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Building a customer base is a major challenge for early stage ventures

Customers need incentives to become early adopters

Vijay Sharma
Founder, Exotel
  • Company


  • Business


  • Founded


  • Headquartered


  • Founders

    Vijay Sharma,Shivakumar G,Ishwar Sridharan,Siddhartha Ramesh


Vijay Sharma graduated from BITS Pilani, and joined NEN as a program manager for TATA First Dot. Following this, he joined a startup called Practo Technologies as their Marketing Manager. It was his time here when he and his team came up with the idea of a cloud telephony service provider for small and medium enterprises. It aimed at providing virtual phone numbers and telephony applications to a focused sector of businesses. They decided to name this venture Exotel.


The major challenge faced by Vijay was in attracting telecom companies like Tata and Reliance to provide services to their startup. The main reason they were hesitant was the lack of customer base supporting the venture. This was decelerating their growth and in order to get ahead in the market he needed a strategy to get these telecom operators on board.


Exotel had acquired 2-3 initial customers, and they built their customer relationships by rewarding these initial customers with discounts. They also decided to focus their attention on targeting and acquiring customers who were early adopters and open to try new services. They even started giving them free trials. These changes helped them build a great referral network and a lot of publicity followed by word of mouth. Once their customer base was built up, the telecom service companies were more than happy to extend their services to Exotel, which in turn boosted the growth of their business. Vijay joined NEN right after college after bumping into Raghab Panda, the then Associate Director at NEN, at NASSCOM Product Conclave 2009. At NEN he was exposed to an extensive network of mentors and technological entrepreneurs one of whom was Srikrishna, CEO at Sattva, who gave him the confidence to build something on his own. Working and building Practo with Shashank ND gave him an invaluable experience of working in a startup environment. Vijay left Exotel in 2014.



  • Received 2.5 crores funding from Mumbai Angels and Blume Ventures in 2011
  • Generates revenue of 4 lakh a month
Capital2.5 crores