New Delhi: Ragy Thomas is a man on a mission. The 43-year-old founder and chief executive officer at US-based social media management firm Sprinklr wants to revolutionize the way brands manage their social media platforms and engage with consumers. Founded in 2009, Sprinklr is valued at $1.8 billion and has, so far, raised $230 million in funding. It works with global brands like Nike, Samsung, Microsoft and P&G, and helps them in marketing, advertising, research, sales and commerce. In the last five years, Sprinklr has made 11 acquisitions.
In India last week, Thomas spoke about his plans for this market where the company employs 570 coders\programmers. Edited excerpts from an interview:
What was the idea behind Sprinklr?
We are a complete social media management platform for an enterprise essentially for big companies. We are headquartered in New York, have 23 offices and 1,400 employees around the world. What we are providing is a backbone for large businesses to manage customer experience across social media platforms. Most social media companies are our partners including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. We manage 24 social media channels for big global companies and use our listening solutions to hear what is being said about a product/service on these platforms and then analyse it. So if a customer is complaining on a platform, we can listen in and understand what they are complaining about at a macro level and at a micro level, we can route it to the customer care centre. For many brands like Nike and Verizon, social customer care happens only on Sprinklr.
What operations do you have in India?
Our core R&D (research and development) department is in India. In fact, we are the only large mainstream American company to have our core R&D done out of India. We just hired 70-74 people from campuses around India.
The big news is that we are selling in India which we never did. Starting this year, we are tying up with Indian brands. We already have plenty of clients here like Dell, McDonalds, Cisco systems, Nike but these are all subsidiaries of global companies. Selling in India means we will be working with Indian companies and manage their social media platforms for them.
Have Indian marketers been able to engage with consumers on social media?
They have but it has not become a strategic initiative as it has in the US. We have passed the phase of experimentation there. Big brands know that it will cost them 13 dollars to interact via phone and 3 dollars to interact via social channels.
Direct marketing is not as mature in India. It is a huge industry in the US. It includes direct mails, telemarketing, database and e-mail marketing. Indian marketers have traditionally relied on broadcast mediums like radio and print. Database marketing industry hasn’t quite developed the way it has in the west.
Having said that, India is fortunate that we don’t have additional infrastructure (like we have in Europe and US) for traditional email customer care, research and marketing. India has an opportunity to leap forward, to bypass the email customer care and go directly to social where the cost is just a fraction of what companies spend otherwise.
What potential do you see in the Indian market?
India has the fastest growing social media population in the world. There is more demand than supply right now. The demand that we are seeing in the market confirms that the companies are ready to invest in the creation of new infrastructure. Secondly, when you compare India to other global markets, India doesn’t seem to have niche market players. Korea, China and Japan all have their own local social players which are very significant like China has WeChat, Weibo. There is Line in Japan. We don’t seem to have one in India yet.
Which social media platforms are clicking with Indian consumers?
Facebook, by a long shot, is the leader. Last I checked it had 195 million users in India. In the US, it has 191 million. Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest are doing well in India. There is also WhatsApp if you count that as a social networking platform.
What are your expansion plans?
We just went from 16 to 23 offices. We opened office in Singapore, Switzerland, Dubai and China. We started sales in India and Australia. Asia is going to be a big focus where we see a lot of opportunity.