💪 Chameli Kuduva, Founder at SaaS Insider talks about the power of Community and Networking

In this episode of CommunityHub Spotlight, we speak to Chameli, Founder at SaaS Insider. Watch the video and get to know more about how to build a global community and understand the power of networking.
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Pramod Rao
July 27, 2021

In this episode of CommunityHub Spotlight, we speak to Chameli, Founder at SaaS Insider. Watch the video and get to know more about how to build a global community and understand the power of networking.

Here's the complete transcript :

Chameli: I'm the founder of SaaS Insider. And SaaS Insider is a open B2B SaaS community for the Asia Pacific region.

Networking is key. The amount of network that you have today. It's going to matter a lot, maybe 3, 4, 5 years down the line.

Pramod: Thanks Chameli for taking the time. Just starting off with some context, this is a part of CommunityHub by Threado. We are putting together resources for builders.  And this includes top tips to, go from zero to one in terms of community building, interviews from community builders like you, so that, people can take the best parts and apply it to their communities.

Without much ado, would love to get started with an introduction with you and also SaaS Insider. Over to you.

Chameli: Thank you so much Pramod. I think what you're doing right now, it's essential for everyone, not just typical community builders, but even companies that are looking to create a community around their customers.

Because as everyone knows right now is the time, where people look for human interaction, human connection, even if they want to use a product. Feedback matters. Expedience matters. So kudos to you for doing it. A little bit about myself.  I'm the founder of SaaS Insider. And SaaS Insider is a open B2B SaaS community for the Asia Pacific region.

And what we try to do through this community, is to help people professionally and personally. We've been existing for the last one and a half years. And, I think, we're at the right place, at the right time.  

Pramod: And, SaaS, at least the last two years it's been on the rise. And, I think more and more SaaS companies are also coming out of India and the APAC region.

So tell us what made you realize that this community needed to exist? What was the motivation behind forming this community?

Chameli: Even though majority of our participants or community members are from India, Asia does not, as such have its own community. So a couple of years back, if I have to look out for a conference that is Asia centric, I have to wait till,   you know, SaaStock or SaaStr's conference that is specifically designed for the Eastern region. One more thing about Asia, it's very culturally diverse. So for someone to actually run the community for the Asia Pacific region, it's better a local runs it than someone who's not familiar with the region. For example, SaaStr is so successful because a local is running the community. So that's actually what drove us to create this.

Pramod:  And how did it start out? Did it start off just as an event or an online community? Walk us through like day zero of SaaS Insider and how you formed the initial cohort of members coming in.

Chameli: So day zero, I should say it started off as a blog. and a bunch of others,  we contributed towards educating people on what actually goes into every function of SaaS. And this was to help people understand what would they be facing if they come into a SaaS company?  Be it a fresher or be it someone experienced. That actually scaled up into, a knowledge repository for people, not just freshers, not as people who are new, but, even for people who have been in the industry for quite some time. We were digging into, details as to how exactly investment functions. How the landscape of SaaS is changing. How was it five years back? How it's going to be five years forward, things like that. And, these slowly grew into a community as we saw the demand for it rising. And to be very frank, the initial days, it was just, personally reaching out to every one asking them to join saying hey it's better to form a community. And, the more people hear, the more knowledge sharing happens, the more benefit we can take out of it.

Pramod: And, when it comes to a community,  it's all about enabling members to add value to each other. When you started as a blog and then you slowly formed a community right, so how did you get the engagement going?

Who were some of the initial members that you curated, within the community? It'd be great to understand the zero to one engagement.

Chameli: When it comes to engagement, there's only one thing that we followed, which is consistency. I know this is a very broad term, but, when we started out, it was, right at the beginning of pandemic during the first phase. And there were 10 other communities who started along with us. And right now, especially after the second wave, we only see a couple of them standing.

So what went wrong in these communities? When you study these, you clearly see that, consistency plays a major part. The other thing is staying relevant to your goal. You need not partner with every single opportunity or organization that comes across. You need to pick and choose where exactly you're engaging. For example, SaaS Insider's major presence is on LinkedIn and Twitter. Even though I was an early user of Clubhouse, I chose not to engage in Clubhouse. Because beyond a point, once you start diverting your attention from wherever you are strong, it might turn out to be catastrophic.

Pramod: So, consistency and keeping your code, like focusing on channels that really work for you, matter a lot. And what are some of the rituals that define your community?

Chameli: Of course, like you said, events are one of the major rituals that we follow. But apart from that, what we try to bring to the table is something that normally cannot be found outside. For example, we partner with a lot of foreign governmental agencies, to make sure that Asian founders get the necessary reach so that they can set up shops, they can expand their reach. The things that we try to look out for, which we know for a fact that it's going to be helpful, not just for the founders, but for the general SaaS public as well.

It could be a resource person was normally not known for the world as a speaker itself, but bringing his or her insights to the table will be really beneficial for someone who is looking out for a job.  

Pramod: What are some of the outcomes or stories from the community that come top of mind for you? In terms of either outcomes or something that's really benefited the community members?

Chameli: Yeah, definitely. So jobs is definitely one avenue that we have helped individuals with. So ever since we opened the hiring channels there are a lot of posts about people hiring for certain positions that is very relevant to the SaaS industry.

So that is definitely one thing. The other thing although I cannot name you what they are, but what went through his a few rounds of funding through us. Only a couple of them are public right now, but there have been funding rounds that have happened. Partnerships that have happened. So these are some of the benefits that we see , we have made possible during the last one year.

Pramod: Awesome. And great to see that happen in such a short time. Tell us about SaaS Insider, the main event.. What really happens at the event? Is it annual or like how many times does it happen? Would love to know more about it.

Chameli: Yeah, so we have two events a year. Okay. So one is very India centric, which always happens in the month of November. We specifically went with the date five. I'm not sure if watched the movie V for Vendetta. The Gunpowder Revolution on November five. And we were like, this is going to be a SaaS revolution. So why not go with that date?

Pramod: That's a nice backstory.

Chameli: Yeah. So that's one thing. And with the six months gap we do, our annual event, which is global. And in both of these events, we try to stick to problem statements, real life problem statements faced by companies in different revenue ranges. For example, could be as simple as expanding to the South-East Asia network, because that is something not many companies have tried and excelled in. It does have a very rich partner network. So how do you tap into that is one of our questions. Scaling your tech team is another because the GPM team, people are generally very social people tend to go out and talk and sales team, especially has a reputation of being very talkative and not doing their job at all, but it's the opposite for a technical team.

So how do you scale  when you're a startup? Zero to 25 employees, 25 to a hundred. What goes on into it? These are things, examples of problem statements we tried to solve, and it is across revenue ranges for companies like ranging from zero to one, one to 10 and so on.

Pramod: Understood. And would love to maybe at touch top on some of the challenges that you are trying to solve right now. What are some of the problems that you're trying to solve for SaaS Insider today?

Chameli: One thing that we are trying to create is a US India investment corridor. Getting investments in India and going global with it can turn out to be a problem. Because in most of the cases your customers are in the north American region. You get local investors you easily get access to enterprise founders.

So that is one thing that we are trying to create. And when we look at problems that SaaS Insider itself  is facing since most of the members of SaaS Insider right now are from India, I think it's safe to say that people in India generally like to consume, but not give back. There have been a couple of instances where I am sitting on a call with a founder trying to help them with certain things.

And when there was a conversation about, how can you give back to the community? And to my face, the founder says that this is a waste of my time I don't want to give back. And this is a very common occurrence. I'm hoping we can change it.

Pramod: And I think more, the people help each other out, it has a network effect to do that. So where does the community exists today? So there's Slack and then you use, you said software for like the conference. So what are the tools that power SaaS Insider?

Chameli: So right now, like you said, slack is where most of the interaction happens. Our announcements and everything go out on social media, LinkedIn and Twitter is where we are present. And 99% of our operations run on Zoho one. Apart from that for the conference for the upcoming event, we are going ahead with Airmeet.

Pramod: So usually it's like a tech-stack of synchronous based communication with video-based, from what we see. You started when the pandemic hit. Are you planning on maybe an offline version of it once things settle down or what is the post pandemic version of SaaS Insider that we can expect?

Chameli: Offline has always been one of our targets. In fact, we hosted an offline meet up in the month of February. So we hosted two meetups. One was a founder, investor casual matchmaking here in Bangalore. The other one was a meetup where in just the members of SaaS Insider came together and had a casual discussion on different topics. Hopefully the pandemic settles down and we can do a physical event.

Pramod: And coming to that what are some of the initiatives, in the next six months that you will have in plan?

Chameli: A couple of initiatives that have already mentioned is partnering with foreign governmental bodies, creating India-US investment. The third one is a mentorship that we are looking at, for founders. Just going to be very specific, very defined.

Pramod: So I think coming to the last question, so it's been a year and a half of community building. What are some of the key learnings for anyone who's either new or wanting to learn about community building? What would be your top three learnings from it?

Chameli: So top three, if I have to say then of course the first and foremost, is being consistent and being relevant. I have been telling that to every single person that I meet. So the second thing I tried to highlight a bit and this has worked for us as well, in every form of communication strive to be formal. And the third thing is don't hesitate to reach out. Networking is key. The amount of network that you have today. It's going to matter a lot, maybe 3, 4, 5 years down the line. So if you ask me those are the top three things.

Pramod: I know I can totally relate, especially to the last point. A lot of people, just self reject. If you ask , people are willing to help usually. So if you take the first step, it goes a long way. Thanks a lot Chameli! This was great! Thanks for taking the time and love to experience the event in person as well sometime soon.

Chameli: Thank you so much for the opportunity Pramod. I'm looking forward to Threado.

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