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“We Are The One Stop Shop For Any SMB or Entrepreneur to Come & Grow Online”- Rajiv Sodhi, GoDaddy

India  has over 137 million users million users logged onto the internet, a number big enough to make it the third biggest country in terms of internet users in the world,  but still  relatively small keeping in perspective the country’s 1.2 billion population.  The internet adoption rate in India  is growing at a year on year rate of 26%, with  small towns and the lower rungs of the economic ladder getting online faster than ever before.

This growing internet usage is also changing the way Indian SMBs reach out to their customers. Indian SMBs with a website have  51% higher revenues,  49% more profit, and  7% broader customer bases than their offline-only counterparts, a recent  industry report revealed. However, only a  5% of Indian SMBs have a web presence, reflecting a clear lack of skill, resources, awareness and knowledge among the remaining 95%.  Getting online still remains too daunting a task for a majority of Indian SMBs who are IT novices and need help and  guidance to establish a strong online presence.

GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar is a top platform for small businesses and provides them with a wide range of web services. India, for obvious reasons, is a big potential growth area for GoDaddy. The company launched full-scale operations in India in June 2012 and has seen significant growth since.

We sat with Rajiv Sodhi,  Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India a while back to discuss the current state of the Indian SMB market and how GoDaddy plans to enable Indian SMBs to get their businesses online, and then run and grow them successfully. The complete video of our interaction is below, and a print version  follows it.

Web Hosting business is not about a hit and run, where you sell the solution and go away.  A lot of time, customers need advice as to what should they be doing, should they go in for, let’s say, a shared server or a dedicated server.  Customers need to have this at the back of their mind that they are betting on a credible player who would be able to provide support to them.
– Rajiv Sodhi,  Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India.

Rajiv Sodhi,  Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India.

Rajiv Sodhi,  Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India.

Q: Before we begin, please tell our readers about your journey from  GrapeCity India to GoDaddy.

A: I started working with Grapecity India about 15 years back as a software developer, looking at the engineering side of things.  Post that, I moved to Microsoft, where I started out with Developer Evangelism practice and built out the entire ISV Evangelism business. I then graduated to start the cloud business for Microsoft and in my last stint, I was leading the entire SMB and Cloud business for Microsoft in India. That’s  when I decided to take this opportunity with GoDaddy to lead their business operations in India.

Q: GoDaddy in universally synonymous with domain names and the 55 million domains it manages are testament for the same. In an interview earlier this month, Mr. Blake Irving remarked, “Very few people actually know what GoDaddy is, or they think it is only domains. They certainly don’t see the potential.” So what are other services that GoDaddy provides which are equally good but relatively unknown?

A:  I think Blake is absolutely right, while we are known for domain names, that’s not the only thing  we sell. I spoke about GoDaddy being the one stop shop for small businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide, including India, in my talk earlier today too.

We look ourselves as the largest platform on which a business can build its entire online presence, all the way from basic identity, like having a domain name and website, to advanced hosting solutions, SSL etc. We also have in our product portfolio marketing tools for SMBs, like email marketing, search engine visibility etc. and security solutions like our  website scanner that can protect your website. So we’ve a whole range of solutions  that can enable SMBs to get their businesses online, and then run and grow them successfully.

Q: Top-shelf customer service and dominance among SMBs are two of GoDaddy’s strongest fortes. So, why do you think that the quality of customer service is comparatively more important in the web hosting industry and is sort of a ‘Litmus test’ for checking the reliability of a web host?

A: Customer support is one of the most important aspects of this business, especially in India,  because  as Internet  penetration in  India increases, a new breed of customer is coming online. This customer probably does not understand IT completely. He is not bothered about understanding or mastering the aspects of IT, he is more concerned about growing his business, and therefore, a lot of hand holding is required, a lot of support is needed as he grows on this internet journey. That’s point one.

The second point is, this business is not about a hit and run, where you sell the solution and go away.  A lot of time, customers need advice as to what should they be doing, should they go in for, let’s say, a shared server or a dedicated server.  Customers need to have this at the back of their mind that they are betting on a credible player who would be able to provide support to them.

So customer support becomes one of the hallmark any which way. And again, this is one area where our tech support offering excels, because you can call into our care center free of charge and take advice from our consultants as to what kind of solution you would need.

Q: If you were to mention 3 reasons that make GoDaddy the ‘go-to’ choice for SMBs round the globe, what would they be?

A:  Three reasons are pretty simple I think. The first thing is, obviously, we are the one stop shop for any SMB or entrepreneur to come online. Whatever the solutions customer needs, he gets everything under one roof.

Second, you are never alone with GoDaddy. Once you take the bet with GoDaddy, our customer support will always be there with you in your time of need or when you want to grow your business or when you want to buy more and do more stuff on the internet.

Third, we are deeply invested in creating an ecosystem around us. There are partners and other  players who can help you come online. So if you need support, it’s going to be very close to you.

Q: GoDaddy announced  ‘Cup of Coffee’ Campaign in India a few days back, which aims to provide  first-hand experience of how SMBs can register a domain name, build a website, get an email address and promote it as well, within minutes. Can you tell what is the modus operandi of this campaign and how you’re planning to execute it in order to get best results?

A: The core theme of the campaign is that you can get online in minutes, in the time you finish  a cup of coffee, which is about 30 minutes. We have a  multipronged approach for executing this.

First, we have placed trained executives on the ground in 3 cities in India – Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. These trained executives actually go door to door meeting SMBs, showing them a demo of how they can come online, telling them how easy it is to come online and then if the customer chooses, they  configure the website for the customer right there in the time he finishes a cup of coffee.

Second, we have positioned mobile-experience-zones, where  we’re  offering a first-hand experience of how SMBs can register a domain name, build a website etc.

Third, we are advertising on prominent sites, billboards, radios etc.,  so that there is an awareness around this initiative and people come forward to get online.

Q: Although India is one of the largest Internet markets in the world, it also has one of the lowest PC penetration rates in the world. With Indian businesses always shying away from investing in IT, how do you plan to get around the uphill task of opening people up to the various opportunities that lie online?

A: I think India has historically lacked both in PC penetration and Internet penetration. Although we are the third largest internet connected country,  we are still 10 percent penetrated when it comes to our population!

If you look at players like GoDaddy, our products are pretty simple to use and affordable, so it’s not a big barrier for people to come online. The biggest challenge is that they perceive it to be inherently complex and they have issues around security, availability etc.  The Cup Of Coffee campaign that we spoke about is one initiative where  we are trying to work towards making sure that people actually find it very easy to come online.

We will also have to come up with relevant solutions so that people see the value in coming online. If you are a small business, you should see how coming online contributes to your  business growth. So it’s a matter of education, creating awareness  and making sure there are tangible results attached to it.  I think if we solve these problems then definitely India is going to go online.

Q: You also made a very interesting remark last year that “….the world is largely a DIY market, while in India it is DIM (Do it for Me)”. Can you elaborate more on this?

A: I think culturally India is a Do It For Me market. If you look at the western world, it is largely a Do It Yourself market.  There, if you want to fix your car, garden or  garage, you have fantastic tools that you can use and fix things yourself. In India, you can be a relatively middle class person and you will have a gardener coming in, a mechanic coming in or a maid coming in, so it’s a largely Do It For Me country.

The same applies to the  internet as well. If we want the Indian SMBs and customers to come online, we will actually have to reach out to them and do it for them rather than they doing it themselves.  And again, this is  one of the reasons  why we initiated the Cup Of Coffee campaign, where rather than the customer coming to us, we are going to the customer and getting him online.

Q: While GoDaddy is in the catbird seat when it comes to being a OneStopShop for everything related to web presence globally, the Indian market has fairly big providers in the same league like Directi, Net4, ZNetLive etc. who’ve been in the industry for a decade and have a strong foothold in the web community. In your year long experience in India,  have you noticed visible competition or general tendency among organizations to go for providers they’ve been accustomed to through the years?

A: Actually if you ask, now that we have spent 12 months in India,  I would say our biggest competition has been the market. At  10 percent penetration, I don’t think we should be worried about competition because there is such a big market that is out there waiting for us. The biggest competition is breaking the perceptions and the barriers in the customer’s mind as to why he should come online.  So as long as we do our job of reaching out to the customer, explaining to him how simple it is to come online and making him come online, we should be fine.

Q: Since GoDaddy is on a recruitment drive right now for its new  Seattle Office and Indian one as well, what would you like to tell your potential employees about the work and culture at GoDaddy?

A: I have been with GoDaddy for about an year and I think the work and culture here is pretty phenomenal.  If you  want to work in an environment which gives equal opportunity regardless of where you come from, then GoDaddy is the place to be. Your merit and the work that you do is most  important here. As Blake said a while back, there is just so much more to be done and this is definitely one company that can lead the change in the world. So if you are looking  for a place where you can change the world, then GoDaddy is pretty much it.

Q: Wrapping up, what are some of the key initiatives GoDaddy plans to come up with?

A: As an organization, we are mainly focused on two things. First is making the internet relevant to India and  you have seen the Cup of Coffee campaign come out of it and we’re  going to continue with it as we go along. The second thing is creating a very  robust platform for all the partners and resellers in the country so that they can do business with us and actually help us in this journey of getting India online.

These are the two broad themes – building partnerships and making internet relevant –  that we will continue to work on. You will see various campaigns and activities that will come on but I don’t think we will deviate from these two paths.

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