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The Podcast for Agency Leaders

Join Kelly Campbell twice a month as she goes deep into what it means to lead a creative agency, with interviews discussing leadership, culture, mindset, and more.

Episode 116: Agency Bandwidth Solutions, with Manish Dudharejia

 

 

On this episode of THRIVE — sponsored by accessiBe — Kelly and Manish Dudharejia discuss the continuous need for additional agency resources and the benefits of a white label partnership solution.

 

 

Kelly: Welcome to Thrive, your agency resource, the only podcast for creative media and technology leaders who are ready to dive deeper into conscious leadership and agency growth. I'm your host, Kelly Campbell. Thrive is brought to you by accessiBe, the leading web accessibility solutions provider. Join thousands of agencies that are already incorporating web inclusivity into their service offerings. Visit accessiBe.com today.

 

Welcome back to this episode of Thrive. What I've heard from clients over the last five or six years prior to the pandemic, is this continuous need for additional resources to either fill specialized gaps or to handle overflow work that they have. So today I'm actually talking with Manish Dudharejia who's the CEO and founder of E2M Solutions. It's essentially a white label agency for agencies. So if you need website design, development, ecommerce solutions, SEO content, marketing, things along those lines, this is exactly what they do as a white label solution. So Manish, I am so excited to talk to you about this because it is such a pervasive issue with so many agencies, including my own when I had it many years ago. So let's talk about these like bandwidth solutions for agencies because there's so many out there.

 

Manish: Sure. Thank you Kelly. First of all, thank you for having me on the show. Really appreciate it. And likewise, I'm also equally excited to speak about this specific issue and how are we solving that. And, hopefully, the listeners will get a thing or two to learn from this.

 

Kelly: Yeah, of course. So I'm really curious when you started E2M, why did you go in the direction of being a service provider for agencies? What was that sort of maybe a light bulb moment for you, where you realize that this was necessary?

 

Manish: Yeah, you know what? When I started this agency nine years back in 2012, before I started, I was doing a lot of research. And I obviously have had two options where I could have gone to the direct clients or I could have gone to the agencies as a client. So we have a headquarter over here in India. And my core expertise is hiring and training people and creating a great culture over here. And then I was like, okay, what if someone is filling up a shoe of doing sales and business development. So there is someone who is really interested in doing sales, branding, strategy, marketing, and like that, but they really don't want to be into a position to hire people, train them, creating a great culture, and like that.

 So I thought there was a huge gap where there are a lot of agency owners, they are really good at like sales, business development strategy side. They really do not want to get into the operation side. Right? And specifically, the delivery side, because it has its own pains. And, obviously, cost is one thing, but there are a lot of things other than the cost. So that's where I thought, okay, how about, if I just focus on one area, which is kind of like, solving the bandwidth issues, and not solving two problems, where I really don't focus on, doing sales and marketing and like convincing clients that this is the good technology for you. And like discovery phase, and like that. Instead, we kind of decided to be part of an ecosystem where someone is focusing on one side, which is kind of sales and business development, bringing clients on board. And then we come into the picture, we become kind of like solve the bandwidth issue, and become a part of the team and help them deliver what they commit to their client. So that was the first reason. Second thing, absolutely, agencies is a competitive space, right? Agencies would like to close more business.

 And specifically, if you're catering to small to midsize businesses, your prices have to be competitive, right? And that's where, we thought, okay, we would be indirectly helping small to midsize businesses by offering a competitive price to our agency partners so they can lower their prices as well, where they can be still competitive. They can be still profitable, but competitive as well, while using white label team in the backend where they do not have any additional overhead expenses. So kind of like, the idea was that, where do we want to fit in this ecosystem? And secondly, how can we help small and midsize businesses to have cost-effective solution to go online and succeed online?

 

Kelly: Right. I love that you describe it as an ecosystem because I think that that's really just like a very apropos term here. And on the flip side of that, I would imagine that, there is some skepticism on the part of the agencies themselves, right? I could imagine as a host of different sort of misconceptions and common questions that you're probably answering day in and day out, as you're talking with agency owners and leaders. So can you talk a little bit about kind of some of those things that you have to address when you're engaging with an agency?

 

Manish: Yeah, absolutely. No, this is kind of common questions we get every now and then, very often. So I think, initially, when we started, we were just having a local presence over here. And gradually, I realized that if I really want to understand the US market, we have to have a company established there. I have to be there. So five years back, I decided to incorporate our company in the US. So we have a sequel register in California. We have an office in San Diego. I lived there for one and a half year. I traveled a lot. I met our clients in person. I traveled literally like 30 plus states in the US, and 40 plus cities in the US as well. So I kind of like tried to understood the gap. So, generally, agencies always have a skepticism that, okay, when we work with an offshore team, or white label team, they do not understand what we commit to our clients, what is the value of turnaround time, what is the value of quality, and what do we commit to our clients?

 Would it be delivered with absolutely same commitment, right? So I kind of fill that gap over here, where I understood I have studied the US market, specifically. I met so many clients. I kind of understood their pain points to work with a team. And that's exactly I have trained a team over here. So we are close to 150 people working at E2M. So, we have created our leadership team, where we have trained in a way, not what our organization needs, but what our clients need, and what are the pain points we can solve doing that. So having a local presence there, kind of like helps them to build a trust that technically they are dealing with a local company.

 And also, what we do is, we have defined processes in a way which goes hand in hand which are kind of aligned with them. So, usually, what happens is that agencies work with us, they always think like, okay, when we do an outsourcing, we sometimes have to train the team. We have to explain them the process, and we don't want to work with a vendor, but we want to work with a partner who can understand what we are committed to our client, and they exactly delivers the same. So, I have tried to do it over here where I have defined and designed the processes where we really do not deliver what we want, right?

 We absolutely deliver what actually their clients want. So first thing we always ask them that okay, what have you committed to your client. We always work as a team, where we decide mutually what are going to be the deliverables and what are the turnaround time and what is the expertise. We do not recommend clients to commit to something which we do not have an expertise or we cannot commit if we cannot deliver basically. So, I think yeah, that's the common question we get. The other thing is obviously, outsourcing is kind of like cheap and quality issues, and like that. So, I personally believe quality is the most important thing, quality is something we are obsessed about.

 So, we are 10 dedicated QA engineers, who just work on a quality site, making sure that we delivered so we have defined great SOPs, great checklist when it comes to building the websites, delivering, launching websites, and doing QA like that. So generally they face an issue where agencies do not have their own standards, checklist, SOPs. And in an ideal world, when you are working with a freelancer or just an agency, would just have an approach of getting things done. They do not have all these things, processes, SOPs, standards, checklists, and like that, and they kind of have like one person for everything. So, we're here.

 We have a different process, generally what happens in outsourcing, communication is the major challenge and barrier. So, because of the language barrier, what we have done here is we do not lead developers to communicate to clients, our agency partners. We help process where they will have always a single point of contact, whoever, like fluent communication skills, they absolutely communicate very clearly. So there are no language barriers, which kind of make their life much, much easier, because now, when they would like to engage with us for different kind of services, they have to talk to multiple point of contacts, multiple people, and they have to always juggle between different people.

 They have to explain the same thing to multiple people. So all the time, I have kind of analyze the pain points. And sometimes they are bad because they're outsourcing in terms of they have committed, I think the most important thing I have observed is transparency. Okay, so usually, they always feel that, they are kept in dark. The white label partner or outsourcing partner, they do not communicate things clearly. So transparency is something we have in our foundation, where we kind of like make sure that we do a very transparent communication. So there are these kinds of challenges we get to hear literally, every now and then. And we have no specific solution for that. [Commercial]

 

Kelly: So it sounds like collaboration is a big piece of this. It sounds like being process-driven is a big piece of this. The transparency and communication, and just communication in general. So yeah, that's great. And I also was really impressed with speaking about all of these kind of like, questions and misconceptions and things. I was really impressed with the FAQs list that you had on your website. As I was going through that I was like, wow, they really have covered almost every single thing that I would have wanted to know. So good job there.

 So yeah, we're talking about some of those pain points or some of the skeptical nature of the agencies that could engage with you. Let's talk a little bit about the benefits, because I think that that's really important to talk about as well. When you're working with a white label team that you trust, and I did this with my agency as well for some specialized services. There are so many benefits, right? Whether they're offshored, nearshored, it doesn't really matter. There are really a tremendous amount of benefits. Now that you've worked with over 100 different agencies in the US and Canada and Australia, what would you say are the top three biggest benefits that you see your agency clients realizing through the process?

 

Manish: Yeah, that's a great question. I think, first I would obviously put as a cost because what is happening is that we are kind of a full service white label agency. So, having partnership with agencies like us, will kind of put agency owners in a situation where they do not have to hire different people for different kinds of skill set. So let's say, if there is a full service agency, then they are doing like websites, they are doing ecommerce stores, they are doing SEO and copywriting and like that. So having like, a one-stop shop for everything which kind of gives them a peace of mind where they are not juggling with different people for different things. They have a single point of contact. So that is the first benefit and cost.

 When you hire like multiple people for the same thing, while instead they can hire, they don't have how to hire different people, right. And specifically, if I talk about the full project, so full project unit is designed, you need a developer, you need a QA guy, you need server people, right? You might need an SEO consultant as well. So you are kind of hiring five people, but here you are hiring like one person who is doing everything. So that saves a lot of cost. And obviously, the currency conversion, and like that, that kind of gives them a huge benefit. So usually our cost is 1/3 of the work cost in the United States, and what agencies charge over there. So that's where the cost helps them to increase their profitability. That's the clear benefit.

 And there are no overhead costs, and we'll talk about our business model, but we have a very flexible pricing model where there are no any hidden costs, no overhead costs, no retainer fee, no long term contracts. So that kind of sales, they are only paying for the services they use. So that gives them a lot of cost benefits. So I would definitely put cost as the first benefit. The second most important thing is the flexibility to scale and down. So, I designed this business model in an agency, our agency in a way, we never force our partners to work to lock into a contract. It's purely month to month, right? So I understand, code specifically has taught all of us that things could change at any point of time. Right? Not every day is the same, right?

 

Kelly: And they will continue to do that.

 

Manish: Yeah, absolutely. Regardless of COVID. I think we live in a world where it's very fast, evolving, and growing. So what the market is, right now, it could change a year from now, right? So agencies need change, specifically, if we talk about regardless of the size, whether it's like solo agency owner might have just one project, but they might have 10 projects down the road. A small to mid-sized agency, they have a really great volume, but specifically holiday’s time, they do not have a great volume, and they do not want to pay continuously on the same although they are not using the services.

 So the flexibility and scalability is the most important thing where they can decide, like however, resources, however, they want to work at whatever capacity they want to work, and scalability. So, if they have a project tomorrow, they will scale up; if they do not have a volume tomorrow, next month, they will scale down. So the flexibility and scalability, it gives them peace of mind that, okay, I do not have just my monthly cost, where if I don't have a volume, if I don't have a projects work, I'll just simply scale down. And whenever I have a work, I can scale up. So the flexibility and scalability is the most important thing. And the third thing I would say is, having multi-tech step, right?

 So, in a traditional world, if you hire a WordPress developer, they are just going to do WordPress things, for an example, right? But here now when they hire a dedicated developer, they are getting like WordPress, Shopify design expertise, SEO expertise and copywriting expertise, like that, because they are hiring a team over here, not just one expertise. They are hiring kind of a white label team. So that's the third most important benefit I would put is like, having an access to multi-tech stack partner, because it's constantly evolving. Now imagine, I mean, you have run an agency.

 So you had a client tomorrow, they will need a custom web application. A day after tomorrow, you will have a client who will need like robust Shopify Ecommerce store which needs to build on solid because that's a need of a project. You cannot just like have a WordPress expertise and keep selling WordPress thing, right? Because you have to understand your clients requirements. And accordingly you have to propose the technology solution. So, that's the third benefit, I would put is like, having an access to team where they have an expertise on multiple technologies.

 

Kelly: And so, in that process, are you also engaging with the agency either directly with the client in like discovery calls or maybe even after a discovery call to kind of brainstorm with them? What technology solution might be best for a particular project are you getting involved or is your team getting involved that early on?

 

Manish: Yes, we do, maybe even a normal thing. Generally, for agencies, they already decide the technology by themselves and they do the discovery phase. And once the project is in, then we get into the picture. But a lot of agencies, partners, we help them during their pre-sales process as well, with no obligation where they kind of share the requirement with us. We recommend them, okay, this is the technology best for, this is what they know, proposal cost looks like timeline deliverables, and they use it our proposal and put it as a white label and share with the client.

 So yeah, we definitely get involved. We help. So we do not work in a fashion where we just like take the project and get it done. We have a very consultative approach. So we let our partners use our resources as well, our checklist, our standards, our processes, and like that, right? Even sometimes agency owners use our portfolio in the offline word. And we never let them ask to put it publicly. But yeah, we let them use our resources, we educate them, we help them during the pre-sales process, we help them with that.

 

Kelly: So what I hear you saying it's sort of like the through line for this whole conversation is that white label, even though it could have had a negative stigma years ago, really it has elasticity built into it, if you find the right partner. And so, what I hear you saying a lot is about collaborative partnership, right? This isn't just a vendor relationship, right? This is really a collaborative partnership where you're being very transparent, not from a communication standpoint only, but also in like, hey, these are the processes that are working for us.

 If you don't have those in your agency, please take ours if that can help build your agency, and then we can handle the projects on the backend for you. That's great. It feels very reciprocal, which is kind of what I like about it. Yeah, I just wanted to say that because it was coming up for me, as you were talking, I felt like this through line of the collaborative partnership. And I think that is your business model to your point before, because I do want to touch on that even your business model feels very collaborative to me in the way.

 It's not locking people into a yearlong contract, or just the ability to have that, again, flexibility or elasticity in terms of, if I need to be on this subscription plan this month, because of my project or workload, but in a month or two from now, if that needs to kind of drop, even down to zero for a period of time, and then back up. And I think just that flexibility feels very inviting. It's very invitational. So can you talk a little bit about how agencies will typically determine how they might engage with a white label service provider like yours? Like, how did they enter into the ecosystem as you call it?

 

Manish: No, absolutely. So before I go there, and I'll touch base on the point you mentioned earlier, I think when we work with over the course of last nine years, we have worked with hundreds of agency owners at present, currently, we have 110 active agency partnerships. So, agencies, you like to say, we do not act like a vendor, we take some time to educate our partners that okay, this is something working really well for other agencies that can work really well for you as well.

 In fact, we are in the process of building a very practical and actionable guide on how to use your white label team effectively. So how to get the most out of it. So we are in the process of putting that actionable guide, which will be out in like a week or two. So, yeah, that's definitely there in terms of business model. So what I did, in an ideal world, ideal white label ecosystem, there are three pricing model. One is kind of like, a fixed cost model. The second is like ad hoc, or time and resources material model. And third is a dedicated model where the resources agencies hire on a dedicated model.

 I found a problem with all these three models. The fix cost, it's kind of like every time agency owners have to come to white label partners and ask for the code and then, they add their markup and with ad hoc, kind of like, it's an hourly basis where they sometimes, white label they have to deliver to their clients depending on the availability of their white label partners. And in a classic dedicated model, if they hire a WordPress developer, they just get WordPress expertise. If they had a Shopify development, they just get Shopify expertise, right? So, three years back, I decided to change our business model completely back in 2019.

 We have productized our white label services. So, think like that. We have designed different plans considering the agencies would have, on a given day, they would not have a higher volume, where they can sign up, like for a small plan, and always scale from there, where we do not limit ourselves to just one expertise. And also, it's kind of like, well, they can get it done anything. So we have designed a model, where they can get like unlimited projects done for unlimited number of their clients where they hiring a team, where they have a ready team. They don't have to train.

 And we kind of have a process where we ask them, in the first month we understand their processes, their project collaboration tool, like that. So it's a business model where there is a flat monthly rate, no hidden cost, no retainer fee, and there is the list of expertise, and the number of hours, there is a range of number of hours. So it's very 100% crystal clear model, and it's purely month to month. We do not lock them on the plan for a long period of time. We can change the plan at any point of time, literally at any point of time. They can downgrade at any point of time, upgrade at any point of time.

So, that kind of business model gives a very peace of mind. So whenever we speak with agency owners, they kind of like, okay, this is something we never heard of. So now they know, we have a trained team. They know their monthly costs. They know the expertise they have access to, and they have peace of mind. And we have like, a very good process where we kind of educate our partners, agency partners that okay, which plan is the best for you. Sometimes they sign up for the wrong plan, and they do not utilize the hours, then we educate them, no, this is not good for you. Because you do not have a volume. Right?

 So you better downgrade to this plan or upgrade to this plan. And also, like with scalability, there are a lot of agencies we work with. There are tons of volumes, and then we give them like good offer, where they sign up for our services for a long period of time. They get over the discounts as well. So we kind of like have a very consulting and customized approach. So although we have productized our white label services, where we have plans to choose from, a flat monthly rate, very transparent pricing model, but still we get on the call, we understand their needs. And help them choose the best plan.

 So here now, they do not have to ask, they do not have to come to us every now and then that, hey, I got a client, what will be the cost, because in the backend, they already know this is what my cost is in a monthly basis. And what happens, now they have a small help they need, maintenance need, right? Now, imagine you are going to your white label partner and ask them, okay, what is going to cost, like their partner will get back to them within 24 hours, then they will reply too. So here in that process, literally, they will lose two to three days. But here, they know they have a team. They will just send the request and it's getting it done. Right?

 So it's kind of this unlimited thing where we do not limit as long as they have projects and work related to technologies expertise we have. They can just literally send anything for any one of the advantages. We identified agency owners’ louder collaboration tools, louder project management tool. And when you work with freelancers, if not bigger agencies, what happens, they are not adaptive to be part of agencies collaboration tool. So we have designed our plan where we actually let our project managers become part of their collaboration tool. So now, they have everything under one thing. So if they use Asana, for example, then they have their clients on Asana. They have the renounced team. They have the project managers, and they have our development team also part of their Asana.

 So I think we have designed over the nine years I have learned a lot and decided, okay, that let's design something which solves all the problems rather than following the traditional models. So we still do a fixed price model, but that says 20% of our business, we have like 70 plus agencies who are signed up on either of these plans right now. And they are loving it. A lot of agency owners, we speak with them, and they are like, okay, this is something, we did not know, until we speak with you right now. So, I think this business model we have, where we are also solving the problem, it's not just about the cost, right?

 It's about like how we help them at every step to help them focus on growing their agency and scaling the agency, rather than spending unnecessary time and communication to like get a quote, and add your marker and then share with your agencies, share with your clients, and like that. The other thing I always faced is like when you work with like project to project, your point of contact keeps changing with your white label partner. Here we give decide one point of contact, they learn everything about agency processes, standards, so we make sure to adopt that. And we have a guaranteed respond back of 12 to 24 hours max. So under any of our plans, this is the major problem I saw that like, turnaround time where the agency partners do not hear from their partner in like, for two days or three days. So we kind of like have a guarantee 12 to 24 hours of time in terms of turnaround time, wherever it's like responding to clients’ acknowledgement or getting the task done.

 

Kelly: Yeah, and I like the flexibility and the adaptability, rather, that you talked about with utilizing the agencies project management software, whether it's Asana, or Basecamp, or Trello, or whatever, they're using task project management software, or task management software, whatever it may be. So I think there's so much efficiency kind of built into that as well.

 

Manish: Yes. And then that also like solves the bandwidth issues, right? Because sometimes, they need more bandwidth. And they’re just like unlocking more bandwidth. It's just an email, becomes an email away, or, like downscaling the bandwidth also just becomes an email. So the flexibility is the most important thing because I believe that ethics is the most important thing to run the business. So, I think if you are not creating a win-win situation in any anything, be it like business relationship, any kind of relationship, it's not going to work out for a longer period of time. So we have kind of tried to come up with a business model, which creates a lot of premium for all the parties.

 

Kelly: So, I know that you've created a very generous offer for the listeners and viewers of Thrive, which I greatly appreciate and I know that they will, too. So if you head over to e2msolutions.com/thrive. Manish is actually offering 20% off your first month of subscription service, so you can get additional information there if you want to try out the service. I definitely recommend that you give it a go. And again, I'll put that link into the show notes. Manish, thank you so much. Such a generous offer. And also just really enjoyed this conversation with you today.

 

Manish: Thank you Kelly. Thank you for having me also. Thank you so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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