decide if you need expansion. And, hiring a skilled and culturally fit team is crucial for success.
Name five Apps you have on your phone?
Pranshu: Whatsapp, Makemytrip, Grofers, Uber and a lot of reading apps.
What kind of books do you read?
Pranshu: My friends name me tech stalker because I just love reading tech books. Apart from that I read all sorts of books. My favourite is Kite Runner.
Pranshu: *laughs* Morning Alarm and Desk Organiser.
Pranshu: Marketing and promoting are important. However, I don’t think one should spend millions on marketing. Initially, keep your head low. Focus on your product and build a loyal customer base.