Mahesh Ram is the Founding CEO of Solvvy, a leading AI-based chatbot, and customer support automation platform. Mahesh is a serial entrepreneur with extensive experience in enterprise SaaS. Prior to Solvvy, he was the CEO of Global English Corporation, and previously held senior management roles, including CTO, at Fortune 500 legal publishers.
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Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers? (Don’t hesitate to delve into your achievements, they will inspire the audience)
Mahesh Ram: Solvvy is the leading chatbot and customer support AI automation platform. Earlier this year, we surpassed over a billion conversational interactions across our client base, which consists of some of the largest and best-known brands in the world. We have interacted over a billion times with their most valued customers, helping them resolve and take care of critical issues in support and product support customer service to create a much more effortless experience.
We’re seeing unprecedented levels of interest and growth within the business, including strong ARR growth, an NPS score that’s 3X the average across all industries, and we’ve doubled our team over the last seven months. We’re also incredibly excited about the recent release of our 2021 State of Chatbots Report, which is the first third-party market research survey on how leading brands and consumers are actually using chatbots today. We compiled data on what the expectations of chatbot users are and what works for them, and what doesn’t work. We’ve very excited about the future of chatbots and intelligent automation.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Mahesh Ram: In the early days of the business, we were probably a year or two ahead of the market, which is sometimes a good thing, sometimes a bad thing, but we quickly adapted and really began to understand what problems we could be solving for our customers. Adaptability and resilience are critical success factors for any entrepreneur, and for that matter, any employee in an early-stage company.
I’ve been an entrepreneur a couple of times, and I’ve learned that you’re never as smart as you seem when the wind is at your back. You’re also never far off as when the wind is in your face. Essentially, you don’t want to over-believe the hype when things are going well, nor do you want to get overly discouraged when things aren’t going your way.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Mahesh Ram: The most common mistake entrepreneurs make is trying to go it alone. It’s a very lonely journey to found a company and build it from the ground up by yourself. In most cases, you need to surround yourself with people who have the same level of resiliency, purpose, passion, and mission that you do. I’m very fortunate that Justin, my co-founder, and CTO, is a brilliant partner and somebody I can trust to have the same values.
Another common mistake is not creating the values that you want in your company. It’s very easy for entrepreneurs to let the values create themselves in a company and, to a certain extent, that’s going to happen. Typically, you have very diverse groups of people working together. These employees are going to have an impact on the culture of your company, but the core values should be set and exemplified by the founders and the management team. We have core values at Solvvy and we recognize people for how well they exemplify the core values – and they, in turn, help us choose new employees who also embody those values. It’s a virtuous circle. When entrepreneurs lose sight of this, they’ve actually lost control of their business.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Mahesh Ram: For Solvvy, the entire shift into the on-demand economy has been a massive positive for many of our customers. It dramatically escalated their ability to reach many more people 24x7x365. They’re no longer constrained by having to have retail locations.
Nowadays, consumers are doing comparison shopping. They’re asking questions. They’re doing a lot of decision-making and when they need support and service, they really are testing companies. How well will you answer my questions and resolve my issues? If I were to do business with you, how fast would I get an accurate answer from you?
We want to equip brands we work with to instantly answer and resolve customer issues 24/7, 365 days a year. This gives them an always-on capability that supplements and complements their fantastic team of support agents. They have experts who can’t always get to every issue quickly when there’s a queue, so having that combination of AI plus humans is perfectly oriented to our online on-demand world. Certainly, no one looks at the pandemic as a positive, but I do think some of the transitions in customer behavior are permanent. They’re not going away. And every brand in the world, traditional or new, has to adapt to these new ways in which consumers want to purchase and get service for most everything in their lives.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Mahesh Ram: Solvvy is using real AI and machine learning technology to solve real problems. We see a lot of competition in the market that claims to be AI or using machine learning or AI technology. But in reality, it’s extremely manual and labor-intensive for the customer to achieve results. Ultimately, Solvvy is able to increase ROI and results anywhere from three to 10X what the customer is currently getting. In some cases, it’s 30X. The reason for those returns is that we have produced some of the most complex customer experience journeys that any brand would ever experience and made them into a template in such a way that any customer can take rapid advantage of it.
The customers typically don’t have engineering and development resources available to them to build or maintain, an extremely sophisticated solution. That’s where Solvvy shines – we’re allowing brands to build these fantastic world-class experiences for their users in as little as 30 days from the first conversation we have with them without having to involve their developers. The very next day, we instantly can be able to resolve thousands, or even millions, of issues.
There isn’t anybody else in the market that can do that. We deliver the accuracy, the scale, the speed, and the results you want. On top of that, we deliver a better experience for the consumer, which leads to higher brand loyalty. The combination of a sophisticated personalizable platform delivered at lightning-fast speed with minimal resources from the clients is a potent combination that only Solvvy can deliver today at scale. This is what makes us stand out from everyone else in the market.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Mahesh Ram: One of the more important values I hope to exemplify is complete transparency. We have one of the most transparent companies. We openly share when we’re doing well and when we’re not doing well. At Solvvy, we try to be candid with our customers about what they could be doing better and the areas that we could improve on for them. I believe being candid, transparent, and being honest with people is a crucial Solvvy core value and strength.
My second core value was given to me by a former chairman of the board that I worked for previously who said the key to success in any business is having “aces in their places”. What he meant by that was you don’t have to be the ace at everything you do. In fact, if you’re trying to be, you’re already not an ace. The key is to find people who are smarter than you and who have more relevant experience in certain areas. They will have strengths and depth of understanding about certain domain spaces that you will not have. Your job is to give them freedom, set goals, hold them accountable, and essentially give them direction. Solvvy’s strength is the fact that we really have aces in their places. We have extraordinary people.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Mahesh Ram: I’m always impressed by those entrepreneurs and CEOs who make a conscious effort to not only focus on their company brand, but also on their personal branding. Certainly, the power of social media and other tools is a part of it, but I think it’s just about having the courage to go ahead and express your opinions, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the mainstream on a business topic.
When we first started Solvvy, we were talking about the idea that we think the CRM of the past is going to go away. We believe it’s going to be replaced by a new, intelligent way of doing things the way we imagined Solvvy. That ties into the idea of personal branding as well, because what you want to say is that, “Hey, I fundamentally believe the world is going to change. It’s going to go from this to this. And I think that change is good because it reflects my personal belief.” Personal branding can intersect nicely with company branding.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Mahesh Ram: One of my favorite quotes is by J. Carla Northcutt, who said, “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.” This was a lesson instilled in me by a former boss by the name of Glenn Kessler, who is a brilliant guy. The first day after Glen hired me at a major F500 company he told me “My goal would be in a year from now, for you to make my job obsolete.” I was stunned, and I actually thought he was going to quit!. He clarified, “If I’m helping you to be so good that you could take my job, there will certainly be a better job waiting for me. If that has happened, I’ve done my job.”
That’s something I’ve never forgotten. I’ve tried to use that in every single position I’ve held. This goes back to the idea of servant leadership. Continue thinking about what that person in front of you could become or what they need to succeed.
What would you say is the main difference between starting a business at the time you started yours and starting the business in today’s age?
Mahesh Ram: One incredible difference, particularly with software and technology businesses today, is the ability to build products, features, and services with a much smaller amount of capital than you could even 10 years ago. The incredible surge of cloud-based tools, platforms, applications, coding practices, off-the-shelf templates, and more allow you to much more rapidly prototype new applications. There’s an entire universe of lightweight tools that any would-be entrepreneur could use to bootstrap a version one of a business that just didn’t exist 10 years ago.
This advantage is also a challenge because you now have new people creating new businesses much more rapidly than you could in the past. It gives startups and challenger companies, like Solvvy, a pretty big advantage because the incumbent companies are no longer big companies. They no longer have some fundamental advantage that you can’t overcome. You can innovate at a big scale for far less cost.
What’s your favorite “leadership” quote and how has it affected the way you implement your leadership style?
Mahesh Ram: Marcus Aurelius wrote a series of personal writings that were later turned into a book called Meditations. He was the most powerful person in the world at the time, but he was a philosopher at heart. This quote of his has stuck out to me: “Some people, when they do someone a favor, are always looking for a chance to call it in. And some aren’t, but they’re still aware of it—still, regard it as a debt. But others don’t even do that.
They’re like a vine that produces grapes without looking for anything in return. A horse at the end of the race … A dog when the hunt is over … A bee with its honey stored … And a human being after helping others. They don’t make a fuss about it. They just go on to something else, as the vine looks forward to bearing fruit again in season. We should be like that. Acting almost unconsciously.”
He really exemplified the idea that you should do more for others and expect less in return. Just believe in the power of the universe to give you back more than you put in. Because it really does.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Mahesh Ram for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Mahesh Ram or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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