Sramana: Where do you see your business going from here?
Shiv Rajendran: Our revenues are growing at 300% to 400% a year. We are focusing on niches and have been successful in those areas. Once we get a foothold in a vertical, we simply try to expand that across the globe. For the time being, we are going to focus on these specific areas. All of our rivals have dedicated salespeople on the ground in all of these countries. We don’t. We have a small number of salespeople in London selling globally. We are in the process of raising a significant amount of money so that we can put more resources around the world and scale faster. We have a better product, but our competitors have a larger sales force.
Sramana: How big is your total available market if you were able to completely penetrate the oil & gas segment?
Shiv Rajendran: Some of the big oil & gas companies we are talking to have 90,000 employees, of which up to 50% may be foreign language speakers. We don’t have an estimate of the entire segment, but we do believe that aviation can be up to 200,000 users. The total English language market has been estimated at one billion. By 2020 they are expecting that there will be two billion people who want to learn English.
Sramana: If I were an investor, I would want to focus on the verticals because you have defined budgets and timelines that we can identify.
Shiv Rajendran: Our focus is taking this from a £3 million company to a £50 million company by focusing on the verticals that we are already in. There is a long-term plan for us to go B2C, but that needs more capital and relies on an entirely different strategy.
Sramana: What is the capital situation in the UK? Are you raising money there?
Shiv Rajendran: We are. The climate is very bad compared to the United States. A lot of companies are struggling to find capital. We are in a good situation because we have traction, customers, and revenue coming in. We also have established companies with M&A budgets looking to invest in us. In terms of the VC market, things are not all that great.
Sramana: How many people do you have at this point?
Shiv Rajendran: We have 15 here in London and about 100 throughout the world who are teachers, developers, or customer service reps. We have under 200 total.
Sramana: Are teachers on your payroll or are they on a different compensation plan?
Shiv Rajendran: It depends. It is a mix based on the territory they are in.
Sramana: When they are not on your payroll, how does the business model work?
Shiv Rajendran: Finding teachers is always a big challenge. We have a 10-week training course. We bring teachers in, and those who get to the end of the course get to work for us. Depending on where they are, they will be on our payroll or they will be a contractor. I should rephrase that. We have no problem finding English teachers, but getting them trained and bringing them online is a different issue.
Sramana: Thanks for sharing your story with us. Good luck as you go forward.