India startup offers events, ticketing tools

Founded in 2009, Bangalore-based startup Ayojak clocks 600 percent revenue growth in one year and now has rebranded itself in a bid to reach out to a wider audience.

We all have heard of EventBrite, Amiando, Picatic, Ticketmasters, and many such event ticketing services before. Well, one popular platform in India was Ayojak. 


Started by Signure Technologies, a product innovation company based in the U.K. and India, recently rebranded itself Explara to try and reach out to a wider audience. The site launched in 2009 and had a remarkable growth after founder, Santosh Panda, moved back to India and focused on its operations.

"600 percent revenue growth in one year. This is why you should move full-time into your venture," said Santosh said in an interview with NextBigWhat a few months ago. 

Signure Technologies was founded in 2007 by a team that has been part of FTSE100 organizations and successful products such as BBC iPlayer, eBay UK products, Cyclone Commerce, OnStation, William Hill, Spoke Software, and Vodafone ER product. 

Santosh shared some details of his startup with me, including why the startup decided to rebrand itself and its future plans. He said the rebranding was to position the company as an events discovery and tools platform.

From Ayojak to Explara

In 2008, while Santosh was bootstrapping and had just failed in one of his former startups, he encountered a radio ad that was looking for a venue and an event organizer. That's when he decided to deep dive and explore the events management industry.

Initially the startup targeted venue booking and event listing as the first product, and Ayojak went live in September 2008. However, the company found the venue booking space not scalable as venue owners would source leads much cheaper via classifieds and offline agents. That's when his sales team received suggestions from event organizers to provide an event booking tool.

"That was our moment to pivot Ayojak as a provider of ticketing and event management solutions," said Santosh. It launched its product in Sept 2009 with the vision to make event industry technology efficient.

In 2010, the company received two enquiries from South Africa and Philippines for Ayojak to go into these markets. That's when Santosh and his team decided the startup would need a rebranding at some point of time. But before they explored bigger markets, they had to ensure they got the Indian market right first and understand operational challenges that would help them serve other global emerging markets.

Santosh said Ayojak was designed as a B2B (business-to-business) platform for event organizers, enabling them to tap its platform for ticketing and registration. However the team couldn't offer excellent engagement for consumers searching or exploring new events.

Hence, Explara was positioned as the events discovery and organizing platform in the same way Amazon operates its platform for seller and buyer. The company supports long-tail events, or events that are small to medium-sized. Most of these event organizers have just one or two people in their company.

Explara has seen good growth in this market since 2009, growing from five events per month to over 300 per month currently. Their customers are cost-conscious and the Explara team observed that the only way to succeed in this market is to empower event organizers by solving key painpoints and reducing the operational cost of event management and ticketing.

Explara has secured funds from some of India's most prolific investors like Rajan Anandan, Ravi Gururaj and others from HBS Angels, Blume Ventures, Kishore Warrier, and Ravi Trivedi. Before raising this angel fund, it bootstrapped for over four years with the director's own money. It reaches out to customers via online and field sales, via inbound marketing, affiliate channels, associates, and word of mouth.

What makes Explara different

What differentiates Explara is its one-stop platform designed for events listing, payment processing, and promotion and sales management, said Santosh. Unlike other competitors, he said the company's platform supports different types of events, for example, ticketing for the entertainment industry, registration for conferences and expo, registration for webinars, fundraising for NGOs/non-profit institutions, and a simplified RSVP tool for attendee management.

Hence, he added that Explara offers simplified ticketing and registration for an event organizer and for different types of events on one platform.

The vendor offers a freemium model for free events. For paid events, it has two models: 

1) Do-It-Yourself, where Explara charges a 1.99 percent service fee; and 

2) Customized, where it charges 3 percent to 7 percent, depending on the premium and customized needs.

The vendor earns between 2 percent and 7 percent of every successful ticket or registration.

Santosh has decade of experience in the software industry in U.K., U.S., Finland, and India. He also has extensive experience in product development, consulting for FTSE100 companies and startup companies across the globe. Some organizations with which Santosh was involved in building products include BBC iPlayer, eBay UK, Cyclone Commerce, OnStation, William Hill, Spoke Software, Vodafone, and Allianz Cornhill Insurance.

Santosh has been setting up startups and Explara is his third attempt in achieving startup success. His team consists of ex-entrepreneurs, analysts, global startup engineers, and deep-domain experts.

"We are fanatics about [providing] excellent customer support, and we maintain good relationship even if somebody is not our customer. We believe in long-term existence rather than short-term gain, don't believe in traditional pattern of thinking, believe in skill development rather than a great degree of education, and believe that entrepreneurship is the best way to build better society," said Santosh.