After the grand success of our Social Media event SimplySocial in Bangalore, I am taking the discussion on Social Media forward here. Today I got chance to catch CEO of ThoughtBuzz Anshul. ThoughtBuzz is the premier Social Media Brand Monitoring Company based in Singapore.
Anshul is an NRI Businessman, who is aggressive and visionary. He talks about his life, his entrepreneurial journey, and Social Media Market in Singapore.
He feels that there are some serious issues in adoption of Social Media Marketing and Monitoring by Businesses. Most importantly he talks about Social Media Monitoring being taken as a short term project based work and not a continuous duty.
Here’s more from my talks with Anshul. Enjoy the read.[Bhupendra] Hi Anshul, How are you today? [Anshul] I am doing great. Hope you guys are also rocking. [Bhupendra] How did you start your entrepreneurship journey? [Anshul] I started taking entrepreneurship seriously only towards the end of my MBA. I had started a couple of businesses while I was doing my bachelors but due to lack of dedication as well as no clear idea all of them failed. It was only during my MBA that I seriously started to consider starting something of my own. I thought I am young and I can take the risk, my family members are supportive and my MBA provides me a batch of very smart people who I can possibly work with together on this. [Bhupendra] Why the name ‘ThoughtBuzz’? [Anshul] I wanted to do something in the field of social media. Social media had already taken off in a big way in North America and Europe not just for consumers but for businesses as well. Asia was just beginning to realize the benefits of social media for businesses. The name came from 2 words, Thought and Buzz. Buzz means something which has gone viral and Thought means making the sense out of this entire buzz happening online. This is how the name ThoughtBuzz was born. [Bhupendra] Tell us about your product and services. What makes you unique in the market? [Anshul] ThoughtBuzz provides a social media monitoring solution for businesses. We have a cloud based offering for businesses looking to track conversations about them online. We provide analytics such as Sentiments, Topics and mentions to name a few. In addition to this we also provide analyst services for clients who are looking to gain much deeper insights from social media. So in effect we offer software and a service. That’s one of our key differentiators between other players. We also provide Facebook tracking as well as Facebook Fan page analytics right from our dashboard. This is something that is not currently available out of the box from any other provider. And of course being in Asia our solution is built to handle multiple languages including Malay, Indonesian as well as European languages such as French and German. Support for languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean is on the way as well. [Bhupendra] Who is your biggest competitor? How do you plan to compete with them? [Anshul] The market for social media monitoring is very big. Businesses of all sizes need social media monitoring and need to do it continuously, not just on a campaign basis. Because of this, all sorts of tools exist in the market, from free ones to the very expensive ones. We sit somewhere in the between. We plan to separate ourselves from others by offering a compelling product with a service that is able to provide a client an end to end solution rather than just monitoring. [Bhupendra] As you are funded by the VCs. How is your journey pre and post investment? [Anshul] The company was initially funded by the Founders. We raised angel funding 3 months after we started. So we haven’t really had to drive the company without VC funding for a long time and so it would be difficult for to elaborate more on this. [Bhupendra] What is the next big thing coming from Anshul? Any personal projects going on? [Anshul] As of now I am fully concentrating on ThoughtBuzz. I do plan in the near future to work on something exciting in the field of mobile and location based search. [Bhupendra] Now lets discuss few things on Social Media. How big is the Social Media revolution? [Anshul] I think if you google ‘social media benefits for businesses’ you would get more than a million articles. That just goes to show how important social media has become in these last few years. Social media has changed the way we consumers interact with the web. Facebook is everywhere and so is Twitter. Businesses are using social media to drive sales, engagement, brand awareness and much more. It has provided companies a way to interact with their consumers in real time and get immediate feedback. Companies are spending more and more on social media. The web has changed with social media and given everyone a voice. [Bhupendra] How important is it for companies to use it? How big is the market now – in India and APAC? [Anshul] As I said before, businesses are using social media more and more by the day. Twitter campaigns, Facebook fan pages are now becoming the norm rather than the exception. Consumers now expect companies to interact with them on social media. If companies don’t, consumers have a bad impression. Companies who don’t use social media risk alienating their consumers and consequently driving away new customers. Singapore though has a population of only 5 million; people here are very active on social media.
Companies here use social media for campaigns, CSR initiatives, brand engagement as well as customer service. In terms of absolute market size, I am not very sure but it sure is big here. India being so big, there is a vast market. Indian companies are already very active on social media and are increasingly using it more and spending more money on it. We see more and more projects from India especially since last year. Again the market here is difficult to calculate as social media involves a lot of things not just monitoring. It involves creating buzz, doing campaigns and monitoring.[Bhupendra] What are the major challenges faced by Social Media Marketing Companies? How do you plan to overcome? [Anshul] A key challenge we have seen after interacting with companies over the past 1.5 yrs is that a lot of them are not sure of what they want to do on social media. It is due to a lack of people inside companies who understand social media. Companies themselves are also unsure as social media is a very open and transparent medium. You cannot hide anything on it. A lot of companies don’t have any policy for social media and are still wondering what to do. To mitigate such factors, we organize workshops with partners to educate businesses on social media, how it can benefit them and how to go about doing something on social media. The response has been great and most of the time we have a full house. Companies recognize the importance of social media but are scared of using it as they don’t have any tried and tested approach. [Bhupendra] There are many Social Networks emerging every 2-3 years. It was Digg and StumbleUpon earlier, then came Orkut and Hi5. Now it’s Twitter and Facebook followed by Foursquare. How do you overcome this challenge? [Anshul] This is a challenge which we face on a daily basis. Not just social networks, there are new blogs coming up everyday, new forums, more twitter users. As we crawl data on our own, our only way out is to maintain a team which is responsible for making sure we are crawling all the data out there and not missing anything. It’s a big challenge which even Google faces; we just try our best to provide a compelling product for our customers. [Bhupendra] What are your suggestions to companies on spending in social Media? What percentage of digital marketing budget should they spend here? [Anshul] How much a company wants to spend on social media is really dependent on what the objective of the company is. Is it going to use social media just for campaigns, customer service or is it going to be a fan page for constant interaction with consumers. Ideally a company should take baby steps into social media and not commit a huge budget for the 1st time. Only after having some experience should companies start committing more dollars to social media. As a thumb rule marketing spend for social media should be 10%. However this might differ for different companies. [Bhupendra] How big and evolved is Singapore market? How is it different from that of India? [Anshul] Social media in the Singapore market is not very evolved. Even though the overall digital market is more mature, social media is still early here and in some sense similar to India. Companies are still adopting a wait and watch approach towards social media. In that sense companies in India are more active on social media. One thing that we noticed is that there are more skilled professionals on social media in India than Singapore. The reasons for this are unknown but it’s true. In terms of the kind of requests that we get from clients in Singapore and India there is a difference. Clients in Singapore tend to ask for deeper insights whereas clients in India mostly just ask for monitoring due to the reason that I stated before. [Bhupendra] India is known for good talent, and being an Indian you have set-up your company in Singapore. Why did you do it? [Anshul] I have been in Singapore since 2003 and I am a permanent resident here. I have done my bachelors and masters here as well as worked here before starting ThoughtBuzz. Singapore is a 2nd home to me and that’s why it was a natural choice when I wanted to start something. Things like access to government grants for startups, infrastructure as well as my networks here were some key factors when I decided to start ThoughtBuzz [Bhupendra] Any plans to come back to India? [Anshul] Not soon but maybe 10-15 yrs from now [Bhupendra] Are you married? How difficult is the life as an Entrepreneur in Singapore? [Anshul] Yes I am married. I got married in Feb 2010 to my girl friend and MBA batch mate. Life as an entrepreneur is pretty good here. The government here is really pushing startups and the culture of entrepreneurship and thus there are lots of networking sessions and conferences to attend. Also with Singapore being a financial centre, a lot of VC firms are here giving you access to capital. Also Singapore is the Asia Pacific headquarters for a lot of MNCs. This gives us direct access to decision makers without having to leave the country. [Bhupendra] Is your family happy to see an Entrepreneur? Can you remember the most difficult situation of your life facing your family? [Anshul] One of the best things for me is the support of my wife and family. Without their support I would never be able to do what I am doing right now. They understand what I am trying to do and the things that come with being an entrepreneur. I am very fortunate to have this support. As my family has provided me unwavering support throughout, I have never really had to encounter a difficult situation trying to convince my family of my entrepreneurship dreams. [Bhupendra] Anything you want to tell our readers. [Anshul] Don’t just become an entrepreneur because it’s the fashion these days. It’s tough to be an entrepreneur and even tougher to be a successful one. A lot of sacrifices are needed. If you do decide to go on this path, be truthful and be dedicated. [Bhupendra] Thanks Anshul for your time. Have a great day. Thanks.