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exotel: ET Startup Awards 2022: Exotel’s resilience makes it winner in the Comeback Kid category

For the Comeback Kid category, the ET Startup Awards 2022 jury was clearly looking to recognise the resilience of the founding teams and their ability to tackle the various vagaries of building a new-age technology business.

From the word go, the elite jury praised the grit that
Exotel founders–Shivakumar Ganesan, Ishwar Sridharan and Sachin Bhatia–have displayed against many odds to build an Indian software play in cloud telephony for the world. And to the jury, Ganesan and Sridharan’s collective strength to helm Exotel through a long-lasting funding drought, while winning a loyal client base, seemed to have resonated. In fact, some jury members were also users of the software providers’ service, as they mentioned during the deliberations.

One of the jury members remarked that the opportunity of cloud telephony and the customer engagement puzzle that Exotel was solving will lead it to “compounding growth” over the coming years.

“Exotel is a strong comeback story and it has really stood up during difficult times,” remarked another jury member.

While Exotel was among the top two contenders from the start, the jury made emphatic pitches for Rapido’s evolving product and business models, Amagi’s global scale, and for Sugar Cosmetics’ Vineeta Singh, braving all odds.

After a detailed discussion on revenue models, the top two contenders–Exotel and Sugar Cosmetics–were put to vote with Exotel emerging as the jury’s choice.

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“ We are deeply honoured by The Economic Times’ recognition of team Exotel as the Startup Comeback Kid 2022,” said Ganesan. Exotel’s end-to-end communication software platform is used by almost all internet majors operating in India, including the likes of Uber, Zomato, Swiggy, and Byju’s.

“Exotel has a unique position in the market of being a full-stack customer engagement platform and confidently placed to continue to develop high-quality customer engagement solutions, underpinned by the latest best practices in the industry,” said Bhatia.

“We should not underestimate the power of local SaaS (software-as-a-service) firms focused on local markets,” said jury member Shailendra Singh, managing director, Sequoia Capital, India and Southeast Asia. “Exotel has the potential to be a foundational communications SaaS company for a leading economy like India… it has demonstrated tremendous resilience and has managed market leadership in a frugal manner. It was great to hear validations from jury members who have been customers.”

The past two years have been the biggest for Exotel, as it raised $100 million starting December 2020, almost eight years after its first financing of Rs 2.5 crore in 2012, braving several rejections from investors.

Jury member Sriharsha Majety, Swiggy cofounder and CEO, had to recuse himself from the voting process since the food-delivery major is an investor in nominee Rapido.


Other contenders

Aravind Sanka, Rishikesh SR and Pavan Guntupalli (Rapido)

RapidoETtech



Rapido, a mobility app valued at $830 million, operates B2B and consumer verticals. On the B2B side, it helps food-delivery apps such as Swiggy, an investor, fulfil orders. In 2020, Rapido entered the highly contested auto-hailing category but is now facing government scrutiny over its fare structure in Karnataka.

Surjendu Kuila and Mayank Gupta (Zopper)

Surjendu Kuila and Mayank Gupta_ZopperETtech



Zopper, an application programming interface (API)-based software platform, provides Insurtech as a Service. It allows third-party platforms to embed and distribute insurance offerings. Zopper’s software helps companies with lead management, policy issuance, claim management and IRDAI reporting.

Baskar Subramanian, Srinivasan KA and Srividhya Srinivasan (Amagi)

Amagi (1)ETtech



Amagi, which joined the unicorn club in March, enables broadcasters to virtualise operations on the cloud, helping them manage and schedule content, and streamline programming remotely. It has three business models for customers to choose from: SaaS, bring your own licence and fully managed services.

Vineeta Singh and Kaushik Mukherjee (Sugar Cosmetics)

VineetaETtech



Sugar Cosmetics is a D2C cruelty-free beauty brand in India providing a range of cosmetics and skincare products. It develops products keeping in mind the needs of Indian consumers and is expanding into markets with people of similar skin tones, such as the US and West Asia.

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