Bootstrapping a Startup from a tier 2 city - Ambi Moorthy (Co-founder, Gozen)

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57 minutes

Ambi Moorthy is the co-founder of Gozen, a B2B SaaS startup that has bootstrapped to $500,000+ in revenue in just over a year. Prior to founding Gozen, Ambi worked at Zoho which has impacted Gozen’s culture in a lot of ways. This is an offbeat episode where Roshan Cariappa and Ambi talk about more than just building a startup where they delve into some of the philosophical aspects of the process and more.

Roshan Cariappa:  All right, folks, we have a very special guest on the podcast today.  Hello, Ambi! Welcome to the Startup Operator podcast.

Ambi Moorthy: Namaskaram.

Roshan Cariappa: Namaskaram. As you can see, I'm feeling very comfortable today thanks to my veshti which Ambi has gifted me so kindly. Thank you so much. It's a pretty unique style in startups. I know there's a deeper significance to that. You can talk about decoloniality and all of that stuff, but when did you first start wearing veshti to your business meetings? Do you get surprised looks in certain places that you go to?

Ambi Moorthy: Thank you. Thank you for having me on this podcast. It's an honor to be here. Thank you. veshti is a simple reflection of the place where I come from. And then you'll be very surprised. So Gozen is from Coimbatore, so it's being bootstrapped out of Coimbatore. So be very surprised how it's not a very uncommon thing.

Roshan Cariappa: For businessmen to wear veshti? 

Ambi Moorthy: Veshti, it is. The people who are running a software company are more into the regular Western attire. One thing I wanted is to relate with my people there. So that's the number one thing. And you'll be very surprised. Gozen is a very young company. Even though we are 34 plus people right now, the average age is around like 22-23. So we are just a bunch of folks trying to figure out things. Let's say an engineer joins the office. It's very common for the father or brother to accompany them on the first day. For them, they want to know, okay, my son entered in the interview.

Roshan Cariappa: And then this is a legit company.

Ambi Moorthy: This is a legit company in the first place. Now we have moved into a really nice office. So, for them, when they come, I want to give the feeling that they are actually leaving their son with a brother. And not somebody who is actually doing some fancy software company and all that stuff. The mind is conditioned in a certain way, the moment they hear about a startup, it is associated with a lot of things like funding and firing. And then there are so many things to learn from Silicon Valley, but sometimes what we do is we import all the toxic, bad stereotypes, serious types also.

 So, what I want to give them is that you are leaving your son or daughter with a brother. I am not someone alien from you and I am one of you. It also gives a sense of family. So, I want to in a natural way, I want to fit in. And in a way, what I believe in is a very Bharat way of building a startup. It is like, this is my culture, this is my tradition. If I go into a business meeting, there's a certain conditioning that people who know good English, people who are dressed up much better in Western outfit, probably can do much better.

 But what we want to make a statement. Probably it will take the next five or ten years to get to that point, where you don't judge somebody by the clothes they wear. Sometimes they might be just in an ordinary veshti. But evaluate from for their depth of what they say and the authenticity of what they say and do. They come from a point of authentic and original thinking. The dress can come in secondary. So that is my thing. So that's one of the key things is I want to make sure that I feel like one of them, that's one. And the second thing is I want to represent our culture. So if you look at our culture there is so much richness in terms of knowledge, in terms of depth. Veshti is very comfortable also. That's also there.

Roshan Cariappa: It's super comfortable. My lower body is thanking you. I hope that doesn't sound bad, but this whole people first culture that you talk about, it comes through in everything that you say and do.  You talk about this whole conscious capitalism and everything. Folks! If you're listening and you think this is slightly offbeat, I think it's going to be an offbeat episode because Ambi is a man of many worlds. And he's unique in all of these different ways. It's not your typical startup operator podcast today. We are going to be talking about business building, of course, but we're also going to talk about a few other more philosophical things. But let's talk about this whole people first culture. Suppose, I mean, you've imbibed some of these values from Zoho, which we'll talk about a little bit later on. We will talk about your stint at Zoho, how you built out the whole partner ecosystem?

Ambi Moorthy: Will be happy to talk.

Roshan Cariappa: But people first culture, what does it mean? Does it mean like foosball tables in the office and beer on Fridays or does it translate to more than that and how do you live that culture?

Ambi Moorthy: See, when we say people first, we actually mean people first. And I come from a point where you can actually look up all the golden reviews on Glassdoor and Google reviews and all that. You can read organically whatever our people have spoken about. So that is a much better representation. Somebody had this question, so they were saying, can you define culture? 

It's a very difficult thing to define culture. Can you define culture inside a company? So for me, culture is something that is intangible. But that is what at the end of the day, can make or break a startup. So for me, I define people-first culture. So whenever there is a tough situation between the company and people working for it. I don't see it as two different entities, the company and the people working for it. 

So, what we do is that if there's a tough situation between the interest of the company and then the interest of the person involved, we always take the person and make sure the person's interest is put first. So, for example, you can take very, very simple things. You can think of one employee working here. So, they had actually pledged some jewellery somewhere and then it got into a point where the jewellery is simply going away because the money has not been repaid. And through a casual conversation, I actually found out that this was the reason why this person was not feeling well. 

Or you know that when you walk into an office, you can actually sense mood. If somebody's off, you can actually go and talk to them, then figure it out. And then actually the company decided it will give the employee whatever money was required to take the jewellery. Because it was a very sentimental jewellery for their mother. So, we had to take it. So, we actually made sure that the money is paid and the jewellery is taken out. 

So now for us, it's people centric. We offer all the perks. We are 100% bootstrapped, but we offer all the perks that any funded company would offer. So, you'll be very surprised that in a place like Coimbatore, this culture is actually working and people are actually understanding the value of working within a company where there is good culture. So, for example, whatever perks, you can like 1234, like the checkbox items, like free food, free snacks and all that. And by the way, we have a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol. Personal time is different, but within the office premises or any office related event. So, we do like a monthly lunch and like one day out with the team or anything. Alcohol is strictly off the limits. What we do is we offer all the perks. In fact we also offer accommodation and houses.

Roshan Cariappa: Wow! And this is a bootstrap company.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah, it is. The idea here is very simple. We take a service and Indian approach to company building where we say, think of it like whatever work that you do is the service that you're doing to the customer. And the leadership role is to be of service to the employees, not the other way around. So, internally we put the employee at the heart of everything and then externally we put the customer at the heart and the centre of everything. 

So, this is what we call the people first culture. So, employee interest is ahead of the company's interest. So, what we measure success is in terms of happiness, not in terms of how much we have grown month over month. Year over year growth is important. Because I keep saying this thing that our idealism should be backed by capitalism. So, what enables that culture is money, but it is not money itself. There are so many other things, like how happy people feel coming to the office. Think of a company that has been around only for the last 16 months, but we have shipped four products and then one bundle. 

We have me and my co-founder Rahul, and we do also have an office in New Jersey. So, there are no senior people. What we do is we take a very exploratory mindset to everything and then we slowly figure it out. So, what we call as learning by doing so, this people first culture enables all that happiness at a personal level, professional level, and it also enables us to give them a larger purpose to their work.

 I want to take the name of someone who's working at Gozen right now. Her name is Arthi. So, you go and read the product reviews for Gozen. You will see a lot of very good reviews for the UI UX aspect. I'm sure you would have read a couple of it too, and then you'll be very surprised. We are replacing Google and Microsoft products also in a certain category. So, this person is into her 14th month of employment. And then she came from a village called Madhukur, which is 60 km away from Kumbakonam. And then she learned that skill by herself, by watching YouTube videos and then trying out different things. And at the end of the day, we gathered the confidence and then launched the first product. 

Everybody loved it. The second product that we launched was Gozen Growth. Everybody loved the UI- UX. The third we launched was Gozen Forms. People liked it and the content. I think she simply outdid herself. There are other Ui- Ux designers too. They work as a team. So now think of it investing in that person's happiness from day one has really helped us to get her best contribution to the company.

 So, what we do internally, Rahul and I, we talk about this a lot. So, when somebody joins Gozen, it is not that they have to build a trust with us. So, we start with 100. We say getting into this company is tough, but once you get into the company, we make sure we trust you to the core. So, they start at 100 and we leave it to the person to bring it to 90, 80, 70 or even zero. It is not that they have to earn their trust.

Roshan Cariappa: You give the benefit of the trust to them.

Ambi Moorthy: Basically, it is trust by default, right? And then we create a very conductive atmosphere purely in being. So, there are no separate cubicles for me or anybody. It's like every open office style. And we try to be authentic at what we do, not just lip service in terms of we take care of the employee. 

I can quote a lot of examples, but certain things I don't want to bring out, but the idea here is to invest in your employee’s happiness. It will transform into the product, it will make way to the outside world, to your customers. When they come back for support or onboarding or anything, they will interact and then feel oh, this is actually that's the way I see people at the heart of every decision we make. So that is the people's first culture from a perspective outside makes sense.

Roshan Cariappa: And I feel like this sort of unhinged focus on productivity, efficiency, kind of treats human beings as machines. Yes. And I feel that human beings are different, very different from machines. They can't clock that eight or 9 hours of output like machines can very reliably consistently. And I think there are various factors involved. Which is why I've always believed that there is nothing like a work life separation.

Ambi Moorthy: Exactly. Right.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, you have to figure out a way to integrate that assimilation that makes that part of your lifestyle. Because you can't be two different people, one at work and one at home.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, it kind of bleeds into it even if we try to do that. So obviously it is important to invest in your employee’s happiness, in their success as well and make that overlap with your professional success as much as possible.

Ambi Moorthy: Yes. In fact, sorry to interrupt. In fact, we don't separate the two. So, our employee success is our success.

Roshan Cariappa: Yeah, precisely. I mean, it's like perfectly congruent in your case.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: And I think it is possible at the scale at which you operate. It may not be possible at 1000 or 10,000 employee scale.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, obviously things break and obviously there are all sorts of exceptions that will creep into the system. But I do believe that it is possible at a 2000- 3000 members scale as well. And I've kind of seen this also in some of the older family run businesses and so on.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, they do have an undue care for what's happening in their employees' lives. They do know them by name and family and so on. Not to say that they haven't done well. I mean, they've all done well and have had this sort of a culture. Right. So it's pretty amazing that you're sort of reviving some of this stuff.

Ambi Moorthy: It's a very Bharath way of doing that thing where you literally care for the employee. At a deeper level, if there is something wrong in their family. It's not that we can fix everything, but sometimes you can be there and then see what can be done. If there is a medical situation, so you can see who's the best doctor they can go to? Is there any financial assistance required? Are they using the right insurance and all that stuff? So that kind of help is always there. 

So, it's a very, I would say, Bharat way of doing business. It has probably been there; I would say Westernization described it a little bit where it said just like they like to draw the line between the church and the state. In fact, there are people who think calling people who work at your company, if you call them family, the Western mind doesn't understand that. How can they be family? But if you spend ten to 14 hours a day thinking about the work and eight to 9 hours working with them, then they are family.

Roshan Cariappa: There is a bit of a low trust environment, especially in recent times where you've seen, especially in startups, employees have been motivated to commit to the mission. And really what work you're doing is just more than your work and all of that stuff. But then when things got tough, a bunch of them got laid off. 

And yes, I mean, hard decisions have to be made. Yes, the founder has to do what's right for the business. But it is very difficult to sort of do this as well. It's not as simple. And I think we'll talk about the fact that you're Bootstrapped and the fact that you operate out of Coimbatore, which is, again, a tier two city. I don't think it's a tier two city, but I think it's like it feels richer. It definitely feels richer. It's a very industrial place.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: And by God, if you visit Coimbatore during marriage season, I mean, it will be just swarming with people. But yeah, in certain settings, I think it's definitely possible. What you're talking about, let's move on from this and talk about your stint at. Zoho. There is a lot of Zoho in you. Like when you talk about stuff, I can see that the Zoho ethos and culture has percolated very deep in you. And what you're trying to build is sort of a mini Zoho in some sense.  Obviously unique in its own way, but that culture is very deeply imbibed.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: And at Zoho, you spent, I think about seven plus years. You were looking after the partner ecosystem, and did hundreds of millions of dollars in value for them. Could you talk about your stint at Zoho? How did you join them?  what kind of growth you had? and maybe some of the lessons that you took away from working with Vembu.

Ambi Moorthy: I worked with two, primarily with Vembu, who I consider as my Guru. And then a little bit three there also, but more at a strategic level. See, it's very overwhelming. You don't know where you should start. It's a separate podcast by itself. Whatever I say for the next ten minutes. 

Probably a lot of things are anecdotal, but in a nutshell, what I'm going to say is whatever material success I had, whatever interesting things that I have learned in life or lot of life values I picked up, and whatever small, small, extremely small success goes in that we have right now, I will attribute it back to first Vembu and then Zoho. So, it is a different ecosystem by itself. I joined Zoho as a content writer. And in the next four years, I was heading the Global Partner program. In a way, let's call it Zoho exceptionalism. Where they value the people and then they value the freedom which people want to experience, and then they enable people to be the best version of themselves. 

If you can connect it back to your previous discussion, there is a wonderful book called The Tiny of Metrics where it argues that this is the modern day work, or any work as a knowledge worker. It cannot be like a human being, cannot be reduced to a bare metric. Rather, you focus on the individual and how a company can enable their success, and in turn, the company becomes successful in the longer run. So, I joined as a content writer, and then slowly I became a growth marketer. 

And however, the universe transpired, somebody was actually doing around like 2015, 2016 time. So, there was somebody doing a small business development. Work was needed in Zoho CRM, where we had to talk to a lot of PBX vendors. Now, it's a very common thing. You go to any CRM, you see a number, click on it, and then there are like a bunch of, I would say, brands out there, PBX vendors, and just click to call. So at that time, it was slowly catching up.

 So, they wanted somebody who can work with multiple PBX vendors and then see if we can successfully integrate with them. Okay, so like I said, right. Mani, who I consider as my Guru. So, he called me and then said, I know that you are doing marketing stuff, but this is something probably might be in your wheelhouse, so why don't you try this thing? So, I took this up as a challenge, and then they said, if we get to like ten vendors, integrate with Zoe CRM in the next six months, it's a success. 

At the end of six months, we had like 40 plus vendors. So now this was actually a huge moment where suddenly somebody sees the potential and then says, hey, this guy is doing good here, but he can be excellent at this. And then slowly they say one thing. So, we decided, okay, now how can we grow the Partner ecosystem? Right? Zoho was very comfortable leaving money on the table, so they want to grow the partner ecosystem. The direct channel is there, but the partners were growing in every geography globally. And so from where it was when I started working, around, like, 2016 and then slow 2017. So, I think we did pretty well. Even though I don't want to, I no longer work there, so I don't want to talk about any numbers. But if you just simply Google, you'll know? Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: The Zoho partner ecosystem is, I mean, it's an understatement to say it's fairly large right now. And I know a Zoho partner as well. Very happy with the terms and with the kind of relationship that they have.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: Such fantastic work.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah. 1500 partners across the globe. So that's the kind of scale at which the program operates. Wonderful people. I have worked with some of the best people I worked with. That's a person called Adia Sadhraman. She used to handle business development and content writing. And then there is Chris Victor, who used to be exceptional at whatever he did. I met the best people while I was working there. 

My good friend called Sawverlomi, who used to work after the Pleasanton office. So, there are like, so many. It's about the people there. So, then I look at somebody who joined as a content writer, can actually go all the way up to the person who's running the global partner program. How many companies can you think of where this is possible? There are like, multiple things. It's the people. It's how much they care about the people. If there is a small personal problem, some of the best advice I got from this person who I'm going to name right now, Gurumurthy in the Zoho HR team. I think he's been around since the day Zoho started. So he's been in a bunch of roles.

Roshan Cariappa: And now, by the way, guess how many tenures plus people?

Ambi Moorthy: Closer to 1000, actually.

Roshan Cariappa: So we had Praval, who heads the marketing on the podcast as well. And so, he was saying that number, and that's like a ridiculous number.

Ambi Moorthy: I worked with two persons called Gurumurthy  and Jevita who are in the HR team. Out of so many people these two were my  favorite people to work with. Gurumurthy has this thing where he says in a random conversation, brilliant life advice will come out. So, he'll say, don't worry too much about proving that you are a good guy to anybody. Time will automatically determine if you're a good guy or not. So just be you. He says, in the long run, the true self will come out. So, he'll give like small, small nuggets of information, which is really about the people. 

They've been around there like 20 years, 25 years, and they have something called cultural continuity, which the reader talks about a lot, where people who have been there from the beginning, know the evolution they've been through, the ups and downs and every stroke of the company. And then it's really the continuity, cultural continuity that makes a company work in a very big way. And then there are certain people at Zoho, the way they are dedicated, the way they put the company ahead of everybody else, ahead of themselves. Sometimes money cannot buy that loyalty, man. Money cannot buy that loyalty until they have felt the emotional connection with the company and the person they work for. I don't think there could be any.

Roshan Cariappa: That’s the sense I get from speaking to a lot of Zoho folks as well, right? I mean, 1 may think that it's some kind of a cult or some thought, but I've spoken to people for two, three years, four years, experienced people who spent ten years in the company and so on and so forth. All of them talk about the culture, which makes it very, very different. And I think to me, Zoho is just a fabulous story. I mean, 25 plus years in the business competing with the likes of Microsoft, Google, 50 plus products, right? Which is just ridiculous.

Ambi Moorthy: I mean, that number is outdated.

Roshan Cariappa: Probably more than that, probably a running joke.

Ambi Moorthy: Inside Zoho is where you go to and then refresh it, and every time you refresh, there's a new product.

Roshan Cariappa: It's just crazy, right? I mean, the amount of engineering and R and D chops it requires to do all of that. I mean, truly, astounding really. And I've spoken to Mr. Sridhar Vembu a couple of times on the podcast as well, and he's a fabulous, fabulous visionary. So, you learn all of these things from Zoho, right, in terms of people culture, all of that. When did goes in sort of take shape, right? And why do you want to leave Zoho? It feels like you would have been another person doing a ten year, 15- or 20-year stint maybe there. So what prompted you to start goes in and also in that segment, if you can just briefly talk about what.

Ambi Moorthy: See, at a very philosophical level, I consider myself a Zoho employee for life. Very true. See, the way I see it is, like I said, any material success or whatever success that we have right now, I completely owe to Zoho. So, I have learned a lot of things about product building, how to trust people. This version of Ambi you are seeing is very different. So, there's a version that was a lot of ravages. So, the beautiful thing about working with Mani is that he doesn't tell you or give you a guinea about our advice about things like, here is the problem and then you need to do 12345 to fix this thing. So just like Judu Krishnamuti says, right, so the observer is observed. 

So, there's a lot of emphasis on observing leaders and how they go about solving a certain problem. And whenever there is a tough situation, there's a lot of grace at which they solve the problem internally, it is staying calm. So those kinds of things I learned from money. So that's the key thing. And if you say, how did it get to this point, right? I was completely happy, completely happy at Zoho. I did not doubt that I was unhappy or anything like that. I would not have traded for anything else. I had an amazing team; I had an amazing role. I was working on the partner program and it was growing like anything. 

And then it is just that a personal tragedy on my front where my completely healthy and jovial father decided to leave for his heavenly journey around March 2020. And by June 2020 he was gone. So, this incident really rattled up my not the entire view of the world, like how I approached everything. So, what happened was after that I actually realized probably, I don't have just like any person that thought of entrepreneurship comes and goes, might want to do this thing, then we say probably later. 

So, I also did not have a very strong conviction about it. So, I'm a person who is deeply driven by conviction. If I want to do this thing, then I'm all in, I'm going to do this thing. Then the passing away of my father actually kind of opened up. There is this phase of depression you go into. You think of all the memories and all that. And I have gone to a phase where I simply just want to be led by myself and then think about what I want to do about life. 

So, there's this place called Vasant Bihar in Chennai. It is the final residence of Jiddu Krishnamurti, the philosopher spiritual leader. He doesn't like followers, so you cannot call him leader. So, it is a space for contemplation and deep thinking, taking long walks around the campus. If you're listening and planning to go there, please don't take your laptops and phones, it's not allowed there. So, they do these retreats, three-day retreats starting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And then you can also go on personal retreats also. So, I went there and then I spent three to four days thinking about what I should do. Then of course, it was very clear that this job is very nice. 

And then I had travelled around the world growing the Partner program and everything. So, I'm living the best life professionally. So, could there be a larger purpose? What could be? I'm pretty sure this is not my end goal. So, then I had actually seen that during that same time, what happened was I happened to interview a person for a specific role in my team. I found this guy to be extremely good. So, this person came from this place called Madurai. And he was making around Rs7500 a month. And the company was operating out of Chennai, not a software company at all. 

Somehow after that meeting, this thing kept running through my mind when I looked at this guy, he's from a tier two, tier three city. He's doing exceptionally well and he could be the best at what he's doing ten years from now. But what if he did not apply for the role and then came for the interview? So, talent is universal, but opportunity is not. So, then I did not have what they call a eureka moment. It slowly dawned upon me. if you chase the thought to the very end of it, then it said, okay, fine. 

Probably doing a company that will enable and create opportunity for the tier two and tier three talent. And from villages in India where for the talent, some of the talent that we work with, they don't even want to apply to software companies because English is a major roadblock. And whenever they talk about companies, they talk about leaders in the software companies. They think of hi fi people, large buildings and all that stuff. So, what about if you are born and brought up in a metro and in a city? It's a different thing. You're accustomed to all these things. 

But what about all these people who look at Gozen and what it has done in the last 16 months? We are bootstrapped, we are cash flow positive and profitable. We have a very good runway. And this has come from the work of the people, the tier two and tier three and cities and villages. Right? So now that was the vision or I don't like corporate talk. Not vision, mission or anything. That was one of the things that Zoho is doing, probably why not multiple companies try to do it. And my thing is a small attempt to engage the talent and grow the talent. We'll know in the next five years. I don't think we are there yet to claim success, but we'll know in the next ten years maybe.

Roshan Cariappa:  I think success is work in progress always.

Ambi Moorthy: Right?

Roshan Cariappa: And there are different levels to it. I think by a lot of metrics, 500K plus bootstrapped is definitely very successful. More successful than plenty of other start-ups that I know of. Even as an entrepreneur myself. 

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: I couldn't do it as an entrepreneur myself. So, congratulations on that. What does Gozen do?

Ambi Moorthy: In continuation to what we were talking on the professional front, I also had this thing where see, whenever there is a small business. So, let's say there's a small Ecommerce store, they are doing some local cosmetics. Let's say some small company has developed a new face serum and it's fully organic and all that stuff. They cannot compete with the likes of Million Dollar Cosmetic Company. 

One of the ways in which the bigger companies completely crush the smaller companies is through ads, right? They have the budget, they have the team to go ahead and then compete on the ad side to drive demand and get sales. Ad seems to be the number one thing where most companies seem to go. That is true for ecommerce, that's true for many other businesses too. So, my thing is what if there is a very contrarian take to this entire thing instead of going paid, what if we went organic?

 In my previous stint I've been a growth marketer myself and I looked at what is stopping businesses from trying organic marketing. When you say organic marketing, at the core of organic marketing is content and the moment you say content everybody says boss, I have to write so much and I have to hire a content writer and all that stuff. So that was the main thing and then even if I get, I don't know how to engage the audience and even before that there's building an audience, engaging the audience, reaching an audience. So, this was the thesis under which Gozen was formed. 

Let's take a very contrarian approach to demand generation and put content at the heart of demand generation instead of ads. This levels the playing field for small companies. So, we have four products right now, you can buy them as a bundle or as separate products too. The first product is content AI which can literally automate your content generation process and what we call this rule internally, which we call the first draft in five minutes. So, you can give it any topic. And then we do have this feature where we do the keyword analysis also. And then tell you, let's say that you're looking for a specific, literally any keyword that you want to rank to, and then you put in the keyword and then say, okay, give me the top ten keywords for this industry and then we will give you the top ten keywords and we'll also write the blog for you. Like a 2500-word blog can now be written in under five minutes and then there is short form content writing. 

So, we have these cool hacks where you can write a LinkedIn post, Twitter thread and all of that. So, this is the content generation part. And then there is this audience building part, which we do with Optimally. Gozen’s Optimally goes in forms where now that the content is on your website, now people are coming to your website. So, we are very huge on owned media. We want our audience, our customers to own their audience. So let's say you have this startup operator podcast, right? If you want to go ahead and then especially the creator market, we see a huge surge of customers from the creator market ourselves. 

So, we serve about 7500 customers, paying customers, and users across 40 plus countries all from sitting from Coimbatore. So, what we do there is that we tell them that we do webinars and all that own your audience. So instead of reaching your audience, you don't have to put ads. So, if you have their email ID, permission-based marketing and then you can reach them with quality and relevant information at least once or twice a month, people are more than happy to get quality information. Don't indulge in spam. 

When people are on your website, unless and until you convert them into an email ID, you don't own the audience. So Gozen’s Optimally and Gozen’s forms, gives you the necessary tools to convert the traffic into an audience. And then the fourth product goes into growth where you'll be able to create sales funnels from the created email ID, you can create journeys. So that kind of automation where we do have a golden growth specifically for Ecommerce where let's say shopping cart abandonment you can bring down with that automation. And then new order automation, welcome email automation. 

So, there are like multiple basically sales automation. So right from what you see, there's a point of content creation which is to attract an audience optimally and form a foundation for building an audience and growth for growing an audience. So, this is the entire suit.

Roshan Cariappa: It is fantastic being a multiproduct company. Being a multiproduct company has a different sort of dynamic to itself.  I mean, it's hard enough to  build one product.  But when you have four different products, I suppose they can be bought independently.

Ambi Moorthy: And that's a bundle.

Roshan Cariappa: How does a product roadmap work? How does the thinking work in terms of bringing all of this together? Because I'm sure that, you know, many of these products may accelerate further than the other, in which case, you know, how do you pair all of these? If you could talk about the pairing.

Ambi Moorthy: Product thinking, see, we are huge on this product as a whole. So, whenever we get opportunities for a business to buy from us and they say, will you implement this for us? We usually say we send the revenue to actually a partner. We want to be focused fully only on the product per se. See, if you are building from Coimbatore and then you cannot have this playbook of, okay, we are going to use a product management tool. This is how we are going to track and all that stuff. 

So, there are like three teams right now working across those four products. And you'll be very surprised even at a very small level, each one has their own culture. Okay? So, what the Gozen Forms does is they all tie to the bundle and then they ensure the success of the bundle and the company. But the way they work is very, very different. And our job, Rahul and I, ensure that we build the necessary culture, capital and the social fabric within the company that enables that thing. 

You ask me in terms of a roadmap, what we do after 2022? Everything you open there's AI in there, okay? But it has actually helped us increase productivity by many miles. That's very true. And then we also look at our customers' content. AI recently in the last, let's say 54 days has made like thousand plus customers. We go and talk to our people why they bought this tool and all that. They really love the way the content is created. So, the automation factor is there and everything. So, we look at how the industry is moving and some of the features we build from there. 

And there are some original, very original thinking, if I can say so for example, we are deploying AI in forms. We are looking at how AI can build out an entire form for you if you just give the scenario. And then just like we are writing the content. So, anything that requires typing out or conceptually thinking at a strategic level, we want the AI to automate it. So that's the thinking behind this thing. So, anything that enables organic growth, owning an audience and then owning the entire sales cycle without investing in ads. We are building it out right now. 

We don't have this classic definition of a product manager. So, there are product managers, but the way we approach it is not playbook style. So, there's a lot of ad hoc. Somebody had a great idea about how an entire email sequence for outreach can be easily automated by AI. You don't have to write the entire email sequence. You can actually tell the scenario, tell your target audience and the AI writes it out for you. In fact, we are building it right now. So, these are things. It's a very organic process.

 That's the perks of working from the office for us. So, we have found creativity is very spontaneous. Other than that, we don't have any hard and fast tools. We use one product management tool just to track what's the progress on each feature, when it is coming and all that stuff. 

But one thing we prioritize is shipping fast. And even if we fail, we fail fast. It's not that we work on a feature for like ten months and then say this is a failure. What we do is we build an initial version, roll it out to like 100 customers. People who love goes in, not just like goes in. So, we roll it out to super users. Super users are brutal about the feature. They'll tell you how much they love the product, they'll also tell you how much they don't like this thing. 

So, we take the feedback and then we evolve from there. So that's the way. I know this is not the classic answer from a product manager. I like to think of myself as a product manager who has driven along with Rahul and Vidya and all those people. All three of us have driven this roadmap together. But we don't build products in the classic sense, I think it might be working also.

Roshan Cariappa: No? Well, definitely it's working for you.  But I think you've picked a persona like a small business and you've figured out what problems you can solve for them.  Rather than pick a problem and then try to solve it. I think today goes in, and has about four products. I mean, you might very soon have five, six, eight, whatever.

Ambi Moorthy: There are two more in the pipeline for this year.

Roshan Cariappa: Two more in the pipeline for this year!

Ambi Moorthy: Hopefully it gets out. What we keep saying is that goes in there is no what we say like a deadline. So, we tried to ship it fast. Sorry, I interrupted.

Roshan Cariappa: No, I meant to say that that's what you've done exceptionally well.  You picked a persona and then you're solving different problems for this particular persona.  So today you may be solving for forms and content. Tomorrow, if that persona demands something else, then you might figure a way to solve that as well. Now, let's talk about this persona.

Ambi Moorthy: Right?

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, see, small businesses, I think SaaS especially everyone was about serving small businesses. And then this whole funding cycle turned and people kind of realized that as easy as it is to onboard small businesses they will leave also as easily if they don't feel that your product is integral and if it is core to what they're doing.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: Small businesses are super demanding.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: They pay very less, but they ask a lot and delighting them is not simple. So how do you work with this sort of persona?

Ambi Moorthy: We work with a lot of small businesses. We also work with a lot of creators who are solopreneurs. 

Roshan Cariappa: Even worse, I would say, because then it's a very autocratic decision making.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: You can ask through. I mean, we just cancel on things all the time.

Ambi Moorthy: No, see, what we do is primarily a market. We work with the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and then Indian Creators. Also see, the idea is, like I said, it's a very dharmic way of doing business where we don't look at business with the lens of business but rather a service mindset to the whole approach. So, what we do is take a guess on how many salespeople we have.

Roshan Cariappa: 30-member team. Maybe around five, six.

Ambi Moorthy: No, our salesperson joined a couple of weeks ago. Our first salesperson.

Roshan Cariappa: Come on. 7500 customers and your first-person salesperson joined? I mean, come on.

Ambi Moorthy: And I'm very proud of the salesperson.

Roshan Cariappa: You need to go down to Coimbatore to investigate what the hell is happening.

Ambi Moorthy: There's something in the water.

Roshan Cariappa: Is AI selling everything for you?

Ambi Moorthy: Much better than actual people. See, the first-person salesperson who joined us, his name is Ashwin and I take immense pride in that salesperson. He moved from Chennai, which is the SaaS capital of India, his life over to Coimbatore to join Gozen.

Roshan Cariappa: Wow, commitment.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: And no pressure being the first salesperson joining the company with 500 customers.

Ambi Moorthy: So, he moved his life here. See, what we do is like any customer base, there is upside as well as downside. And what we see with them is especially the businesses in the US and Europe and Australia, if you give them exceptional value at a reasonable price and sales is pretty much an autopilot. So, it did not just automatically happen. So, we do have our sales funnels. Like everybody who signs up goes into an automation, which is without being intrusive. We do permission-based marketing. So that's what we do. And what we do is we give them a free trial. All of Gozen’s products have a free trial. And then we just let them explore the product and then they buy it when they feel like it. 

And you'll be very surprised that there's a huge chunk of users who simply use the free version. But we know that we will get as many users onto the platform right now, purely organically. And then we will enable cross discovery. So, we do have this hamburger menu internally. Someone who is using goals and growth will discover content organically. Someone who is content with AI will discover optimally organically. So, the way we do it is we give them, if I can say, an exceptionally valuable product. 

Because there is nothing there out in the market right now like this that combines content and outreach together. And then what we focus on is we don't have a sales team right now. We have one person. We do have a customer success team. So, what we do is we focus a lot on onboarding them, enabling them, and then we let the sale come to us rather than the other way around. So that's the way that has worked. 

Roshan Cariappa: Pull and push.

Ambi Moorthy: Yes, it's more pull. For our sites, we are a small company. And I would say four of 75% of our staff is in engineering. So, we want to be very super R and D focused. And then if I can say for a small company, whatever that we can do, we'll do. And then we focus on the enablement. We create the value for the customer before we ask for the sale. One classic example, if I can give one of the industries that we get a lot of customers from, is the ecommerce industry. It’s a pretty large percentage. Upwards of 20 to 25 percent comes to us from the e-commerce industry. 

So what we do is if you go to the Gozen website right now,, you will see there is a section called free eBooks. So, we write original content like this 200-page original content eBooks, basically. And being a content writer also helps. So, there is a person called Sharif who writes that content for us. What we do is we create step by step guides on how a specific ecommerce platform can get its first hundred customers or grow to a 100 K revenue in twelve months. We have identified like seven industries from which we want to attract the customers and we have created deep researched content pieces for all the books. And then we send them the books first. 

Once they have consumed the content and then they have understood, okay, this company is not trying to sell me on something. So, my content marketing philosophy is to make the customer or user look smart for free and he will buy the product. So that's my content marketing philosophy. What I keep saying is if you're in the business of building cameras, don't write about cameras, write about taking good pictures.

Roshan Cariappa: Pictures.

Ambi Moorthy: And people automatically buy your camera. So, this is the philosophy that we do. This is how we got to this point. This is our so-called sales strategy, if I can say so. It is more automated. We give them a lot of content, not necessarily product related. We give them content related to the industry. And then we go and then we slowly introduce the tool. That's what we do. So, we say here's a step-by-step guide. You can use it for free if you want to automate whatever that you have learned in this guide. And here is the tool. So whatever process was discussed in the guide will be available as a tool. So, this has really worked well for us.

Roshan Cariappa: Very interesting. So, it's a very content led growth strategy. Kind of reminds me of HubSpot actually, in the early days, right, where they pioneered inbound marketing and so on.

Ambi Moorthy: Good that you mentioned early days. Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: No longer valid, I think. But I suppose that is also par for the course, right? I mean, they're a listed company. They have to do what they have to do, right? I mean, everyone has to go enterprise at some point of time. So, we've spoken about the problem that you're solving, the persona you're solving it for, but I think let's talk about the way you are doing this as well, right? The way you're running this business now is completely bootstrapped based in Coimbatore and it allows you certain privileges of running it in the way that you do.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: And part of the reason why I was super excited to host you on the podcast is also that you're trying to show that there's a different way of building a startup. And to be honest, this was mainstream about 15 years back when I first got into startups, which is that, a bunch of geeks and misfits got together, right? You stumbled around and you built a product and then you figured what to do and then focused on revenue. Revenue funds your existence. 

Basically, quite different from how it is today, where you have an idea and you start looking at fundraising and then you have 30 people in your team but have barely an MVP out there. Somewhere I think this idea of startup building got corrupted, it's changed drastically and I think there is a healthy in between position somewhere where fundraising is important, but that's not the be all end.  

There is a focus on product and revenue and customer and profitability and so on. And I think the fact that this whole funding cycle turned in 2022 is very good in a lot of ways. Because I think it'll again impute the focus on the fundamentals, on solving a problem, delighting your customers, building revenue and so on. Right, but yeah, I mean your thoughts on startup building as such.

Ambi Moorthy: Okay, see that's a very nice quote from Jiddu Krishnamuti. It's called truth is a pathless land. So let's say a startup is the truth that you want to experience and discover in the next ten years. Bootstrapping is one path; fundraising is another path. I think it's up to the CEO or the founder to decide which way they want to take this thing. 

See personally for us, why we did this thing, right? So, whenever VCs approach us, VCs do approach us and then say that extremely respectable VCs, and then we do respect them for the work they have done and all that. So, when they reach out and then they say, it's nice that we see this traction. And even though we've been stealth for 14 months and when we launched in January, we actually put out a lot of numbers saying we want to say, see, one thing is, let's say we need more and more and more jobs for the younger population that's coming out. So, it's not one company that is going to solve the job demand and supply market. It is like multiple companies are needed. 

So, my philosophical reasoning behind this is that if we bootstrap and then say we can be successful at whatever small level that we have right now, it is actually a message for people in tier two. Tier three? And villages that this guy, he's actually some from a small village from Coimbatore. Look at what they were able to build and then what they have put out. So now for us personally, we look at what are the, 

I would say, roadblocks for entrepreneurship from the outside world. So, people look at capital, they say that I don't have a network, I cannot build a product and I'm not in a prime city where I can access the talent and I don't have access to funding and all that stuff. I would say I don't go to a lot of events; my networking skills are pretty bad. And then access to talent. 

So, you turn up in Coimbatore and then say, I'm going to build a product company. A lot of my own friends and well-wishers said 16 months ago, it cannot be done at all. But look at what the amazing work the team is doing. And I don't want to call it amazing myself. Read our reviews and people. We look at a very Indian way of running a business which is you serve the customer. And the more important thing that I've actually learned from my mother, in fact, Amma used to keep saying this thing, so you have to keep your freedom for that. You have to be debt free. That's very important. So, I think we're in pretty interesting times. No other time in history that you celebrated for getting a bank loan. Have you ever celebrated getting a bank loan? Have you?

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, not quite.

Ambi Moorthy

Yeah, so now I said what I said. Now think of it, if you're going to celebrate getting a loan and then throw a party, then fundamentally we need to question that aspect. Not that it is bad, but then it revolves around certain decisions we make as a company, what kind of culture we set, what kind of products we build, and at what pace. 

So now you look from the outside, I'm pretty sure people are going to listen to this conversation somewhere, and then probably ten years from now, somebody might look at this thing and then say, hey, look at this guy, he's one of us. And then he doesn't have access to the capital network or anything like that. But look at this company sitting somewhere in Coimbatore is able to serve these multiple thousands of users across 40 countries and they're also working on cutting edge AI. And we're investing a lot in R and D also.

 So now, from the outside, now we have kind of demystified whatever, if I can say that little bit. Not the entirety of starting a company and building it and all that stuff. So now this enables a lot more smaller entrepreneurs from smaller cities to come and then say, hey, I can do this thing. I have a reference group right now who I can talk to. And then there are entrepreneurs who come and talk to us and then the first thing they say is one thing that we really like is that it makes success approachable and achievable for us.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, we're talking about it in times where certain founders and certain CEOs have done crazy abominable things, right? In the name of growth and in the name of, hey, just that it's par for the course, right? Everyone is doing it. It's fantastic that you're adopting a greater responsibility, not just to yourself, not just to your employees but to the broader society as well. 

And I think it can be practical as well, right? I won't say it's more difficult, I mean, and difficult in certain ways, for sure. But I think it is possible, right? I mean, if you do apply, that sort of ingenuity because one of the questions that I will have been that, hey, I mean, yes, I want to be Bootstrapped, and yes, I want to run this small outfit of people, but I'm competing with this other company that is in my space and that has probably raised 40 or $50 million, and they're subsidizing the hell out of all of their growth. So how do I compete with them?

Ambi Moorthy: This is actually a very excellent question. Glad that we are going to discuss this thing. So, we had a very similar problem initially. So, what we thought was like a zero to one approach. The first thing is we always try to identify a small niche. For us there was this huge market in the creator space. Think of people who own YouTube channels. I'm talking about people who have like 25,000 subscribers. And then there are very interesting e-commerce stores.

 So, what we did was all the bigger players are trying to get the business done in the mid-market, the enterprise and all that. So, we didn't go there. Again, it's a very dharmic way of approaching a business where in service they say you go and serve the underserved. Your life has a new meaning in startups. You go and serve the underserved; your startup has new customers. What we found was there was a small pocket of the market that we identified and then if you ask me what is the method to this madness it says pure by chance.

So, we saw a certain type of creator keep reaching out to us and then what we did was then we figured out okay, this is a real problem for them so why don't we build this out and then get a chunk of customers from them. And that is how we raised or I would say earned our 1st $100,000 from them. And then slowly we identified seven other markets so I can even say the seven other markets. So, one is the marketing and advertising industry, the other is other SaaS companies,  information technology service companies, eLearning and education firms, or colleges and universities. 

And then there is also this creator market that has worked really well for us and the financial services market. So, these are the markets that we found where there are small businesses and individual players. They stand to benefit very much from what we were doing. And then we doubled down on this thing. It worked. And good thing was before we arrived at this thing, we tried like twelve to 15 marketing experiments that failed miserably. I would say miserable is an understatement. So, there was a time when I worked on a campaign for more than two weeks and then I got a grand total of two sign ups in like five weeks.

Roshan Cariappa: Ouch.

Ambi Moorthy: That's the brutal truth. I have to admit I sucked at it and I told the team, next time I'll suck less. So, this is what I said. So then, by continuous experiments, one good thing is tying it back to bootstrapping. Bootstrapping allows us to have the freedom. So, money used to keep saying this thing, placing freedom above everything else. That is the ultimate reason why you become an entrepreneur is because you want to experience freedom. Let's say, okay, not at a nirvana level, but you want to have the freedom to do what you want and then with the people that you feel that's the right thing to do.

Roshan Cariappa: If not escaping the cycle of birth and rebirth, at least escape the cycle of employment.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah, that's also not a bad thing to do. So, the hustle culture, we don't have to glorify it. So that's also necessarily not bad. But what I'm saying is if we place freedom on top of everything else and the freedom to do it at a certain pace and we are working with very, very young people, right? 

I cannot say, let's assume that I suddenly raise $50 million and then I am in Coimbatore. That's a lot of money in Coimbatore. And then the next thing is now there is a ticking time bomb. I have to deliver value to my stakeholders and then if I take a certain decision, the team should be able to run with it. And then if I don't take it at the right pace, the team will end up carrying a burden for us. It goes in. We optimize work to the point where it feels like play for most people. So, we call the zone of genius. We know this person, this skill, they're going to do exceptionally well and we have identified it and placed them there. 

It is only that there are certain people who will hit their prime in three months. Some people will hit it in two years, but you have to invest in them. Now, how do I explain this to a VC? I cannot explain this thing. And he has all the rights to ask me, you took the money, show me the growth at the level, what you want. 

And even at a bootstrap level, I think we have done decently well to get to where we are. So, the idea is we do it because we value freedom and to enable the talent, we went back to 2020. So, I have decided I'm going to do this thing. And then, if at all, there is this idea of my idealism being backed by capitalism. 

So, money enables all this in terms of having good infrastructure and all that stuff, but we are not going to sacrifice the freedom and the people while we are at it. So, again, like you said, how did you bring out this people's first culture? In fact, a bootstrap company enables a lot more people first culture activities. So that is the reason why we believe that this is my take on it and other founders’ mileage might vary. 

I necessarily don't think that is bad, it is just that it's a personal preference. And then if you are willing to put three years of your life and live it's literally like being in the western terms called the minimalist. You have to cut down on everything. It is downsizing your life financially and then making sure that I'm not sure if it's interesting. So, in the email that I wrote to Adhya and Mani, when I said I'm going to start working on this startup, I said I am at this mind space right now. If this startup fails, I am fine doing any menial job, any menial job and I'll be completely fine with that. But I want to try this thing. Probably this is the right thing, right? Time to do so. I'm completely fine with that. So, it's a huge leap. So, like they say, right, if prestige is a trap for you, then it's difficult to bootstrap.

Roshan Cariappa: Amazing. Yeah, I think we've covered plenty of fundraises and so on the roundup specifically, which is a weekend show, right? And one of the things that we often mention is that look, I mean the mainstream media talks about fundraisers and valuations and so on, but we don't talk about what happens after that. 

Which is now that you've taken this money at that astronomical valuation, you have to grow at that astronomical pace, right? I mean, you have to grow whatever it is, two x, four x, five x or whatever it is. And really the pressure that percolates down to the operational level is unbelievable, right? It breaks the people and at some point of time you ought to break the laws of physics also, right? I mean, it gets down to that level. This is a very refreshing take in that sense, right?

Ambi Moorthy: It's the Indian way, what I keep saying. It's a very earthly way of doing business, caring for people. And in a way we are revisiting our roots by doing all this thing. This is how we used to operate. You look at how you look at some of the bigger companies that were in manufacturing, you look at how they had their challenges. I'm not saying they are perfect, but I'm saying let's say Silicon Valley is the melting pot of SaaS and then there are so many times it has happened to me personally where my car has got broken into in Valencia. So, there is crime everywhere. 

But I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing. There are so many cutting-edge technologies, cutting edge interesting ideas, and it is literally the place where so many interesting people are coming together to build the next big thing. There is a good work ethic and how they put the problem on the product first and then build a product. There are so many good things to learn from there, but somehow, I feel instead of learning that we take work hard but party harder. Somehow, we forget the hard part, but we take the party harder. So, there are good things that we can learn, but bring in an Indian flavor to it and then execute it.

Roshan Cariappa: So, I think it's a bit of an overcorrection. From the time, startups were totally capital starved, right. In India, even very deserving startups, like I said, 15 years back, startups forgot about the mainstream. I mean, nobody even cared about it.

Ambi Moorthy: Right? Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: I mean, your landlords wouldn't offer their space, right? I don't even want to talk about prospective father in laws. Right?

Ambi Moorthy: That's the entire podcast altogether. Yeah.

Roshan Cariappa: Nobody really trusted startups to get their shit together. And here you have hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars flowing in. And, yeah, it was a refreshing change. And as someone who's seen all of this from the sidelines for all of this time, it felt good.

 But somewhere I feel like we overcorrected a little bit. And right now, because of this whole funding cycle being turned, we're finding a healthy median. And this is why stories such as yours, we had Sarvana of Kovai as well, who is bootstrapped to 10 million plus in revenue. We had Ramsay Gola recently, who has built a suite of these AI products as well as completely remote. Right. I mean, these examples are super important, so people understand there's an alternate way of doing things.

Ambi Moorthy: Right. And also, it drives a specific discipline, capital discipline, that when you bootstrap and then you know that every money that comes in is the customer's money and then you have to optimize it for.

Roshan Cariappa: And that it's finite, right?

Ambi Moorthy: Yes. It's not infinite. If you don't do good work, the customer will take their business elsewhere. We have to earn it so that capital efficiency as well as discipline has helped a lot.

Roshan Cariappa: Awesome. What do you have coming up at Gozen? And you said that there are a couple of products that you guys have in the pipeline. What can we expect in the next, let's say, 18 months?

Ambi Moorthy: I don't want to sound very cliche, but you can expect a lot of a performance related enhancement. See what AI is doing for us, at least right now, I cannot speak for other people. It has introduced this wow factor to a lot of audiences, to our own people. 

We recently started doing video case studies for our customers. Coming up in the next two weeks, you will see it in the success story section on Gozen. So, we can like four right now. We are doing three more in the next upcoming weeks. So, everybody to get to put it in perspective, right, just content.

AI generates about three lakh words every day. Three lakh words every day. And it's growing incrementally. I know the percentage month week over week. AI is going to get to a point where there are going to be companies that are driven by AI. Probably they're not going to stay very relevant. I might be sounding too ambitious with it, but even as a very small company, we're able to feel it.

Roshan Cariappa: AI is going to become the soul of the product and not just a feature.

Ambi Moorthy: No, see, one thing is AI is going to come where there is human intervention required, but at an expert level. So, I'll give you an example. If you're going to write out a blog or an email sequence, someone with 15 years of experience, right? So, they know how to write the ten-part Drip marketing campaign in like three days. Now, AI can do the first draft and it can operate probably at the level of three years’ experience or five years’ experience. Content writer, which is good enough, and where the human skill is going to come in is not in terms of content writing, but content judgment. So AI gives you seven different variations of the email.

Roshan Cariappa: So, your 15-year experienced person will be editing, not writing.

Ambi Moorthy: They will still be writing some versions.

Roshan Cariappa: Of it, but they have a first version to work with.

Ambi Moorthy: Yes, there is no writer's block per se. You can simply start writing. So, AI is not going to replace people, but it is going to enable people to be more productive.

Roshan Cariappa: I was speaking from a product development perspective that AI can become core and integral to your product. And it's not just seen as just another feature that sort of augments your product as such.

Ambi Moorthy: I don't think it can see core in the sense not 100%. I don't think there are enough models out there right now that can enable it right now. We have to see in the next two or three years how this whole thing evolves. And some of it might just simply spill over to the manufacturing industry also and then see how it evolves there.

 So, the way we see with AI is that we are going big on AI. In fact, we are introducing AI in our existing products also. We already introduced an upcoming product that will have the AI flavor. So, what we want to do is not over optimize it to give the human feel. But at the same time when an expert intervention is required, like writing a content or generating an image instead of the designer going through the entire image, what we do is we give the first version by a prompt and then they work on it. 

The idea is, I don't see it becoming completely built just for the AI part, but there are going to be interesting use cases. The AI layer on top of it and then it will completely 10x the output, the quality and the speed of it. So that's the way, at least from my prediction, I could be completely wrong, but my approach is not to replace people with AI, but to enable people with AI. That has been my approach. And that’s how Rahul's approach goes too.

Roshan Cariappa: No, I think I was just saying this to someone.  When digital first became front and centre in 2006-07, and India truly post 2010-11, a lot of the traditional advertising agencies fought it tooth and nail. And today, if you look at it right, I mean, they don't have those digital budgets. 

And digital has become front and center, whereas these folks have had ten years to adapt to this change and have not really made the difference. And I think that AI is this whole GPT, technology, et cetera thing is something similar where I think rather than fighting it, designers, content writers, marketers, whoever else has to sort of accept that this is reality. You can't sort of put the genie back in the bottle.

Ambi Moorthy: No, AI is their best friend. Exactly.

Roshan Cariappa: And learn to work with it. Learn to work with it.

Ambi Moorthy: Yes, there are copilots everywhere. There are copilots for coding, there are copilots for designing, there are copilots for content writing. But think of it, you're the pilot and the copilot is there to make sure that you get from point A to point B safely. And now you can do it ten x faster also. So that is the way we see this.

Roshan Cariappa: Ambi. This has been a fascinating conversation. We've spoken for, I think north of 2 hours now. Didn't quite realize.

Ambi Moorthy: Not too boring.

Roshan Cariappa: No, it was awesome. I did warn you guys that this was going to be sort of an offbeat conversation.  And trust me, I mean, there were many rabbit holes that I want to go down that I've not done. But this is fascinating. Before we end this podcast, any books or any podcasts that you would kind of suggest to our audience.

Ambi Moorthy: I'm an avid reader myself, but when it comes to books, I have a different take. In fact, Mani used to keep saying this thing and the book, the moment it is written and published, it's outdated. But the larger point, what he was trying to get was right. So, explore and then figure it out. And again, you go and read any startup book today, it talks about what happened in Silicon Valley, it talks about what happened in Austin, it talks about what happened in some country where it seems to be very remote to the reader here.

Roshan Cariappa: A particular moment in time.

Ambi Moorthy: At a particular moment in time. Now no longer. Those things work. So, what I have seen is that these are all history lessons which we can take and then see, apply it with good judgment. So that's the way I approach it.

Roshan Cariappa: So, one small tangent on that front. Which is that man, I mean, it's not uncommon to hear of so many frameworks and principles and hacks for every different problem these days. But somewhere I feel like you need to sort of exercise your first principles thinking and use the framework, whatever to sort of pair with it and figure if there are some meaningful comparable as such. But don't run with a framework to begin with.

Ambi Moorthy: See, whatever. Let's say there's this Y combinator course or startup school. So, there are so many people who literally get pumped. It's good.

Roshan Cariappa: It gives that Lean Startup. I know of people who've convinced customers of the problem that they're solving, but they won't build a product because Lean Startup says that you have to do more customer research. Literally, when that person is handing over the cash, you'll show the product. No, it's an exaggeration, but you get what I mean.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah. So, what I personally feel is that the context and the culture at which I see, tell me what framework that I can learn from a book that is released somewhere in a foreign country. Can it be used here in Coimbatore? Can it be used in Trichy? Can it be used in Kumbakonam, in Thanjavur? I don't think so. Those rules, they will not apply.

Roshan Cariappa: Or perhaps, I mean, you have to.

Ambi Moorthy: Adapt them, adopt them a little bit. But again, look at it from a very cultural perspective and what they talk about and all that, it sounds very alien, but at the same time it tells you certain things which you should do and more of things which you should not do. So, in that front, I looked at this R1.

 I'm pretty intense on that front. I don't have a Netflix subscription; I watch zero TV. So, the only thing I do even now, this morning while it's coming in, is on my Kindle. So, one book that I have really, really liked reading or went back over and over again is Creative Selection. It's written by Ken, who goes into the world of Apple during the time of Steve Jobs and how he was the person who made the keyboard in the touch-based keyboards on the iPhone. It's an amazing book. The good thing is how at every point in time you go and read the startup most startup books, right, they'll tell you this is the silver bullet. If you do this thing, your startup is going to be a million-dollar thing. Ken is completely contrary to this approach. So, what he keeps saying is, I have no idea how this worked.

Roshan Cariappa: There is no silver bullet.

Ambi Moorthy: He's coming with a very Zen-like thinking with a beginner’s mind. In Zen, they keep speaking like a beginner. So everything is fresh. I feel what he did not say in the tent book was I read multiple things and something stuck at some point in time. Basically, he said, I was winging it. Steve Jobs liked it. But it's such a wonderful book. It takes through the process of his great video in his mind, and then how different experiments and he's so genuinely humble about saying, 

I have no idea what I'm going to do, but I'm going to try, but I'm going to keep trying until it works. That is one book on the startup front, but I think more startup founders, if they can come with an Indian spiritual and philosophical angle. It’s a  very stark way of thinking. Some books that have really helped me to get to that point are not books. It's this speech by Jiddu Krishnamurti. It's called “Truth is a pathless land”. 

It actually there's a huge backstory to it. Just look it up. It is a small speech where Krishnamuti was supposed to be at the age of 23 or 24. This is happening somewhere in the pre independence era. He was supposed to be announced as the world leader in order of the star. So that's a new thing. A reporter asks him before the day when those announcements are going to be made, how many followers do you have? And he said, what does it have to do with my teaching? No, he said, unless you have a lot of followers, your teaching is not legit. See, Twitter problems were there at that time.

Roshan Cariappa: Age old, right?

Ambi Moorthy: Flash bulb moment inside his head. And he said, I'm giving you the deepest of pristine clarity. Truth and why should followers determine it? And then he dissolves the order of the star and then he breaks off from the theosophical society and then he goes and then forms his own thinking. And before he goes, he delivers the speech. The speech is still on YouTube. It's just like less than 15 minutes. Truth is a Pathless land. I simply have gone back to it multiple times and I think it's something.

Roshan Cariappa: That you have to go back to multiple times also because man, I've tried Jiddu Krishna Murthy, and it's pretty dense, it's very cerebral. You have to reflect upon it a lot.

Ambi Moorthy: Right.

Roshan Cariappa: It's not something where you can just read, absorb and go about your ways.

Ambi Moorthy: Yeah, even his perspective, I don't agree with a lot of the time because the problem is he never focused on the service aspect of spirituality. He spoke about thought, chasing the line of thought. Very intellectual, which is good, but that is good at a beginner level. But in true liberation comes from selfless service. 

And in a way we even do that at Gozen. So that part is missing. That part indicates spirituality is missing in his teaching. But he has helped to reflect. So that is a speech, if you might want to check it out. So, it is. Truth is pathless Land is one.

 And another book is Think on These Things, where Krishnamurthy is talking to school students about how to approach life in the form of exploration. So that's sort of easy books to start with. And the reason why I'm suggesting these books is so you think of a spiritual guru, right? He comes, sits on a chair probably wearing a veshti like both of us and then he's delivering a one way. But Krishnamuti is probably the first person to induce a dialogue. He'll just come completely unprepared. I'm pretty sure he was not prepared at all. Say what's the question for the day? And then people will ask him questions and he'll try to answer as best as possible.

Roshan Cariappa: And it's pretty surreal as well, right? I mean, I've seen some of these sessions as well. He's just sitting in front of a crowd, just one wooden chair and someone asks a question and the man can spend the next hour.

Ambi Moorthy: Answer and he will walk away completely. That's about it. And then he'll just walk away and everybody's saying dude. So that is one and one final book which I want to say is actually I have not read it in its entirety but I'm trying to understand it. It's actually the Bhagavad Gita and I actually want to approach it at a deeper level but I don't think I am prepared for it mentally. 

I'm pretty sure, you know, a late gentleman called Mr. Cho Ramasany.  So, I consider him as one of my spiritual, if I can say spiritual gurus. He has actually written an interpretation not written, it's an audio book. One of my favorite poets. So Bhardar has written an interpretation of the Bhagwat Gita and what Sri Cho Ramaswami has done is he has taken it and then he has put out a wonderful audio book that interprets all the slogans in simple approachable language and every chapter is out there. 

And the CD, I think it's still available somewhere. What I have found to be extremely helpful is listening to it while I'm walking, like a podcast. And then you look at this. Basically, it is sambashani between Krishna and Arjuna, right? He talks about fighting against his own mental dilemmas and all that there is in the startup world, there is competition, there is dharma and everything. So, they have given a specific way of approaching things and I think a lot of those things which are whatever I'm hearing right now, I try to take an essence of it and then see if I can fit it into the startup context. Probably someday Bhagavad Gita for startups might yeah, fantastic idea.

Roshan Cariappa: I think there are just so many tropes from that book that are relevant even now, right? And there are quite a few that I relate to the fact that you have to do your karma without expecting any results. And the fact that when you're in the battleground, that is your Dharma, do what your Dharma is. All right, on that very heavy note, we come to the end of this podcast.

Ambi Moorthy: Thank you.

Roshan Cariappa: I have to say, this is exceptional. I can't remember another time where we had so many different rabbit holes, and believe me, I mean, I've registered quite a few as well.

Ambi Moorthy: We can do part two sometime.

Roshan Cariappa: Part two. Part three.

Ambi Moorthy: If at all, there is good reception. If not, no.

Roshan Cariappa: We will do part two and part three for sure irrespective of it. So, thank you so much for giving us your time and sharing your wisdom with our audience. We look forward to catching up with you again. All the best for everything you have coming up.

Ambi Moorthy: Thank you. Thank you so much. And it's wonderful meeting both of you here and then talking about all these wonderful things. And you have an invitation to come to Coimbatore. Come there and experience the goals and culture. And we have good food, too, if I can say that. Anybody who is listening, if at all, they're interested in your audience, they're interested in understanding how they're doing, we'd be very happy to host them for a day. Awesome. Thank you.

Roshan Cariappa: Thank you so much.

Ambi Moorthy: Thank you Roshan.