“Be careful if you show up to your board meeting as a Growth gentleman” : AMA with Indus Khaitan, Chief of Growth @ Chargebee

Indus Khaitan, Chief of Growth at Chargebee joined us for a lively AMA on the ProductGeeks Community (Slack Channel) on growth, product and much more. Here is a quick summary of what went down:

Q1. Would be great if you could introduce yourself – and your life experience so far.

A: 30 second bio: Born in Dhanbad, not far away from where the whole Gangs of Wasseypur screenplay happened. Computer Scientist by profession. Did a few startups, and a seed fund.

Q2. You have mostly been doing B2B startups – what has changed since your first one?

A: Yeah, mostly B2B. First startup was packaging and selling social media data to very large media companies. The most recent one packaged fear of one’s corporate data getting compromised and sold a mobile security stack to super large Fortune 500 companies.

Q2.1 Do you see a notable difference in sales cycle? Distribution options?

I would say B2B startups are easy (well, I don’t know any better of B2C 🙂 ) — I think B2C startups are a coin toss. B2B starts at a tangible problem.

Q2.2 However, B2B is mostly sales driven. How do you think geeky/engineering driven founders handle this (esp in the early stages)?

A: I don’t think it is “purely” sales driven. Just like B2C is not just acquisition driven, Sales is a fulfillment function, you need a solid product & marketing engine to drive awareness.

Q3. How should founders instill a growth culture at their companies?

Growth is nobody’s problem so difficult to get a “mindset” going. eg. Sales is focused on this quarter’s $ quota, marketing is focused on enabling sales to meet the quarter’s quota. Product is thinking 1-2 years. Hence, no one’s thinking things beyond the quarter and <12 months.

Easy way to kick start – say a single person growth “Team” – is to find a problem that would fix or give a boost to something. For example, you could think about a retention problem in your company and say add 1-2% retention (or less churn).

Q4. Whom should growth team report to? Product? Marketing? CEO?

A: It depends. If the CEO is numbers oriented, then never to the CEO as you would not be able to prove a thing in a quarter. At the same time if the CEO is not convinced then the growth team would be never become mainstream. Look at the startups as an example. You can tell by looking at the CEO whether he would hire a Growth person. 🙂

It is tricky when the growth function shows up at board meetings. For a board, growth is $ growth, everything else is snake oil. So be careful if you show up to your board meeting as a Growth gentleman.

Q5. Chargebee’s SAAS dispatch is great. Tell us a little about how that came about and what kind of dividends has content marketing initiatives paid Chargebee?

It started with a goal of demystifying the nuances of Payment Gateways. How should one choose? What’s the matrix of volume, payment method, country, currency, payout time lag, compliance, etc. This is NxN matrix where you could give plenty of content love to your audience.

Without giving real numbers I’d say a BIG, I mean bigly BIG portion of our opportunity funnel is inbound from our content engine. There’s a team of around six people who just do this and of course supported by extended product and marketing teams.

Q6. How do you define growth? Given that none of your stints are/were market leaders, what is the key element missing in your piece?

A: Growth is your impact on particular metric: Acquisition, Activation, Retention etc.

Q6.1 You mention on your LinkedIn profile “Growth is not a hack, but an orchestrated effort across Marketing, Product, and Partnerships”. What does ‘orchestrated’ mean here?

Orchestrated means: you gotta work with product, marketing, sales, customer success. You don’t have these individuals reporting to you. For example, if you are announcing an integration (part of growth strategy), you gotta work with product to build the pieces and marketing to do webinars, blogs, social media, events, etc.

Q6.2 A lot of companies and we as well get stuck at multiple points in growth or probably growing multi-fold primarily in customer acquisition. How do you accelerate customer acquisition?

A: Depends on your business. No straight answer. For example, if you are B2B, and your segment is large enterprise (Fortune 5000), then you gotta do analyst relations, finding partners, spending money on events. Versus, if you are B2B selling to SMB then you’d launch on Product Hunt.

What you call “acceleration”, I may call fundamental. The above examples are given.

Q7. We have heard and thought a lot about “product driven growth”. Still grasping with understanding what is it exactly? I am not talking about just retention, but also gaining new users. A referral program? User delights that increases word of mouth? Strategically inserting social share at different points in the journey? How to strategically trigger this?

A: Product driven growth if the product has virality built in. For example, Chargebee is sold to VP Finance. There’s little virality in that segment. So you gotta choose whether the product you have built has that. If we force virality into Chargebee — we may miserably fail.

I personally do not like a referral program which has economic incentives — it is gamed ultimately.

Q8. How should growth teams be measured on? Say over a quarterly OKR.

A: Would depend on the objective. To give you a specific example at Chargebee, we do integrations as part of growth. My Top level KPIs are number of integrations per quarter. The second order KPIs are engagement with the partners (webinar, events, blogpost, etc.)

Q9. For a B2B product with a certain set of features and a pricing model that a customer is paying, how do you approach adding new awesome “features” from pricing perspective. When would adding base slab make sense? How would a ‘take all features a-la-carte and here’s the price for each feature’ approach, get percieved?

I would start at the segment — who is your buyer and then add features to that segment. example, a cheap hosting plan has a single user as a buyer. He is looking to quickly build a few pages and GTFO. Would you add plugins? Would you add security? Would you add ecommerce?

I would throw features in the laundry, dry it, iron it and hang the clothes in the room. Then build three wardrobes as three segments. Decide where would you put what. Once you have stuffed the wardrobe then put a price tag.

You can’t give a luxury vest to someone who like running bare chested. 🙂

Q10. What do current accelerators/incubators lack? How would you do The Morpheus differently?

A: Oh man. AFAIK and tell sitting 6,000 miles away in the Bay area, there is still a whitespace in the incu/acc area.

Very few accelerators/incubators are run by people who have been entrepreneurs themselves — many run by friends so I’m gonna stop at that comment.

Q11. What’s the career path of growth team members? (FYI: Except 1 or 2 companies, no company in India has growth team)

A: Product -> Growth -> Back to Product.
Marketing -> Growth -> Chief of Growth at Coca Cola
Marketing -> Growth -> More Marketing

Eventually Marketing is going to split between Corp Marketing, Demand Gen, Product Marketing and Growth.

Marketing would be busy keeping sales happy, everything else is noise for them that would be picked up by growth.

Q12. Broadly, what kind of tool stack would you recommend to SAAS growth marketers?

#1 Recommendation. Choose the best analytics tool for your specific needs. In B2C chasing and measuring consumers across channels could be the main goal. So a combo of demand gen analytics + mobile + social media.

May require some data management — using segment to funnel everything in a warehouse on redshift and building dashboards on top.

Q12.1 What tools do you guys use at chargebee? Possible to share?

A: We use broad range — PowerBI for all my freemium and payment gateway analytics. Hubspot for all marketing automation. outreach for drip. Cloud elements for integration. Aha for product board. Mixpanel for product analytics. There are 30 more!

Q13. What does your typical planning time looks like? How much is strategy? How much action?

A: Plan could be immediate getting parties agree on an action is 2-3 weeks. Strategy is essential our POA (Plan of Action) — what are we doing? why? who are the owners? timeline? outcomes?

Q14. Books and podcasts (if you listen to) you’d recommend (in the context of growth / product marketing).

A: Listen to very few growth podcasts as they all talk hacks. Books around psychology are the best. How people decide? What they decide? What motivates them?

Thinking Fast and Slow by Danny Khanneman is 101 on our psyche.

Psychology of Influence is a must read for growth marketers. I’d also recommend reading Messy Middle by Scott Belsky — gives a Product Management perspective.

Do not recommend any marketing books — because growth is beyond marketing so would not be helpful — you gotta already know that.

A big thank you to Indus for taking the time out (and staying up late at -7 GMT) and doing this AMA. I’m sure everyone will be able to takeaway something out of this that they can apply to their product or business. We’ll be doing a lot more of these AMAs going forward, so keep an eye out for those! Apply for membership to the ProductGeeks Community by clicking here.

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