Alumni Author: The Saas Model – Srinivas B Vijayraghavan, PGP 2007
Most marketing experts focus on closing a sale, but Srinivas Vijayaraghavan, an alumnus of PGPEM 2007 and author of “The SaaS Model,” emphasizes the significance of customer marketing after a sale has been made. His book delves deeply into the world of Software as a Service (SaaS) and how marketing can support customer success.
In addition to his expertise in marketing and business, Mr. Vijayaraghavan is also a highly accomplished author, corporate professional, podcaster, doctorate candidate, music enthusiast, and fitness enthusiast, among other things, which make up his day-to-day activities.
In this interview, we discuss Srinivas’ book, the effort that went into its creation, his journey as an author, and much more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an alumnus of IIM-B 2004-07 (PGPEM). I am a Chief Marketing Officer with 21 years of experience in running marketing for global technology companies like IBM, HP, Tejas Networks, Mobileum, Brillio, Pluralsight, Qubole and Gupshup. I am currently the CMO of Loop, a company that is transforming healthcare in India by integrating health insurance and healthcare
Can you kindly tell us about your most recent book – The SaaS Model?
I’ve been a SaaS marketer for nearly 10 years and this tenure has aligned with the growth of this business model itself. I found as a marketer that I needed to unlearn a lot of marketing principles that were followed in the pre-SaaS world and over a period of time, my approach to marketing changed completely. I felt that this shift is something worth documenting. The book will provide an overview of how marketing has adapted to the subscription-oriented nature of the SaaS world. We then explore how the classic marketing framework of segmentation, targeting and positioning followed by the 4 P’s is being transformed by data and the availability of a plethora of SaaS-based martech tools. We then map the customer life cycle in SaaS and explore in detail how marketing plays a role in driving the freemium model, how self-service models drive enterprise momentum, how marketing plays a role in enterprise trails, deal acceleration and how it helps the customer success world with effective onboarding, driving usage and helping with renewals.
What kind of readership will benefit from this book? Who is the book for?
Marketers getting into the workplace today (and entering the SaaS world directly) and those who work in non-SaaS companies can benefit from it. Plus the book can also benefit those who work in SaaS to fine-tune their marketing approach. This book is also designed to be a guide to students preparing for a career in marketing and business development.
What persuaded you to write a book on this subject?
In the period between 2020-2025, the SaaS market is expected to grow to $100 billion in size with a CAGR of 11%1. SaaS as a business model is a byproduct of cloud and allows for any service to be provided on the cloud. SaaS has provided a subscription-based alternative to the perpetual non-SaaS model that dominated software for the previous two decades. While the industry has grown, several business functions have had to adapt to the “SaaS way” of doing things and marketing is one of them. Never has marketing found more relevance to the “full funnel” of a customer’s lifecycle from acquisition to renewal, than now. SaaS has also led to the rise of new functions such as customer success which has subsumed and enhanced the customer support model.
India’s SaaS market is slated to grow to $75 billion in revenue by 2025, and create a market capitalization of more than $1.3 trillion and employ more than 260,000 people, up from 50,000 today2. There are a further 3.5 lakh MBA students who pass out of Indian B-schools every year, many of whom start with sales and marketing roles3. The motivation for this book is in providing these professionals and students on how to market a brand in a SaaS world. India has a thriving ecosystem of SaaS enablers, including domestic and global investors, numerous incubators and accelerators (such as xto10x and Upekkha), and events and initiatives sponsored by communities such as NASSCOM and SaaSBOOMi4.
What efforts went into writing this book?
This book took about 1.5 years to write. This is also the first book where I used voice-to-text transcription to put down thoughts and then rewrite and edit them. I had to because balancing work and family life with writing can get challenging but also fun. So, I stole hundreds of moments and chunks of time to complete the writing process!
What have you enjoyed most about putting the book together? Any special experience that you would like to share?
I wrote many portions of this book while I was on night duty at the hospital where my mother, Neela was recovering from her knee replacement surgery. It was strangely a long passage of time where I could write without any interruptions. That was surreal! The other part of it was obviously recounting my experiences in many SaaS companies working in marketing, collecting experiences, insights from various campaigns and events. It was an enjoyable trip down memory lane
What is your favorite chapter in the book and why?
There is a chapter on customer marketing – how marketing can play a role once a customer is won and needs to be onboarded and nurtured across the 12-month cycle. That is a lesser-known and practiced art and I had fun writing it and I hope it will be one of the most read and followed chapters from the book
You have written five books to date, in various genres. Please tell us more about your previous novels.
Filmy Manager, published by Hachette – I analyze 18 Bollywood films scene by scene and highlight the management lessons one can learn from them, ranging from strategy to leadership, from organizational development to team building, from communication to handling competition. This book won the Golden Pen award at the Indywood film carnival for best writing on film
Marketing for Services Outsourcing, published by Mcgraw-Hill – this was the first book I wrote back in 2013 and much like the SaaS Model, it documents all the marketing insights I had gained by working for 8 years in the IT Services industry at IBM and HP
Tattvam – this was my first full-length fiction book which I challenged myself to write. It is the story of a family of four across 3 decades coinciding with liberalization in India and the IT boom
India ka Mashoor Driver, Ram Singh – this was a moniker my father, Vijayaraghavan uses for himself. He’s really proud of his driving skills! So, I converted it into a story of a man in Punjab who trains people on how to drive on the left side of the road using an old imported car that his father had left him
I try and alternate between fiction and non-fiction to the extent possible
What will your next book be about? Will it be an extension of this book?
My next book will be on How to survive and thrive in the startup world. This will be based on my experiences from working for 7 startups across the last 14 years of my career. Surviving and thriving in startups requires special skills and a mindset and I hope to help the lakhs of people who are working in the startup industry in India with this book. I am also working on a fiction novel with a co-writer
Do you agree with the assertion made by many writers that writing alters one’s personality?
I think writing allows you to peek into your own mind, heart and soul. Our thoughts can only take us so far. When we start putting words on paper, we unlock a subconscious part of ourselves that we never knew existed – and this helps us learn a lot about ourselves. That’s why therapists ask patients to journal so that thoughts and feelings from the deepest recesses of our heart, mind and soul can find a way out. So, I would say writing has helped me understand that there’s a creative reservoir deep within that can be tapped into.
As a working professional, author, Ph.D. candidate, and frequent podcaster, how do you manage your time effectively?
I think support from family is very important. My wife, Aishwarya, has been a big pillar of strength and understanding. Balancing the startup life with studies, writing, music, podcasting and family time is not easy and there are sacrifices that one makes because we only have a finite amount of time. One has to be passionate or crazy to do all this. I oscillate between the two all the time !
A hobby you pursue in your free time.
Oh, I have no dearth of hobbies. I try to create more than I consume. I write, play two instruments (drums and bass guitar), and study (for my Ph.D.). Apart from that fitness (gym time and running). So time fills up fast!