Sramana Mitra: Let’s double-click on that a bit. You founded marketRx in which year?
Jaswinder Chadha: In 2000.
Sramana Mitra: You self-financed that project?
Jaswinder Chadha: No. The first round of financing was friends and family. We did another round of financing from angel investors. The third round was when we brought in a group by the name of Westbridge Capital in Bangalore, which eventually became Sequoia India.
Sramana Mitra: I know Westbridge really well actually. What was the stage? You launched the company with some friends and family money. What was the next step? What kind of customer traction were you able to get before getting the angel money?
Jaswinder Chadha: For the first year, we were staring at the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. There was not a whole lot of money left. That’s when we pivoted and said, “What we know is how to do consulting in the pharmaceutical industry. Why don’t we pick up a couple of consulting projects?”
The first quarter, we started becoming profitable. We went and raised some more money when our revenue run rate was about $5 million. We raised the second round of money from institutional investors when our revenue run rate was about $1 million a month. So, we were about $12 million to $15 million yearly run rate.
Sramana Mitra: In terms of customers, where was the primary traction coming from?
Jaswinder Chadha: Initially, it started with the people we knew from our prior experience working for the healthcare consulting business. They were the first set of people who took the chance on us. As we grew, we started spending more effort in hiring additional people who can manage these accounts, as well as started spending money on marketing to create more awareness. It was mostly dependent on doing great work and letting the word spread out. Since we were focused on a very narrow vertical, we didn’t need an army of sales people. We just needed to do well with each client. These big pharmas are really big in terms of scale and revenues. Each one of them was, potentially, a very lucrative customer.
Sramana Mitra: What was the structure of the company? All the clients were US clients or were you doing it in other countries?
Jaswinder Chadha: For the first five years, all the customers were in the US. These were all global companies. 80% of the global pharmaceutical companies are in the northeast of US. They took us to Europe. We ended up opening up an office in Europe. We put a team there to service them as well. Most of the customers were in the US who were doing business with global companies in Europe as well.