Meet one half of India’s tech ‘Billionaire Brothers’

Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia

As teenagers growing up in India, Bhavin and Divyank Turakhia learned about code and at the age of 18 Bhavin founded his first technology. Two decades later and his company Directi is worth over $1.4 billion.

Directi is a group of companies, across the world, that encompass technology, online marketing, online payments and communications.

Bhavin recently sat down with Business Leader Magazine and spoke about his recent business venture in Europe and the UK – Flock.

Please could you explain what Flock is and what it does?

Flock is a real-time messaging and collaboration app for teams that speeds up and simplifies communication, greatly boosting employee productivity. It comes with incredibly powerful features including integration with Google Drive, Trello, and many other programmes as well as a slick, easy-to-use interface.

Flock also offers a platform for developers, FlockOS – the world’s first chat operating system. Developers can build customised apps, bots, and integrations on top of Flock and either use them within their organisation, or publish them on Flock’s App Store, making them available for all Flock users.  Flock also comes with its own, pre-installed apps, built on top of FlockOS. These apps boost productivity and improve task and notification management. For example, developers can build customised apps for organising company meetings, or even apps to book taxis right from within Flock.

How did you get the idea for Flock?

The idea to be an entrepreneur struck me early during my school days. By the time college was over, I started experimenting with a few ideas that gradually matured into successful businesses. It was in 1998 that my brother Divyank and I co-founded our first company.

I’ve always believed that technology is the answer to a lot of the problems currently in people’s lives. It’s our job to invent and re-invent to make the best use of current technology. At some point I realised that team communication as a category had become a stagnant space, with little or no development. There had been no significant change in the way we communicated at work over the past decade, and while email continues to be a mainstream communication tool among teams, it hasn’t really evolved. At the same time, our activities have become much more team-oriented and we need to be able to respond in real time to many challenges in the workplace. Thus, there is a clear need for tools that let users collaborate in real time without any gaps.

This is why we developed and tested multiple chat applications. When we were convinced of the results of our various experiments, we finally launched Flock in 2014.

How is Flock funded?

Flock is completely bootstrapped and has no external investors. Flock currently offers a free plan, and a pro plan which is $3 per user per month where teams have the option to upgrade selected users. We also plan to offer an enterprise plan, which will give users everything in the pro plan and more. For this, we’ll charge an additional one-time cost for setting up on-premise deployment.

Our pro plan has considerable benefits for users. The key difference is that while most of our competitors ask enterprises to pay for all users, we only charge for users whose premium features have been activated.

What has been your biggest challenge when launching Flock?

As with all disruptive technologies, Flock also had its share of challenges. The biggest challenge was getting organisations to make the switch from email to a real time mobile communication and collaboration tool.

Which customers are currently using Flock? How many customers does it have?

Flock has a userbase of over 25,000 companies. The names on board with Flock include Tim Hortons, Vmware, Mothercare, Victorinox, RICOH, Avendus, Princeton University, Skin Laundry, Craft and others.

How do you see the enterprise messenger market developing in the future, both in the UK and globally?

I have been observing the European tech industry and it has been growing significantly during the past few years. We have seen sustained innovations and momentum in key tech hubs including London, Madrid, Berlin and Paris. As enterprises increasingly adopt secure enterprise messaging technologies, the market in the UK will continue to grow. We estimate that there are less than 5 million users of team messengers across the globe, and the potential market size is about 300-400 million users. Thus, while there are many competitors in the market, we believe that there is enough space for everyone.

How does Flock compare to other enterprise messenger products such as Slack?

There is no denying that the top players in the space, such as Slack or HipChat, have a large user base. They enjoy some of the benefits that come with being early movers in the space. However, within just two years of its launch, Flock has seen a 200% year-on-year growth and been “the first” in its space for multiple initiatives. Already loved by over 25,000 companies, Flock became the first messenger to introduce multilingual support for non-native English speakers in Spain, Brazil and Russia. Flock was also the first to integrate mailing list functionality into its core app, as it soon realised that email as a channel of communication could not be replaced completely, and would always predominate in certain contexts.

Here’s a list of 44 reasons we have prepared to draw comparisons between Flock and Slack.

As part of this, how do you see Flock developing in the future?

The next few years are going to be crucial for the adoption of team messaging apps across the globe. Newer ways of communication and collaboration are going to become an indispensable part of our lives, and I see Flock as one of the leaders in this category. We want to gain not just a large chunk of the global market share, but also offer our users the most competitive, innovative and efficient solution for their communication needs.

Why did you decide to launch Flock in the UK?

There are so many interesting changes taking place in workplace technology in the UK. And all of these changes are driven by the fact that today’s teams are no longer tied to a desk; they are remote, agile and fast moving. Because of this, their medium of communication and collaboration needs to be fast and agile. This explains the decreasing popularity of email compared to the rising use of team messaging apps.

Additionally, as productivity levels are notably low in the UK, it is particularly key that UK companies embrace new tools to help improve employee productivity. This is a key focus for Flock, and customer surveys have shown that Flock increases user productivity by minimum 40%.

It’s also interesting to note that workplaces in the UK are increasingly discouraging or altogether banning the use of personal messaging apps in the workplace. We saw quite a few concerns coming to the fore with the case of a Jefferies London banker leaking confidential company information via WhatsApp, which hit the headlines. Since then, many enterprises have announced or implemented more strict mobile device management guidelines. I think it’s only a matter of time before we completely replace personal messaging apps with messaging apps that are created from the ground up for professional set ups.

Do you have any further tips for UK workers on how to become more productive?

There are so many areas in our lives where we are operating at less than optimal productivity levels. I would say try and identify areas where you can automate or manage tasks better. Try to find and plug those holes. One way to do this is to benchmark yourself against others who do the same work, but better and faster. Once you have identified those problem areas, you can find the tools and software that serve those needs. You could find apps that are either plug and play, or select apps that are customisable and can be tailored to suit your needs.

Do you think that enterprise messengers will incorporate emerging technologies such as AI in the future? If so, how?

I am very excited about AI, followed by augmented reality, considering all of its potential applications. In the future, AI could be used to replace or augment the services of an assistant, including handling communication, replying to emails, etc. So many of these routine tasks can be delegated to AI. From an information management standpoint within a company, AI can be used to make internal information accessible to all stakeholders. Currently, information is not accessible for everyone or is not easily searchable. I expect this to change in the next five years, and dramatically over the next 15 or so with the help of AI.

As a successful entrepreneur, what advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

If I could give one piece of advice to anyone, I would say never compromise on the quality of talent that you hire. We follow this principle diligently at Flock and across all my companies. At Flock, we have excelled at innovating and launching unique products and features only because we have the best people on board.

Secondly, I would say that we must understand that the definition of a successful business is one where you create more value for your consumer than what you seek from them. Business models that meet this criteria are more likely to be successful.

Where do you see yourself in twenty years?

Like I said, I am personally quite excited about the advent of AI or artificial intelligence, followed by augmented reality, considering all of its potential applications. In the communication and collaboration space, AI will be responsible for making the right information available to the right people, and easily so. In the coming few years, it would be really interesting to watch ways in which our apps will speak both on our behalf and with us, with the help of AI, for example, automating small tasks like setting meetings, leaving room for knowledge workers to pick up more important tasks. Conversation facilitated by AI will be more effective.

Along with that, I also see myself being involved in the education sector and the microbiology industry. I see these two segments of the ecosystem developing drastically over the years, with an overall impact powered by technology.