‘VCs Turned Us Down Though We Were Making Money’

  Mar 17, 2016

While working at Symphony Marketing Solutions, a US-based analytics and data management services provider, Sarita Digumarti felt the dearth of people with good skillsets in the field. “A part of my responsibility lay in training and hiring, but it was hard to find the right people with right quantitative aptitude. And data analytics was gaining ground in the country,“ she says.

Digumarti and her long-time colleague Gaurav Vohra realized that the major problem was the way problem solving techniques were taught in universities — it was different from what is applied in a business situation.

They decided to tackle the problem and started Jigsaw Academy, an online school for analytics, in 2010. “We were apprehensive but we knew it was a big market. The problem was to get out of our comfort zone as we had a flourishing career at Symphony,“ says Vohra, an alumni of IIM Bangalore.

Jigsaw has now trained about 40,000 people for a certificate course that runs for six months. The company, which counts Accenture, Genpact Wipro, Flipkart and Swiss Re among its corporate clients charges about Rs 45,000 for the course. It received funding of Rs 20 crore from Manipal Global Education Services and TV Mohandas Pai in December Digumarti, an MA in quantitative economics from Tufts University and an MBA from TAPMI, and Vohra remember the lack of enthusiasm from people around when they started their venture. “Everybody was thin king of analytics services analytics products, but nobody talked about training, which appeared less glamorous. People also said we would not be able to pull it off as nobody had done online training in the country,“ they say.

Vohra got his first exposure to the scope of analytics when he worked with Capital One Financial for two years, one of the biggest credit card issuers in the US. “Capital One would send us to work in rooms painted in different colours, such as green and blue, and ask how it felt working there, and about things such as seat height. Everything was based on data. That was when I realized there existed something like data analytics and it can be a powerful tool for businesses,“ he says.

Jigsaw Academy has been cash flow positive for a long time, but venture capitalists were not ready to pump in money when the company planned to expand abroad last year. Many VCs turned them down as they said they did not understand the business model. They preferred to put money into loss-making ventures, Vohra says. “It was at this ime that we got a chance to meet Mohandas Pai who helped with the funding. Sarita being a Manipal alumni also helped,“ he recalls.

Vohra says the most important lesson he has learned s to focus on the main business, and not get distracted by other non-core opportunities hat keep arising. “That’s important for long-term success,“ he says.”

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