From Founding To Funding: Here's How Samaaro Became A Leading Virtual Event Platform In The Industry

Industry Watch | June 21, 2021 | Promo Feature

Samaaro Skandha Gopal

Tacnik Technology ventured into the virtual event space with its award-winning product, Samaaro, in May 2020 when the pandemic erupted and brought the event industry to halt. For the founders of Samaaro, it was important to help out their partners, who were primarily members of the event Industry. 

Samaaro quickly became an important part of the events industry's digitisation by developing a scalable solution for brands to take their events online. One year later, Samaaro is a well-funded and multi-award winning virtual event platform that has assisted some of the world's most prestigious brands, including Informa Markets, HSBC, Cisco, Vodafone, P&G and Herbalife, in reaching millions of people worldwide.

In an interaction with EVENTFAQS Media, Skandha Gopalan, Head of Marketing and Co-Founder, Samaaro, talks about the platform’s journey so far, reasons behind its exponential growth, challenges faced, unique offerings, the path ahead and more. 

Tell us about your journey since inception in 2016 (as Tacnik for gaming & events) and the evolution to finally creating Samaaro in 2020.

From left: Mayank Banka, Purnank Prakash and Skandha Goapalan

Our journey began when the three co-founders, Mayank Banka, Purnank Prakash and I quit our corporate jobs in 2016 to start an experiential technology company that offered innovative tech solutions for people to experience at physical events.

As we grew bigger and hosted more events, we sensed a void in the events industry in India, a dearth of innovative engagement solutions for the attendees. With a passion for technology, we realised that experiential technology, like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, could play a vital role in the way attendees are engaged during live events.

Innate customer obsession combined with technical expertise led to immense growth, which enabled us to forge partnerships across the events industry. Over time, we worked with organisations like the Government of India and Fortune 500 companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Cisco, Bank Of America and more. 

Consistent efforts to push the envelope in the experiential technology space paved way for national recognition when we were awarded the 20 Most Promising VR Solutions Providers and 10 Best Startups in AR/VR by Silicon India magazine. Our solutions also went on to win the Most Innovative Interactive Technology Product and Most Innovative Augmented Reality Product at WOW Awards Asia 2020.

We have always believed that events are the beating heart of any industry. And when the pandemic crippled the events industry, we felt it was our responsibility as entrepreneurs to come up with a digital solution that ensured business continuity. Besides, we received numerous requests from our existing clientele for a feasible digital solution to ensure a V-shaped recovery.

After putting together a formidable team, we created a platform in a matter of weeks, after which we shot an e-mail campaign to inform our clients about our new product. There has been no looking back ever since. 

The timing was perfect for a platform for virtual events. Were there any challenges in setting up the new platform during the pandemic? 

Absolutely. There were a lot of challenges, especially in the face of the pandemic, which compelled us to work remotely. But we at Samaaro have always believed that in adversity, lies an opportunity. The time was ripe for the event industry to shift to a digital platform, and we knew we had our task cut out. 

To begin with, the biggest, and the most urgent, task at hand was to build a product that met our client’s diverse requirements for all sorts of events ranging from marketing events to internal R&Rs (rewards and recognition). We quickly put together a talented team that went into overdrive to develop a platform in under a month. The fact that we were working from home back then made the task more daunting, but with effective team-collaboration, we were able to buckle down the challenges.

Another major challenge was to build a platform that was easy to use. An intuitive platform that the organisers could rely upon and the attendees found easy to understand. Replicating a physical event experience on a digital platform was no piece of cake. Moreover, with different zones or spaces like the virtual lobby, virtual auditorium, exhibition hall, breakout rooms with various features resulted in a steep learning curve for both the organisers and the attendees. So the priority was not only to deliver an immersive 360 experience, but also to make it seamless for all parties involved.

So the key to success was to listen to the clients’ and attendees’ feedback very carefully and keep improving the platform continually. Today, we can proudly say Samaaro has been leveraged by more than 500,000 people and more than 1,000 brands across the globe and each one of them have helped us improve the product in some way or the other. We are seeing better engagement and higher client retention than ever.

After the successful launch of our platform, we shifted our focus to building a full-fledged virtual event platform that offers a holistic virtual event solution, at the same time attracting more attention, driving long-term demand and deepening end-user engagement.

There are several virtual event platforms in the market. How is Samaaro different? Tell us about its unique features and versatility that allows hosting a variety of virtual events.

The DNA of the company has always been to develop innovative technological solutions designed to engage; the only change is in the way we deliver our solutions. 

Our focus right from the beginning has been to build a virtual event platform for large business events like business conferences, trade shows, exhibitions, fairs etc, where there is no limit to the number of attendees, exhibitors or the duration of the event.

The organisers of these events don’t make revenue from the sale of tickets. Most of the events we host are free for attendees and the revenues are driven by sponsorships and exhibitors. Hence, Samaaro offers plenty of branding opportunities and sponsor driven engagements like quizzes, games and workshops that drive high ROI for them.

Moreover, having been in the events industry in the past, we realised that without engagement, large virtual events are not feasible. Existing platforms in the market at that time provided ineffective networking and abysmal engagement options, two aspects that are intrinsic to business events. One simply can’t expect the attendees to stay longer on the platform without much to engage with.

What makes us stand out is the fact that Samaaro is built and designed to help our clients drive maximum engagement, foster networking opportunities, generate business leads and generate tremendous ROI.

Another standout feature that we provide organisers and sponsors of the event is a powerful exhibitor dashboard, that not only enables them to manage the event judiciously, but also provides better branding opportunities during the event which boosts brand visibility and generates more leads. 

Additionally, Samaaro also offers AI capabilities and an intuitive analytics dashboard which combine to provide organisers with valuable insights that can be used to make informed and data-driven decisions. Clients can pick whatever pack they deem fit as per their requirements. 

Coming to Samaaro’s versatility, we have been in this space for over a year, and we have received a lot of distinct queries. To cater to all of them, we have our own pricing model that includes three tiers: Lite, Pro & Ultra. This allows our clients to choose the solution based on their requirement. 

With the Lite version, users essentially get access to our web conferencing solutions, using which they host virtual conferences, summits, alumni meets and internal events for employees, whereas the Pro is built for large-scale events like virtual expos, virtual trade shows and virtual fairs, making it ideal for marketing and sales events. The Ultra version is where we have pushed the limits. It is our flagship model and allows the client to customise the event as they like. 

This is how we let our clients host any type of event, with complete freedom to pick and choose features and modify the event as they like, and I am glad to say that this approach has paid off and has helped us pull ahead of our competitors in the market.

How does Samaaro create an immersive experience for organizations? 

I believe it all starts with the visuals. Samaaro is one of the very few virtual event platforms in the market that offers 3D visual capabilities, which not only helps attendees of the event have an immersive visual experience, but also helps organisers create a unique IP around their events and showcase their brand logos more creatively. 

But simply having great visuals is a job half done. Attendees need to be engaged smartly, and this is ensured with Samaaro’s unmatched engagement features like Interactive polls, session reactions, activity leaderboard and gamification to name a few.

Another pivotal aspect of business events is networking, without which virtual events would lose their edge. With features such as one-on-one chats and audio/video calls, AI matchmaking, breakout rooms, virtual events on Samaaro are never short of networking opportunities. 

Let’s talk numbers. In one of the events we organised in collaboration with Informa Markets, the Renewable Energy India Expo (REIE), which was attended by nearly 10,000 people from 109 countries, 40 percent of the attendees initiated conversation with the exhibitors, which is indicative of Samaaro’s networking capabilities. 

Our clients also get the option of integrating software and tools for CRM, Emails, Video Conferencing, games and more. We provide our organisers with complete leeway to customise the event as they want, which is the reason behind our 100 percent customer retention rate. 

Has the platform been developed in-house? Does it employ any partner technology? 

Yes, the entire platform is built in-house by our talented team from scratch. We partner with many technologies like Zoom, Vimeo, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Hubspot and Google Analytics based on the client’s requirements. 

Tell us about your work in the last few months and one of your unique/challenging projects.

We have been able to onboard a lot of clients from across the globe in the past four to five months, and the demand for our product is only growing, both in India and abroad. As the virtual events space is maturing, the demands and expectations of the clients are also growing, which presents us with a great opportunity to scale our product further.

Although when we started out, our specialisation was in virtual expos, trade shows and fairs, now we help our clients host all types of events, including virtual conferences, alumni meets and parties. 

I’m also glad to say that people are taking cognisance of the magnitude of the problem we are solving, and we have been receiving national and international recognition. 

In October 2020, we were listed among the Top 30 Tech Startups In India during YourStory’s annual flagship event, TechSparks 2020. Later in April 2021, we were also named the Top Performer in the Virtual Event Category by Sourceforge, and subsequently, we were also named the Product Leader in the Event Management Software Category by CrozDesk. 

Recently, we also raised an angel investment of $125,000, which included investments from Richa Kar of Zivame, Naman Gupta of Swiggy and Kedar Gavane of Comscore. This will not only aid us in making our product development efforts more robust, but also enable us to reach and penetrate global markets. 

Faith from investors in an early-stage startup like ours is a huge morale booster and is indicative of the fact that we are headed in the right direction.

One of the most exciting projects recently was a hybrid event that we hosted for a client based in the US. And since this was the first time we were hosting a hybrid event, this project was also very special. The client wanted to host a hybrid conference that catered to both live and virtual audiences, and a lot of custom features and spaces were developed to meet the client’s requirements. As things are starting to normalise in the west, we are expecting a surge in the popularity of hybrid events, mostly towards the end of 2021, and we are ready to seize the opportunity. 

What are your plans for the immediate and long-term future? 

From organising a small product launch for 500 members to organising international virtual trade shows and expos for unlimited attendees, we have come a long way as a company. However, as a startup you never really stop expanding, especially considering the market we’re in, where possibilities are endless. 

The plan for the immediate future is to strengthen our marketing arsenal, establish a global footprint and penetrate international markets like North America, Europe and the Middle East with the funding we have raised. Our SaaS Virtual Event solution would help SMBs, Educational institutes and startups all across the globe, who have been reluctant to host events to date, host immersive virtual events easily and cost-effectively to build a community around their brand.

Soon enough, there will be an ecosystem in place where attendees will be able to find, share and attend events together from any part of the world, breaking all physical barriers that keep limiting us from being a global community.

We, at Samaaro, are a group of extremely passionate and hungry individuals who are determined to solve the problem that the event industry is currently faced with.  While we are proud of what we have achieved so far and the trajectory we are headed in, it is still a long way to go. Our goal is to establish Samaaro as the global frontrunner in the virtual event and the hybrid event space, and we are making huge strides towards it.

“Mayank and his team are dedicated and focused with customer satisfaction. They have a very good understanding of event elements as well as technology which can support the elements. Working with the Samaaro team is fun. They are super professional and passionate about their work; we highly recommend their services,” said a spokesperson from Wizard Events. 

As things start to normalise in the west, the company expects a surge in popularity of hybrid events towards end-2021, and is ready to seize the opportunity.

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