My Proficorn Way (Part 79)

The Netcore Idea

Netcore had an unusual beginning. When I was running IndiaWorld, we had started offering Linux-based mail servers in 1998 for companies to do their internal mail. It was a small side business, useful because this way they could also reply to all the emails that came in from their newly launched websites. When I was trying to raise capital for IndiaWorld during that period, the Linux corporate mail business stuck out as a sore thumb. “So, you are running these global portals for Indians, and then you have a business that offers email for companies in India? Tell us the connection.” This is what I started hearing from potential investors. It put me on the defensive in the conversation. I decided to separate it out – after all, the real value lay in the portals. And thus Netcore as an independent entity was born.

Netcore has lived through many avatars. Had I stuck to the first idea of Linux mail servers, we would have long been dead! After an initial period of failed experiments, we finally hit upon the idea of SMS services for enterprises in India followed by email marketing – both around 2007-8. There was no deep thought or detailed business plan; it was more of figuring out problems we could solve for businesses based on what we knew. Email has been the one constant for Netcore throughout. It is our “hedgehog” attitude – the one thing we are passionate about, the one thing we are best at, and which is also our financial engine.

In 2014, we were worried about the future of email, and so decided to move up the marketing stack. From there was born our marketing automation suite. That has its own story. My colleague, Veer, heard the phrase “martech” in a customer call. He liked it, and we investigated further. As it turned out, there was a Martech conference happening in Boston in a few months. We both decided to attend. The conference opened our eyes to a new world – beyond SMS and email. We decided to make the bet on campaign automation.

As it turned out, email did not die but grew in strength. But with the automation platform, we also opened a new world for ourselves – assisting B2C enterprises with customer engagement and journey orchestration. And as it so often happens, one idea led to another and we expanded into personalisation and product experience via well-timed acquisitions.

There has not been one single driver for Netcore. Instead, it’s been a series of ideas. We never had a long-term business plan; our focus was more on survival and on year-on-year growth. Since we did not have any outside investors in Netcore, the pressure was more internal than external. We kept listening to customers and added features and product lines. It is only in recent years that we have been developing a longer-term roadmap.

In the fast-moving world of tech, new ideas are a must. Keeping abreast of the competition (small and big companies) has to complement one’s own worldview. A proficorn of today can become a has-been of tomorrow if one does not have products that fit the market needs. In a SaaS (software-as-a-service) world where everything is a click away, competition is global. In such a world, to survive and thrive is an extreme challenge. New ideas have to be as much at the heart of a proficorn as they are for a startup.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.