In the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship, success stories often emerge from unexpected beginnings. One such compelling narrative is that of Ganesh Shankar, the visionary Co-Founder of Responsive, a cloud-based SaaS solution revolutionizing how organizations share and exchange information.
In this blog post, we delve into Ganesh’s journey, tracing his roots in India, his leap from financial services to technology, the inception of Responsive, and the core values that shaped the company’s remarkable growth.
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A Humble Beginning in India
Ganesh Shankar’s story begins in India, where he was born and raised in a family with strong ties to government service. His uncle was a retired Colonel, and his father had worked in the state government’s agriculture department.
Despite the prevailing culture directing individuals toward careers in engineering or medicine, Ganesh discovered early on that his passion lay elsewhere.
The entrepreneurial spirit was not ingrained in his family, but Ganesh harbored an innate desire to chart his own path. Reflecting on his childhood and teenage years, Ganesh recalls moments of interest in entrepreneurship.
However, it wasn’t until later in life that Ganesh realized the significance of those early steps. His family’s conservative background and focus on government service shaped his worldview, providing the impetus for him to break away and pursue a different trajectory.
Pivoting from Financial Services to Technology
In the competitive landscape of India, Ganesh found himself compelled to choose between the conventional paths of engineering or medicine. Realizing that these paths weren’t his calling, he pursued computer science during his undergrad but soon discovered a lack of fulfillment in the field.
Though, he did enjoy networking and connecting with people. This realization led Ganesh to pursue an MBA in 2005, majoring in finance and marketing.
His journey into financial services started with roles at Indiabulls and Navia Markets, where he experienced the highs and lows of the market crashes in 2008 and 2009.
Ganesh started his career as a sales rep selling mutual funds, predominantly insurance and stock market accounts, as a broker. At the time, he was handling the entire South India for sales, with around 60 different reps across the region reporting to him.
Witnessing the impact on investors during these crises compelled Ganesh to rethink his career path. Mainly because most of the small investors were retirees and had invested their retirement savings into the stock market.
Ganesh recalls the blood bath with people in tears after incurring massive losses. Recognizing the need for a change, he made a bold decision to pivot from financial services to technology.
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Working at Exterro
After five years of a successful career, Ganesh had to start from scratch. He moved back to his roots in Coimbatore and joined Exterro. He took a junior business analyst position, listening to how other product managers worked and taking notes to learn on the job.
By the time he quit Exterro, Ganesh had become the director of the product management team. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of Ganesh’s entrepreneurial journey, eventually leading him to the United States and the birth of Responsive.
The Birth of Responsive: A Customer-Funded Success
The concept for Responsive emerged during Ganesh’s stint at Exterro where he worked with his co-founders, AJ Sunder and Sankar Lagudu. At the time, Ganesh was the product manager, AJ was the engineering manager, and Sankar was the implementation manager.
Although managing RFPs was not part of his job description or a KPI, Ganesh spent 30% of his time as a product manager dealing with RFPs, which were the key revenue-generating tasks in the company.
He was also spending time on cell support activities, supporting RFP security questionnaires, which hindered his primary job in product management and release management.
The Responsive brainchild was born out of a genuine need for a solution in his day-to-day work. Frustrated with the time-consuming process of handling RFPs (Request for Proposals),
Ganesh, along with his co-founders, set out to create a platform that could streamline and enhance the response management process.
Responsive is a 100% cloud-based SaaS solution that has a range of applications for companies. For instance, RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, due diligence questions, ESG questions, and even grant writing for non-profit organizations.
The platform essentially allows companies to respond to any sort of inquiries that they get from outside stakeholders.
Companies can request services depending on factors like the number of projects, number of users, possible integration with Salesforce or CRM platforms, and integration with communication platforms like Slack. It may also need to be integrated with the security platform or content manager.
Fundraising for Responsive
What sets Responsive apart is its commitment to being a customer-funded business. While officially raising $25M in 2018, the company’s focus remains on customer billings rather than relying heavily on external investors.
Storytelling is everything, which is something that Ganesh Shankar was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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As Ganesh proudly reveals, they have a clean cap table and hold the record of giving the highest return rate to their investors. In just 13 months, they cleaned up most of their investors and currently have just one investor with a minority position.
This unique approach allowed Responsive to grow sustainably, accumulating nearly 2,000 customers, including 25 Fortune 100 companies. The company has 550 employees worldwide on 3 different continents, serving close to 450,000 customers across the globe.
Ganesh also reveals that the platform has completed almost $500B transactions. Its customers have put the system in place for nearly $500B worth of proposals and deals they manage using the platform. This figure works out to an average of $10B to $15B dollars each month over the last year.
Building a Strong Team and Company Culture
A significant factor contributing to Responsive’s success is the emphasis placed on building a robust team and fostering a positive company culture. Ganesh and his team instilled five core values—Get It Done, See Something, Say Something, Giving Back Time, Be Agile and Nimble, and Delight the Customer.
These values have not only shaped the internal culture of Responsive but have also played a pivotal role in retaining the first 50 employees who joined the company in its early stages.
The values guide the team’s approach to daily challenges, ensuring a united and agile response to business needs.
The Vision for a Transformed Information Exchange
Looking ahead, Ganesh envisions a world where organizations seamlessly share and exchange information through Responsive’s platform.
The ultimate goal is to transform how companies request and respond to information, eliminating the need for standard documents and providing a unified platform for a variety of use cases beyond RFPs.
If Ganesh could turn back time and offer advice to his younger self, he would emphasize humility, the importance of networking, and the value of validation.
Acknowledging that it’s okay to say no and being ready to pivot at the right time are crucial lessons he would share with the aspiring entrepreneur within.
Ganesh Shankar’s journey from a humble beginning in India to the founder of Responsive is a testament to resilience, vision, and a commitment to customer satisfaction.
The story highlights the significance of adapting to change, taking calculated risks, and staying true to core values in the dynamic world of entrepreneurship.
Responsive’s success not only lies in its innovative platform but also in the foundation of a strong team and a values-driven company culture.
As Ganesh continues to lead the charge, the vision of transforming information exchange remains at the forefront, promising a future where organizations globally can seamlessly share and respond to information.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- Ganesh Shankar’s entrepreneurial journey, from a conservative upbringing in India to founding Responsive, showcases the power of breaking away from conventional paths.
- Pivoting from financial services to technology, Ganesh identified a gap in the market and co-founded Responsive, a customer-funded success streamlining response management.
- Responsive’s unique approach of being a customer-funded business with a focus on sustainable growth has garnered over 2,000 customers, including 25 Fortune 100 companies.
- The company’s core values—Get It Done, See Something Say Something, Giving Back Time, Be Agile and Nimble, and Delight the Customer—have played a pivotal role in shaping a positive and united company culture.
- Ganesh envisions a world where Responsive transforms how organizations share and exchange information, providing a unified platform beyond RFPs for a variety of use cases.
- Reflecting on lessons learned, Ganesh emphasizes the importance of humility, networking, and validation, along with the readiness to say no and pivot at the right time.
- Responsive’s success lies not only in its innovative platform but also in its foundation of a strong team and a values-driven company culture, promising a future where global organizations seamlessly share and respond to information.