For this week’s Humans of TapChief, we are in conversation with a young entrepreneur, Ashwin, who built his own software company, Codemonk, along with his former classmate Akshay, and Suhas. They help startups develop their technology stack and enterprises to build their next big product.
Read on to learn more about their journey and how they went from college mates to co-founders. Ashwin shares with us the challenges that they faced along the way, how they managed to get clients, and their philosophy and dreams.
Codemonk was formed in 2018. They offer software solutions, particularly in three domains — AI, Blockchain, and Enterprise applications. Most of their clients belong to industries such as commerce, healthcare, mobility, energy, and education.
Codemonk works with clients from India as well as from abroad, including countries such as Sweden, USA, and Australia. Their work has been publicly acclaimed by NITI Aayog and IIT-Delhi.
A glimpse into their journey
The founders, Ashwin, Akshay, and Suhas, were all classmates back in their B.Tech days. It was where they met each other and bonded. You can trace back their passion for building something right from then.
We had set up something similar to Codemonk during our college days and used to take on projects too. But, for some reason, in the final year, we opted for campus placements, managed to get full-time jobs, and ended up going our separate ways.
Ashwin began working at IISc, Bengaluru, as a Computer Vision Researcher. While Akshay went on to join Accenture as a Software Engineer and Suhas became a Firmware Developer at Seagate.
After spending roughly two years at their full-time jobs, they decided to get back together and build something on their own.
All three of us were in Bangalore at the time, and during our meetups, we used to discuss about starting up. Finally, halfway through 2018, we decided to take the plunge. And we resigned from our jobs and formed Codemonk in July of 2018.
By the time they left their full-time jobs, they were very clear about what they wanted to do and whom to target.
We wanted to focus on building AI, Blockchain, and Enterprise solutions. We knew there was a shortage of skilled people in these domains. So, we intended to fill that gap and transform the way startups and enterprises worked.
The fact that they had hands-on experience and expertise in these domains made the journey more comfortable. It wasn’t as if they had to learn everything from zero. Ashwin had already worked on various Machine Learning projects for Government of India and leading private firms. Suhas had won laurels for his work in blockchain technology. And Akshay was fairly experienced in handling large scale projects for massive MNCs.
And the founders didn’t have to wait too long to land their first project. Soon after the formation, they were able to land a few projects from their network.
The challenges they faced along the way
As they began to rake in new clients, they realised that they wouldn’t be able to do everything on their own, and have to hire employees to help them out. This was when the reality of running an agency/startup started hitting them.
Our aim has always been to provide the best possible service to our clients. This meant our bar for new hires were set pretty high. So, we found it incredibly hard to find talented candidates who would fit our requirements.
To make it worse, a few of their clients began to delay payments. This meant their cash flow suffered and had to spend more time following up with clients.
How did they turn things around?
Thankfully for them, the dark times didn’t last too long though. They created a structured approach to talent acquisition, explored different channels, and settled on the ones that provided the best quality of candidates.
We sat down, evaluated our hiring requirements, prepared job descriptions with great care, set quality benchmarks, and then experimented with different channels. This whole exercise helped us streamline the hiring funnel and also, identify the channels that gave us the best results.
Platforms such as AngelList and LinkedIn always seemed to stand out in terms of quality. Most importantly, we were able to expand our team and bring on board people who seamlessly fit into our work culture.
Things got even better for Codemonk when NITI Aayog publicly acknowledged a product they had built, uDyog. It is a decentralised job portal and professional network that is built on the Ethereum platform.
As a result, NITI Aayog went on to consult Suhas for Blockchain-related regulations. To top it off, IIT-Delhi then publicly showcased the same product and announced that they would be adopting the same.
In the meantime, their business started growing rapidly. They acquired a variety of new clients, including the likes of Skylark Drones, Fyle, FRRyd, Kimzuka, CoiNel, Yaana, Ardeo, SiliconNest, iTrust, Zinco, and the Government of Karnataka.
We knew that our biggest USP is the quality of our services. So, we kept plugging away and found ways to drive referrals from our clients/network, and our efforts have paid off. I’d say that word of mouth and referrals from our clients have been major driving forces in acquiring new clients. Besides that, we also got a few clients through cold outreach.
Their obsession for providing quality services also meant that they were able to retain almost 95 per cent of their clients.
We started getting a lot of repeat clients, and most of the time, the second one would be twice the size of the first engagement. We feel that it is mostly down to the quality of our work, our insistence on the timely delivery of projects, and our efforts to keep our existing clients engaged.
The best part is that some of these clients have ended up signing long-term contracts with us.
And it was also around this time they were introduced TapChief.
TapChief helped add a lot more variety to our clientele. We have been able to work with enterprise clients such as IndiaMart and GreytHR.
Another reason for Codemonk’s success is their work culture. They have a flat and open culture where team members are encouraged to pitch their ideas, and as everyone is an expert in their domain, people are urged to share their learnings and expertise.
Their plans for the future
Currently, we are working on solutions and products which are SaaS-based products for enterprises. At present, the products are in the early stages of development, so it is probably not the right time to reveal. We prefer keeping it in stealth mode now.
Tips for aspiring entrepreneurs
Codemonk is what it is today because of the quality of work that we have delivered. So, always strive to maintain the quality standards irrespective of the challenges you face along the way.
This article is part of our Humans of TapChief series, where we highlight inspiring stories of our community members who choose to live and work on their own terms.