Our goal is to grow 9X in next 20-30 months: Aditya Bhamidipaty, FirstHive

Aditya Bhamidipaty, Founder & CEO, FirstHive, tells us what differentiates it from other customer data platforms and how marketers benefit from using its customer data platform

e4m by Neethu Mohan
Updated: Nov 22, 2019 10:52 AM
Aditya Bhamidipaty

Started in 2015, FirstHive’s identity engineering approach and customer data platform has helped enterprises’ marketing ROI metrics jump by 6x.

Under the stewardship of its Founder & CEO, Aditya Bhamidipaty, FirstHive has carved a name for itself in the marketing technology industry, delivering ROI to some of the world’s largest brands. Bhamidipaty tells us what differentiates FirstHive from other customer data platforms, how marketers benefit from using its customer data platform and its aim to grow by 9x in the next 20-30 months.

What differentiates First Hive from other customer data platforms?

FirstHive’s journey started in 2015 when we started building our product. At that time the term 'customer data platforms' ie (CDP) was relatively a new term. We are one of the first companies that organically built a customer data platform. Consumer expectations have evolved dramatically over the last few years. Today, the consumer demands a seamless and consistent experience with a brand. The only way a brand can deliver this experience is by ensuring that it has a connected single view of a customer. Now, the problem with consumer marketing is that anywhere from 50% to 70% of interactions are anonymous because consumers are not leaving their contact details in every interaction they do. Almost all the traditional systems used for CRM use primary contact vectors like an email address or mobile number to create a record.

Therefore in the absence of any of those, what is the system that becomes a single system of intelligence on all data about a consumer? You also have to keep in mind that consumer details are distributed and disconnected across a variety of products. This is where FirstHive comes in as a product. When we started, we became the first global customer data platform to have a machine learning ear of the identity site. This is because in the consumer marketing world you cannot just use deterministic methods using primary keys, which essentially becomes a glorified vehicle to identify customer data. It is the fundamental differentiator of FirstHive- the identity engineering approach.

From building the right product to finding the right team, how has FirstHive evolved over the years?

The product has seen an incredible evolution at a rapid pace. In the last four years, FirstHive has had a release every fortnight, which basically means that we have had more than 110-120 releases to date. This, to me, is an incredible achievement. We have one or two major releases every quarter and the team has grown as well. In the last six months, our team has grown by 60% and we will continue to grow by another 20-30% in the next two to three months. Our geography reach has increased. We started in India and went live with our commercial beta in August 2016. In the initial 14-15 months, our focus was on getting the product to work the way it was envisioned in India. Post that, we started taking baby steps outside India and today we are a company headquartered in the USA. While we are focused on the US market, we continue to nurture the Indo-Pacific market with presence across India and Singapore.

What are the challenges you face when pitching the platform to customers? Do you face the same challenges across countries?

Our customers are large consumer marketing enterprises. Most of our customers are among the Global 2000 & Fortune 500 companies. So, if you look at the nature of the opportunity or the method of buying, it isn’t different across geographies because of the type of companies that we deal with. We don't go to the SMB customers, where you see dramatic differences between different geographies; developed v/s developing economies or high-frequency markets like India versus relatively low-frequency markets like the USA. There are a few nuances that vary in every market, in the way relationships get built, sales and certain legal clauses but those are marginal differences which are to be expected. The most interesting thing is the opportunity landscape for customer data platform across Asia.

Globally, CDP is a relatively new term and space. If you look at the global evolution of Martech, you've seen two waves of digital transformation. In the first wave of digital transformation, companies took a decade or so to transform and interface transformations took place; websites, mobile applications, social presence, and the success was gauged by vanity metrics. The second big wave of digital transformation was around internal automation; companies upgraded their work tools and improved their internal workflow efficiency measures. Now after the digital transformation, for the first time enterprises have seen an overwhelming amount of data coming in. The big inflexion point for digital was when budgets started getting concentrated around digital. When this started happening, vanity metrics simply wouldn't cut right. Now, you have to show what is the tangible outcome. In the current wave of digital transformation, the questions being asked are, ‘How do I use this data to deliver outcomes’? It's not just about collecting data or automation to do more of what you do. It's about extracting meaningful insights from this data and applying it in real-time as you are navigating a customer’s conversation on a journey. You do not have to make a retrospective correction when you are in the middle of a campaign.

Today with a CDP, like FirstHive, an enterprise is moving away from the traditional way of how marketing has worked - which is channel optimization, list optimization, surrogate-based marketing - to what was always the ideal endpoint. So, can the company talk to every single consumer with their respective context, in their personalized preference of channel at the right time that is right for them and not right for the campaign? Let's say if you have 50 million consumers, can you have a single brain rather than 50 different sensors, which are independently optimistic, and every single brain that's optimizing not the channels, but optimizing the journey of each one of those 50 million consumers parallelly one at a time. Also, every consumer has an independent context which should be personalized to their needs and preferences. This completely changes things, as now you are not talking about a 2% conversion rate but about how do you get an individual to respond? So, all of us would be a part of the same campaign but all of us could get different form factors, different channel messaging, at different times etc. That's really what FirstHive delivers.

India is a relatively price-sensitive market. Tell us about the strategies you follow to attain growth in this country?

India used to be only a price-sensitive market. However, I believe that India is a very value-conscious market. We see that across all of our customers as there is a lot of appreciation of the value that we bring in. It's true that the default is price and it goes back to the kind of companies that we talk to, primarily large enterprises, where the management has the capacity and intellect to recognize the value we bring in. The moment you look at value, Indian customers are no different from any other customer from around the world who look at the value price equation and not just the price.

Tell us about one account or customer win that was special for you?

Every account win is very exciting; however, let me talk about our first global win - a major CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods). This was around 20-months back, when we were at a stage where were evaluating whether we were ready for the global stage. We won this customer account in the Indo-Pacific region. We met the marketing head of the country and he really loved the product and saw the tremendous value and price that we brought in. He was paying three to four times the price for just an e-mail automation tool. We were able to unlock about four times more data than what they had before in their CRM. So that was a very satisfying win. The win was special, not because of the logo or the new region, but also for the fact that we were able to take the product without making any changes to it and deploy it at a global leader, in completely new territory with a different language. There were so many differences from a deployment standpoint. This win gave us the comfort and confidence to then take the big jump, from India to the USA.

What next for FirstHive?

We are just starting off. Our focus is on the USA and the Indo-Pacific market and we are setting up teams in the USA. In the next 20-30 months, our goal is to grow 9X from where we are today.

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