It was 09.40 P.M. on a pleasant Saturday evening (April 2016) that I found myself walking up the entrance slope of the Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi.
I was excited, despite the hurried up dinner. For I was to meet someone leading HubSpot's marketing initiatives in the Asia Pacific.
As I made into the entrance lobby, I was stunned to see about 10 odd folks (men and boys) rushing towards me. Before I could realize what was happening, they rushed past me to greet Harbhajan - Mumbai Indians' IPL star - who had just walked in.
I was about to fall in line for the customary selfies with the star. But the inbound marketer in me prevailed over the cricketer.
A couple of calls and I spot Ryan Bonnici waving out to me from his dinner table. Ryan is the marketing director for APAC at Hubspot.
I walk over, shake hands with the well-built Australian and take a seat opposite to him on the dinner table. Ryan is halfway through his dinner of butter chicken, plain naan, and rice. I was impressed. He appeared more Indian than most Indians, going by his plate. But, dressed in a black T-Shirt and olive green shorts, he looked more like a school kid than a blue-blooded marketer.
All that changed when Ryan started discussing HubSpot in India. The promptness with which Ryan questioned each of my statements (while savoring the butter chicken), left me without a doubt that he was a sophisticated inbound marketer. It is a common trait that I never fail to notice when talking to HubSpotters. It all seems part of them - questioning and listening. What started as a desultory banter covering the travails of Mumbai, the majesty of the Taj Mahal and India, quickly converged to Hubspot India's future.
"How is HubSpot thinking about India?" I ask Ryan.
Munching the naan and butter chicken in a pizza style, Ryan rattles off some facts.
- After the US, India generates the highest website traffic for HubSpot
- HubSpot gets 1000 leads every month from India and steadily increasing
He quickly adds ironically that HubSpot India has been quite muted in growth compared to other geographies
.I ask, "Why?"
Fresh from his keynote at the ClickAsia Summit in Mumbai, Ryan gives me his reasons. They are the following and all point to a nascent inbound marketing market in India:
Educating India on Inbound Marketing and HubSpot
Moving both his hands all across the table, Ryan explains to me how he educated the digital crowd at ClickAsia Summit, "What is HubSpot?" - A CMS that is WordPress plus HootSuite plus google analytics plus email marketing plus CRM plus and it is all-in-one.
In true inbound marketing style, Ryan mentions the need to further educate the Hubspot India market. After all, isn't inbound marketing about education?But, HubSpot has been doing that painstakingly, thanks to its strong content marketing machine.
He seemed to agree with me on the element of trust-building and a high-touch (sometimes physical) approach to the India market. And that would need (time) investment.
No discussion on HubSpot is complete without pricing.
Quoting again from his ClickAsia Summit experience, Ryan mentions that the $200 - $800 HubSpot pricing wasn't called off as expensive. I think I disappointed him by saying that Indians are 'unusually' nice.I also shared with him Inbound Mantra's ROI approach to pricing that he found logical and highlighted that the 'HubSpot India Pricing' objection has to be dealt with, as one would deal with any value-based product.Don't you buy for value?
This theory was interesting. It gave me access to Ryan's soft side.
A powerful software like HubSpot stands for productivity gains. It could make some roles redundant. Naturally, those who up-skill will grow and the rest will be replaced.
I appreciated Ryan's sensitivity to the audience that gave him this feedback. But, going by India's experience with automation in the Banking Sector, this theory appeared a bogey to me. I am not too sure if Ryan agreed.
"What is the current status of HubSpot in India?"
Ryan mentions that the HubSpot Singapore and Sydney offices are currently building the India market, in addition to their focus on other geographies. While Sydney is supporting Australia and New Zealand, the Singapore office is currently covering for Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Philippines.
Ryan quizzed me about the possibility of using a Hindi version of the HubSpot India blog to build traction. HubSpot has been successful using a native language approach with German, Spanish and Japanese.
I sense he knew what my answer would be, given the omnipresence of English in India.
With 2 (10 as on 12th May 2018) Hubspot certified Tiered Indian partners currently listed in the HubSpot Partner directory and over 130 unlisted agencies, there has been a huge upswing in the demand for Hubspot in India. Each of these agencies is regularly receiving over 50+ leads per month and that itself is a testament to the success of Inbound Marketing in India.
"Where is HubSpot headed as a product?"
I really wanted to know.
Mar-tech, sales-tech, and mar-sales-tech - A number of new terms are being coined to talk about the numerous changes happening across the spectrum from marketing to sales. It is truly in a state of flux.
SalesForce (Big Daddy Cool) has been pushing its marketing cloud to advance from CRM to marketing automation and beyond. HubSpot has done vice-versa. Incidentally, salesforce.com is an investor in HubSpot. In all this, where did HubSpot see itself?Ryan's response was unequivocal.
He says, "On the product side, the focus is on CRM. Imagine the CRM as a hub and all the other products are spokes".
It just made sense. CRM's acceptance is universal, almost.
Ryan decides to take care of the sweet tooth with a banana chocolate cake and honey chamomile tea combine. I settle for a cappuccino, given that I have to drive back to Gurugram.
"India has so many people. It is only a matter of time", Ryan quips, sipping the chamomile.
"It is a given. Inbound has to take-off", I respond.
We lazily drain down the beverages, rise for an impromptu selfie and say goodbye.
It appeared as if we wanted to get down to business.
Blog Update in January 2018
Storytelling does get Google love. What else can explain the meteoric rise of this post to the top of Google SERP for a valuable keyword like 'HubSpot India'? I am amazed. I am noting increasing evidence, of Google giving preference to content written in a storytelling style.
Here are some reasons, why I am making a quick update to this post?
- Ryan Bonnici moved on from his role, first to lead marketing for HubSpot global and then branching off to become the CMO of G2 Crowd
- I recently visited the HubSpot Singapore office and was lucky to get a peep into how HubSpot is thinking about its India playbook?
HubSpot India Plan 2018 and beyond
Wish I could name the Gentleman who gave me a hint into how HubSpot is thinking about India.
HubSpot is still in the process of documenting its playbook for India. It might take them a couple of years to have a clear approach. It could be earlier as well. That in no way discounts the tremendous traction and love that HubSpot continues to get from its India users and fans. I won't be surprised if India tops the lead numbers for HubSpot across countries. The following initiatives from HubSpot in the recent past could have contributed to the excitement.
- HubSpot FREE CRM
- HubSpot Marketing FREE - This was a big one, and unprecedented in the SaaS space. Technically, a team can actually have a full-fledged inbound marketing software system for FREE. Incredible isn't it? Who doesn't like good things for FREE, including us HubSpot fans from India?
HubSpot is on a roll 2019
HubSpot eats its own dog food when it comes to capturing the online interest from India. Yes, it uses inbound marketing.
But, HubSpot hasn't stopped at that. The HubSpot channel teams have enlisted a growing number of inbound marketing agencies and converted them into HubSpot partners. Although this has opened the floodgates to competition, it is also helping in growing the inbound marketing footprint in India.
But, even then HubSpot hasn't seen the expected business transaction. The HubSpot team thinks that the reasons could be many including the absence of a local office in India. Nevertheless, the appointment of Adarsh Noronha as Director, Sales, for India is a very desirable development indeed.
I intend to keep this post updated basis my conversations with the HubSpot management. So, watch this space.