Owned it: Manoj Krishnapillai

The serial entrepreneur outlines the process of starting his online marketing campaign platform

Name: Manoj Krishnapillai
Age: 30
Company: Owned it
Staff numbers: 9
Location: Birmingham
Date launched: 15/01/2013
Website: www.ownedit.com

Tell us what your business does:

Owned it is a suite of marketing apps that helps online retailers to create and deploy marketing and social campaigns. The campaigns can be configured to drive sales, increase referrals, promote store offers, or improve your follower base and conversions.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

We all feel the urge to be trendy; we want to know what’s new and also keep an eye on what our friends are buying. We started developing a platform that would log and display all purchases shared on social networks. We raised seed funding to build our platform and approached online stores to integrate our system. Based on feedback, we built a system to encourage social referrals and provide retailers with detailed analytics.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Online retailers are not capitalising on social marketing opportunities. We conducted a study of 400 online stores in the UK and realised that there is a gap in the market. To create marketing/customer engagement campaigns, retailers invest time and resources to manage and coordinate efforts of marketing, creative and developer teams. Often this effort doesn’t achieve the desired results. Also, tracking marketing/customer engagement campaigns is a difficult task.

What were you doing before starting up?

I am an entrepreneur at heart. As a student I was instrumental in founding MobME, one of the most recognised young telecom companies in India. It was rated as one of India’s top ten start-ups to watch by The Wall Street Journal and is now en route to IPO.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

I was always fascinated by the opportunity to create something useful to the wider public. At university, I got involved with a crowd who had some ‘crazy’ ideas that are now successful businesses.

How did you raise the money?

We applied to Oxygen Accelerator with our idea and were accepted for the programme. With seed funding from the programme we started building the platform and approached online stores to integrate our system. After the accelerator programme, we raised our angel round from Finance Birmingham and private angels.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

After integrating Owned it, retailers started suggesting new features, so we created a flexible architecture to help us to add new features easily. It was a major design challenge for us. We are based in Birmingham Aston Science Park – which has helped us to attract talent as there’s a good start-up buzz here but in spite of the recession, it is difficult to find and keep the right people. Gaining deep insight into the retail sector was also difficult initially, but now we have good links to UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and IMRG.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Owned it is delivered as a software as a service and is suitable for both large and small retailers. There are four different price levels starting from £49 a month. The pricing is based on the number of transactions per month.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Initially, our integration was quite a lengthy process. So we addressed this issue by developing easy to install plugins/add-ons for major ecommerce platforms. That led to major breakthrough and a mass adaption of our system in a wide range of ecommerce platforms, such as Magento and Open Cart.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Get involved and immerse yourself fully in your start-up business. Stay away from distractions and refine your proposition according to the market needs and your intuition. If you sleep, eat and breathe a product often your intuition can guide you through your journey.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In the coming years we’d like to establish ourselves as the platform for online retailers looking to optimise their marketing campaigns. We’d also like to extend our platform capabilities to mobile.

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