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The journey from $325 to $2000000

The bigger the risk, the higher the rewards. This is very true, even more so in the case of startups.
Startups don’t guarantee success. In fact, statistics say that more than 90% startups fail.

So, entrepreneurs who risk everything to pursue a startup idea are a rare breed. It helps to know about them and their startups.
Regardless of their successes or failures, it is important we learn from such entrepreneurs. There is no better education than learning from their experiences. After all, continuous learning is what helps one succeed.

In this edition, we bring to you the journey of Mukul Gupta, an entrepreneur who took an idea of creating customized webdesigns (themes aka skins) for content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal etc., and built the startup into a business making $2 million in yearly revenues.

[hero heading=”Mukul Gupta, Managing Director, Capital Numbers”]Right from finding a place to rent to finding suppliers for office was challenging. We almost always had to pay in advance and had very little negotiation power. [/hero]

Follow the steps to his success.

1. The Pitch

Capital Numbers
Capital Numbers offer “In-demand Skills, On-Demand” to Digital Agencies, Startups and SMEs who either do not want to have an in-house tech team or, want to keep it small by outsourcing any overflow work.

2. The Motivation

I think it takes more than a single moment to compel someone to do something unusual and risky. For me, it was a series of things that compelled me to give up my career and risk pretty much everything.

I was not afraid of taking risks, but I always thought, when I would, I would do so to create change. I wanted to build a company that would not only offer a array of services but also have the technical depth and expertise that would really benefit our clients. My job anyhow required smart strategic thinking, hard work and long hours. I thought, why don’t I apply all of it to create something of my own; a company that would offer great working atmosphere to its staff and build reliable, high quality products for its clients.

3. The Human Capital

Besides myself, the three other pillars of Capital Numbers are Anindya Mukherjee (Ani), Subhrajit Das (Jit) and Pushpal Mazumder (Pushpal). We met while working together in the same company. Ani was the Creative Head, Jit was Operations Guy and Pushpal was the Tech Guru.

While Ani and Jit were involved with Capital Numbers since its ideation period, Pushpal joined a little after its inception. All of them have 10+ yrs of experience in their respective fields and they took a 50% – 60% cut in their pay, initially, to build this company.

4. Ideation

While working in our previous company, we realized that there is a lot of latent demand for specific expertise like ability to work with content management platforms such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and Magento. Large companies working with enterprise clients do not see an economic reason to pursue this or, train their staff to get the required expertise. We thought that this might be the niche where we can play.

The name “Capital Numbers” was chosen because we thought numbers cannot be capital, so its an unsolved mystery, which we can solve.

5. Value Proposition

We offer “In-Demand Skills, On-Demand”. From our team of 200+ in-house IT professionals; start-ups, digital agencies and software teams are able to hire White Label Web Design and Development, Mobile Apps and Digital Marketing experts to function as their extended team.

We help our clients to choose their extended team as per their requirement. Unlike hiring through Odesk or, Elance our clients can hire our full-time employees, who work under the same roof and are supervised by our Technical Project Managers. Thus, guaranteeing skills and experience, higher quality work, prompt response, protection of intellectual property and offering source code ownership.

6. Initial customers & Market validation

We launched with a service where we would just offer custom skins for WordPress websites called as “Themes” for $325. We started getting a lot of inquiries, since our initial days, most of which where US based Agencies who wanted to sub-contract work to us.

During the initial days, we were little scared to hire many staff and hence we started putting jobs on freelancing websites. It was then that the nightmare started because the quality was very hit and miss. We decided that we have to build an in-house team but that required time and on the other hand there were projects waiting to be delivered. We then decided to hire a team in Russia whom we were paying more than what the client was paying us because we wanted to protect our reputation by meeting out commitments. Slowly, we replaced the work being sent to Russian team with in-house staff who learned by looking at the work the Russians had done previously.

We were lucky to have been contacted by Harvard Science Review who wanted a WordPress site. Realizing the brand value, we decided to do it for free against a testimonial on their website. They agreed and we got the endorsement from Harvard University which we started using in our marketing.

Agency clients wanted to work with the same guy every time which was not feasible and hence we came up with a model where they can contract staff out on a fixed monthly fee. This model really took off because unlike others we were offering people with specific expertise and their learning time was close to zero.

This model now constitutes around 90% of our revenue. We kept reinvesting the profit and added more platforms and later on expanded into areas like Mobile App Development and Digital Marketing. We also started approaching large businesses and they are also showing interest in what we do which is very encouraging.

7. Growth & Metrics

Startup SME Award
We have been awarded “Startup SME of Year 2014” by The Telegraph at Infocom which is a great recognition for us.

Revenue growth is our primary metric which we cross-tab against profits and number of full time employees on a month-to-month basis.

8. Growth pains & Lessons

I think India (or may be just Kolkata) looks at you very skeptically when you mention the word Start-up. Right from finding a place to rent to finding suppliers for office was challenging. We almost always had to pay in advance and had very little negotiation power.

Hiring was also difficult but, I think we got really lucky as we were able to convince some very senior people to join the company which then helped us to scale without problems. Once we had the core team in place it was comparatively easier to rope in other people whom we wanted.

Start-up is essentially a blank slate and you need to put solutions in place as and when you encounter a problem.

9. Growth plans

We want to become #1 Remote Staffing Solution provider for Web design and development, mobile apps development and digital marketing services in the International market. Currently Capital Numbers has 200+ employees and is earning $2 Million a year. By 2020 we aim to have 700+ employees and earn a revenue of $10 Million.

For us reaching out to underprivileged community and giving back to the society is in our DNA. So, there are quite a few number of CSR activities in the array of our future plan. Engaging with the deprived ones and helping them to deal with quality of living challenges is where we want to venture into to make a meaningful difference to them. We want to actively contribute to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate and help toward building a more sustainable society.

10. Growth funds

I bootstrapped the company. Until now raising funds was not required.

11. Hiring Effectively as a startup

The single greatest challenge we face and am sure is true for every other company irrespective of its size is hiring the right people.

One has to be very clear about what they want from the resource – in terms of skills, experience and qualification. It is a very tricky job.

For a company like ours, we look for passion, hunger for growth and ability to learn new technologies in every employee we hire.

However, when you are starting a new service line, you need a person who will head that and has an understanding of both technology as well as economics. This has been challenging for us.

12. Trends in Web application development

The web architecture and how web-apps are being built has changed significantly. Lately, APIs are becoming central point of Web apps and Mobile apps, where developers are building RESTful services on the server-side and building the front-end apps for both Web and Mobile, based on the RESTful services.

There has been a rise of Single Page Applications (SPAs) which consume RESTful APIs and then generate user experience unlike ever before. This has made JavaScript a main-stream technology and extremely important skill for all developers. Currently, AngularJS, EmberJS and Backbone are the most popular SPA frameworks used for building real-world apps.

I think the above along with the rise of Mobile Backend as a Services (MBaaS) solutions on the Cloud platforms such as Parse and Azure Mobile Services will be an interesting trend in the coming days. We are also seeing a surge in demand for developers who can work on JavaScript technologies.

This year, we have seen lot of Node.js adoption in the enterprises, especially for building for back-end services. This trend will continue and I feel Node.js will become as much mainstream as PHP or RoR.

On the general side, responsive web design is set to become the de-facto standard for websites.

13. Benefits of a vibrant startup eco-system

Although we did not seek any directly help from any of the local startups, the vibrant startup ecosystem of Kolkata acted as an agent of motivation for us to build Capital Numbers brick by brick. Several activity-based events, like SoLo Changers (organized by an independent group of local professionals) and several leadership programs organized by industry bodies like NASSCOM, CII etc., where entrepreneurs get the chance to use and practice skills needed to grow their businesses, turned out to be very useful for us.

14. Expectations from an ideal startup hub

An entrepreneur has many concerns: funding, staffing, developing a marketing strategy and ensuring that they have a viable product or service. Before beginning the process of starting a business, however, there is one important decision that must be made: where to start the business.

Further, to me an ideal startup hub is where you can keep your operational cost low and at the same time have access to human resources to meet your staffing needs. There should be enough resources available for the type of business that you are starting. The quality of life in the area you have chosen is equally as important as people have a life outside of work.

As a startup, it can be difficult to navigate the minefield of legal regulations, startup costs, marketing, as well as all of the other details included in simply running your business. Locating your company in an area that is rich with incubator programs for startups will assist you in making sure you have the resources you need to be a success.

15. Areas needing help

We are always on the lookout for individuals who have specific technical expertise but stuck in middle-management roles and want to do something entrepreneurial. These people can help us start new service lines and share the rewards.

I would also be always willing to meet mentors from our industry who have successfully scaled their business and help us with their knowledge and experience.

16. Advice to Entrepreneurs

Work every day. Pay attention to your results. Think, Learn & Adapt.
Desire to improve. There really is no magic beyond that.

17. Finally…what makes Capital Numbers special

Capital Numbers has been climbing the success ladder rapidly ever since its inception in 2012. We are earning a revenue of $2 million and completed 1600 successful projects. This could have been possible only because of the very dynamic team we have. All businesses need a range of skills to be able to survive and grow. Our 200+ team of IT professionals have helped us to constantly maintain a high quality work earning us numerous renewals of internationals business contracts.

18. For more info

Capital Numbers Infotech Pvt. Ltd. is based in Kolkata, India and provide White Label Web Design and Development, Mobile Apps and Digital Marketing Services. The company is an ISO 9001 Certified, D&B Registered and a Certified Google Partner.

The clients include start-ups, digital agencies and software teams (that prefer to keep their in-house team small) and generally those who need to outsource any overflow work. Capital Numbers’ team of 200+ professionals are serving some prominent clients like Fool.com, Harvard University, Thomson Rueters, Condé Nast, Matches Fashion, Doosan, My Pay Network and Ordina.

In December 2014, Capital Numbers was awarded as the Best SME Startup at The Telegraph INFOCOM SME Awards 2014.

More information @ capitalnumbers.com

(Please post your announcements, press releases or other requests directly to appropriate exchange forum forum)
(If you are an amazing Indian startup founder or enabler of startup eco-system in India and would like to be interviewed or featured on Startups.in then I’d be happy to talk to you. Contact me right away.)

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Naag

Bootstrapper at Startups
Being away from India for several years, I'm always excited about anything Indian. I'm particularly crazy (read passionate) about start-ups in India and administer the portal for Indian Startups which started off as a platform to write about startups around the world and India in particular. Do startups interest you? Then join startups. Let's build startups in India together. If you need to talk to me in real-time, I'll be available on IRC channel #startuphub. Click to connect.

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