Learn from our community entrepreneurs! In this interview, Naman Sarawagi shares the story of building and growing Refrens, located in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
Hi! I am Naman, co-founder of Refrens.com, an operating system for Freelancers and agencies. I'm a 32 years old entrepreneur, based out of Bangalore, India. Refrens is a B2B marketplace to generate more leads. At the same time, Refrens helps to manage backend work with various free tools like invoicing, expense management, and many more.
Mainly, I look after the fundraising by pitching to various investors for this 2 years old startup that is now scaling up quickly. Also, I am the product and marketing manager at Refrens. This means that I lead the teams to build and grow the platform by focusing on various aspects including marketing, PR, and designing.
I am responsible for ensuring that Refrens keeps up with customer expectations. Therefore, I look after adding/amending various features on the platform, to make it more user-friendly and to keep up with the latest technology trends.
Our business model is simply matching the demand supply in the freelance market and charging a fee-for-service. At Refrens, we are building India’s most powerful platform for finances and growth.
In 2009, I did my engineering in Computer science. While everyone was joining the campus offers from service companies in India, I decided to take a different path.
I joined Freecharge, as their first Product Manager. At an early age, I lead both the Technology and Marketing teams at Freecharge. I worked from scratch to build its first 100k users.
Post-Freecharge, I joined ZipDial, again I was the first PM here. We built the product from scratch. This was an idea which I had independently conceptualized at college. I started as a Product Manager at ZipDial moving to Enterprise sales and into Marketing in my final months. ZipDial was acquired by Twitter.
I had the entrepreneurial quest in me from the beginning. That is one of the main reasons why I did not join a service company right out of college, which most students do. Even though I worked as an employee at Freecharge and ZipDial, being among the early hires gave me the entrepreneurial freedom to build great products.
These experiences were a good learning experience and motivated me to take a plunge into entrepreneurship. After ZipDial, I ventured into my own and founded FindYogi.com. We focused on consumer electronics and built a profitable business with over 2M monthly users.
I met a lot of good freelancers during my course of growing multiple startups but finding them and interacting with them was tough. It looked like a good market to solve problems for. After consulting a lot of established startups, in 2018, I started working on my second and current venture Refrens.com.
Refrens was launched to solve the delay and inefficiency freelancers face when collecting payments from different customers. It is possible to create an invoice within 30 seconds on Refrens. We are trying to build a system around invoicing, not limiting the platform to just invoice creation which by the way is free forever. One can generate quotations/proforma invoices, track expenses, generate TDS/GST Reports.
Along with an invoicing and payments service provider, Refrens is also a marketplace, designed for B2B service providers including designers, software developers, accountants, marketers, consultants, etc. Our focus is on the growth of individual freelancers and agencies.
The initial challenge in any startup is to get the first set of users. We faced this challenge at Refrens also. We entered a crowded market with some of the players being at a very mature stage. Getting the first few users was the key. We called a lot of prospects and handheld them to lift their data from their existing platform to Refrens.
We were relying on growth through the marketing of the product. Although the product is free, as mentioned, our target audience is used to getting an in-person demo and extensive hand-holding for initial adoption. We solved this through better design. Instead of designing like a traditional invoicing system, we started with the assumption that our audience has never used an invoicing system before. This helped us win a lot of new customers.
I believe we are still evolving, every single day. I have a great team that is very agile and due to this, we can iterate fast to match our user’s expectations.
We created a USP by focusing on the ability to capture the client-vendor relationship which allows businesses to network among themselves to generate qualified leads.
We use multiple techniques to market our products and create awareness. We use SEO, SEM, Social Media, Content Marketing, Email based retargeting to reach our customers.
We heavily rely on SEO and advertisements to get traffic to the website. For us, social media platforms were not effective to increase the customer base. We have tried a couple of hacks around Facebook groups and pages but weren't successful in driving mass attention. We are now focusing on other platforms like LinkedIn, Quora, Instagram, and Pinterest for brand building and awareness.
Apart from that, we are interviewing various prominent freelancers in the Indian market to increase our reach. Along with that, we are focusing on link-building strategies like guest blogging to get higher search engine rankings.
If you are a solopreneur, startup, or small-medium business owner, and would like to share your story, expertise and thought leadership, then please answer an online interview questionnaire. Your feedback on building successful teams can also help fellow entrepreneurs learn to scale. We’d love to feature your journey in our community.
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