How MindTickle Built Their Startup Story from Scratch, Evangelising and Not Giving Up

In 2011, 4 friends founded MindTickle. An enterprise learning platform, it has changed how companies globally onboard new hires.

In 2011, four friends came together to found MindTickle. An enterprise learning platform, MindTickle has now transformed the way companies globally onboard and retain new hires. It is now looking to transform the way companies conduct their internal product training.

Back when they had started up, MindTickle found it difficult to get more than 5 clients for its new learning platform. Today, over 56,827 people in various organisations directly benefit from using MindTickle.

It helped HCL Tech reduce its dropout rates for a new hire programme by 60%, increase MakeMyTrip’s new employee engagement by 26% and reduce SAP’s employee training costs by 60%.

As always, it wasn’t an easy ride for Mohit Garg, Krishna Depura, Deepak Diwakar and Nishant Mungali, the makers of MindTickle. Here’s their story.

MindTickle Takes Shape

In 2006, the four co-founders of MindTickle had their first dabble at gamification. They started a group called ‘TeraMeraIdea’ which brought together people from across their college and the world to take part in interesting activities via the internet.

During this period, they decided to conduct activities for the group like treasure hunts and NGO related activities.

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MindTickle’s Co-Founders

The treasure hunts that were entirely knowledge based saw huge success. The treasure hunts and quizzes used to cover various topics ranging from history, sports, music, geography, to the biggest Indian scams. They soon took the treasure hunt to Facebook in the form of quizzes, and saw huge traffic being generated to it.

“At the same time, Facebook and Zynga were receiving hype as well. We realised that whenever knowledge is provided in a very engaging manner, in a manner where people can find it exciting, then people will use it a lot. That is when we decided to experiment with this field,” says Krishna Depura, co-founder at MindTickle.

On further research, they realised that this was where the money was. When they discovered that corporate learning and information decimation were fragmented, they went ahead with plan MindTickle.

But, not without iterations.

Employee Engagement Vs Learning

“We had a couple of alpha products before finalising on the route to take,” says Krishna.

MindTickle initially focussed only on employee engagement in different companies. When they realised that the need around employee learning had not been fulfilled, the four decided to shift focus to learning as well.

MindTickle is targeted at companies in information technology, telecom and financial services. To bring back focus on to its core offering, the company soon decided to cut down on the employee engagaement component. They slowly shifted focus completely to an effective learning platform, while retaining lessons learnt from the engagement experiments.

Developing a Product Where None Existed

Krishna defines product development as the most interesting and most challenging part of their startup journey. More so because gamification and learning for new hires in companies in India was unheard of at the time.

“We had tried to make learning fun, while other people were trying to do a lot of things in the education space and academic space. We were trying to sell social learning, gamified learning and we were trying to do that at an enterprise level. Not everyone was a believer,” says Krishna.

The team evolved the idea and gained knowledge about the market from scratch. The idea was not taken from any popular idea already employed, or imported from another country, says Krishna.

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The MindTickle Team

“Not only did we have to understand what is the business problem, we had to tackle a business problem from a business owner’s point of view. At the same time – the end learner experience was the key. These are a lot of challenges where we did not have any established company to look towards,” adds Krishna.

During the same period, the word gamification, and gamification in learning was coined in the US. With the global validation, came validation in India as well.

In hindsight, the company feels that the lack of people in the field is what made them what they are, believe the MindTickle team.

“The fact that not too many people were there in the field proved to be a great advantage as we were able to think of something new, differently. We did not have to stick to traditional constructs, we were able to experiment,” explains Krishna.

Garnering interest and recognition from Indian companies, however, was thanks to early adopters in India.

The Importance of Early Adopters

After spotting the big opportunity to transform learning and training processes with their platform, the company began the hunt for clients.

The company began with tests and pilots at corporates. One of the first companies in which they tried their platform was mobile ad company, InMobi.

“The feedback was just awesome. It convinced us that the future of learning is going to be redefined in next few years and we decided to take a lead and create a next generation learning platform,” says Krishna.

Once the pilots were done with, the InMobi team approached MindTickle for a more serious adoption of the platform.

“They came to us and said that we’re hiring and growing a lot, but we have a huge problem in keeping new hires inducted and updated. We launched for Inmobi and got our first customer. After that we did the same in Yahoo India and couple of other companies, and they liked the concept and that’s how it started,” explains Krishna.

However, not all the companies were willing to give MindTickle a chance before they made it to the mainstream.

Krishna says that while progressive companies like InMobi and also, Yahoo were willing to think out of the box and be early adopters, not everyone concurred.

“Initially many people were skeptical on the way we were approaching and redefining learning.  The focus was only on delivery of training content and not on the effectiveness of learning programs. Also, people used to confuse between game and gamification and we had to evangelise and explain that how our platform,” he says.

The team wasted many hours and meetings initially with potential clients and companies who showed interest in their product. They later declined to take on the platform as they were not confident enough.

“In the initial period you do need to find early adopters, we were lucky in that sense. Not everyone will get convinced in the first shot,” he says.

Once the two companies came on board, they began recording testimonials, and used references to bring in more customers.

Doing Things Differently

“We never made the product for the Indian market alone. For us it was always a global product right from the beginning,” MindTickle Team.

MindTickle currently has a 18 member strong team at their headquarters in Pune. The company is looking at going global with deals having been signed with companies in the US now. They also plan on expanding to the UK market.

When asked if they would ever do things differently going back – Krishna says, “ A startup is a journey where at every bifurcation you take a decision. We took a set of decisions which got us to where we are today. In a startup you cannot really look back. Everything is a learning process. There is always an opportunity to correct things that you are doing today,” he ends.

Photo Credits: Aditi Shastri

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