Indian startups of all sizes are raising record amounts of investment funding this year and getting public exits, as we’ve been covering in recent months. To hear more about the growth behind the numbers we caught up with Ayush Srivastava, a co-founder of growth marketing group Growth Folks (and a growth marketer at Zynga by day).
The organization, which describes itself as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” began as in-person events for growth marketers across major cities, but made the jump to online networking during the pandemic. From there it began an online speaker series for its 1,300-some members, introduced more community networking groups and virtual events, and one-on-one mentoring.
In the interview below, part of our ongoing series profiling growth marketers around the world, he says India’s startup scene has quickly gotten more sophisticated about growth in recent years. Companies are centering high-quality user growth as a shared team goal, not as a side job, and are thinking more creatively about where and how to find users. “I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier two-three cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown … they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.”
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
You describe Growth Folks as “India’s largest community of growth enthusiasts,” with more than 1,300 members. What does “growth enthusiast” mean to you, and how does that term define you?
The terms “growth” and “growth marketing” have picked up a lot in the last five years in the Indian startup ecosystem. All of a sudden there are more than a million heads who are interested to be a part of this circle or are already a part of this community. This had a positive impact as more and more people started to look at their growth problems and not only just promoting their business. For us, growth enthusiasts are everyone and anyone who is even one percent excited about how to grow a particular brand/service.
How did the focus and efforts of Growth Folks change during the pandemic for community engagement?
In the pre-COVID era, Growth Folks was heavily functional in the offline space. We used to manage and engage the community online but most of the efforts went in and success used to come from the offline activities that we used to organize. From December 2018 through the end of 2019, we organized more than 80+ offline events in nine cities of India. These events were previously panel discussions, industry talks or seminars followed by networking sessions.
[H]owever, once COVID came into the picture, our operations shifted completely online and I must say the shift was quite smooth but exciting for me. We started hosting biweekly online webinars with industry leaders and tried giving our community folks (and new attendees) a look and feel of the physical event in the form of this virtual gathering so that they feel connected.
Ever since lockdown began, we have done over 25+ events and have had speakers from companies like SEMRush, Baremetrics, Zynga, Indigo Airlines, Adjust, Myntra and many more. Not only this, we started a lot of interesting threads on our Facebook group to get people to engage more. Within the same period, we launched our website to give people an idea about all our services.
We made sure that we are having dedicated networking sessions after the webinars for people to interact with each other. In October 2020, we relaunched the online version of “Brunch Sessions” that we used to have in the pre-COVID times. These brunch sessions helped the fellow community people to come together on a single day and interact and chill with each other virtually. We started producing more online content knowing the fact that this could be a way to have a value add and it worked.
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Growth Folks is multifaceted, offering traditional growth marketing services as well as hosting a “growth hackathon” and community activities. What can a startup expect when working with Growth Folks? How is it different from existing services?
We have been virtually able to connect with so many people and we continue to do so … [W]e started something which is called “growth huddle.” It is a highly curated one-on-one mentorship session with a few of the best talents out there in the growth space. You can book your session and we will take you through the entire process to make sure that the session is right on point and you learn what you want, not what we want.
All of the mentors who were onboarded vary from experience level to expertise and provide the right set of guidance needed for individuals and startups to grow further. We also partnered with startups and companies for various online events to promote them and make sure that the right voice reaches out to the right set of people who matter to them — the Growth Folks. We have collaborated with companies like Adjust, Microsoft, Rocketium, Canva and many more and we have been able to make people learn the right things.
What are startups doing better now than ever before? In India? Around the world?
Companies have started realizing the true importance of having a fully functional growth team and they have started acknowledging their one metric that matters as well. The growth marketers have also started setting up a lot of experiments and have taken a data-driven approach to solving a problem. Now, I see many startups going out of the box and putting in efforts to find new ways of acquisition. They haven’t restricted them to acquiring users via the traditional ways and that’s why you see so many ideas going viral so easily. And all in different ways.
I see so many founders not restricting themselves to hiring just a growth marketer for leading all growth initiatives. Rather, they have spent time understanding the importance of it and have ended up building a full force growth team of marketers, PMs, tech people, designers, etc. I feel that is the best way to look at any growth problem statement.
I am amazed at how the startups are focusing on tier two-three cities here in India. With the pace with which internet access has grown … they are making sure they are solving the problem faced by rural Indians as well. [I] just love the fact that proper solutions are being built in the right manner for the concerned pain point.
Lastly, companies have started considering the importance of the entire customer experience more seriously than ever before. This is helping brands to grow via communities easily and create a strong brand presence.