Here are some edited excerpts of an exclusive interaction between Ashwin Sivakumar, co-founder and chief of digital business, Jugular Social Group and SMEStreet team.
What are your lines of business and what is Jugular aspiring to do?
The JugularSocial Group helps enterprises build, validate, scale digital business models and revenue streams.
JugularSocial’s Marketing led digital transformation practice is called the Digital Business Department. The department, with it’s practitioners and core facilities, partners with ambitious enterprises and entrepreneurs with deep domain expertise to build valuable digital businesses.
In our agency practice, we are grooming and operating a portfolio of deeply collaborative digital agencies and core facilities that specialize in niche digital business functional areas.
JugularXpertise, our new EdTech practice, co-creates focussed Industry relevant courses with leading product companies, domain specialists and polymaths.
Tell us a bit about your background and your motivation behind starting Jugular?
I have had a pretty non-traditional background and career journey in converging areas like informatics, clustering science, creativity and design. So, this convergence gave me a strong world view and expertise on how businesses could approach their transformation journeys. Jugular spun out of the passion to practically express and institutionalise this thought school.
Healthtech is something that has always been very close to my heart having seen this area from different viewpoints. First as a cited researcher at a research center in Finland working on clustering and search engine methods in genomics and then subsequently from marketing and business modelling perspective.
Tell us about your growth journey in numbers.
We have seen a 5x Growth in the last 5 years.
We now have a solid history of year-on-year organic growth with a clear business vision.
While, the business economy, in general, is going to take some time to bounce back, the recovery hinges on digital business model innovation, marketing and transformation. That makes us optimistic to achieve the next 5x growth faster in the next two years without taking the focus away from basics like cash flows, sustainability and profitability.
What are your plans for 2021?
We have a focussed growth plan ahead of us.
We used the Covidian year of 2020 productively to groom scalable recipes, processes and talents for the growth path ahead.
One of the key priorities would be a consolidation of our market leadership and reputation in India as the preferred the digital business and marketing growth partner for Healthcare Enterprises. We are looking to add further depth by expanding our solutions for this vertical. We are an essential partner in growth journeys of Hospitals. We help them engage with patients digitally at different touch points of the online patient journey.
We are also deeply committed to the growth journeys of our evolving portfolio of agencies specialising in essential digital growth areas like performance marketing, digital asset creation and inbound marketing.
Our new offering through the digital skilling vertical that aims to improve both enterprise productivity and employability
Two of our key business focus segments in Healthcare and Education are witnessing accelerated digital adoption with fundamental changes in their business model.
10 years since starting out, what do you think could have been done differently if you were to do it all over again?
On hindsight, if there was a time machine it would be interesting to revisit the first 4 years with all the entrepreneurial wisdom of today! We perhaps missed out on some timely martech product go to market opportunities that showed good promise with our early adopters. With bootstrapping, you operate on very frugal budgets and you don’t get many shots at any missed opportunity. But all this is what makes us a resilient and valuable company.
What does it your take to bootstrap a business for so long?
I am proud of what JugularSocial has achieved. Since our inception, we got some pieces of the puzzle to work, while some pieces could not survive the grind.
For many years, we could not even afford a ‘minimum viable’ team given the cash flow dynamics which only a ‘bootstrapper’ can actually relate to! Painfully ruthless and ridiculously constrained prioritization has been the mantra to survive, sustain, progress and scale.
Bootstrapping is all about persevering with your vision when you have a really strong conviction and learning appetite to make it work. Bootstrapping a company is like playing a football game with no sponsors, missing team members and a fractured goal keeper captaining the unit (=founders)! Successful bootstrapping is about waking up every day and playing a new match given the same scenario day in and day out till you have somehow figured out a formula to start winning and that too consistently. What you could achieve in half the time with a different mindset and venture capital backing would take much longer for bootstrapped business.
I do believe, all sustainable businesses can achieve remarkable scale if you are constantly reimagining skills, technologies and processes to achieve a vision.
For us at this point, the scaling journey for our business is now about pacing it right.
How is the small-medium business digital landscape changing with COVID-19?
Small businesses are now prioritizing their direct digital channels far more than ever before. It’s important to build customer loyalty. Customer loyalty hinges on a direct connection with the customer base. With COVID-19, Small-medium businesses have started focussing on building their direct digital touchpoints and are reinventing themselves for their digital-first customers.
How is the Digital Transformation of businesses influencing your business?
History of the internet proves that consumers are always ready to embrace something valuable and nee. Some of India’s digital ‘firsts’ happened with JugularSocial. For example, the first e-commerce based online home booking transactions in real estate happened in 2010 with tools provided by JugularSocial.
All traditional businesses of a certain operational size and operational readiness should ideally think of diversifying new digital business models with assets they have. This will help them drive growth through owned channels and develop a deeper sense of customer loyalty.
Digital Business outlook will be talked about as PC and BC (Post Covid and Before Covid). Covid has created that sense of urgency that digital transformation roadmap should be core to any business. Digital is what is also going to fuel post-covid business recovery journeys as well.