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BW Businessworld

The Next Big Jackpot

How Bhavin Turakhia’s next big venture is poised to revolutionise team collaboration and instant messaging in business

Photo Credit :

1502269521_h3b8NR_bhavin-Turakhia.jpg

The Turakhia brothers — Bhavin and Divyank — are probably Indian technology’s new rich kids on the block. For starters, the duo have been immensely successful in all the businesses they launched, a rare feat with startups. Each of their businesses is in the global top 5, in their respective category. And all their businesses are bootstrapped. In August 2016, the Turakhia brothers sold their advertising technology company Media.net to a consortium of Chinese investors for $900 million — a company started in 2010. That makes them billionaires today.

Now, 37-year-old Bhavin is upbeat about his next big business — Flock — a venture slated to revolutionise team collaboration and instant messaging in business.

The Turakhia brothers started their first business, Directi, an IT services company, back in 1998. Like many startups in Silicon Valley, their office was in a garage — this one in Andheri West, Mumbai. Over the years, the brothers created an array of businesses, including web hosting and cloud infrastructure; voice and messaging services; and, of course, digital payments. Today, Flock has a presence in the US, the UK, Spain, Brazil, Russia and India.

Two years before the Media.net sale, in 2014, Bhavin and Divyank sold Directi’s web hosting business to Endurance International Group, a hosting and domain company based in North America. In all, the duo founded 11 companies collaboratively or in an individual capacity. Combined with other exits and their investments, this gives the Turakhia brothers an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion, making them rare new entrants on the 2016 Forbes India Rich List.

Bhavin attributes the success to two things. “It is the high quality of talent that we hire. We take great pains when it comes to hiring talent. The second factor is that none of these businesses are me-too businesses. None of our businesses are a copy of an existing model in the West. They have all been products that we built from the ground up, innovated here (India) and sold to a global audience. This is unconventional in the Indian start-up ecosystem,” says Bhavin.

When Time is The Essence
Bhavin is now focusing on integration of applications and time management with Flock, a product launched in 2014. He believes Flock will change the way people use electronic communication for real-time collaboration. “There hasn’t been much disruption in team collaboration and communication in the last 20 years. Communication was predominantly based on e-mail,” says Bhavin. His plan is simple: People deploy various applications in the enterprise and then spend a lot of time logging into each application daily for routine tasks like checking messages and status updates or notifications. Flock will bring the various apps together and work as a single communication hub. “If you log into each of these separate applications every day, you would waste 45 minutes to an hour just doing that. In many cases, you would not bother to do all those tasks. But what if it all comes together inside Flock? You will be able to consume it, take more intelligent decisions and run your day in a far more efficient fashion,” he says.

Bhavin clarifies that Flock is not meant to replace all the enterprise applications one would use for highly specific tasks. Flock simply aggregates all the notifications and messages from all these applications. More than that, he would like Flock to be known as a ‘team messenger’ for collaboration and instant messaging at the workplace.

According to Bhavin, Flock is a real-time messaging and collaboration app for teams that speeds up and simplifies communication and boosts productivity. Packed with powerful features and a slick, easy to use interface, Flock helps organisations to move to a real-time communication model. Flock also offers a platform for developers, FlockOS — touted as the world’s first chat operating system that lets one build customised apps, bots and integrations.

Bringing Teams Together
Flock is present globally and is used by over 25,000 companies around the world for their communication at work. Some of the companies using Flock in India are Yepme, Voonik, 1mg, Arihant Capital, Meru Cabs and CouponDunia (among others). Global customers include renowned companies such as Tim Hortons, Vmware, Mothercare, Victo-rinox, RICOH, Avendus, Princeton University, Skin Laundry, Craft and others.

Online marketplace Voonik, for instance, a leader in the unbranded fashion segment for women, is a customer that has benefitted significantly. “By using Flock, we can better control our company data and create checks and balances, while fostering instant communication,” says Sujayath Ali, CEO and co-founder of Bengaluru-based Voonik.

The company primarily relied on e-mail, which is an asynchronous tool. Like many other businesses, Voonik tried tools like WhatsApp and realised that they were not apt for professional communication. The primary concern was that with these tools, time-sensitive issues would either slip through the cracks or face delays, ultimately leading to a poor customer experience. To close this communication gap, the company began to look for a messaging tool that would bring its teams together. From the very beginning, Flock seemed to be the perfect fit.

With Flock, teams across Voonik can now collaborate in real time, leading to increased transparency. Voonik’s marketing and customer support teams are now able to communicate with each other seamlessly and share updates on targets, customer feedback and issues, right within Flock. Moreover, as teams are able to flag customer queries that need attention instantly on Flock, they can quickly resolve these matters as well.

The Next Big Thing?
Well, there are other applications sharing space with Flock. For instance, popular messaging apps such as Slack, WhatsApp, Skype and Jabber are popular in the virtual world. This does not bother Bhavin. He says users are attracted to Flock because of the increased efficiency in communications that his app brings in. When comparing Flock to the competition, Bhavin speaks about “much richer” integration, and “much better” native features like polls and to-dos. It already integrates with Google Drive and other Google apps.

“We are more economical; we are 50 per cent cheaper than the competing products. Some of the features in Flock are far more focused on increasing efficiency than other competitors,” he says.  

Flock offers a ‘freemium’ and a paid model. The paid version costs $3 (Rs 195) per user, per month. But right now, the objective is to create awareness and create a user base, informs Bhavin.

There are certain features in Flock that are time-savers and productivity boosters. For instance, there is a feature called Magic List that automatically prioritises the contacts that you frequently chat with and brings them up to the top of your roster. Similarly, there is a feature called Magic Priority in the chat tab — every time you get a new message it bubbles up to the top. These features improves the capability to carry on multiple conversations in an efficient manner at the same time from the desktop software and the mobile software.

And then, there is artificial intelligence and bots, which will  give a fillip to Flock. In fact, Flock already incorporates bots; one can write a bot using Flock’s application platform, FlockOS.

Bhavin says Flock is “the next big thing” in enterprise messaging and collaboration. For someone who has always had his finger on the tech pulse, he may not be too far from another potential money spinner.

CURRENT COMPANIES

FLOCK: A real-time messaging and collaboration app for teams; Established in 2014
RINGO: The app delivers high quality and low-cost international and domestic calling. Ringo is currently available in 180 countries globally; Established in 2014
RADIX: A registry operator for domain names; Established in 2012
ZETA: A mobile payments platform that seeks to revolutionise m-commerce and eliminate dependency on paper and plastic for millions of employed professionals in India; Established in 2015
CODECHEF: A global programming platform, which supports over 35 programming languages and has a large community of programmers that helps students and professionals test and improve their coding skills; Established in 2009

ERSTWHILE COMPANIES  

* Ad-tech company Media.net sold to Chinese consortium of investors for $900 million in 2016; Established in 2010
* Web presence businesses sold to Endurance International Group in 2014 for $160 million


1. BigRock is a provider of web-presence solutions to small-businesses, professionals and individuals; Established in 2010
2. Logicboxes is a web products and consulting company, which specialises in providing private-
labelled, web presence and communication applications to New gTLD Registries, ccTLD Registries, ICANN Registrars, Large Web Hosts, Domain Resellers, ISPs and Telcos; Established in 2003
3. ResellerClub is a platform that powers some of the world's most popular web hosts, domain resellers, web designers and technology consultants. ResellerClub provides scalable and secure Shared Hosting, Reseller Hosting as well as VPS solutions; Established in 2006
4. Webhosting.info is the oldest and largest research and statistics portal on the web dedicated towards the web services industry; Established in 2003