How to Be Humble: Lessons from Indian Startup WebEngage
May 31, 2012
Avlesh Singh spent about 8 months building an Evernote competitor in India. But when it came time to start making money, even his most active users didn’t want to fork over any cash. Singh had to question his “if they like it, they will pay” approach, and start fresh with a new product.
“It’s really a very emotional decision. It’s a very tough decision to make because there’s one idea that you have put a lot of blood and sweat into. You know it’s not working, so it’s painful,” he recalls.
Hence the birth of WebEngage, a tool for businesses to collect feedback right from their webpage. There are many similar services out there, but WebEngage offers a few unique tools: customers can easily take a screenshot to submit a bug report, and surveys can be targeted: for example, one survey might pop up only for users who came from Facebook and have spent 2 minutes on the site.
As we’ve pointed out before, switching ideas goes hand in hand with humility because you have to admit that your past ideas were somehow wrong. As Singh blogged, “I am a patient listener now. I respond instead of reacting. I have the ability to hear bad things about me and my product and act upon them. I am a better human being.” One way he stays humble is surrounding himself with a “hacker culture” and a team of engineers who don’t think they know it all, who are always willing to learn.
To do that learning, they all take user feedback very seriously. Singh is routinely awake until 2am sending customer support emails – he has no sales guy – and he confessed that he was even answering emails during our Skype interview.
The humility seems to be paying off: WebEngage received a “very small” investment from the Indian Angel Network last year and added Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, to its board. It’s now used by over 2,000 businesses, 70% of which are from outside India. These numbers could go to your head, but I have a feeling Singh knows how to keep his ego in check.