How I transformed my business from a low-ticket model to enterprise SaaS in the South East Asia market

08 Nov 2019

I took my business to South East Asia and had great #learnings. As more entrepreneurs looking at South East Asia as an emerging market to build global businesses, I thought to share to encourage more.

Background: I run Explara — SaaS platform for Event ticketing & membership management. Having been in this business for 10+ years with a pay-as-you-go % fee model, we were stuck not able to make enough money to grow and build a bigger company.

In the last 18 months, I ventured out to South East Asia and transformed my business, selling to enterprises, in the range of $6k to $50k opportunities.

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Here are my learnings:

When selling to enterprises

1. Be upfront, query who else they are benchmarking

2. Ask for budget range (how much they can spend min & max)

3. If your ACV is > $10,000, expect 9+ months to close the deals

4. Be ready for several rounds of demo and round-trips

5. Be ready for absolute silence from your customers

For SaaS, the SEA market is comparable to India except for Singapore, that’s the only exception, all other country markets are steadily opening as India too.

I found customers in Indonesia are more eager to deploy technology vs. similar scale customers in India. And, if you are an Indian SaaS company, it is easier to sell outside India is easiest vs. selling to India.

But you need initial breakthroughs, and you have to live a local life for 3 to 4 wins. Beyond that, you can do remote selling to scale the next level and then hire a local person. Don’t hire a local sales guy to start with. You /one of your key team members (whose result speaks for herself/himself) must drive this initiative.

Fun fact:

I had to fly overnight to Changi, took a bath in the airport lounge, and then walked into the clients’ office for 10.15 am meeting. Several such trips. Have a good local breakfast & lunch. That’s one of the local hacks.

You can do the same for Malaysia too, and Indonesia if you can stretch 36 hours trip in one go.

I live for weeks and months to sell to the local market in SEA. Some success, many failures, but as I see, the global enterprise market gives you massive scale vs. just depending on one local market.

Thanks for reading!