Sukhendra Rompally of Chezuba tells us how they help purpose-driven companies to manage their social impact strategy.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Chezuba.
Sukhendra Rompally: I studied at IIT Dhanbad and founded the AIESEC chapter while there, enabling hundreds of students to volunteer abroad. I later went on to work for a travel-tech startup in Russia, managed products in a mid-sized gaming company in Taiwan, and assisted with operations for a US-based HR-Tech startup. Wherever work took me and whatever work I did, I didn’t find the same purpose as I had while enabling people to volunteer. So I dug deeper about volunteering and learned that while a lot of people volunteered at school and colleges, work-life made it challenging for people to volunteer due to time and location constraints. Upon further research, I learned that 72% of millennial employees wish to use their skills to create impact but do not find opportunities. This led me to found Chezuba – a virtual volunteering platform that lets employees volunteer virtually from anywhere and at any time through the internet, using their skills.
Do you have small habits that made a meaningful impact on your life and business?
Sukhendra Rompally: While I don’t know if it is a habit or a trait, I learned very early in my life and career that “Empathy” is a strong factor in providing success, no matter what path I take. I am a huge people person and hence pay extra attention to ensuring that day in and day out, we hear from people all the time – from our team, customers, and the market in general. Active listening and encouraging dialogue is something I do consistently to understand the other perspective, and this has largely helped me with my own direction, both in life and business.
How does Chezuba market its product/services online?
Sukhendra Rompally: As a startup, you are always short of one resource or the other. Among many things that we have been short of in our initial years, money and marketing skill are some critical ones. So, although we have delivered some amazing experiences, we haven’t marketed them enough. Although we always had great customer love (Our NPS is in the high 70s), we weren’t able to leverage that to build a bigger brand. We did try our hand at Google Ads and social media but haven’t had much success overall in the area of marketing. 2022 is the first year where we are focused on marketing, and responding to PR enquiries like this is one of the steps we are taking in that direction.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to manage your online marketing?
Sukhendra Rompally: As a tech company, we have always been experimental and curious about how software can market our products better. As a data-driven company, we rely a lot on Google Analytics to understand and predict user behavior. While social media is a very effective tool for the kind of product we have and our audience segment, we haven’t been as effective in leveraging that channel as much. We use Demand Science to buy B2B intent data, Hubspot and Freshsales for CRM, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Google Adwords to reach potential customers. All said, Marketing has been our weakest link in the past, but that is going to change this year.
What is your hiring policy/process, and how do you retain your employees?
Sukhendra Rompally: Over time, I learned that people make or break things in life and business. So, the focus from the very beginning has been on building a team that will take the mission forward, with little intervention from my side. At the time of hiring, cultural fit is the most important factor that sways the decision. We have hired people who weren’t skilled enough at that stage to fit in those roles but had the wits to learn and the intent to improve. We took many such calculated bets. As founders, we must realize that every employee’s needs and goals are different. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that works across the company. So, very often, I think about the team, work with every individual, and learn what I can do to upskill them further and how I can motivate them to pursue higher goals. I also am a firm believer in showing people the purpose of why they are doing what they are doing and letting them do the magic. The goal isn’t to tell them what to do but “why” they are doing that so they can figure out the “what” themselves.
How are you funding your growth?
Sukhendra Rompally: We have always been supported financially by Friends and Family, raising several hundred thousand dollars through them in the first couple of years. Post-COVID, we have pivoted to a B2B business model, changed target customer and preferred geographies, and recently raised our first round of VC funding from Connetic Ventures, ISM Angels, among others.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sukhendra Rompally: While virtual volunteering has almost been unheard of until a couple of years ago, COVID changed the game completely, forcing people to experiment with so many things online. This meant we also started facing some competition in the segment. While Benevity in the US and Goodera in India are giants in this space, startups like Deed have been picking up pace in the space. Amidst all that, the space is still in very nascent stages, and there is enough pie for multiple players to thrive. With companies becoming more socially conscious and more teams going remote, corporate virtual volunteering is only expected to become bigger over the years. On our end, we are heavily customer-obsessed, customize our offering to every customer based on their needs, and are always innovating, like experimenting with micro-volunteering and gamified social impact. Innovation and customer obsession are our plans to stay healthy in the game.
Tell us a customer success story of yours.
Sukhendra Rompally: I can talk about our first customer – Tata group, India’s largest conglomerate and one of the largest employers in the world. They had an active skill-based volunteering program that wasn’t growing as expected over several years. They reached out to us seeking help in taking their volunteering program to the next level. Using our expertise in this area and leveraging our wide NonProfit network spread across 90+ countries, we laid out a program that would encourage more Tata employees to take up skill-based volunteering. The next couple of years saw over a thousand employees from 100+ cities clock 30,000+ volunteering hours, with close to 200 NonProfits ending up saving these NonProfits over a million dollars. We achieved all this with the highest completion rate and an even better NPS. The fact that the ticket size for us with Tata grew 4X over these 2 years is a testimony to how happy they have been working with us.
Your final thoughts.
Sukhendra Rompally: Over a billion people volunteered last year, with almost half a trillion donated to charities and communities. The fact that this is only growing each year explains how we are all coming closer to realizing our true purpose – to help others. We couldn’t have made it this far without an amazing team who sacrificed a lot, investors who believed in us even when they didn’t have to, and, more importantly, all the changemakers who volunteer on the Chezuba platform every day – they make us believe that our efforts are not going waste. Volunteer, donate, help others – there is no better feeling than putting a smile on yet another face.