In a world that runs heavily on investments and big shot funding for startups, there is a company thriving mightily without any external funds. KekaHR has grown to become the leading provider of HR automation services in the country within 4 and half years. It disrupted the Indian HR market from the day it was founded in February 2016 in Madhapur, Telangana. Keka helps HR practitioners to focus on their vital assets, their employees, making it easier for any company to make the journey from good to great.
The interviewee is Barun Mallick, Product Marketing Head of the organization, who narrates Keka’s tale- from inception to its disruption of the Indian HR world.

When Keka entered the Indian HR market in 2015, there were huge gaps in the software that existed. Clunky interfaces, poor user experience, inefficiency, and lack of features in the limited options available inspired them to build their software.

They believe the Indian business world could achieve much more if it gets the support, which it rightly deserves in the HR department. They wanted to construct a bridge between employee experience and success as the former results in business growth, which they translate into the latter, hence Keka.

The value architect- Keka’s founder
Vijay Yalamanchili was busy growing his software services business and looking for the right HR solution to support them. He was frustrated with the poor choices available. This led him to create Keka, a true employee experience platform. Barun started his journey in December 2016 when Keka was growing with a 17-member team. Within 2.5 years itself, they witnessed the onboarding of 2500+ customers-all this without any heavy advertisements or funding. For the ones confused with understanding the name, Keka colloquially means ‘Awesome’ in Telugu. Its founder chose this explicitly to reflect his love for the south Indian language.

Vijay Yalamanchili, Founder of Keka

Team Members
For them, each employee of their company contributes in their own way to keep Keka thriving. If they have to mention the backbone of the organization who guide the rest, Barun said it would be Vijay Yalamanchili-the founder and CEO of Keka who has evolved from an employee at a tech company to the founder of 4 outrageously successful companies, OVL Kiran Kumar-the Executive Advisor at Keka who believes in empowering startups as they hold the potential to create turning points for customers, employees and the ecosystem, Dheeraj Kumar Pandey-VP of sales and cloud advisor of HR systems at their company who is known to be a seasoned player of the HRMS domain, Trinath Mallavarapu-the cloud solutions architect and head of engineering department of Keka who believes in the constant enhancement and scaling of a product through mindful strategies, Chethan Kumar-the head of customer success who is a customer experience fanatic, and Anshul Srivastava-the Product Manager of Keka whose star arenas are conceptualizing, guiding and launching new features to create a solid impact

The Product
They gravitated their focus on the product and marketing simultaneously as they believe that these two departments function parallelly. As they went deeper into finding the core pain points of the HR world, they realized that the Indian HR market deserved much more than what was being offered to it. Hence, they stepped up the usability, functionality, and different facets of the software, while also making it a tailored fit for all sized companies.

Through the local market’s feedback, their exceptional attendance module feature, and user-friendly character of the software, Keka managed to reap fruitful opportunities, which converted into revenue, within the first month of inception itself.

What makes them truly Awesome?
Keka began with the mindset of creating an employee-centric product. They believe employees are the building blocks of any company as they hold the potential to make an organization from good to great. When they stepped into the HR market, they noticed a void that existed in this arena. Companies were concentrating on other aspects and completely ignoring the real purpose behind creating the software. They took it on themselves to fill this void and today, they are successfully helping employee-centric companies to focus on these assets and transform themselves. Their mission is to create digital workplaces where employees feel safe and flourish to do their best.

How this bootstrapped HR software company became the choice of 3750+ customers within just 4 years

Keka believes in serving the HR world and solving its complex problems. The concept of ideal customers doesn’t exist for them as they are adamant to support the ecosystem of HRs without putting any limitations. If there is an organization that is frustrated with its present software and wants to progress, Keka is on its feet to rescue them.

Roadblocks in the journey
Expertise in a department comes after committing mistakes and correcting them until you learn something during this process. The rectification helps in polishing your mind further. Barun says they been there, done that during their product creation as well. For them, it is about making HR tasks as simple and seamless as possible. The hardships and failures are a part and parcel of this goal.

The Indian market today has become extremely value-conscious. It requires the resolution of their problems at the right price- coming back to the concept of the customer is the hero. Keeping in line with their motto of providing the best and most efficient software for our clients, Keka is a premium product that majorly serves the SME market. Though this is the SME category, it’s one of the toughest customers as the value for money shines the brightest here. This customer pool demands the completeness and efficiency of an enterprise product at a pocket-friendly price. Balancing both these needs requires tremendous focus on the product.

Thriving without investors
Keka is a bootstrapped company that has blossomed without any external shareholders. They run on the revenue the company generates and have been doing brilliantly in that arena. Barun says that they know it’s a little old-fashioned and classic Indian styled, but they believe this is the new sexy.

If numbers could speak for themselves
They say the sense of pride that resides in their hearts comes from the support they have given to 3750+ companies till now. With the constant development and up-gradation of their software, Keka is seeing an annual growth of 60-70%, which they believe is phenomenal. The success they have achieved till now is solely through the organic activities they do as Keka is an ROI-driven company.

The competition
They strongly believe that unless there is competition, there is no progress. If asked to speak in terms of the market, they said that Keka competes on 3 levels- the local SME, mid-segment market and the mid-enterprise market as the depth and breadth of their product snugly fits them. If there comes an instance where they cannot solve a problem, Barun said that they ensure it does get the right solution, even if it means losing the customer to their competitors. For them, it is about solving the challenges of the HR world and helping customers at the end of the day.

Agenda for the next 6 months
Keka is aiming for a new goal- global expansion. Their end mission is to leverage the potential the product holds by entering the bigger space with their Indian roots. They are aware of the intricacies of the HR arena and Barun says that they identify Keka as the medium to tackle each problem of the field as it comes. With this confidence, the team is inching towards its journey over the world, aiding ceded companies to embrace the HR sphere with the simplicity of Keka.

Word of advice
As for the new-age startups and the old players, Keka wants to put across the importance of maintaining fiscal discipline as it becomes the essence of any business to prosper. Discipline, when it comes to investing for growth from profits, is one of the salient features they believe, as it also holds the basic foundation for the company.

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