Prefer having at least one Co-Founder who you really like to work with and has complimentary skill sets – In conversation with Mr. Hamid Farooqui, CEO, SoGoSurvey

When it comes to online survey softwares’, users usually face difficulty in finding an affordable, low-end, low-power solution, and the more powerful solution that breaks the bank. SoGoSurvey is a  software startup which provides enterprise feedback system/ survey tool as SaaS model. Formed by Hamid Farooqui and Suhail Farooqui in beta/stealth mode in 2012, the company came out in its full existence in the year 2013. A USA based company with the offices in India and UAE, the target market for SoGoSurvey is all small, medium and large businesses who need to conduct different types of surveys such as Employee satisfaction Survey, Customer Satisfaction Survey, Employee Engagement Survey and others. To understand more about the startup and journey of Mr. Hamid Farooqui, CEO, SoGoSurvey, Business2Business got into an exclusive conversation with Mr. Farooqui  who believes that Indian organizations just like their global counterparts need a survey tool in order to understand the pulse of their audience and more:

Taking the entrepreneurial leap: Mr. Farooqui’s originally belongs to a family of farmers and his dad was a farmer. His father moved to Mumbai very early in his life and became an entrepreneur and successfully established a very rewarding bakery business. Mr. Farooqui holds a Bachelor’s degree in Production Engineering from Mumbai University and a Masters in Computer Science from State University of New York. Mr Farooqui shares, “Even though my parents were not highly educated, they valued education above everything else and that is why all of my siblings are US educated - my eldest brother Dr. Shuaib Farooqui is a top Pediatric Surgeon in Greensboro, NC, USA. I grew up reading stories of Bill Gates, Steve Job and other great technology entrepreneurs and was highly influenced by their single point focus and perseverance. Also, due to good mentoring received early in my career, I also knew that for me to be successful, I have to get the best education, work in the mainstream job market for a few years and only then take a plunge into the world of startup.  That is what I did and I believe it is the right model for most of us entrepreneurs.”

Evolution of SoGoSurvey: The startup is a cloud based software company which provides one of the best enterprise feedback system/ survey tool in the world. Mr. Farooqui shares, “We cater to small, medium as well as large businesses that need to conduct different types of surveys such as Employee Satisfaction Survey, Customer Satisfaction Survey, Employee Engagement Survey and others to have the pulse of their customers or to know the state of their employee satisfaction with the company. He adds, “Our business model is simple. We offer a cloud based survey tool that can be used by our customers to design and distribute beautiful online surveys. Then collect responses from participants and use our powerful reporting engine to run various reports and gain insight into their issue. This insight can be used to then come up with actionable changes to the business. Our software is offered on a subscription model and the prices are kept extremely low to make it affordable for everyone. Me and my brother, Faisal, Co-Founded Mouthshut.com, which is a pioneer of internet revolution in India. Mouthshut is an informal consumer feedback platform. From this, the idea of the formalized feedback system came up, which is what SoGoSurvey does. We saw a need for a tool that would be high quality, but for low cost. We then decided to build such a tool and SoGoSurvey was born. Our solution is easy for the beginner and powerful for the expert.”

Need Analysis: On discussions on what made him realise that there is a space for a product like this in the Indian market, Mr. Farooqui shares, “India is the world’s largest democracy and amongst the world’s largest markets. Both from a governance and a market/product research standpoint a robust, accessible feedback system is imperative for governments and corporations to get it right.  Over the last decade the number of internet users in India has doubled and more people are online either through cell phones or computers. Earlier companies were conducting paper-pen based surveys which made it far more expensive, time-consuming & error-prone. SoGoSurvey makes survey creation simple, distribution quick & analysis accurate. Respondents can take the survey from a computer as well as cell phone, making for a wider reach.”

Investors & advisors on-board: Mr. Farooqui shared, “SoGoSurvey has been funded by family and some very close friends. We have not needed extra funding after the initial angel round as we started to get good revenue by the 2nd year of operations. However, to fuel faster growth to the next level, we may consider VC investments in future. The idea is to take funding from a VC, who, along with money brings expertise and experience to our company to fuel the growth further.”

National & Global Presence: Sharing about the current and future expansion plans Mr. Farooqui shared, “We operate through 3 locations viz. Virginia, USA; Mumbai, India & Dubai, UAE & cater to more than 70,000 customers in 75 countries. Our belief is that offer the best product and support for low cost and customers will flock to you in droves. So we are focusing 80% of our energy on Product and Support. Based on customer feedback we have been quietly overhauling the UI of our product and have released a brand new looking product with world-class usability in August of this year.” He adds, “ We are hiring a lot of very senior level employees for Sales and Marketing roles in USA as well as in India. Since we are a global product, we are now dividing responsibilities in our teams by geography. Already we are seeing a positive outcome from this focused approach.”

Competitive differentiation and advantage: “We compete with the paper based survey companies in India, but they seem to be disappearing slowly.  We now compete with a couple of other players in Online Survey space. Our USP is to offer a really powerful, highly user-friendly online survey software at a super-low cost. We saw a need for a tool that would be high quality, but for low cost and that’s how SoGoSurvey was born.  And that’s not all… It comes with training and extensive support that existing customers are raving about. We're changing not just how you collect feedback in a secure, collaborative setting, but also how you fundamentally view feedback from customers, employees and other stakeholders. Our solution is easy for the beginner and powerful for the expert. This is what makes us stand out with the competition in the space,” says Mr. Farooqui.

Gained Inspiration from: Sharing about the startups which in his opinion are built in the right way Mr. Farooqui shares, “I have been inspired by a lot of individuals and companies to get the strength to do my own startup. Mark Zuckerberg maybe so young, but he is phenomenal entrepreneur – hands on and gutsy and does not shy away from a lot of work despite being very wealthy. Uber, Airbnb and Ola in India are also inspirational stories. Our own venture Mouthshut.com is a great success story that inspires me and a lot of startups in India.”

India’s startup scene- As an entrepreneur, there are a lot of chances and risks and Indian market is very different from other markets. On this Mr. Farooqui shares, “India offers a great opportunity for startup in the IT industry. With the recent demonetization and push towards cashless economy, there is an unprecedented opportunity for startups in financial and related sectors. With 1.3 billion people in India, there is a huge market that is still untapped. E-commerce, and IT enabled businesses are still a very miniscule part of the economy. It is my firm belief that a new economy startup will come along and become the #1 company in India in next ten years. Look at Google, Facebook and Uber in the US. They are amongst the top companies in the US today and they are relatively very young companies.”

He adds, “ India has its own unique challenges for startup. Lack of world class talent is one of the biggest issues for product companies in the technology sector. Finding good IT talent for Product companies (as opposed to body shop outsourcing companies) who can build great products and do a lot of R&D is extremely hard in India. The big outsourcing companies kill creativity in our engineers and it has been a huge challenge. It is only now that working in a start-up product company in India has become more attractive. Previously, all good engineers wanted to work for name brand outsourcing companies. Another challenge is the lack of sufficient M&A in the technology sector in India. The big traditional fortune 100 companies in India tend to believe that it is better to build than to buy. I have been fairly surprised by this trend in India. Big acquisitions tend to propel the startup scene quickly due to the adrenaline rush and motivation to budding entrepreneurs to quit jobs and take the risk of doing a startup, because the upside is huge.

Advice to the young entrepreneurs- Discussing on the failures that a startup founder goes through, Mr. Farooqui shares, “ As an entrepreneur, there was no major failure in my business so far, but there have been many small setbacks from time to time. Sometimes you make some changes to the marketing plan and growth slows down and you are not sure what went wrong. It may take days and weeks to get back on track after figuring out what went wrong.  The other setbacks that we face from time to time is losing a good employee. It slows us down and is a major distraction, but it is part of being an entrepreneur and you need to keep moving forward. 

He adds, “My advice to entrepreneurs would be- Do not start on your own till you have a couple of years (or more) of experience working in the industry in which you want to do the startup. Just know that for every college drop-out who succeeded, there are millions who failed miserably – we just don’t hear about the ones who failed. Also, great business leaders who we keep hearing about such as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of ‘Harvard’. So they already have something, we do not! Also, always have at least one Co-Founder who you really like to work with and has complimentary skill sets. Absolutely needed. Do not start without this. Have you family buy-in with your decision to do a startup. It requires a lot of sacrifice do your own startup and your family / spouse will need to support you. So their agreement is a must or you will go through emotional turmoil.

SoGoSurvey’s quick pitch: We were very much interested in knowing the founder’s pitch of convincing our readers to start using SoGoSurvey. Mr. Farooqui shares, “For personal simple use, the product is free, so there is no reason not to use it. For professional use you should use SoGoSurvey because we offer the best high end survey tool for a very low price. Conduct your various HR or customer surveys using our tool. We are here to help you and offer one of the best support in the industry.” 

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