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  • jrrajan06

Thoda SaaS, Thoda Rohit

Updated: Sep 25, 2023



When I renamed my blog and Wix asked me for a tagline, I wrote it without thinking: Some Stories, Some SaaS. The second I paused to think, I knew I had Rohit to thank as I had (almost literally) taken his "Thoda Saas, Thoda Magic".


I reached out to tell him that I had borrowed his tagline and to ask if I could tag him when I posted on LinkedIn. It then occurred that since I had restarted writing about people and their lives, I could ask him if I could interview him. So, here we are :). I am glad that I asked him because the conversations with him have been illuminating and importantly enjoyable.


He is one of those rare folks who obviously relishes his work and takes it seriously but does not take himself seriously. Added to the fact that he is also a standup comedian meant that I was laughing as much as I was listening and learning.


While I was typing the conversations with Rohit, I thought of Sam Kerr's celebrations of important goals- I realized I always think of them when something has delighted me :).


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Before you read any further, a note to help you read this better.

  • The text in bold are my questions/pieces of my contribution to the conversation with Rohit.

  • The italicized texts are Rohit's answers.

  • The texts in orange are my thoughts and notes based on Rohit's responses.

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Alright, back to Rohit.


If you have been in the Indian SaaS space as a founder or marketer, chances are high that you would have come across Rohit's name on LinkedIn or the S11S community.


Rohit is someone who wears multiple hats. Some of those include that of a marketer, a screenplay writer, a mentor, a teacher, a community co-founder, and a poet. I found this fascinating. So, I asked him a question about each of these hats and have captured them here.


However, first things first.


The story behind Thoda SaaS Thoda Magic: When Rohit started taking his LinkedIn profile more seriously, he could not find the apt tagline that encompasses all the work he does and has done over the last decade. At least not one that did not run to 50 words. Lo, his mind did some thinking, and he had Thoda SaaS Thoda Magic within 30 seconds.

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The Interview


1. How did you get into marketing? Could you share a little about your journey so far?


My foray into marketing was somewhat serendipitous. I initially started my career in insurance after completing my MBA. To break the monotony of selling insurance, I began writing answers on Quora. To my surprise, some of my answers went viral, attracting significant attention.


One day, a gentleman named Hiren, who was building a SaaS company in Baroda, reached out to me. He was impressed with my storytelling skills and offered me a writing gig for his company. At that point, I didn't even realize that writing could be a lucrative career. Hiren mentored me in content marketing, providing valuable resources to help me learn the ropes.


After my stint with Hiren's company, I moved on to WebEngage, where I was their first organic marketer and held the title of Content Strategist. Over the past nine years, I've also worked with Clever Tap, Plobal Apps, Netcore, Insent, Zoominfo, and Kula.


2. How can two marketers have a conversation and not mention the word campaign? So, can you also talk about one or two memorable campaigns that you have created/been a part of?


One of the most memorable campaigns I led was at Netcore, where I orchestrated a company-wide video announcement - 125+ folks made and released their selfie video in a span of 6 hours - for the acquisition of Boxx-ai. The campaign garnered over 150,000 views and generated 22 Marketing-Qualified Leads (MQLs) without any paid promotion.


Another innovative campaign was at Kula, where we sponsored cab rides for SaaS founders attending SaaStr. We offered a discount code for the ride - "Kula"- which provided value and gave us a unique way to introduce our brand to these founders. This campaign was well-received and created a lot of buzz in the industry.


I've also run several other campaigns and written extensively about them on my blog, so I won't go into those details here. But that, in a nutshell, is my journey in marketing so far. It's been a ride filled with learning, innovation, and, most importantly, fun.


I love the creativity involved in sponsoring cab rides and adding a discount code for the ride. Talk about the value of repetition to drum up the name of your brand! Read more about this here.


Note: Rohit's blog is an excellent source for many things marketing and SaaS.


3. Some super cool numbers and creative ideas there! Apart from S11S (we will talk about this later), I have always admired the way you handled the Kula launch. As marketers, we all are part of a product's journey at various stages, and everyone mentions how different each stage is different. What is not often talked about from a marketer's standpoint is the stage where it is a pre-launch or in stealth mode for the product. More than the usual dose of creativity must be mixed, generously, to lead to a successful launch. I had followed your launch of Kula and the way you had built a buzz around it. Can you tell me a little more about this?


I was hired at Kula as employee number 8 and the first marketer. Yes, the product was in stealth mode, and I was hired way before the launch. So, while we knew how the product was going to shape, it did not make sense to talk about its features as they weren't available yet. Hence, we had to evangelize the problem a lot. Achu, the co-founder, and I collaborated closely and did a lot of research. We discussed the stories we could tell and what would make our audience connect with our brand.


We realized that Kula's advantage was that Achu had been a recruiter for ten years and came with an enviable track record of working with companies such as Uber and Stripe. So, we created a character map for Achu and told Achu's story in a way that would resonate with our audience. After that, we also fleshed out the narratives and all that we could talk about till the launch- when the product went live.


We also had a plan and some milestones that we wanted to achieve through the journey to our launch. Of course, we wanted a launch on Product Hunt. We also wanted to do a pre-seed raise, create a video, and also a website. With these in mind, we implemented our strategy which blended Achu’s story to Kula’s growth. We received great support from the community.


I was thinking of how this would be an apt example for one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey: Begin with the end in mind.


He continued, Our efforts paid off. Achu's followers increased from 30k to 40k and Kula gained 3000 followers on Linkedin. Kula also had an email waitlist of 1,200 people waiting for the launch to try the product. Additionally, we were the Product of the day and were the 2nd ranked product of the week.


Another milestone was that our campaigns led to Kula having 102k page views in a year without having any paid spend.


(Tried to capture the answer as a Sketchnote).


Note: If you want to read more about Kula’s launch: Behind Kula's $12M Seed Funding News Playbook (substack.com).


A video from Rohit on how they approached the launch day: here.


I felt that Rohit’s answer was a mini-playbook on how to go about launching a product. I loved how they had created a story around Achu and also how they had some very solid/tangible targets to work towards. Of course, the number validated the efforts. However, I think beyond the numbers, a strategy to evangelize the problem was particularly insightful.


This quote came to my mind: Good stories are data with a soul.


4. Thank you for that illuminating answer. While I would love to talk more about campaigns and Kula, let me shift gears a little and ask you about the other things you do. You are a mentor and course facilitator. Can you speak a little more about your engagements here?


I love teaching and helping people with their careers in marketing. When I started, we were all new to the space and did not have many folks who knew this space. The access was hard, the ecosystem wasn't there. God has been kind to me on my journey. It's one way of paying forward given that I have opportunities to both interact with younger folks as well as teach. I teach Marketing fundamentals at STOA (an online MBA program though they do not call themselves an MBA program). I also teach Marketing Analytics and Social Media Branding at IMT Raipur.

I interject: What about S11S: the community through which I connected with you? How did you come up with the community and what are your plans for it?

S11S is another place where I get to interact with younger folks. S11S started on a WhatsApp call when the 4 of us, used to solve each other’s professional doubts. When Clubhouse Android launched, we started SaaS Saturdays on Clubhouse. This was during the Covid times and ~100 folks used to attend. This stopped when Clubhouse went down. We figured that we wanted to go beyond ephemeral Clubhouse conversations, document learnings, and give folks something to come back to every day. This led to the creation of S11S as a community.


S11S is a numeronym for SAAS Saturdays. Initially, we thought that even if 200 people became a part of S11S, we could count it as a success. It always warms my heart to say that we are a community of ~3000 SaaS professionals, predominantly marketers. We have no clue how it has evolved into a self-sustaining community.


We enable meetups and do deep dives. We also facilitate mentorship by amplifying the voices of folks who have gained a lot of original knowledge and are willing to share it with others. We have plans to make the community better and bigger, with both Sid and me having more time on our hands. We don’t have anything concrete yet, but we are definitely not going to be one of those communities where everything is paid.


Later in our conversation, Rohit mentioned that he loves these lines: Zamaney sey aagey badiye majaaz, zamey ko agaey badana bhi hey.


His answer left me with a big smile as he is doing his bit in zamaney ko aagey badhana bhi hey.


I must add here that S11S is one of the best communities to be a part of as a SaaS marketer. The members are helpful, generous with their time, supportive, and thoughtful with their answers, and it is a mini-compendium of everything SaaS marketing. It is the first place I go to for getting any information, framework, checklist, or even a laugh.

5. You were a marketer by the day and a screenplay writer by the night. How did you get started with screenplay in the first place?


I have always been involved in creative writing. My first foray was into writing poetry at school- it started out of jealousy and bravado. A classmate got a lot of praise from our teacher for writing a poem and I said that it’s no big deal and wrote one. My friends read through it and said, “It is actually a big deal.” I continued writing poetry to be popular with girls. I used to have a FB page on poetry which was popular.


I interject, and now?


I got married, so it’s for her eyes-only poetry these days, quipped Rohit.


Go here, here, and here to read Rohit’s poetry. This one is one of my favorites.


He continued, At some point in the mid-2010s, I started asking myself when was the last time I read something in a vernacular language. That was when I consciously started reading fiction in Hindi. One book led to another led me to pick up Divya Prakash Dube (DPD), whose every novel was a best seller. I liked the way he narrated and the way his stories unfolded. I attended his virtual masterclass on storytelling and at the end of the class there was a competition where we had to submit a story. I did and won. I did not think much about it, till DPD reached out to me and we started working together.


Note: Rohit is a part of DPD’s Writer’s Room.


6. Sweet! As a product marketer, you work at intersections and with stories. As a screenplay writer, again you work with stories. How did your experience with one influence the other?

Working on screenplays made me a better storyteller and a marketer. Marketing is after all beyond just theories and models. It is also about what people have figured out in the space of behavioral sciences and other spaces.


Through the course, I also learned that there are only seven models/kinds of story writing structures. Every story fits one of these models. It left me both intrigued and wowed.


I started going through YT channels and reading the works of folks such as Dan Harmon, Andy Raskin, and Michael Hague. This, in turn, led me to internalize storytelling structures and trying them out at work. Of course, it has always been an iterative process, but it has impacted my work a lot. Understanding the whys of storytelling and screenplay writing has made me a better storyteller in marketing.


That is my long answer to your question.


You can read more on Rohit’s take on how screenplay writing has helped him craft better company narratives here.


Here is one more blog of Rohit’s blogs on storytelling.


7. It sounded like a story, and I was a willing listener here :). One last question, Rohit. What inspires you?


I love movies. Movies inspire me. I have always read books and listened to podcasts. But what moves me are movies. I feel movies have a big impact and can influence how someone reacts to a certain stimulus.


8. Okay, that was not the last question. Tell me more about any movie you like a lot. Also, about books- especially Hindi novels - that you have enjoyed.


Good Will Hunting is a movie that I always go back to. It reminds me that I must always nurture myself and that not everybody deserves everybody at a specific time. Books: Never Split the Difference is a book I have learned a lot from. Raag Darbari is one of my favorite Hindi novels: a satire. It would sound cliched, but I love DPD’s writing.


Thanks a ton for your time, Rohit!


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I would be doing Rohit and you, the reader, a disservice if I did not link a video of his standup comedy here.


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Summarizing...


While I did learn a lot from having this conversation with Rohit, one of my favourites has been around how he dabbles in storytelling in two unconnected fields and applies learnings from one to another. My most favourite has been how Rohit was super kind and encouraging when I reached out to him with my questions. He even sent me some answers recorded on Loom before I requested a call to take notes as that’s how I float :).


Robert M. Sapolsky starts his amazing 800-page book on the human brain by saying, What happens milliseconds before a behaviour to cause it? That’s in the neurobiology realm.


This quote always comes to my mind when I interview folks. Humans are versatile. How this versatility influences their work is unique to each person. When we get a glimpse of it, it is a story to cherish, and if possible capture in some way to share with others.


I hope you have as much fun reading about Rohit here as I had when I interviewed him and wrote this piece.


Thank you for reading!


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