As joyful as it sounds, motherhood can also be a painful journey. The extent of decisions taken by new mothers is bound to make them nervous and apprehensive.

In this episode of the Founder Thesis, Akshay Datt speaks with Tamanna Dhamija, Co-founder, Convosight. She is an alumnus of MDI, Gurgaon and has previously worked in the Investment Banking domain. But like many entrepreneurs, she realised that there was more she could do.

Stemming from her own experiences as a new mum, she started Baby Destination in 2016, with the mission to assist the discovery journey of first-time mothers and in doing so, organically built India’s largest parenting community.

It was in 2018 when Baby Destination was selected for Facebook Community Leadership Program (FCLP), the idea behind Convosight was born. Her goal to combine content with community, lead her to realise community marketing as a business opportunity, and this became the foundation on which Convosight stands today.

Tune into this week’s episode to hear how Convosight empowers businesses to gain insights from their online communities while using technologies like data analytics and machine learning to help brands leverage communities.

What you must not miss!

  • Building India’s first organically grown online parenting community.
  • Building and scaling an analytics SaaS platform business.
  • Leveraging online Community Marketing to advise high profile brands.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Akshay 01:32  

You decided to do an engineering degree, tell me what was the aspiration at that time? You know, when you were growing up, did you want to, like go down that path of being in the IT domain or something like that? What kind of aspirations were you growing up with? 

Tamanna 01:50

So it’s a very interesting question. I did an engineering degree because my dad thought that would be the best thing for me to do. I had actually taken science in my 11th and 12th with both bio and math. My mom wanted me to become a doctor. So I sat in all the medical entrance exams.

Akshay 02:15  

Your parents had a very ambitious plan for you. 

Tamanna 02:21  

Exactly. Very, very ambitious, you know, a very traditional path, right? You either become a doctor or an engineer, but my mom couldn’t become a doctor herself. 

Akshay 02:30

What do your parents do? 

Tamanna 02:32

My mom’s a teacher. She’s a physics teacher. And my dad is an engineer and an MBA. So that’s what I did. I took all the medical entrance exams. I used to hate, like, there was so much cramming to do, I just couldn’t ever do it. So I did not clear any of them. And then the next option was to do engineering, 

Akshay 02:52

Were you the elder one?

Tamanna 02:54

I was the younger one. 

Akshay 02:56

Okay, and what did your elder sibling do? 

Tamanna 02:58

So he is an engineer. And then he did his MBA in the US. But he wanted to be an engineer. So I’m sure if you ask him this question, he used to write ER in front of his name since he was a kid.

Akshay 03:17  

So you give both these entrance exams, then why did you choose to become an engineer? 

Tamanna 03:22

I don’t think I had an option. I didn’t get through the medical entrance exams. Even if I did get through, I don’t know what I would be doing there. I mean, I like the profession. I was always very scared of looking at blood. And, you know, doing all that. And I heard that it has crazy study hours, so I didn’t want to go and cram a lot of books. So then this was the only option. 

Akshay 03:48

And did you enjoy those four years of engineering? Or was it like a get through? 

Tamanna 03:53

Yeah, I think I enjoyed it because I think I learned a lot from outside books, not just from the books. Did I enjoy coding? I don’t think that much. I don’t think I understood the concept that well, for some reason, I continued to always come first and second in class. I don’t know how but that’s the problem. I didn’t really get into programming or like it at that point that much. And then when it was final year, then again, I told my dad, what do I do next? So he’s like, why don’t you sit for your CAT Entrance Exam? So then that’s what I did. I think two months before the exams were in November. So he said, you’re taking care of your grandma. Just do that. That’s what I did. Then that’s how MBA happened. 

Akshay 04:48

And, again, like you chose MDI because it would allow you to continue to be in Delhi close to family. 

Tamanna 04:55

Yes, yes. So MDI was my dream institute because I wanted to be close to family because I wanted to be close to my grandma. I figured I could come home over the weekends. So I only took the exam to get through MDI. I didn’t want to go to any other college.

Akshay 05:13

So post MDI, where did you go from campus?

Tamanna 05:17

Post MDI, my dream job is a lot of that that you’ll hear in my story. I went to DSP Merrill Lynch, now BlackRock.

Akshay 05:28

You did a finance specialization?

Tamanna 05:31

Yeah. finance and marketing specialization. And I used to think I would be good at marketing, so let me do that. There was this term MoFS, Marketing of Financial Services. So I said, That’s what I want to do. So it’s quite crazy. Like, you know, my professors, as I remember, they wanted me to sit in a Goldman Sachs interview, which was more like equity, like research analyst role and all that. And I just ran away. Like from outside. Again, I only wanted the DSP Merrill Lynch. So I then thought that let me get into finance, the closest to that would be quant control. Then I started preparing for it. I took three interviews, I think I got all three jobs. Well, and then I selected the one in New York again, because this is where we live. The one in Manhattan, General Motors Asset Management.

Akshay 06:22

And what’s the role there? What does one do in an asset management company?

Tamanna 06:27

This was the pension arm, which is one of the largest corporate pension funds, and this was a new team, which was starting out with sales. I was the first hire in that team. And my job was to build models, you know, using several tools, MATLAB, Access, VBA built models to support all the investment classes. So equities or fixed income, like a trade cost reporting model or risk assessment model. So it was a very interesting role, because getting exposure to all the different asset classes, and I had no idea how to do it. But I said, let me just get right in and I learned just everything right before my interview, somehow I got in. So the rest of my career at GM was, I was a portfolio manager managing internal money, I rebuilt my own trading model and had a fairly good run because this was when the market had tanked. And my module was based on investing in stocks with quality and value. Okay, so I was like outperforming the market every year. Well, that was GM.

Akshay 07:57  

What drove that desire to quit a well paying lucrative career and become an entrepreneur?

Tamanna 08:03

There were a bunch of things that happened. One, General Motors was going through a lot of problems, a lot of money that was being outsourced, managed by external managers. Actually, my portfolio and one more was the last internal portfolio standing. That’s just one, the direction a lot of people got laid off. It was never my ambition to become like a CEO or CIO. And I just wanted to learn and continue to do more in investments. But one thing that shook me, first time, I’m watching people getting laid off, and you know, the traders I used to work with. And so that was one. The second was that while I enjoyed doing this, it’s not that I was staying up at night thinking about this. Like after a point it became very, very routine. I felt there wasn’t more learning left for me. So I used to have a lot of free time there. That’s when I also started a non-profit because I just had a lot of free time. And I started thinking that, you know, I should be doing something which is very stimulating, like, I need to find my purpose and, and that’s when I became a mother, and all these things were happening at the same time. 

Akshay 09:14

What was your husband Tarun doing at that time? 

Tamanna 09:17

So Tarun was at Deutsche Bank at that time, okay, he’s always been in fixed income investments, fixed income risk. That’s been his career. So he was at Deutsche Bank. And I think he was also going through a similar phase. After working in the corporate world for 15 years. It’s like, I’m sure he has his own experiences, but I was pretty determined that I’ll have to do something very intellectually stimulating and where I get a chance to do something kick-ass and I need to find my purpose. And then that’s when I became a mother. And I started thinking like, I was fascinated, like, just by the thought of building something for moms because I couldn’t believe the experience of being a first-time mom, There are babies born all the time left, right and centre. But it’s really hard what a mom goes through, like, nobody knows, like, you know. So I felt like it’s a very complex decision making part in your life. And something can be done to solve the discovery journey for a mother. Why don’t I do something here? Then that’s where the idea of Baby Destination came to me. And just one thing led to another, I started talking to moms, doing research, I started talking to people in India, like, we have to do this, like, so. So then I decided to quit.

Akshay 10:34

You decided you want to do a content play, like creating content for moms or what was it? I mean how would you solve the problem of a first time mom?

Tamanna 10:43

So I wanted to solve the discovery journey of a mother just very simply put. Right from the time, you’re pregnant and then when you become a mom, there are lots of decisions you have to make. Like lots of decisions, right? Every day, it’s how to take care of the baby, what diapers to buy, how to pick a nanny, like so many things, right? And the inputs in that decision is what you, of course, feel is right. And there’s often not a lot of time and a lot of information which is thrown at you. But often there’s an opportunity to learn a lot from your peers. And I went through that myself. So when I was going back to work after my maternity leave, my son refused to take a bottle. I used to breastfeed him. And he refused to take a bottle, and you know, I read all the blogs, what the doctor said, my mom said, that everybody’s giving me advice, and I’m like, damn, how do I leave him and go, right? Because there was no backup for me at work. I was the only portfolio manager, I somehow got into a WhatsApp group, where there was a friend’s wife who went through the same problem. And she suggested a bottle whose nipple was such that she’d gone through the same issue. So I bought that bottle, and it worked for my son, because I was going places buying, like, $100 bottles, and you know, like, what is going on? Like, which child doesn’t drink from a bottle? I’m like, something’s not right. So, I mean, this is just one incident, lots of such things happened, which made me realize that it’s not as easy as everyone makes it sound. And there is more that could be done in terms of enabling moms to make the right decisions without too much stress of everybody telling them what to do. So what I thought could solve this problem, is the content, community, and the availability of those products and services, that was the initial idea. 

Akshay 12:34

Okay. So it’s like a social commerce kind of concept, which you had.

Tamanna 12:38

Yes, social commerce. But the idea was content, community, because, you know, there’s a lot of expert information available out there if that is coupled with your experience, and then you can make a trusted decision, which is either how to take care. It’s just an informational decision, or it is a decision to buy a product or choose a service. 

Akshay 12:59

So those products would also be available on Baby Destination, which will be the monetization path?

Tamanna 13:05

Yes, yes. 

Akshay 13:07

Okay. And why India? 

Tamanna 13:09

Yeah. Because, you know, I just felt like, when I spoke to my friends in India, we did some research in India, I tried to run focus groups, I just realized that it’s a bigger problem to solve in India. In the US there’s a lot of protocols around things, right. Like, certain basic questions are answered, like, there is no question mark on ‘Should I give cow’s milk or should I give’, it’s a very mature and an evolved market, but in India, the need gap is higher. And that’s why the opportunity is also higher. And just, of course, the population is much higher, so more babies are born. So that’s why I thought we should do this in India. 

Akshay 13:48

Okay. So tell me about the go-to-market journey. Like, you know, when did you quit your job and launch version one of the product and how was it compared to what you had originally planned? 

Tamanna 13:58

So I quit in 2015. I actually wanted to quit in January 2015. But I had a personal reason due to which I had to prolong it to the end of 2015. And then I quit. And I came to India, and then just the first few months, but again, just spent talking to mums figuring out, you know, how to do what to do. And in the end, the first version of the product was just babydestination.com with a lot of content, which was informational content, because the idea was to learn. Let’s just have content out there and learn. It also had a couple of features that would enable the community part of it, right, it wasn’t a forum, but we used to call it stories that are different from Instagram stories, but there was a content initially and then a community feature and then there were products that you could also purchase.

Akshay 14:54

Okay, products were like you were handling the end to end from inventory to logistics and all that? Or was it like through some sort of alliance?

Tamanna 15:03

So we were handling it end to end. I don’t think anyone knows so much detail. So we thought that initially when we’re testing this out, we’ll just have exclusive products, right? So a number of them were actually international brands and very exclusive useful products, which were not available in a lot of places. So we were sort of doing end to end. And that’s how we launched in mid-2016. 

Akshay 15:26

And what did the market tell you? Like three different legs? One is a community leg and then a product leg? And then a content leg? What did the market tell you? What did people want? 

Tamanna 15:36

That’s exactly what the market told us: are you a content platform or are you a community or are you a commerce platform? That’s exactly what the market told us, right? So you know, separately on these pieces, what was missing was the journey, right? It’s like, in my mind, that was an ideal journey, somebody comes, they read a relevant content piece, and then they hear other moms’ opinions, and then they make a decision. If it’s a product decision, then that’s the journey. If it’s not a product decision, then they just read the content, they hear other moms’ opinions, and then they’re able to make that decision, and then they become an active part of the community. So I thought it’s as simple as that. And that’s how it flows. But that’s not what happened, right? People used to come read the content, they used to share the content. So actually, our content was shared a lot. Like, we had a lot of organic traffic on our website, because it was very, very useful content. But these were people who would come who would read content share, we used to have sometimes 1000s of shares on our content organically. But that was it, right? It ended there. And then there were people who would come and just click on the product and buy the product and go, and we’re like, what is going on? 

Akshay 16:50

So these are unrelated audiences? 

Tamanna 16:51

Yes, they used to because again, a consumer doesn’t always go through that journey. Right? A lot of people would buy the product just because it wasn’t available anywhere else. And we were experimenting with all channels. So we realize in September or October that we’re doing too much. We’re trying to build three different things together. And just because maybe we were first-time founders and we just went right and didn’t really think too much and thought that this could be done. And plus we were bootstrapped. 

Akshay 17:21

And Tarun also quit his job at the same time. 

Tamanna 17:24

Yes, yes. So Tarun had moved to India with me. He was very convinced of the idea as well. So we moved and we were trying to do all of this with a five-person team.

Akshay 17:34

Including content writers, like content is not easy to scale. 

Tamanna 17:37

Yeah, It was me. And it was one intern. So I did all the sourcing myself, tied up with 60+ brands. I don’t know how we did all of that. 

Akshay 17:50

While you also had an infant to take care of. 

Tamanna 17:52

Yeah. You know, the important thing there was we realized very soon that this is not happening, right. It’s just an unrealistic expectation. It’s not adding value. It’s been confusing moms, right? We’re doing content really well, like at one point, or organic, just to our organic reach, our Facebook page, which was 15 million organically. So there was a lot of, you know, information moms were getting through the content, but just in the community, right to come back, like they will come once and they will not come back. So all the things that I’ve learned now on what to do with building a community we didn’t know back then the retention was a problem for the community, they used to just come back for content and Facebook was our biggest organic channel. For commerce. It’s like it used to cost money to acquire a person to transact right and just didn’t even understand how we ever make up that cost. There was no clarity, we knew nothing, basically. So we decided that you know, we will roll that back and just do the content and community piece like just kick out the commerce space and just focus on content. It was working, we said, we’ll continue to do that community, we said we’ll figure out where to do it because fundamentally, without community, the idea was not to build a content platform. The community had to be a part of it. And that’s when we realized that if most of the organic reach is coming through Facebook, which means moms are spending a lot of time on Facebook, but you cannot build a community on a page and we started looking at Facebook groups and we used to get a lot of organic traffic from other Facebook groups.

Akshay 19:25

Like people sharing content.

Tamanna 19:27

We used to share a lot on other Facebook groups and also write our content. We used to see how mums are engaging. But the problem was they weren’t informational. So you know, it’s like Mumbai mums, Delhi mums, like they were not informational Facebook groups as such around parenting. So that’s why we felt that if the idea is to give value to mums where they are, if this is where mums are, then we should build communities on Facebook and then figure out they can still come to the website to read the content because that experience cannot be replicated on Facebook but for the community if they are there. There’s nothing better than Facebook groups to provide that experience, the right to initiate that trust and connection between members once they are in a community, and just frequent meaningful interactions between members, which is very important for a community to thrive. That’s how we decided to build the community piece on Facebook. 

Akshay 20:18

And when was this?

Tamanna 20:19

This was in July 2017. 

Akshay 20:22

Fairly, like fairly quickly, you did the pivot. 

Tamanna 20:25

Yes. 

Akshay 20:26

And you also were exploring WhatsApp as a community channel, right? 

Tamanna 20:30

Yeah. So also WhatsApp. Yes. So we used to go to a lot of offline events for mums. And we used to then just create WhatsApp groups of all the moms we would meet. So we started creating local and hyperlocal WhatsApp communities. And we had, hundreds of WhatsApp communities at one point. So Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups, because those are the two channels where moms are already. And it has to be a pull rather than a push. You cannot drive people onto another platform and then expect them to come back. If somebody is asking questions. We were clear on that then. So that’s where we chose these two platforms. And we also decided to build, not one community, but communities around specific pain points. So we learnt, I think, I would say pretty fast, right? Like, we got the insight, right, that communities, yes, but it has to be around specific life stages, specific pain points.

Akshay 21:22

Like what? Give me an example.

Tamanna 21:24

So like, the first community we launched was home remedies for babies and moms. So it was specifically around home remedies. Right. And, other communities, kids’ nutrition and recipes. So like specific, or weight loss post-pregnancy. So we kept launching the specific communities for a live stage and a pain point. 

Akshay 21:44

What was 2018 like? How big did the community size grow and Baby Destination? And when did you finally go in for the external funding? 

Tamanna 21:53

Yeah, so in 2018, we continued to grow. And we kept launching more communities. I think by the end of 2018, we had about 600,000 members in our communities. And also in the first quarter of 2018, is when Facebook noticed us because we were just growing very, very fast. You know, they did a case study on us, where they featured our story. And how we’ve scaled communities. So it was a very, very interesting and exciting year, right? We kept building more tools, we kept launching more communities. That’s also the time where we started exploring monetization. And really what caught our attention was that 40% of conversations were all around products again. So that initial hypothesis was correct, right? They are out to discover products. And you know, they ask about certain brands, and what we thought is what if we create a way for brands to engage meaningfully with these mothers, right? Like this is why they come at whatever time to ask, right? This is where they’re really seeking authentic advice, which they’re getting from peers. But brands can also give, you know, educate, give maybe more scientific advice, bringing in experts and all of that.

Akshay 23:05

Like a content marketing channel for brands. 

Tamanna 23:07

Yeah, we didn’t know how it would play out, to be honest. Because what we know is that the only reason a community thrives is because of its organic nature because it’s a safe space. So it’s a very sacred space, you cannot go and bombard it with an ad or a blog. So we didn’t know how to be honest, we just wanted to find out how to solve this problem. So we thought we’ll talk to brands, and we’ll figure out that, you know, do they even know Facebook groups exist? If yes, have they tried to talk to these consumers? Right? Why if they have, and why not. And that’s where we realize that there’s a big gap. We felt like there’s so much talk on digital that happens in the world. But a lot of it is sitting at an eyeball level, right? All brands are present everywhere on the internet, which is, like you said, right, whether it’s content marketing, or its ad, or, just let me go and find that consumer and build a custom audience and show them ads again, and again and again. And the frequency with which I show the ads is where I believe I’ve been able to convince them. But we realize there’s no way for brands to understand what are the real pain points of the consumers because consumers are talking in real-time in Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, right, but they don’t have the means to get those distilled insights, and they don’t have the means to engage. Like it’s just never happened. Just because communities never existed at that scale. That’s where we said that there’s an opportunity here, we started doing our early experiments around community marketing, just really enabling brands to first understand again, we say top five pain points and then engage with moms through either educating them or you know, engaging with them to share their experiences, or giving them an exclusive value, just one of those three things, it cannot be anything else. Right? So we started doing experiments and we found a fair bit of success in community marketing. And we used to always call it purpose-led marketing, middle funnel marketing, just very simply, where are your consumers talking? Where are you listening? And where are you talking to them? So the consumers are actually talking in these groups, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Reddit, wherever. You’re trying to listen to them through social listening and all that in Facebook pages, Instagram, everywhere else, but not these groups. And then you are trying to talk to them, or market to them or show an ad to them again, on all these other broadcast channels, pages, and Instagram and YouTube, which is great, they consume content there, but they are not talking there. It was as simple as that, we just had to figure the right way to add value to the consumer. And to add value to the brand.

Akshay 25:54

You were giving insights to brands that this is what people are talking about. And then you were crafting communication for the brand, or they would grab something and then you would publish it in the group or like, tell me the nuts and bolts of this? 

Tamanna 26:06

Yes, the concept of community marketing starts from understanding the distilled insight. And it’s very simple. Like it’s not any personal information. It’s not that. It’s just that if I have, you know, 100,000 conversations that my potential consumers are doing, I just want to find out what are the top five things that bother them, right? Do they want to learn about nutrition and what kind of nutrition?

Akshay 26:29

And this is a paid thing? You were charging brands for the insight?

Tamanna 26:34

So we were not always charging them. It’s just that’s what we used to use, it was a part of how we used to function, right? We were always using insights to create content. So initially, we weren’t really charging them. Initially, it was even just to find out, do you even know this, right? Because you do a lot of research through surveys and all that and you know, consumer immersions, once a year meeting your consumers, but you know, every day what they’re talking about. Okay, insights, which then leads to marketing. And marketing means once I understand the pain points, I try to answer them, I try to answer them through providing the right information, through enabling other moms to bring out experiences around that pain point or providing an exclusive value. So that’s what we enabled then, brands would not be a part of the community, we were very, again, a community is a very sacred place, right? So if they enter the community, that’s it, right, the trust. They cannot be a part of the community, all the communication is done through the admin of the community. And it’s all done with the proper disclosures, but it’s not like covert marketing, right? It’s like, imagine if there’s a community of entrepreneurs and actually wants to go and talk there, right? Like, Akshay wants to tell entrepreneurs to sign up for a podcast, right? And he speaks to that man, and he tells that to the admin, hey, first, I want to know, What are the five things that entrepreneurs talk about, and maybe one of those is that we want to get visibility, right, we want to get an interview or a podcast, or we want to get visibility. And then if you go and market there, you could just do a two-minute video where you’re talking to them and telling them to sign up and tell them what would be the benefits of doing so. Or you could say, Hey, let me just give you tips on how to give a good interview. Right? So meaningful, right? So people are not going to say, Oh, my God, why are you doing this paid partnership with Akshay, because then they’re looking for that opportunity. And that’s, it’s, it’s very commonsensical when you think of it. But somehow, that’s just not how marketing is perceived, right? 

Akshay 28:47

So you started working with these brands, which are making products for mums and babies and your team would create the content in different ways and insert it into the conversation. And then you would provide reports to brands like in terms of what is the ROI on what they spent, like, that’s what 2018 was about creating this kind of model?

Tamanna 29:06

2018 was figuring out this model, really, right? It was figuring out what would work, right? You cannot go into certain conversations. It has to be through the admin, what would get accepted, how to show ROI, how to show an increase in conversation, it’s basically word of mouth. You get into communities and that’s the only place you can generate word of mouth, you can have your evangelists talk about you, because they’re already present in communities, how to measure word of mouth. We tried a lot of metrics. So it was really figuring that out.

Akshay 29:37

And what was 2019 about?

Tamanna 29:39

So 2019 was about FCLP. So we got selected by Facebook for a program called Facebook Community Leadership Program, where they had selected 100 community admins from across the globe in a program where they were going to provide us with some funding. It was a nine-month-long program where we will get a chance to meet other admins and go through a structured learning program on community leadership. So when I saw that program, I was like, you know, this is like for us, right? Like, I’m not the kind of person who fills any award applications or anything, I just don’t like all that. But someone sent it to me. And I was like, wow, we should fill this right. And the money that we got was $50,000, we thought we would use that to build more communities, then try to build more experiences and communities for moms even in tier two cities. Okay, so 2019 was about that, while continuing to scale up our communities and scale up the community marketing, it actually started at the end of 2018. So 2018-end is when the first FCLP meetup happened. Okay, but 2019 is when that program was concluded, and with that, the idea of Convosight was born. 2019 was like, Oh, my God, how do we now really build Convosight? 

Akshay 31:01

Tell me about the genesis of Convosight.

Tamanna 31:03

Sure. So when I went to FCLP, in the first meetup, which was at Menlo Park, in late 2018, I was just fascinated. I was amazed by every single individual in that cohort, I’ve been fortunate to have very good experiences in my life and meet a number of inspiring people. But these were all kick-ass community builders who were doing really meaningful work across the globe, in different categories. So I was just trying to understand their motivation, they were all doing it. And one thing really struck me was none of them was really making money. And you know, time and again, like, it was a very, very close-knit program. So we were together for four days, you know, no devices, nothing, just understanding each other going through this program. And what really came out of it was that we were apparently, one of the most advanced in that cohort, in terms of the way we were monetizing. And in terms of the technology and tools that we had built, everyone else, a great community builder, right? Some of them just decided to do it for nonprofit purposes, but everyone else was struggling to monetize. Struggling to like, sort of you take your life’s worth and figure out how do I make a livelihood because they love doing this? A number of them were doing this full time, right. But there was just no way to earn money. And that thought just didn’t leave me. 

Akshay 32:26

Nobody had access to that kind of data, which you had, because of the tools that you had built. 

Tamanna 32;32

I don’t think it’s that, I just think that it’s the mindset. When we started Baby Destination, we started with the objective of launching a company, right? Like the idea was to have a business model around. But most of the community admins, unless it’s a brand community, they start a community just because they’re going through a pain point, or they have a hobby or they’re just helping a friend like they just start a community without passion. Yeah, it’s a personal passion. Yeah. And that’s very important to note. They’re very different from an Instagram influencer, or YouTube and who starts with the objective to monetize, right? These individuals mostly start with an objective just because they’re going through a pain point. And because of that, the idea of monetizing is never there. Plus, who talks about monetizing communities. There is no talk about it, right. Like you talk about monetizing Instagram influencers, no one used to know community admins. So with all of that, right, they, once they start a community, they’ll build a community. That’s before they realize they are into it full time. They’re doing this, it’s extremely gratifying every day you come and you know, people are thanking you, and you’re just in this really gratified state, but you don’t know how to make money. It’s not about tools or data or like if today brands would understand the value of these community admins. And if they were discoverable, then the way that they go to Instagram influencers would be more than that. Right? This would at least be that much, if not more, because Instagram and with all due respect, that’s still broadcast. It’s all followers. Right? This is an engaged group of audience that organically comes, you cannot pay money to build a Facebook group, there’s no way you can do an ad. That’s the reason. There was just no opportunity for them to do that. Unless they themselves decide to upskill themselves, to go and make a pitch, to go imagine going and selling this to a brand. And the brand is like what, like, you know, what’s the Facebook group? So it’s a massive education exercise to do this to brands. So this is where, you know, we thought that everything that we’ve done for Baby Destination, if we were to put it we just thought that oh my god, as you know, we’ve done everything for Baby Destination, right? This is sort of the POC, if we were to take this and put it on a platform and then enable all these admins to build better communities, if we could upskill them, professionalize them and give them an ability to monetize this would be like a whole new economy. Community, this is the supply and then brands have the demand. So that’s how this idea came, there was no thought to do this before FCLP.

Akshay 35:15

What was the plan? Was it to build a place where community admins can come and plug in their communities and through API, they can start seeing some data. And then brands can also come and see the similar kind of data and then transact with the community admins on the platform? Is that what you thought or like, tell me what you thought of the product being like?

Tamanna 35:36

We definitely thought that we would create a product that removes a lot of clutter for community admins, right? Like, while they’re on Facebook, of course, Facebook has given us all the opportunity to build the community. But you know, there’s a notification overload, there are so many notifications in that one feed, right. 100 different types of notifications. So one is we wanted to give them a space where they are able to see all the data, all the metrics – the growth, engagement, and the conversation inside metrics about their communities, and manage their communities from one place, get recommendations on when to post, what to post. So it’s like, you know, your assistant to manage your community. One is that. Second is we wanted to do a number of workshops, etc, for them to upskill them, to tell them about how to monetize what to do, how to go even make a pitch, how to do purpose-led marketing, not covert marketing, and then how to warm up your audience to it, right, all of that, which was also like, we’ve done like 200 of these workshops so far. Now, on the brand side, we wanted to still maintain the sanctity of the community. So it’s not like an ad platform where you can just come in, right? We maintained the middle layer of taking selling to the brand, aggregating the communities, and telling the brand the power of communities. Educating the brand, really, it’s a massive education exercise on both sides that we’ve gone through. And then all sorts of workflows of community, of posting, etc. They’re all automated within Convosight. But it’s like we are facing off with the community. And we’re communities and we’re facing off with the brand. And we started doing this with enterprise brands first because we realize that this is new, right? It’s just digital marketing 2.0. It’s a new way to market. So if this has to get accepted in the world, it has to be the larger brands embracing it first, and then it will go downstream. 

Akshay 37:36

How long was this journey to pivot from Baby Destination to Convosight? 

Tamanna 37:40

This was actually pretty quick, like I said that late 2018 is when I first thought of this, and by April of 2019 when I came back from my third sort of session at FCLP, we had decided. We had already started working on it, like thinking about it from March. And our first product was out in October 2019. So we launched in beta in October 2019. And then Jan 2020, when we launched, we went all out. 

Akshay 38:09

How did you do the acquisition of admins, the community owners? 

Tamanna 38:13

So the first few admins were the ones that I knew or spoke to. I met a number of admins in India, I found out what their pain points were. It was really hard initially, because even the thought that they can monetize, or somebody even telling them, even if it’s another admin, how will that happen? Right? It’s just too much. They’re fundamentally not business owners. That was the difference there. We’re not in that mindset. So the first couple of months were a lot of those conversations, right? Where they’re like, how will this even happen? And you know, some of them had already tried and failed a lot. Because brands used to keep comparing them to Instagram or other platforms or bloggers. So initially, it was just that, but then we went out and did what I think we do reasonably well, which is create a community of them. So we created a community of community admins. And we call it growth and monetization for Facebook group admins. We just thought that we just really need to bring them together to share learning experiences, and we can share ours because we could be considered experts in building and monetizing that. That’s one thing we did. The second is we set up a community success team. This is the team that’s out there to really serve admins, right? That’s why they exist today. And this team role is to go out, talk to admins, upskill them, tell them about Convosight. So really the largest source of acquisition, it’s all organic. Now. It’s like 80% of it is through our community, word of mouth referral, and through our community success team.

Akshay 39:47

And the community success team would be creating content, creating workshops?

Tamanna 39:51

Yeah, not content as such. But yes, workshops, it’s doing demos, it’s telling them on how to monetize, right, just helping them. So the success team onboards them and helps them with their first monetization campaigns. 

Akshay 40:05

Okay, so how many community owners are on Convosight today?

Tamanna 40:09

There are close to 40,000 communities on Convosight. And they collectively manage 350 million members. So that’s, yeah, it’s I know, even we sometimes look back and say wow, because there are lots of communities, right? There are 1.8 billion people and communities now. So it’s pretty large. 

Akshay 40:30

This is Facebook communities only?

Tamanna 40:32

This is Facebook right now. We’ve also expanded to Reddit. But yeah, this is primarily Facebook. And like I said, I mean, now it’s more and more just organic discovery through our community. We also do very, very informational content on convosight.com. So our SEO has started picking up now this year. So a lot of international admins just discovered us through our content, and then that’s when they’ll install Convosight. But again, the idea is, it cannot be 100% turnkey like they will require some hand-holding, which is why we were very clear that we need a community success team, right to help them get set up. It’s like once, you know, it’s not just to hope, right, once they monetized, and they’re all out, right, it’s just upscaling that they need which just wasn’t available before this.

Akshay 41:20

And how do you acquire brands? Like personal outreach and cold calling and stuff? 

Tamanna 41:25

Yeah, I mean, we don’t do cold calling as such, but you know, it’s targeted outreach. Initially, it was a lot of it, which I used to just do personally on LinkedIn. Targeted outreach, we had a pretty good response rate, like nine out of 10 people would come. Yeah, and every call that we’ve had so far, like, again, nine out of 10 of those calls have converted into paid pilots and customers. 

Akshay 41:50

Wow. What’s the secret behind that? 

Tamanna 41:52

It’s like, you know, think about it if I come in to tell you that there are these entrepreneurs in these three communities. They are talking about this like you wouldn’t even blink, right? You would be like, Okay, can I get in front of them? 

Akshay 42:04

So every message you send on LinkedIn, you would include some nugget of insight about that brand. 

Tamanna 42:09

I wouldn’t. I wish I was doing that in a very disciplined way. I wasn’t doing that. 

Akshay 42:16

But in conversations, at least, like when you had called, then you would present some insights and that could open their eyes and say, Wow.

Tamanna 42:23

Yeah, I mean, insights, right, just even saying, like I said, where are your consumers talking? And it’s, you always think of it offline. Oh, they’re talking and you know, I can go to an event I can go to, but just telling them that these spaces exist, right? This is a reality. People have changed. Of course, COVID has taken this to a different level altogether. But consumers moved from TV to digital, because consumers have moved online. But this is where they are spending their time now. Right? Like and you have an ability to coexist with them. It is a reality. It’s not just you know, a thought. So I think that’s the reason but now 70% of our business from brands is again, all referrals now. 

Akshay 43:03

So what is the monetization model at Convosight? Like part of the spend by the brand stays with you I’m guessing.

Tamanna 43:10

Yes, yes, that’s our monetization model. And now we’re also planning to launch more self-serve models. So now Convosight 2.0 will be about D2C brands, having the ability to market in communities for expanding across more categories. And it will be self serve, or semi self serve models.

Akshay 43:31

Okay, right now, it’s pretty high-touch, like there would be an account manager for a brand who would work with them to create that. And then your success team would also work with the community owners to help them execute the campaign. 

Tamanna 43:45

Yes, especially the first time, right. And I don’t see that success team going away as we become bigger. Because you know, as more and more admins are coming on to this, they’re doing this for the first time. But yeah, that’s the model today. 

Akshay 43:58

Yeah. How did you manage the payment ecosystem? Because you would have people from all over the world? Do you need to have, like, some sort of bank linkages across the world? Or how did you manage them? 

Tamanna 44:11

So the first year was only in India. Right. We’ve only now started expanding to the US. And next for Southeast Asia, now, it’s the US. 

Akshay 44:21

Monetization is not global right now, although the tools can be used globally by anybody? Okay. 

Tamanna 44:27

Yeah, yeah, monetization was primarily in India, and now it’s international. And that’s where the payment tools are being upgraded to in different geographies. We’re now working with customers in the US, so it’s now being scaled up. 

Akshay 44:44

Okay. And tell me about the fundraising journey so far. 

Tamanna 44:47

So we’ve raised about USD 13.5 million so far. We raised our seed round through Sequoia Surge and IvyCap which was last year in March. Recently we raised another round. The lead investor was Qualgro, Unilever Ventures and the previous ones were involved too.

Akshay 45:08

Unilever is betting on it as it is a way for them to market their brands as well, they would have personally experienced the power of the platform.

Tamanna 45:17

Yeah, so we were doing some pilots with them but we are very different teams. It is an entity based out of the UK. When we decided to partner with them we of course did our due diligence and it’s different. The brand teams are different and the venture arm is different. 

Akshay 45:40

So my last question to you, what’s the roadmap now for Convosight? Convosight 2.0 is going to be more self-serve, less of the high-touch elements which would allow you to onboard brands at a faster pace. Then what next after that?

Tamanna 45:55

Yeah, Convosight 2.0 will solve this problem of education at scale also. There are things that we are doing that will make the communities really legit. It will make them extremely discoverable and our users are superstars and they should be out in the world. Currently, there’s no way. If I was to ask you, there’s no way to tell, hey, these are the 100 communities where I will find my consumers. It will enable that discovery. It will give them their personalised spaces, landing pages where they can exhibit their work. It will give D2C brands, smaller brands an opportunity. Everybody should have the opportunity to give in front of their consumers, and this is what it will enable. The enterprise model will continue to stay high-touch but that is just enterprise brands. But for all other brands, like local businesses, imagine a local brand or a coffee shop that wants to talk to their consumers. I know it sounds really big but that’s really the dream. This should happen in the world because community builders work really hard. They’ve done all the hard work, that’s the thing and now is the time to monetize it meaningfully. It provides tremendous value to the consumer and to the brand when done in the right manner. So that’s the direction we are going in. Also expanding to other community platforms.

So that was Tamanna Dhamija telling Akshay how Convosight was developed. If you want to know more about it, do login to www.convosight.com

As joyful as it sounds, motherhood can also be a painful journey. The extent of decisions taken by new mothers is bound to make them nervous and apprehensive.

In this episode of the Founder Thesis, Akshay Datt speaks with Tamanna Dhamija, Co-founder, Convosight. She is an alumnus of MDI, Gurgaon and has previously worked in the Investment Banking domain. But like many entrepreneurs, she realised that there was more she could do.

Stemming from her own experiences as a new mum, she started Baby Destination in 2016, with the mission to assist the discovery journey of first-time mothers and in doing so, organically built India’s largest parenting community.

It was in 2018 when Baby Destination was selected for Facebook Community Leadership Program (FCLP), the idea behind Convosight was born. Her goal to combine content with community, lead her to realise community marketing as a business opportunity, and this became the foundation on which Convosight stands today.

Tune into this week’s episode to hear how Convosight empowers businesses to gain insights from their online communities while using technologies like data analytics and machine learning to help brands leverage communities.

What you must not miss!

  • Building India’s first organically grown online parenting community.
  • Building and scaling an analytics SaaS platform business.
  • Leveraging online Community Marketing to advise high profile brands.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Akshay 01:32  

You decided to do an engineering degree, tell me what was the aspiration at that time? You know, when you were growing up, did you want to, like go down that path of being in the IT domain or something like that? What kind of aspirations were you growing up with? 

Tamanna 01:50

So it’s a very interesting question. I did an engineering degree because my dad thought that would be the best thing for me to do. I had actually taken science in my 11th and 12th with both bio and math. My mom wanted me to become a doctor. So I sat in all the medical entrance exams.

Akshay 02:15  

Your parents had a very ambitious plan for you. 

Tamanna 02:21  

Exactly. Very, very ambitious, you know, a very traditional path, right? You either become a doctor or an engineer, but my mom couldn’t become a doctor herself. 

Akshay 02:30

What do your parents do? 

Tamanna 02:32

My mom’s a teacher. She’s a physics teacher. And my dad is an engineer and an MBA. So that’s what I did. I took all the medical entrance exams. I used to hate, like, there was so much cramming to do, I just couldn’t ever do it. So I did not clear any of them. And then the next option was to do engineering, 

Akshay 02:52

Were you the elder one?

Tamanna 02:54

I was the younger one. 

Akshay 02:56

Okay, and what did your elder sibling do? 

Tamanna 02:58

So he is an engineer. And then he did his MBA in the US. But he wanted to be an engineer. So I’m sure if you ask him this question, he used to write ER in front of his name since he was a kid.

Akshay 03:17  

So you give both these entrance exams, then why did you choose to become an engineer? 

Tamanna 03:22

I don’t think I had an option. I didn’t get through the medical entrance exams. Even if I did get through, I don’t know what I would be doing there. I mean, I like the profession. I was always very scared of looking at blood. And, you know, doing all that. And I heard that it has crazy study hours, so I didn’t want to go and cram a lot of books. So then this was the only option. 

Akshay 03:48

And did you enjoy those four years of engineering? Or was it like a get through? 

Tamanna 03:53

Yeah, I think I enjoyed it because I think I learned a lot from outside books, not just from the books. Did I enjoy coding? I don’t think that much. I don’t think I understood the concept that well, for some reason, I continued to always come first and second in class. I don’t know how but that’s the problem. I didn’t really get into programming or like it at that point that much. And then when it was final year, then again, I told my dad, what do I do next? So he’s like, why don’t you sit for your CAT Entrance Exam? So then that’s what I did. I think two months before the exams were in November. So he said, you’re taking care of your grandma. Just do that. That’s what I did. Then that’s how MBA happened. 

Akshay 04:48

And, again, like you chose MDI because it would allow you to continue to be in Delhi close to family. 

Tamanna 04:55

Yes, yes. So MDI was my dream institute because I wanted to be close to family because I wanted to be close to my grandma. I figured I could come home over the weekends. So I only took the exam to get through MDI. I didn’t want to go to any other college.

Akshay 05:13

So post MDI, where did you go from campus?

Tamanna 05:17

Post MDI, my dream job is a lot of that that you’ll hear in my story. I went to DSP Merrill Lynch, now BlackRock.

Akshay 05:28

You did a finance specialization?

Tamanna 05:31

Yeah. finance and marketing specialization. And I used to think I would be good at marketing, so let me do that. There was this term MoFS, Marketing of Financial Services. So I said, That’s what I want to do. So it’s quite crazy. Like, you know, my professors, as I remember, they wanted me to sit in a Goldman Sachs interview, which was more like equity, like research analyst role and all that. And I just ran away. Like from outside. Again, I only wanted the DSP Merrill Lynch. So I then thought that let me get into finance, the closest to that would be quant control. Then I started preparing for it. I took three interviews, I think I got all three jobs. Well, and then I selected the one in New York again, because this is where we live. The one in Manhattan, General Motors Asset Management.

Akshay 06:22

And what’s the role there? What does one do in an asset management company?

Tamanna 06:27

This was the pension arm, which is one of the largest corporate pension funds, and this was a new team, which was starting out with sales. I was the first hire in that team. And my job was to build models, you know, using several tools, MATLAB, Access, VBA built models to support all the investment classes. So equities or fixed income, like a trade cost reporting model or risk assessment model. So it was a very interesting role, because getting exposure to all the different asset classes, and I had no idea how to do it. But I said, let me just get right in and I learned just everything right before my interview, somehow I got in. So the rest of my career at GM was, I was a portfolio manager managing internal money, I rebuilt my own trading model and had a fairly good run because this was when the market had tanked. And my module was based on investing in stocks with quality and value. Okay, so I was like outperforming the market every year. Well, that was GM.

Akshay 07:57  

What drove that desire to quit a well paying lucrative career and become an entrepreneur?

Tamanna 08:03

There were a bunch of things that happened. One, General Motors was going through a lot of problems, a lot of money that was being outsourced, managed by external managers. Actually, my portfolio and one more was the last internal portfolio standing. That’s just one, the direction a lot of people got laid off. It was never my ambition to become like a CEO or CIO. And I just wanted to learn and continue to do more in investments. But one thing that shook me, first time, I’m watching people getting laid off, and you know, the traders I used to work with. And so that was one. The second was that while I enjoyed doing this, it’s not that I was staying up at night thinking about this. Like after a point it became very, very routine. I felt there wasn’t more learning left for me. So I used to have a lot of free time there. That’s when I also started a non-profit because I just had a lot of free time. And I started thinking that, you know, I should be doing something which is very stimulating, like, I need to find my purpose and, and that’s when I became a mother, and all these things were happening at the same time. 

Akshay 09:14

What was your husband Tarun doing at that time? 

Tamanna 09:17

So Tarun was at Deutsche Bank at that time, okay, he’s always been in fixed income investments, fixed income risk. That’s been his career. So he was at Deutsche Bank. And I think he was also going through a similar phase. After working in the corporate world for 15 years. It’s like, I’m sure he has his own experiences, but I was pretty determined that I’ll have to do something very intellectually stimulating and where I get a chance to do something kick-ass and I need to find my purpose. And then that’s when I became a mother. And I started thinking like, I was fascinated, like, just by the thought of building something for moms because I couldn’t believe the experience of being a first-time mom, There are babies born all the time left, right and centre. But it’s really hard what a mom goes through, like, nobody knows, like, you know. So I felt like it’s a very complex decision making part in your life. And something can be done to solve the discovery journey for a mother. Why don’t I do something here? Then that’s where the idea of Baby Destination came to me. And just one thing led to another, I started talking to moms, doing research, I started talking to people in India, like, we have to do this, like, so. So then I decided to quit.

Akshay 10:34

You decided you want to do a content play, like creating content for moms or what was it? I mean how would you solve the problem of a first time mom?

Tamanna 10:43

So I wanted to solve the discovery journey of a mother just very simply put. Right from the time, you’re pregnant and then when you become a mom, there are lots of decisions you have to make. Like lots of decisions, right? Every day, it’s how to take care of the baby, what diapers to buy, how to pick a nanny, like so many things, right? And the inputs in that decision is what you, of course, feel is right. And there’s often not a lot of time and a lot of information which is thrown at you. But often there’s an opportunity to learn a lot from your peers. And I went through that myself. So when I was going back to work after my maternity leave, my son refused to take a bottle. I used to breastfeed him. And he refused to take a bottle, and you know, I read all the blogs, what the doctor said, my mom said, that everybody’s giving me advice, and I’m like, damn, how do I leave him and go, right? Because there was no backup for me at work. I was the only portfolio manager, I somehow got into a WhatsApp group, where there was a friend’s wife who went through the same problem. And she suggested a bottle whose nipple was such that she’d gone through the same issue. So I bought that bottle, and it worked for my son, because I was going places buying, like, $100 bottles, and you know, like, what is going on? Like, which child doesn’t drink from a bottle? I’m like, something’s not right. So, I mean, this is just one incident, lots of such things happened, which made me realize that it’s not as easy as everyone makes it sound. And there is more that could be done in terms of enabling moms to make the right decisions without too much stress of everybody telling them what to do. So what I thought could solve this problem, is the content, community, and the availability of those products and services, that was the initial idea. 

Akshay 12:34

Okay. So it’s like a social commerce kind of concept, which you had.

Tamanna 12:38

Yes, social commerce. But the idea was content, community, because, you know, there’s a lot of expert information available out there if that is coupled with your experience, and then you can make a trusted decision, which is either how to take care. It’s just an informational decision, or it is a decision to buy a product or choose a service. 

Akshay 12:59

So those products would also be available on Baby Destination, which will be the monetization path?

Tamanna 13:05

Yes, yes. 

Akshay 13:07

Okay. And why India? 

Tamanna 13:09

Yeah. Because, you know, I just felt like, when I spoke to my friends in India, we did some research in India, I tried to run focus groups, I just realized that it’s a bigger problem to solve in India. In the US there’s a lot of protocols around things, right. Like, certain basic questions are answered, like, there is no question mark on ‘Should I give cow’s milk or should I give’, it’s a very mature and an evolved market, but in India, the need gap is higher. And that’s why the opportunity is also higher. And just, of course, the population is much higher, so more babies are born. So that’s why I thought we should do this in India. 

Akshay 13:48

Okay. So tell me about the go-to-market journey. Like, you know, when did you quit your job and launch version one of the product and how was it compared to what you had originally planned? 

Tamanna 13:58

So I quit in 2015. I actually wanted to quit in January 2015. But I had a personal reason due to which I had to prolong it to the end of 2015. And then I quit. And I came to India, and then just the first few months, but again, just spent talking to mums figuring out, you know, how to do what to do. And in the end, the first version of the product was just babydestination.com with a lot of content, which was informational content, because the idea was to learn. Let’s just have content out there and learn. It also had a couple of features that would enable the community part of it, right, it wasn’t a forum, but we used to call it stories that are different from Instagram stories, but there was a content initially and then a community feature and then there were products that you could also purchase.

Akshay 14:54

Okay, products were like you were handling the end to end from inventory to logistics and all that? Or was it like through some sort of alliance?

Tamanna 15:03

So we were handling it end to end. I don’t think anyone knows so much detail. So we thought that initially when we’re testing this out, we’ll just have exclusive products, right? So a number of them were actually international brands and very exclusive useful products, which were not available in a lot of places. So we were sort of doing end to end. And that’s how we launched in mid-2016. 

Akshay 15:26

And what did the market tell you? Like three different legs? One is a community leg and then a product leg? And then a content leg? What did the market tell you? What did people want? 

Tamanna 15:36

That’s exactly what the market told us: are you a content platform or are you a community or are you a commerce platform? That’s exactly what the market told us, right? So you know, separately on these pieces, what was missing was the journey, right? It’s like, in my mind, that was an ideal journey, somebody comes, they read a relevant content piece, and then they hear other moms’ opinions, and then they make a decision. If it’s a product decision, then that’s the journey. If it’s not a product decision, then they just read the content, they hear other moms’ opinions, and then they’re able to make that decision, and then they become an active part of the community. So I thought it’s as simple as that. And that’s how it flows. But that’s not what happened, right? People used to come read the content, they used to share the content. So actually, our content was shared a lot. Like, we had a lot of organic traffic on our website, because it was very, very useful content. But these were people who would come who would read content share, we used to have sometimes 1000s of shares on our content organically. But that was it, right? It ended there. And then there were people who would come and just click on the product and buy the product and go, and we’re like, what is going on? 

Akshay 16:50

So these are unrelated audiences? 

Tamanna 16:51

Yes, they used to because again, a consumer doesn’t always go through that journey. Right? A lot of people would buy the product just because it wasn’t available anywhere else. And we were experimenting with all channels. So we realize in September or October that we’re doing too much. We’re trying to build three different things together. And just because maybe we were first-time founders and we just went right and didn’t really think too much and thought that this could be done. And plus we were bootstrapped. 

Akshay 17:21

And Tarun also quit his job at the same time. 

Tamanna 17:24

Yes, yes. So Tarun had moved to India with me. He was very convinced of the idea as well. So we moved and we were trying to do all of this with a five-person team.

Akshay 17:34

Including content writers, like content is not easy to scale. 

Tamanna 17:37

Yeah, It was me. And it was one intern. So I did all the sourcing myself, tied up with 60+ brands. I don’t know how we did all of that. 

Akshay 17:50

While you also had an infant to take care of. 

Tamanna 17:52

Yeah. You know, the important thing there was we realized very soon that this is not happening, right. It’s just an unrealistic expectation. It’s not adding value. It’s been confusing moms, right? We’re doing content really well, like at one point, or organic, just to our organic reach, our Facebook page, which was 15 million organically. So there was a lot of, you know, information moms were getting through the content, but just in the community, right to come back, like they will come once and they will not come back. So all the things that I’ve learned now on what to do with building a community we didn’t know back then the retention was a problem for the community, they used to just come back for content and Facebook was our biggest organic channel. For commerce. It’s like it used to cost money to acquire a person to transact right and just didn’t even understand how we ever make up that cost. There was no clarity, we knew nothing, basically. So we decided that you know, we will roll that back and just do the content and community piece like just kick out the commerce space and just focus on content. It was working, we said, we’ll continue to do that community, we said we’ll figure out where to do it because fundamentally, without community, the idea was not to build a content platform. The community had to be a part of it. And that’s when we realized that if most of the organic reach is coming through Facebook, which means moms are spending a lot of time on Facebook, but you cannot build a community on a page and we started looking at Facebook groups and we used to get a lot of organic traffic from other Facebook groups.

Akshay 19:25

Like people sharing content.

Tamanna 19:27

We used to share a lot on other Facebook groups and also write our content. We used to see how mums are engaging. But the problem was they weren’t informational. So you know, it’s like Mumbai mums, Delhi mums, like they were not informational Facebook groups as such around parenting. So that’s why we felt that if the idea is to give value to mums where they are, if this is where mums are, then we should build communities on Facebook and then figure out they can still come to the website to read the content because that experience cannot be replicated on Facebook but for the community if they are there. There’s nothing better than Facebook groups to provide that experience, the right to initiate that trust and connection between members once they are in a community, and just frequent meaningful interactions between members, which is very important for a community to thrive. That’s how we decided to build the community piece on Facebook. 

Akshay 20:18

And when was this?

Tamanna 20:19

This was in July 2017. 

Akshay 20:22

Fairly, like fairly quickly, you did the pivot. 

Tamanna 20:25

Yes. 

Akshay 20:26

And you also were exploring WhatsApp as a community channel, right? 

Tamanna 20:30

Yeah. So also WhatsApp. Yes. So we used to go to a lot of offline events for mums. And we used to then just create WhatsApp groups of all the moms we would meet. So we started creating local and hyperlocal WhatsApp communities. And we had, hundreds of WhatsApp communities at one point. So Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups, because those are the two channels where moms are already. And it has to be a pull rather than a push. You cannot drive people onto another platform and then expect them to come back. If somebody is asking questions. We were clear on that then. So that’s where we chose these two platforms. And we also decided to build, not one community, but communities around specific pain points. So we learnt, I think, I would say pretty fast, right? Like, we got the insight, right, that communities, yes, but it has to be around specific life stages, specific pain points.

Akshay 21:22

Like what? Give me an example.

Tamanna 21:24

So like, the first community we launched was home remedies for babies and moms. So it was specifically around home remedies. Right. And, other communities, kids’ nutrition and recipes. So like specific, or weight loss post-pregnancy. So we kept launching the specific communities for a live stage and a pain point. 

Akshay 21:44

What was 2018 like? How big did the community size grow and Baby Destination? And when did you finally go in for the external funding? 

Tamanna 21:53

Yeah, so in 2018, we continued to grow. And we kept launching more communities. I think by the end of 2018, we had about 600,000 members in our communities. And also in the first quarter of 2018, is when Facebook noticed us because we were just growing very, very fast. You know, they did a case study on us, where they featured our story. And how we’ve scaled communities. So it was a very, very interesting and exciting year, right? We kept building more tools, we kept launching more communities. That’s also the time where we started exploring monetization. And really what caught our attention was that 40% of conversations were all around products again. So that initial hypothesis was correct, right? They are out to discover products. And you know, they ask about certain brands, and what we thought is what if we create a way for brands to engage meaningfully with these mothers, right? Like this is why they come at whatever time to ask, right? This is where they’re really seeking authentic advice, which they’re getting from peers. But brands can also give, you know, educate, give maybe more scientific advice, bringing in experts and all of that.

Akshay 23:05

Like a content marketing channel for brands. 

Tamanna 23:07

Yeah, we didn’t know how it would play out, to be honest. Because what we know is that the only reason a community thrives is because of its organic nature because it’s a safe space. So it’s a very sacred space, you cannot go and bombard it with an ad or a blog. So we didn’t know how to be honest, we just wanted to find out how to solve this problem. So we thought we’ll talk to brands, and we’ll figure out that, you know, do they even know Facebook groups exist? If yes, have they tried to talk to these consumers? Right? Why if they have, and why not. And that’s where we realize that there’s a big gap. We felt like there’s so much talk on digital that happens in the world. But a lot of it is sitting at an eyeball level, right? All brands are present everywhere on the internet, which is, like you said, right, whether it’s content marketing, or its ad, or, just let me go and find that consumer and build a custom audience and show them ads again, and again and again. And the frequency with which I show the ads is where I believe I’ve been able to convince them. But we realize there’s no way for brands to understand what are the real pain points of the consumers because consumers are talking in real-time in Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, right, but they don’t have the means to get those distilled insights, and they don’t have the means to engage. Like it’s just never happened. Just because communities never existed at that scale. That’s where we said that there’s an opportunity here, we started doing our early experiments around community marketing, just really enabling brands to first understand again, we say top five pain points and then engage with moms through either educating them or you know, engaging with them to share their experiences, or giving them an exclusive value, just one of those three things, it cannot be anything else. Right? So we started doing experiments and we found a fair bit of success in community marketing. And we used to always call it purpose-led marketing, middle funnel marketing, just very simply, where are your consumers talking? Where are you listening? And where are you talking to them? So the consumers are actually talking in these groups, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, Reddit, wherever. You’re trying to listen to them through social listening and all that in Facebook pages, Instagram, everywhere else, but not these groups. And then you are trying to talk to them, or market to them or show an ad to them again, on all these other broadcast channels, pages, and Instagram and YouTube, which is great, they consume content there, but they are not talking there. It was as simple as that, we just had to figure the right way to add value to the consumer. And to add value to the brand.

Akshay 25:54

You were giving insights to brands that this is what people are talking about. And then you were crafting communication for the brand, or they would grab something and then you would publish it in the group or like, tell me the nuts and bolts of this? 

Tamanna 26:06

Yes, the concept of community marketing starts from understanding the distilled insight. And it’s very simple. Like it’s not any personal information. It’s not that. It’s just that if I have, you know, 100,000 conversations that my potential consumers are doing, I just want to find out what are the top five things that bother them, right? Do they want to learn about nutrition and what kind of nutrition?

Akshay 26:29

And this is a paid thing? You were charging brands for the insight?

Tamanna 26:34

So we were not always charging them. It’s just that’s what we used to use, it was a part of how we used to function, right? We were always using insights to create content. So initially, we weren’t really charging them. Initially, it was even just to find out, do you even know this, right? Because you do a lot of research through surveys and all that and you know, consumer immersions, once a year meeting your consumers, but you know, every day what they’re talking about. Okay, insights, which then leads to marketing. And marketing means once I understand the pain points, I try to answer them, I try to answer them through providing the right information, through enabling other moms to bring out experiences around that pain point or providing an exclusive value. So that’s what we enabled then, brands would not be a part of the community, we were very, again, a community is a very sacred place, right? So if they enter the community, that’s it, right, the trust. They cannot be a part of the community, all the communication is done through the admin of the community. And it’s all done with the proper disclosures, but it’s not like covert marketing, right? It’s like, imagine if there’s a community of entrepreneurs and actually wants to go and talk there, right? Like, Akshay wants to tell entrepreneurs to sign up for a podcast, right? And he speaks to that man, and he tells that to the admin, hey, first, I want to know, What are the five things that entrepreneurs talk about, and maybe one of those is that we want to get visibility, right, we want to get an interview or a podcast, or we want to get visibility. And then if you go and market there, you could just do a two-minute video where you’re talking to them and telling them to sign up and tell them what would be the benefits of doing so. Or you could say, Hey, let me just give you tips on how to give a good interview. Right? So meaningful, right? So people are not going to say, Oh, my God, why are you doing this paid partnership with Akshay, because then they’re looking for that opportunity. And that’s, it’s, it’s very commonsensical when you think of it. But somehow, that’s just not how marketing is perceived, right? 

Akshay 28:47

So you started working with these brands, which are making products for mums and babies and your team would create the content in different ways and insert it into the conversation. And then you would provide reports to brands like in terms of what is the ROI on what they spent, like, that’s what 2018 was about creating this kind of model?

Tamanna 29:06

2018 was figuring out this model, really, right? It was figuring out what would work, right? You cannot go into certain conversations. It has to be through the admin, what would get accepted, how to show ROI, how to show an increase in conversation, it’s basically word of mouth. You get into communities and that’s the only place you can generate word of mouth, you can have your evangelists talk about you, because they’re already present in communities, how to measure word of mouth. We tried a lot of metrics. So it was really figuring that out.

Akshay 29:37

And what was 2019 about?

Tamanna 29:39

So 2019 was about FCLP. So we got selected by Facebook for a program called Facebook Community Leadership Program, where they had selected 100 community admins from across the globe in a program where they were going to provide us with some funding. It was a nine-month-long program where we will get a chance to meet other admins and go through a structured learning program on community leadership. So when I saw that program, I was like, you know, this is like for us, right? Like, I’m not the kind of person who fills any award applications or anything, I just don’t like all that. But someone sent it to me. And I was like, wow, we should fill this right. And the money that we got was $50,000, we thought we would use that to build more communities, then try to build more experiences and communities for moms even in tier two cities. Okay, so 2019 was about that, while continuing to scale up our communities and scale up the community marketing, it actually started at the end of 2018. So 2018-end is when the first FCLP meetup happened. Okay, but 2019 is when that program was concluded, and with that, the idea of Convosight was born. 2019 was like, Oh, my God, how do we now really build Convosight? 

Akshay 31:01

Tell me about the genesis of Convosight.

Tamanna 31:03

Sure. So when I went to FCLP, in the first meetup, which was at Menlo Park, in late 2018, I was just fascinated. I was amazed by every single individual in that cohort, I’ve been fortunate to have very good experiences in my life and meet a number of inspiring people. But these were all kick-ass community builders who were doing really meaningful work across the globe, in different categories. So I was just trying to understand their motivation, they were all doing it. And one thing really struck me was none of them was really making money. And you know, time and again, like, it was a very, very close-knit program. So we were together for four days, you know, no devices, nothing, just understanding each other going through this program. And what really came out of it was that we were apparently, one of the most advanced in that cohort, in terms of the way we were monetizing. And in terms of the technology and tools that we had built, everyone else, a great community builder, right? Some of them just decided to do it for nonprofit purposes, but everyone else was struggling to monetize. Struggling to like, sort of you take your life’s worth and figure out how do I make a livelihood because they love doing this? A number of them were doing this full time, right. But there was just no way to earn money. And that thought just didn’t leave me. 

Akshay 32:26

Nobody had access to that kind of data, which you had, because of the tools that you had built. 

Tamanna 32;32

I don’t think it’s that, I just think that it’s the mindset. When we started Baby Destination, we started with the objective of launching a company, right? Like the idea was to have a business model around. But most of the community admins, unless it’s a brand community, they start a community just because they’re going through a pain point, or they have a hobby or they’re just helping a friend like they just start a community without passion. Yeah, it’s a personal passion. Yeah. And that’s very important to note. They’re very different from an Instagram influencer, or YouTube and who starts with the objective to monetize, right? These individuals mostly start with an objective just because they’re going through a pain point. And because of that, the idea of monetizing is never there. Plus, who talks about monetizing communities. There is no talk about it, right. Like you talk about monetizing Instagram influencers, no one used to know community admins. So with all of that, right, they, once they start a community, they’ll build a community. That’s before they realize they are into it full time. They’re doing this, it’s extremely gratifying every day you come and you know, people are thanking you, and you’re just in this really gratified state, but you don’t know how to make money. It’s not about tools or data or like if today brands would understand the value of these community admins. And if they were discoverable, then the way that they go to Instagram influencers would be more than that. Right? This would at least be that much, if not more, because Instagram and with all due respect, that’s still broadcast. It’s all followers. Right? This is an engaged group of audience that organically comes, you cannot pay money to build a Facebook group, there’s no way you can do an ad. That’s the reason. There was just no opportunity for them to do that. Unless they themselves decide to upskill themselves, to go and make a pitch, to go imagine going and selling this to a brand. And the brand is like what, like, you know, what’s the Facebook group? So it’s a massive education exercise to do this to brands. So this is where, you know, we thought that everything that we’ve done for Baby Destination, if we were to put it we just thought that oh my god, as you know, we’ve done everything for Baby Destination, right? This is sort of the POC, if we were to take this and put it on a platform and then enable all these admins to build better communities, if we could upskill them, professionalize them and give them an ability to monetize this would be like a whole new economy. Community, this is the supply and then brands have the demand. So that’s how this idea came, there was no thought to do this before FCLP.

Akshay 35:15

What was the plan? Was it to build a place where community admins can come and plug in their communities and through API, they can start seeing some data. And then brands can also come and see the similar kind of data and then transact with the community admins on the platform? Is that what you thought or like, tell me what you thought of the product being like?

Tamanna 35:36

We definitely thought that we would create a product that removes a lot of clutter for community admins, right? Like, while they’re on Facebook, of course, Facebook has given us all the opportunity to build the community. But you know, there’s a notification overload, there are so many notifications in that one feed, right. 100 different types of notifications. So one is we wanted to give them a space where they are able to see all the data, all the metrics – the growth, engagement, and the conversation inside metrics about their communities, and manage their communities from one place, get recommendations on when to post, what to post. So it’s like, you know, your assistant to manage your community. One is that. Second is we wanted to do a number of workshops, etc, for them to upskill them, to tell them about how to monetize what to do, how to go even make a pitch, how to do purpose-led marketing, not covert marketing, and then how to warm up your audience to it, right, all of that, which was also like, we’ve done like 200 of these workshops so far. Now, on the brand side, we wanted to still maintain the sanctity of the community. So it’s not like an ad platform where you can just come in, right? We maintained the middle layer of taking selling to the brand, aggregating the communities, and telling the brand the power of communities. Educating the brand, really, it’s a massive education exercise on both sides that we’ve gone through. And then all sorts of workflows of community, of posting, etc. They’re all automated within Convosight. But it’s like we are facing off with the community. And we’re communities and we’re facing off with the brand. And we started doing this with enterprise brands first because we realize that this is new, right? It’s just digital marketing 2.0. It’s a new way to market. So if this has to get accepted in the world, it has to be the larger brands embracing it first, and then it will go downstream. 

Akshay 37:36

How long was this journey to pivot from Baby Destination to Convosight? 

Tamanna 37:40

This was actually pretty quick, like I said that late 2018 is when I first thought of this, and by April of 2019 when I came back from my third sort of session at FCLP, we had decided. We had already started working on it, like thinking about it from March. And our first product was out in October 2019. So we launched in beta in October 2019. And then Jan 2020, when we launched, we went all out. 

Akshay 38:09

How did you do the acquisition of admins, the community owners? 

Tamanna 38:13

So the first few admins were the ones that I knew or spoke to. I met a number of admins in India, I found out what their pain points were. It was really hard initially, because even the thought that they can monetize, or somebody even telling them, even if it’s another admin, how will that happen? Right? It’s just too much. They’re fundamentally not business owners. That was the difference there. We’re not in that mindset. So the first couple of months were a lot of those conversations, right? Where they’re like, how will this even happen? And you know, some of them had already tried and failed a lot. Because brands used to keep comparing them to Instagram or other platforms or bloggers. So initially, it was just that, but then we went out and did what I think we do reasonably well, which is create a community of them. So we created a community of community admins. And we call it growth and monetization for Facebook group admins. We just thought that we just really need to bring them together to share learning experiences, and we can share ours because we could be considered experts in building and monetizing that. That’s one thing we did. The second is we set up a community success team. This is the team that’s out there to really serve admins, right? That’s why they exist today. And this team role is to go out, talk to admins, upskill them, tell them about Convosight. So really the largest source of acquisition, it’s all organic. Now. It’s like 80% of it is through our community, word of mouth referral, and through our community success team.

Akshay 39:47

And the community success team would be creating content, creating workshops?

Tamanna 39:51

Yeah, not content as such. But yes, workshops, it’s doing demos, it’s telling them on how to monetize, right, just helping them. So the success team onboards them and helps them with their first monetization campaigns. 

Akshay 40:05

Okay, so how many community owners are on Convosight today?

Tamanna 40:09

There are close to 40,000 communities on Convosight. And they collectively manage 350 million members. So that’s, yeah, it’s I know, even we sometimes look back and say wow, because there are lots of communities, right? There are 1.8 billion people and communities now. So it’s pretty large. 

Akshay 40:30

This is Facebook communities only?

Tamanna 40:32

This is Facebook right now. We’ve also expanded to Reddit. But yeah, this is primarily Facebook. And like I said, I mean, now it’s more and more just organic discovery through our community. We also do very, very informational content on convosight.com. So our SEO has started picking up now this year. So a lot of international admins just discovered us through our content, and then that’s when they’ll install Convosight. But again, the idea is, it cannot be 100% turnkey like they will require some hand-holding, which is why we were very clear that we need a community success team, right to help them get set up. It’s like once, you know, it’s not just to hope, right, once they monetized, and they’re all out, right, it’s just upscaling that they need which just wasn’t available before this.

Akshay 41:20

And how do you acquire brands? Like personal outreach and cold calling and stuff? 

Tamanna 41:25

Yeah, I mean, we don’t do cold calling as such, but you know, it’s targeted outreach. Initially, it was a lot of it, which I used to just do personally on LinkedIn. Targeted outreach, we had a pretty good response rate, like nine out of 10 people would come. Yeah, and every call that we’ve had so far, like, again, nine out of 10 of those calls have converted into paid pilots and customers. 

Akshay 41:50

Wow. What’s the secret behind that? 

Tamanna 41:52

It’s like, you know, think about it if I come in to tell you that there are these entrepreneurs in these three communities. They are talking about this like you wouldn’t even blink, right? You would be like, Okay, can I get in front of them? 

Akshay 42:04

So every message you send on LinkedIn, you would include some nugget of insight about that brand. 

Tamanna 42:09

I wouldn’t. I wish I was doing that in a very disciplined way. I wasn’t doing that. 

Akshay 42:16

But in conversations, at least, like when you had called, then you would present some insights and that could open their eyes and say, Wow.

Tamanna 42:23

Yeah, I mean, insights, right, just even saying, like I said, where are your consumers talking? And it’s, you always think of it offline. Oh, they’re talking and you know, I can go to an event I can go to, but just telling them that these spaces exist, right? This is a reality. People have changed. Of course, COVID has taken this to a different level altogether. But consumers moved from TV to digital, because consumers have moved online. But this is where they are spending their time now. Right? Like and you have an ability to coexist with them. It is a reality. It’s not just you know, a thought. So I think that’s the reason but now 70% of our business from brands is again, all referrals now. 

Akshay 43:03

So what is the monetization model at Convosight? Like part of the spend by the brand stays with you I’m guessing.

Tamanna 43:10

Yes, yes, that’s our monetization model. And now we’re also planning to launch more self-serve models. So now Convosight 2.0 will be about D2C brands, having the ability to market in communities for expanding across more categories. And it will be self serve, or semi self serve models.

Akshay 43:31

Okay, right now, it’s pretty high-touch, like there would be an account manager for a brand who would work with them to create that. And then your success team would also work with the community owners to help them execute the campaign. 

Tamanna 43:45

Yes, especially the first time, right. And I don’t see that success team going away as we become bigger. Because you know, as more and more admins are coming on to this, they’re doing this for the first time. But yeah, that’s the model today. 

Akshay 43:58

Yeah. How did you manage the payment ecosystem? Because you would have people from all over the world? Do you need to have, like, some sort of bank linkages across the world? Or how did you manage them? 

Tamanna 44:11

So the first year was only in India. Right. We’ve only now started expanding to the US. And next for Southeast Asia, now, it’s the US. 

Akshay 44:21

Monetization is not global right now, although the tools can be used globally by anybody? Okay. 

Tamanna 44:27

Yeah, yeah, monetization was primarily in India, and now it’s international. And that’s where the payment tools are being upgraded to in different geographies. We’re now working with customers in the US, so it’s now being scaled up. 

Akshay 44:44

Okay. And tell me about the fundraising journey so far. 

Tamanna 44:47

So we’ve raised about USD 13.5 million so far. We raised our seed round through Sequoia Surge and IvyCap which was last year in March. Recently we raised another round. The lead investor was Qualgro, Unilever Ventures and the previous ones were involved too.

Akshay 45:08

Unilever is betting on it as it is a way for them to market their brands as well, they would have personally experienced the power of the platform.

Tamanna 45:17

Yeah, so we were doing some pilots with them but we are very different teams. It is an entity based out of the UK. When we decided to partner with them we of course did our due diligence and it’s different. The brand teams are different and the venture arm is different. 

Akshay 45:40

So my last question to you, what’s the roadmap now for Convosight? Convosight 2.0 is going to be more self-serve, less of the high-touch elements which would allow you to onboard brands at a faster pace. Then what next after that?

Tamanna 45:55

Yeah, Convosight 2.0 will solve this problem of education at scale also. There are things that we are doing that will make the communities really legit. It will make them extremely discoverable and our users are superstars and they should be out in the world. Currently, there’s no way. If I was to ask you, there’s no way to tell, hey, these are the 100 communities where I will find my consumers. It will enable that discovery. It will give them their personalised spaces, landing pages where they can exhibit their work. It will give D2C brands, smaller brands an opportunity. Everybody should have the opportunity to give in front of their consumers, and this is what it will enable. The enterprise model will continue to stay high-touch but that is just enterprise brands. But for all other brands, like local businesses, imagine a local brand or a coffee shop that wants to talk to their consumers. I know it sounds really big but that’s really the dream. This should happen in the world because community builders work really hard. They’ve done all the hard work, that’s the thing and now is the time to monetize it meaningfully. It provides tremendous value to the consumer and to the brand when done in the right manner. So that’s the direction we are going in. Also expanding to other community platforms.

So that was Tamanna Dhamija telling Akshay how Convosight was developed. If you want to know more about it, do login to www.convosight.com

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Tamanna Dhamija Co-Founder, Convosight

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