Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi Deepak! Thanks for having me for the interview. I’m Lakshdeep Rajput and I’m the co-founder and CEO at SearchTap. It’s a search technology product that provides fast and relevant search solutions for websites, mobile applications, and enterprise software.
The SearchTap co-founders Naveen Gupta (left) and Lakshdeep Rajput (right)
Most of our clients are eCommerce stores as our product delivers tangible ROI by way of improved engagement and conversions for them. The crux of SearchTap is making the search experience seamless for the end-user by using our search-as-you-type technology and dynamically changing filters. This fast and seamless search experience makes it easier for high-intent customers to make a purchase. Our specialization is providing a customizable search user experience with only minimal involvement of our client’s tech team.
What’s your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I ran an IT consulting company with my co-founder. The idea came to us after working for a client with whom we had done a complex search integration. When we couldn’t find a solution that would be a good fit for them in terms of features, functionality, and budget, we decided to build one ourselves.
During this time we also had the opportunity to connect with a few eCommerce store owners and some things stood out to me in these discussions. The first one is that many of these stores were not able to optimize their search due to a lack of expertise. Then the second one is that the few solutions present in the market are not financially viable.
We used these two learnings as the cornerstones of SearchTap. We realized that designing a search experience wasn’t enough and we had to reach out to people to show them how they can derive the maximum value from our product.
Always charge for your product/service when you’re starting. While free users can help increase your market reach, the number of users is a vanity metric. You should be concerned with the number of paying customers and your MRR.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When we were working for an eCommerce store, we ran into the challenge of improving their search functionality. Initially, we tried to use a variety of open-source solutions and cobble them together to build a solution that could synergize with our client requirements. But as we delved deeper, we realized that a lot of existing solutions that we tried to use were specifically built for document search and they did not offer a great experience for the eCommerce industry.
We started talking to more and more founders and found common issues plaguing these eCommerce businesses. Stuff like long loading times, poor mobile UX, irrelevant results, etc. all of it was leading people to bounce off and complete their purchase somewhere else. And all this after a store had spent so much time and money getting a customer on board.
We found this niche and then started iterating till we got to a point where our analytics could prove a significant increase in conversions by replacing the old clunky search technology with SearchTap.
Describe the process of launching the business.
After seeing a positive impact from our initial build, we sampled the solution to some of our existing contacts. During these initial pitches, we realized that SearchTap was a great fit for the eCommerce industry. Since the search was able to make an impact from the first day and helped improve sales it was a win-win situation for both sides.
We sensed this opportunity and decided to license our technology for a small fee and to build a recurring revenue model around it which was the biggest drawback in our consulting business.
Early clients were Magento based stores and that defined the initial development path for SearchTap. Since we had decided to focus on Magento, our dev team worked on building our first integration with Magento, and meanwhile, we also signed on about 4-5 clients on the same platform while we were still in the product building phase.
But the funny thing is that we did all this before even launching the website. All of this was just based on our compelling concept and working examples. On the other hand, it gave us great insight into what are the common problems an eCommerce business face when deciding on what search solution to implement. Using this knowledge we gained we were able to design a beautiful site that educated our prospects about the importance of a good search and showcased how our product could help them.
So, while we still serve enterprise clients to this day, our focus is to reach out to as many eCommerce stores by building platform-specific integrations such as Shopify, Magento & WooCommerce.
I think it’s very important for product companies to focus on building a more inbound sales process from day one rather than just relying on an outbound sales strategy.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
From the start, we chose to focus heavily on our outbound sales process at SearchTap and it’s still a core part of acquiring new business for us. Our team is always getting in touch with new prospects over email to try and get them to agree for a personalized demo. Demos are a great way to introduce our product to our prospects. We get to find out first hand and get to know what reservations they may have.
You would be surprised to know that within the eCommerce industry, each specific industry vertical has its unique challenges. Our work with our initial clients helped in identifying any gaps in an eCommerce store’s search journey and what improvements could be implemented. Since we serve the broader eCommerce market and have clients across FMCG, Apparel, Cosmetics, etc we have been able to take learnings from one industry and apply it to others. This has helped us attract and retain customers tremendously.
More recently, we’ve also started leveraging our expertise in eCommerce and our business network to grow. On the content front, we have some good blogs and success stories on our website that showcase our value-add. This targeted messaging has been a great help in improving the chances of conversions. When it comes to partnerships, we have started attending some events to build our referral network and find some co-marketing opportunities in the future. We’re excited to see how these efforts pay off.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Currently, SearchTap is working with over 400 eCommerce stores globally and we plan to focus on making our offering more robust. Currently, we’re processing 75 million searches every month and we plan to double that by the end of this year. We’ve got clients from almost all sectors of the eCommerce industry who have seen a positive change in their conversion rates and sales. We know that we have a great tool for any brand or business that is trying to improve their online shopping experience, the challenge for us is going to be reaching out to them and so that they can try out our product.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I think it’s very important for product companies to focus on building a more inbound sales process from day one rather than just relying on an outbound sales strategy. While our outbound strategy has worked well, having proactive marketing in place would have helped us scale faster.
The other thing I learned as a tech product company is to be laser-focused on building features towards a self-serve model which would also help reduce customer support costs in the long run.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We like to use a lot of tools at SearchTap. Some are common across the teams, others are role-oriented.
- Google Suite as our mailing software and documents
- Slack for internal communication
- Trello for project management
- Hubspot for our CRM
- Zoho Campaigns for marketing
- Adobe Photoshop to design search pages
- BrowserStack for testing
- Webstorm for our java development
- Anydesk in case our team needs to jump in on a client-side system for troubleshooting
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love to read about entrepreneurs and business. It’s hard to point to one and say that that one is my favorite. Plus, with so many great blogs and podcasts available online, that choice is made even harder. If I had to pick, I’d say that I enjoyed reading Made in America by Sam Walton, Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
There are only a couple of things that I like to tell new entrepreneurs:
- Try to get validation from early customers based on a prototype or concept. Don’t waste time and energy building or selling something that people are not going to buy. It might take some time to find out what people are looking for, but it will pay off in the end. And this step is vital if you’re going down the bootstrapped route.
- Always charge for your product/service when you’re starting. In the B2B SaaS business at least, I have found that free trials are not optimal. While free users can help increase your market reach, the number of users is a vanity metric. You should be concerned with the number of paying customers and your MRR. It’s fine to get the first few customers at a discounted pricing plan. People won’t be paying full price for new technologies from the start. That is just part of the game. As long as you are getting paid for your efforts, that is what matters.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking out for new talent. We have a great attitude at our workplace that makes it an easy place for people to work whether it’s on the tech side of things or sales. Feel free to drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.