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From zero to 1 crore in 15 months without any marketing budget – Stagephod Story

Starting up is tough…

Re-starting up is tougher…

Re-starting up with no money is tougher square (if not toughest).

After shutting down my first venture – I was dejected (a startup to which I gave up my everything and the only purpose of my life for 2.5+ years, suddenly vanished), angry (I thought I gave up too early, I could have persisted for some time more) but more than anything else, clueless – what to do next? Going back to the typical job was never an option and moreover I wanted to start something again. The question was – WHAT?

 

Calm period

I started doing these 3 things

  1. At Morpheus gang, I started an initiative  – RIP startup’s founders (to connect ex-founders with existing startups)
  2. Started helping my friends’ startups with their recruitment and marketing with no financials and agenda involved
  3.   Started doing theatre again (my passion from school and college)

I enjoyed all these 3 activities and it was indeed a very composed and upright period of my life. Shortly onward, I decided to make a short film. The idea was to make a quality film in zero budget. I had already built a team (theatre) and for other things we did a lot of jugaads. When I was making the short film, I realized that filmmaking is very much an entrepreneurial activity and filmmakers’ stories should essentially be told to a wider audience. So, I decided to start a platform – Stagephod.org (now community.stagephod.com) to showcase filmmakers and their work. Again, it was an agenda-less and not for any sort of profit activity, hence the domain – .org

Stagephod Idea

I always wanted to combine films/videos, entrepreneurship and technology but never knew how. Initially, my main focus was to feature filmmakers and for that I approached video makers on Facebook. Filmmakers liked the idea and happily agreed to share their stories on this platform. While talking to a lot of filmmakers I realized that they all had a common problem, the problem was getting the adequate work opportunities. The filmmakers did not get relevant and frequent work opportunities. On the other hand, while interacting in my startup circle I realized that so many founders were looking to create videos but were not sure of the platform where they could find quality filmmakers. My entrepreneurial bug started popping out again and I instantly saw a problem which could be solved by creating a marketplace where video makers can be connected to video seekers. I did a quick research and founded that around 5-6 companies in the US and Europe are doing similar work and are doing well. So, the idea got validated and Stagephod.com – A marketplace to create videos was born in April’2015.

Read – Simplifying video making process for startups

First 100 clients

Once I understood the need of the marketplace, we quickly put together a website. Now the next challenge was to bring in requirements from the clients. The big question was – How to bring them? With my erstwhile experience of a startup, I knew that the traditional methods (like typical business development) of acquiring clients would not work. I realized that video makers require business development and we could complement them there. So we should do things which they are not doing or cannot do in their individual capacity. We opted for generating lots of content which can be shared. At the same time, I decided, I will not try to write “content’ just for the sake of it, instead I will write and share what I am experiencing and what I am learning (this post is an example) during this journey. I did that and people found that interesting, shared that and orders started pouring in. People read about Stagephod, liked the idea and started referring other startups and within just 5 months we got 100+ clients including Snapdeal, Commonfloor, Toppr, CashKaro, MySmartPrice etc.

Read – How I and other startups cracked content marketing and made businesses

Finding a co-founder

Once we started getting traction, I strongly felt the need of a co-founder. Having helped many startups with the co-founder search, I knew that traditional methods like posting a simple message on startup groups does not suffice. Co-founder is a person with whom you spend most of your working hours and you also might end up sharing most of your professional life. So I whispered in the clear communication – where I should tell about myself, my thought process, expectations and give a chance to another person to express. Compatibility is one of the main factors. So, I wrote a detailed post, circulated in social media and after talking to 50+ people, I got a startup-saathi, Akhil Gupta. He is an IIT Delhi alumnus and has worked with Shell before joining Stagephod.com

Read in detail – How I met my co-founder

Major Pivot

From the beginning our main focus was to find the best video maker in clients’ budget without compromise on quality. While helping all these 100+ clients, we realized that ‘Concept is King’ when it comes to video. So we started to pitch on only awesome concepts, that can be a huge value proposition in the video creating process. As we all know, thinking does not require any effort but execution does. Coming up with concepts without any advertising background for a variety of businesses catering to different and varied target segments is not an easy task by any means. But then glory lies in overcoming difficult challenges.

We introduced our ‘concept service’ for free and we started providing concepts to our clients. To prepare ourselves for this, we started watching ads, lots of ads and by that we literally mean a lot. We started watching TV for ads and not for the content. The service paid off and augmented our conversion rate.  We created our first TV commercial for client – MySmartPrice.


Seeing the positive response, we started building an in-house team of scriptwriters. The idea was to associate with people who have a passion for writing and at the same time have a deep understanding of business and startups to keep a check on the quality of video.

End to end Video Marketing solution

When it comes to business development, our thought process is very simple, identify clients’ problem, solve that problem efficiently/ effectively and then own that problem. Whenever we have multiple ideas to choose from, our method is simple – we try to think from the client’s perspective that if we add this activity/ feature, will that help our client or not.  So, after video creation, the next logical step was to provide ‘video marketing’ solutions to make that video content viral. How to identify ROI when it comes to video content is always an issue for companies. So in order to solve this problem, we thought to step into clients’ shoes and started creating creative video content for Stagephod.com internally. Two of the viral content we created were Funny VC Entrepreneur meeting and ProtestKaro. This internal content creation helped us aptly in understanding the video marketing and we started using these insights in video creation for our clients.



Check out recent video we made for Carlton Luggage (VIP Bags) which has got 538k+ views on facebook (We shot the video not the advertisement in starting)


Journey continues

In our due time, I also realised that entrepreneurial journey is more about personal growth . The beauty of bootstrapped entrepreneurship is that it makes you realize many of your hidden or unexplored talents/strengths. We should always celebrate the learning first and then the other milestones. It has been an amazing learning journey for me and recently we crossed Rs. 1 Crore mark. 220+ startups have shown their trust in us and have used our platform for video creation. In the current post, I have only mentioned the major milestones but it is a known fact, behind every success there are numerous failures/setbacks. As a part of the game, I enjoyed those failures as they help me in remain grounded and I like to assume that the journey has just begun.

If you have any feedback/ inputs, please write in comments section.

Twitter – @losesaga

@Stagephod

The story was published on my LinkedIn Pulse

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13 Comments

  1. WOW! MANY CONGRATS!! that’s a great milestone to achieve for a bootstrapped startup!

    quick clarification –  “recently we crossed Rs. 1 Crore mark” – stagephod’s revenue as a platform has crossed 1 crores or have your members on stagephod together have achieved 1 crore revenue?

    if i’m not mistaken, you’re based in jaipur or udaipur, right? 

    so who shot the carlton luggage sponsored interview? one of your members/users based in mumbai/delhi or your team flew down? just trying to understand how it works!!

    good luck for the journey ahead – it’s onwards and upwards from here of course!!

  2. Hello Nikhilesh, such a wonderful journey, congratulations. 

    Your experience gives me the confidence to go ahead with our marketing plans sans any budget. Also, I like your concept service. Way to go. Keep up your good work!

    Good luck and thank you.

  3. So many questions 🙂

    Its Stagephod.com’s revenue as a platform

    Now we are based in Faribabad. We follow a managed market place model so we are location agnostic. We have got orders from outside India also (well, only 2 of them :P). We have filmmakers across country so we can shoot anywhere in India

    How does it work now:

    – We conceptualize the whole video (and its marketing strategy) – we have inhouse script writers now

    – We handpicked video maker as per clients location/ budget/ requirement. We manage the entire project professionally

    – Once a video is made, we then help client to promote that video 

    Carlton video was shot in Delhi itself.

    Thanks a ton Asha and Alok for all your guidance!!

  4. Thanks Nithya!!

    Let me know if you need any help from my side. All the best!

  5. Such a fantastic story. 

    While what you did is remarkable, you know what made REALLY REALLY HAPPY?

    Your 3 things:

    1. At Morpheus gang, I started an initiative  – RIP startup’s founders (to connect ex-founders with existing startups)
    2. Started helping my friends’ startups with their recruitment and marketing with no financials and agenda involved
    3.   Started doing theatre again (my passion from school and college)

    I hope you are still doing theatre?

    Ps – Helping others without an agenda is probably the best gift you can give yourself

  6. Thanks Alok for sharing our story and appreciating our efforts!!

    So I am not doing theater now and I myself realised that few days back. Now as you have also pointed out, this will be on my priority now to figure out how can I start doing it again and regularly. 

    And I completely agree with you on agenda less activities. This is my major learning from my entrepreneurial journey. 

  7. Hi Nikhilesh,

    Very inspiring journey. Your team has indeed found a nice gap and have come to provide a solution.
    Allow me to give an input which i hope might help in the journey of your company.

    I am saying this based on my interaction with video makers as part of my homework for a upcoming video for a product idea.

    A product/startup video is essentially a medium to reach deep into the hearts/minds of intended audience, to make an impact on him through a story and hopefully spur him for the intended action. So IMHO, before video and script a decent understanding of human psychology is a great weapon to have to for a video maker.
    But in my interaction with many very decent video makers i found that they lack in this aspect. They may be technically very good video makers but bring very little insights into consumers minds.

    I don’t know what to “term” this skill of reaching into customers heart as? should it be called as marketing skill, creative profesionals ? May be!! But, to me, this skill surely isn’t about video making or script writing or content marketing or video marketing.

    Let me give few examples to add meat to what am saying.

    Check this more than decade old(?) dhara adv for example. Hardly anything breathtaking in terms of video making abilities ? But the story is so captivating, that am sure, many ppl still remember this adv after years of seeing it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIDWHiTrjZ8

    Another example, this “parisian love” adv. from google, presents something as mundane as “internet search” as a lovely story. Again hardly anything breath taking in terms of video making ? But straight into the heart of anyone who watches it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnsSUqgkDwU

    Maybe, the skill am looking for requires big bucks to get, as it’s more than video making and script writing. But the search continues , and budget is a non-negotiable constraint 🙂

    But i hope, thinking from this perspective might help your org to grow by catering better to your intended audience.

  8. Hi Raja,

    So you are bang on in your observation. I realised the same things and now we complement video makers with these skills.

    Most video makers are technical people, they know their stuff and we complement them with creativity, client servicing, professional project management. 

    Your comment is a further validation to what we are doing. Thanks for writing and your suggestions.

  9. Hi Nikhilesh,

    Good to see that the suggestions made sense. Here is my follow up.

    Will pricing the pre-video making process (understanding client’s story/brain storming/creative/script writing) vs actual video making process separately make sense ?

    Rationale for this suggestion is, when a client approaches for video making, there are some apprehension in his mind , whether the outcome of first stage (pre-video) will be as per his liking. This is the stage where lot of brain storming is required on different options/story lines and there could be different outcomes based on the people involved.

    Second stage of actual video making is more like execution of the idea/plan developed in the first stage.

    So i imagine, a client would like to have the flexibility to work in these 2 stages. If the first stage outcome is not as per his liking he can walk out without committing the resources for second stage. If the first stage outcome is as per his liking, he would be more than happy to work on the second stage of actual video making.

    How to price these 2 stages separately instead of single plan that you have now, is something you will have to figure out.

    Regards

    Raja

  10. Dear Raja,

    Very interesting suggestion!!

    I was thinking in same direction – how can we have different pricing for different stages plus how can we have ‘success based’ pricing like in other areas, for ex – recruitment 

    Apart from 2 stages, there is 3rd stage as well, where we need to see whether the video has fulfilled the objective or not.

    I would love to discuss with you on the suggestions/ your experience/ apprehensions as a client. Please let me know your no and good time for a discussion.

  11. Lovely,

    Am dropping you a mail. Keep watch.

    Regards

    Raja

  12. By the way, while we are at this topic. If you haven’t read already, I would like to reccommend a book, which i read sometime back. Contagious – Why things catch on by Jonah Berger

    http://www.amazon.in/Contagious-Things-Catch-Jonah-Berger/dp/1451686579/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475156327&sr=8-1&keywords=contagious+why+things+catch+on

    Do give it a try, it’s has some excellent insights into the topic we are discussing.

    Regards

    Raja

  13. Thanks!

    Ordered the book 🙂

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