It was five years ago that a small group of startup founders convened over coffee in Chennai to discuss a proposal to form a community of SaaS founders in India.
Our goals were rather modest.
Firstly, to create a peer-to-peer community to network and learn from each other, specifically about aspects that were unique to our country and ecosystem, given the glaring lack of contextual and actionable knowledge around SaaS from/in India.
Secondly, foster a culture of “pay it forward” in the SaaS community in India. Founders of companies such as Freshworks, Chargebee, Kissflow, Capillary, Eka and Mad Street Den who had experienced early success, sharing their victories and failures honestly and transparently to help other startups emulate their success paths and avoid making the same mistakes.
It merits noting that at that point in time, SaaS in India was still in its infancy. There were at best around 300 SaaS startups in the country and the vast majority of these were still in the very early stages of their journey.
There was unanimous agreement that such a community was required.
Thus, on November 24, 2018, SaaSBoomi was born with five founding members and around 30 startup founders who pledged their support and commitment to the cause.
There were no grand goals, no earth-shattering ambitions beyond establishing a watering hole for SaaS founders in India to meet, interact and learn in an unvarnished manner.
But as they say, if you start dancing believing that no one is watching you, you will often find the entire world dancing in sync with your steps!
Our modest ambitions were surpassed way beyond our expectations.
So much so, that we started dreaming of something that seemed unimaginable earlier – a dream of establishing India as a “Product Nation” and an aspiration of creating an India SaaS ecosystem worth $1 trillion by 2030!
As we celebrate our fifth anniversary on November 24, 2023, it is an opportune moment to reminisce about SaaSBoomi’s journey hitherto and look at the future.
“Software eating the world, SaaS eating software, India SaaS eating SaaS”
If I look back on our five-year journey, I can scarcely believe how far we have come.
From a small cohort of small startup founders, we have grown into one of the largest SaaS communities globally and India has evolved from a marginal player to the second largest SaaS ecosystem in the world.
While we undoubtedly rode the secular tailwinds of SaaS and the cloud emerging as a meaningful alternative to the world of traditional legacy software, a large portion of the credit should go to our founders and operators in India. Through a mixture of thoughtful strategies, plenty of hard work, a dash of serendipity and most importantly, our founder’s pay-it-forward mindset, our SaaS ecosystem has grown by leaps and bounds along three dimensions – Community, Commerce and Confidence.
Exponential Growth and Pan-India Reach: Over these five years, we’ve seen a remarkable tenfold increase from 300 to 4,000 SaaS companies in India. Breaking geographical boundaries beyond the usual suspects of Chennai and Bangalore, our community now extends to all parts of India, from Bhopal to Surat and from Ahmedabad to the North East. SaaSBoomi has grown lock-in-step forging an inclusive SaaS community across the country.
Community Activation and Tailored Programs: Starting off with small roundtables and events, SaaSBoomi’s portfolio of programs has evolved into a comprehensive set of targeted initiatives. Tailored programs like GrowthX, B6, SGX, Caravan, Qafila and co-creator initiatives ensure that support and resources are tailored to specific cohorts, fostering organic growth and success. It also quickly became evident to us that SaaS startups from the hinterland had a significantly different DNA compared to their peers in the metros – with a focus on frugality and services-led offerings. We tailored our programs and outreach to accommodate these nuanced differences and now have a thriving community in these hitherto-untapped regions.
Fostering SaaS Entrepreneurship and Inclusive Volunteerism: In addition to helping existing startups, we have expanded to programs such as the Day Zero initiatives designed to spur startups at the top of the funnel/bottom of the pyramid and ensured that there is a constant pipeline of companies entering at the grassroots level. Our intrepid set of volunteers has grown from a handful of founders to dozens of experts, freely and unselfishly sharing their learnings and experiences. While we previously had only founders in our community, we have grown to be far more inclusive with operators and specialists being added to the family. There are also a number of VCs who expressed interest in joining our community and offering help and guidance and their presence has helped us immeasurably in terms of impact and reach.
While community is undoubtedly our top priority, it is important to recognize that our community efforts are an enabler – empowering our members to achieve massive success in their chosen domains. It is therefore a great source of comfort and pride to see how Indian SaaS startups have made a mark globally in these last five years. The original pioneers such as Zoho and Freshworks have emerged as global leaders and exemplars – Zoho is probably the only bootstrapped SaaS startup in the world with over 100 million customers and Freshworks emerged as the first SaaS startup from India to list on the public markets in the US. The global interest and massive influx of VC capital into the SaaS sector has created over a dozen companies that have crossed $100m in ARR and nearly twenty companies that can claim unicorn status by virtue of having valuations exceeding $1 billion.
But our success is not limited just to the top of the pyramid. There are now well over one hundred companies that have crossed the key milestone of $10m ARR and several more that have achieved fundamental product-market-fit by reaching the $1m ARR threshold.
Clearly, India’s time to shine in the world of SaaS has well and truly arrived.
The final aspect, and one that is often overlooked, is the dimension of “confidence”.
Indian SaaS companies are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the pantheon of great SaaS startups worldwide and are counted as equals in all respects.
Our outreach programs have gone global with initiatives such as the Caravan – where over 200 SaaS founders from India visited the US for a rigorous program of learning and market discovery. The Caravan program also facilitated meaningful interactions between founders and potential buyers in the United States.
Our internal organizational efforts have mirrored our external growth with a high-powered governance council in place to ensure probity and integrity and a professional team of leaders and executives leading our organization as we track toward our ambitious goal of a $1 trillion ecosystem by 2030.
The Future – $1 trillion “Product Nation” SaaS aspiration
Our vision for India’s Trillion-Dollar SaaS opportunity and creating a Product Nation isn’t just a dream; it’s a tangible reality that we’re actively crafting.
We have the potential to see SaaS surpassing IT services in value creation. With India’s current 100,000 IT services companies generating $227 billion, SaaS can surpass this by building 100,000 $1 million SaaS companies. The growth potential in SaaS, with a 10x to 15x value creation multiple, sets it apart from traditional IT services.
We see this audacious vision being played out in three parts of a funnel – Start up, Scale up and Summit.
At the top of the funnel, we would like to see and encourage more folks foraying into SaaS entrepreneurship – our first target is to seed 500 new SaaS startups in the next 5 years as a direct result of our activation and outreach programs and several hundreds more indirectly through diffusion. This aspiration is rooted in our commitment to fostering a culture of innovation, creativity, and bold entrepreneurship.
Once companies have found an initial product-market-fit, we aspire to be a partner to help them reach their full potential by hitting the next milestone as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The journey ahead involves propelling 500 companies across the $10 million ARR mark.
In addition to sharing learnings and playbooks, we are dedicated to making SaaS talent widely available in India. This vision hinges on the continued success and expansion of existing SaaS startups, creating a talent pool that fuels innovation and sustains industry momentum.
Simultaneously, we are committed to providing access to peer learning, SaaS content, and a supportive community for over 5,000 founders through our events, podcast, blogs, and community. This holistic approach ensures that the foundation for success is not only laid but continuously nurtured.
Finally, at the top of the pyramid, we foresee 50 companies surpassing $100 million ARR and at least 20 startups achieving unicorn status in the next 5 years.
This surge represents not only individual successes but a collective ascent of the entire SaaS ecosystem as our breakout brethren climb to the summit and establish themselves as global leaders.
From one liminal moment to another
SaaSBoomi was conceived when the world was witnessing the beginnings of the shift to the cloud.
As we stand today, we are witnessing another liminal moment with the emergence of Generative AI. This is not just a technology shift but a platform shift that will reimagine every aspect of our lives and every software and application that we use.
While there are risks, there are also unprecedented opportunities to create iconic companies that will endure through time. It is a moment for SaaS founders in India to be both paranoid and positive at the same time.
It is therefore rather fitting that we celebrate SaaSBoomi’s fifth anniversary on Thanksgiving – a time to feel gratitude for the past and optimism for the future.
To our incredible volunteers and supporters: Your unwavering dedication and love for what we do have been the engines driving our success. Your hard work, care, and support weaves our community together.
To our founders: Your belief in the credo of “pay-it-forward” and the strength of teamwork has been the North Star guiding us forward.
And to every single member who has chipped in, shared, listened, learned, and grown with us: you are the heartbeat of SaaSBoomi. Your presence, contributions, and accomplishments is the lifeblood that courses through our community.
Our journey has been more than just a job; it’s been a mission of a lifetime – a rich fabric filled with laughter, learning, shared victories, and a few challenging moments. Each part – every conversation, every shared experience – all the parts, good and bad, has intricately woven us into the closely-knit family we are today.
As we celebrate five years of transformative accomplishments, we carry with us the warmth, fortitude, and camaraderie that define SaaSBoomi. This is an occasion to not just look back but also to set the stage for the future. The dream of a $1 trillion SaaS industry by 2030 is not just a goal but a commitment. The journey ahead promises to be even more exhilarating, as we continue to break barriers, shape the future, and work tirelessly towards a SaaS revolution that defines India’s technological prowess. Let’s persist in our collective journey of learning, supporting, and inspiring each other as we advance together.
Thank you for being the life force of SaaSBoomi. Here’s to the next five years and beyond – with an anticipation of even more captivating stories, shared triumphs, and boundless growth.
Happy 5th anniversary, SaaSBoomi – the best is yet to come!