The Indian software-as-a-service (SaaS) landscape is on the cusp of a transformation. Over the past five years, the number of funded SaaS companies has more than doubled and the number of SaaS companies drawing Series C or later-stage capital has quadrupled, representing significant traction. Indian SaaS companies have evolved from the rise of a few upstarts in the 2010s to a multibillion-dollar industry today. The first group of Indian SaaS companies to emerge consisted of horizontal players, such as Zoho and Freshworks, which used India’s cost and talent advantage to target global small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Over time, several different archetypes of Indian SaaS companies have emerged. Today, Indian SaaS companies have different areas of focus that are classified across multiple vectors, such as size of customer, type of solution and geography of focus.
India now has a thriving ecosystem of enablers, comprising domestic and global SaaS investors, more than 100 SaaS angels with four or more investments, and incubators and accelerators.
As we move forward, we expect four key company archetypes to emerge: SMBs targeting global shores with horizontal offerings; vertical-specific companies that have the potential to upend underserved verticals such as healthcare and logistics; players in global emerging tech; and homebound initiators with SaaS and business-to-business tech products tailored for the domestic Indian market.
In our experience, leading SaaS companies exhibit a combination of key winning characteristics across important pillars such as vision and strategy, how-to-win imperatives, and organization enablers.
- Vision and strategy: Play in a large, well-defined market, and have a thoughtful, differentiated product vision.
- How to win: Invest time in achieving the right product-market fit, design pricing and go-to-market models to support the product, and maintain a strong focus on customer success.
- Enablers: Set up a global organization with a culture of innovation and teamwork.
Specifically, in the current Covid-19 world, it is critical for Indian SaaS companies to possess four winning abilities:
- Embrace remote selling as Covid-19 is pushing enterprises to become comfortable with completing large deals over digital channels.
- Set up an effective enterprise sales engine to focus on moving upmarket and expanding to large global markets at an early stage.
- Create a strong product-market fit to solve a specific use case by working with early customers and sharpening the value proposition in an increasingly competitive market.
- Foster employee success and innovation within the organization even as the workforce becomes more distributed and remote in nature.