The Silicon Review
“We wanted to democratize app-building and hand the control over to businesses themselves.”
E-commerce, once a new and emerging field, has gained massive popularity and is on a trajectory for continued growth, particularly in the area of mobile commerce. This growth is further propelled by the resurgence of cloud-based mobile commerce applications that undoubtedly enable business leaders to create new opportunities without investing big bucks.
In light of the foregoing, we’re pleased to present Vajro—an instant mobile application platform that builds exquisitely crafted native apps for e-commerce companies.
It was founded in 2016 and is based in Walnut, California.
Interview Excerpt: Baskar Agneeswaran
Q. Have you always been passionate about software and technology? Tell us what inspired the foundation of Vajro?
I have always been interested and passionate about software and technology, even though I have a background in chartered accountancy. But, it was my Co-founder Niwin, who’s gripped with deep tech. In 2015, the two of us set out to build a price comparison app to help e-commerce consumers find great deals. No points for guessing, it tanked. We underestimated the amount of work that goes into maintaining such vast volumes of data.
It was a good idea, but it wasn’t for us. We realized that our strengths lay elsewhere—in mobile app development. With the experience we gained in the eCommerce space, it was just a matter of putting two and two together. We’re sitting on a goldmine of an idea that has rarely been explored in the SaaS space.
Q. Setbacks are a part of every growing business. Tell us about a few roadblocks that helped you and your company grow through the years?
Success isn’t a straight line; we have had our fair share of roadblocks along the way. Our first setback was the failure of our price comparison app, Prizap. We used it as a stepping stone for Vajro, which turned into a successful product by realizing our core strengths.
Of course, the pandemic disrupted our operating style. Since we were displaced from our physical workspaces, brainstorming sessions were no longer spontaneous. Every piece of communication had to be deliberate and conscious. It did not work for us, at least for a while.
We changed our whole game plan as a result. We adopted several tools and channels, including Slack, to mimic in-office discussions. We then came up with several core values that defined Vajro and became the new foundation on which our collective consciousness operated, performed work, and conducted itself.
Q. Vajro is an instant mobile app platform that builds exquisitely crafted native apps for the e-commerce sector. Splendid. How unique is your approach in developing these apps?
The app-building space has primarily been service-oriented. Usually, it involves a large amount of work and a lot of time, not to mention the exorbitant costs that inhibit small businesses from creating native apps for their eCommerce stores. We wanted to democratize app-building and hand the control over to businesses themselves.
Vajro is powered by a robust platform that lets users drag and drop widgets–such as image grids, banner images, carousels, and countdown timers–the ones you typically see in any eCommerce app’s layout. With over 100 features, users no longer have to wait for months to launch their apps. It only takes them an hour to build a fully functional app that’s ready for publishing.
Q. As a company, how do you break the ‘sucking sound of the core’? And what strategies are in place to encourage innovation in your company?
We realized that most businesses rely on predictable, safe, and sure best practices in lieu of more risky and time-consuming experimentation. These businesses want to control outcomes and, as a result, stifle the very environment they wish to foster. We wanted to steer clear of that territory.
As an organization, Vajro shifted to a “lab” mindset—agile, dynamic, and divergent—where individuals are responsible and accountable instead of managers. Anything that goes out, a blog, a creative for social media, a piece of code, the person generating the idea is also the tester. Keeping these two people separate negates the very purpose of experimentation. All our Slack channels are open. No matter their function, everyone is a part of all channels, pitching in when they have the next big idea.
Q. What are your focus areas? Please share an overview.
Right from the beginning, our focus has been eCommerce–boutiques and cosmetics–two areas that do well with a mobile app. While catering to these verticals, we’re now expanding to other verticals like wholesale. This is on the business side.
We like to keep ourselves updated with the latest trends in both eCommerce and mobile apps on the tech side. We’re spearheading trends like social selling–live video commerce where not many businesses have trodden into, even globally.
Q. Who are your clients? Would you like to share a client success story or two?
Boutiques form the lion’s share of our client base. We also have clients from different industries, including cosmetics, food delivery, and more. They are mostly small Shopify stores, but we do have some enterprises powering their app with Vajro.
One of our clients, SimplyMe Boutique, grew its revenue 10x in a year. Another store, Missing Polynesia, saw a revenue increase of 285 percent from their mobile app alone. They were able to get their customer engagement right, enhance their shoppers’ experience, and boost their returns. They saw an astounding 79 percent increase in returning customer rate.
Q. What marked the beginning of your success? What do you regard as your greatest achievement throughout your professional journey?
The idea of Vajro materialized a year before its actual launch in the Shopify ecosystem. We served a much smaller ecosystem called Kartrocket with a few hundred clients, at most–insignificant when compared to the 1.5 million stores in Shopify. But, it validated our idea. When Shopify approved us as a plugin in their marketplace was the beginning of our success. We knew we were at the cusp of something great.
The greatest achievement along this journey would be when we reached the number one spot in Shopify. We now have over 550 five-star reviews; the others are not even close, despite their two-year head start.
Q. How do you plan to transform Vajro into a future that is unfolding before you?
Vajro is right now catering to the Shopify ecosystem. We have a decent market share now, and we’d like to penetrate the market even further. We’re also looking into other platforms like WooCommerce, BigCommerce, and Magento. Ultimately, the play is to make Vajro truly platform-agnostic.
The Leader Upfront
Baskar Agneeswaran, Co-founder, serves as the CEO of Vajro. He is an entrepreneur and an eCommerce expert featured on The CEO Magazine, IndiaRetailer, CEOWorld, and many more. He has led the company from a small four-member team to be recognized as one of the most dynamic leadership development companies to look for in 2021. Mr. Agneeswaran also has been featured in the '40 under 40 most influential leaders 2020-2021' by Asia One. He’s on a mission to help eCommerce businesses sell more and engage better with their shoppers by arming them with a no-code mobile app platform.