Mentza Session: SaaS and the rise of no code tools  -> Listen to the recording here.

Rohit: Hosting the session SaaS, PLG in the New World order. We have two speakers with us, Bala and Anirudh. Can you guys hear me? 

Anirudh: Yes. Hello everyone. 

Rohit: Yeah looking outdent 

Bala: Hey everyone Bala here.  

Rohit: Hey Bala, thanks for joining. Hey Anurag, I see Achyuth, I see Shaveta. Thanks for joining. We have an interesting session today. Well look, we’ve been talking about SaaS, PLG and other aspects for quite a while but there is a huge uptake in no code tools in the recent past and in this session, we’re going to talk to two people, one is, I have two guests. One is a programmer who’s about 10 years old and he is one of the world’s youngest azure certified programmer and his name is Anirudh Shri Ram.  

I’ll call him in a second to introduce himself. And then I have an entrepreneur from a common community I know called Bala who’s running an organization called Zorp one.  Well, why don’t we start with Anirudh for a quick second? Anirudh, can you please tell us a quick introduction of who you are? And what you do? 

Anirudh: I am Anirudh. I’m a young tech enthusiast. I am the world’s youngest power platform certified and Azure certified professional. 

Rohit: How old are you Anirudh? 

Anirudh: I’m 10 years old. 

Rohit: And Anirudh actually built a very good project that he did launch on product hunt and he’s building a couple of other projects. Why don’t I ask Anirudh what he builds? Anirudh, why don’t you tell us what you’re building? 

Anirudh: So, I’m building Ani-code website builder for building websites using no-code and Ani-slides builder for presentations. 

Rohit: And what are you? What does the Ani-code website builder do? Can you talk a little more about that in detail, please? 

Anirudh: Yeah, Ani-code is a drag and drop website builder. You can easily drag and drop blocks using it. You can drag and drop blocks and easily create websites. So, then Ani-slides is a slide builder, but it’s very customizable because it uses HTML and JavaScript to render it. So, it means you can add anything that you can add in HTML and JavaScript. 

Rohit: Very cool, very cool. So, Anirudh what is the motivation for you to build a no-code tool? Why did you start building this thing? 

Anirudh: So, to make it easier for kids and adults to easily build websites without coding using drag and drop. So, the no-code tools let people across the world build different products and applications without writing code. Before no-code tools, building simple websites took weeks or months using experienced programmers. With no-code tools, this time is reduced and websites can be built by everyone without learning programming. 

Rohit: And what technology did you use to build your no code? 

Anirudh: I used HTML, JavaScript, and CSS to build it. 

Rohit: Ah! Very cool.  

Anirudh: And Blockly. 

Rohit: Blockly. OK. So, Anirudh one more question before you do anything. How did you learn coding? From when have you been coding? Can you talk a little bit about your coding story? 

Anirudh: Yeah, it all started when I was a four-year-old. I discovered a few Lego pieces in my torches. I built a minion with it. Impressed by my creation, my dad gifted me a Lego plastic kit. I knew it was the beginning of a new adventure. 

When I was five, my grandpa brought a Lego Boost Kit to program the motors and sensors to build moving robots that is in block programming. The block programming language was not that powerful. So, then when I was six my uncle brought me a Lego Mindstorms kit. And from that, I built many moving robots with it.  

Then what I wanted the EV3 language was also not that powerful. Then I started learning Python. There was a tool called EV3dev which converts Python code to Mindstorm suitable language. So, I started learning Python. Then I was interested in Python. So that was my foray text-based programming and AI and no code. From then I learned HTML, JavaScript and started creating my own no-code tools create websites and I’ve created a YouTube channel called Tech with Anirudh to post my tech videos and Ani-Lego robots to post my Lego videos. 

Rohit: So, all of you listening, you can see the power of programming and how a young programmer like Anirudh is trying to do things. He’s working on a few more secret projects that we cannot talk about it yet but he will soon be announcing them. I wish him all the best. Thank you, Anirudh for being here. You can continue to stay on, chime in if you have some points. 

Anirudh: Yeah, thanks. 

Rohit: I would love for you to kindly mute yourself for a second. So, Anirudh, that was Anirudh. That was fantastic. Hey Bala. Bala is another fellow co-founder. He’s doing some interesting things. Bala, why don’t you do a quick introduction of yourself and what you’re doing? 

Bala: Hey thanks Rohit. Yeah, first of all, I’m actually blown away by Anirudh, right? What he’s been able to do. I’m kind of dumbstruck actually. Yeah, so about me.  

I’m Bala Panneerselvam so I’m a co-founder of platform called Zorp. We are Zorp. one. So, we are an early-stage startup. What we try to do is that we are a no code platform with which businesses can build native applications for their mobile workforce. Right. That’s what we have been doing for the last one year. And yeah, anything else you want me to add? 

Rohit: No, I would say Bala talk a little bit about the origin and then you know, we all understand the definition of what a no code mobile platform is. Talk a little bit about the origin, what led you to create this? Always, we’re interested in figuring out why we chose no code as a situation. You know you saw some patterns and stuff right so. Because everybody in the SaaS world has programmer. Why still no code? Why make it even more simpler. What is that? 

Bala: Got it yeah so, the yeah so, my mental model in terms of how we think about no code is, I think no code is a term that’s been quite prevalent in the last few years. But I know people who have been programming with Excel sheet for the last you know, since Excel actually existed, Excel and macros actually existed. So rather than writing like pure programming code, people have been building applications on top of existing tools for a while, right? The way I think about any of these so called no code tools is that it covers an abstraction layer so that people can easily build their own logic. 

Rohit: OK. 

Bala: Because the threshold for you to program today is very, very high. like for you and me to go or I can’t talk about you sorry. But for me, as a non-programmer but still a tech savvy person to learn a new programming language, go and build software using code is almost impossible unless I dedicate several months of effort into that, right? So, the threshold for somebody to get in building products is actually very high. No code is simply an abstraction layer which makes it easy for people to build applications by providing some prebuilt blocks. OK, so that’s the mental model I have now.  

The same principle applies to whatever you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wants to build a website. Earlier people have to learn HTML, JavaScript and everything. Today they go into web flow, drag and drop a few ready-made components and the code is automatically generated in the backend. So, you, the tools are slightly more robust. The tools are slightly more at a high level abstraction. But you kind of get the same output. So, that’s what we are actually doing for internal mobile apps.  

Somebody doing for websites, Anirudh is trying to do for like websites you have, you know back end applications. So, all these applications are some levels of abstraction. Yeah, one good analogy to think about is like what you can design with Photoshop versus what you can do with Canva or Figma. Right? So obviously you can do anything and everything with Photoshop. But the amount of time it takes for you to get something out is like very, very hard.  

So, what Canva actually did or Figma actually did is that for a specific use case, in case of Canva is like marketing collateral in terms of Figma, it’s for product designs. They abstracted out all the things that is not needed for that particular use case and build a platform around it. 

So that’s kind of how I actually see this, and that’s why I think more and more people are understanding the ability for people to build software based on certain business logic for specific use cases. It is easy to moderate as no code platform. Rather than a simple SaaS stream, there are limitations with SaaS platforms is the workflow is like predefined. Right, and given the kind of business environment where everything is changing every few years you can’t build a fixed or rigid business workflows. 

People always need flexibility because it needs to grow when the business actually grows. So, building it as a no code platform gives you the capability to scale rather than building it as like a simple SaaS platform. 

Rohit: Fantastic, let me ask you this Bala. This is a look. I come from the SaaS, PLG world right. Can we still build a robust SaaS application completely on a no code? I mean how is it different from a platform as a service kind of thinking. Or is it the same thing behind it? Because you guys also use the same scaling techniques.  All of that is abstracted out that level. 

Bala: Yeah, so if I may understand what you’re saying, can I actually build a full-fledged application just using no code? Is it? Is that your question? 

Rohit: See application I’m not worried about building it. What I mean is an enterprise-grade application. What I mean by that is when I build an application that supports 20,000 users with a certain amount of speed and definition on a platform like yours, I mean you can but the thought processes, is it mature enough at this time or are we still looking at for point solutions? Well, that’s a question of learning, not in terms of any criticism or observation. 

Bala: Yeah, got it, got it So I’m a very avid user of like, no-code platforms, right? So, when we build Zorp,  we didn’t end up like writing code from day one. We tested the hypothesis with a lot of these no-code platforms, see if it actually worked. Then we ended up building our platform. Right, so based on that experience. 

When you build a platform as a no-code platform, the thing we are sacrificing for is business logic. OK, so which is what I used to call an unopinionated versus an opinionated platform. No-code platforms are largely unopinionated because you don’t bring in the business logic. You simply give the building blocks. 

Whereas SaaS platforms are super opinionated so when you have opinionated and you’re building in business logic. You can make those smaller efficiencies where your platform is faster. You don’t think there is, people are going to add custom logic etc. But no code that something you actually sacrifice. That’s exactly why a retool definitely is much lower than when you build it with your internal apps. OK. 

But there is a large caveat to it. The caveat is that it’s not like retail is actually slow, or any of these platforms actually slow. The caveat is that how do you make the business user understand that whatever custom logic is adding or whatever the additional code or API is actually calling through the no-code builder is inefficient. Right, because your user is largely non or how do you say not like a typical developer who’s looking into efficiency so so closely.  

He is building an application that solves a purpose from a business point of view. That means from a coding point we will not look at all those efficiencies etc. Hey this API is taking a longer time. How do you optimize it or what is the right way to put in that logic so he doesn’t think about all of those things. So that’s where the largely inefficiencies creep in. 

So, you look for, one of the examples I take is like retail who have done this well is they show how much time each of your API’s take. So that you have an understanding of where my delays are happening, you can go and correct it. Right?  

Similarly on our side, what we actually do is that we kind of highlight to the customer saying that, hey, this process is going to take this much time and this inefficiency you’re actually seeing there’s something you want to optimize or we internally also have some limitations on how much time an external API can take, etc. These things we actually put in place. 

Rohit: So, who are your consumers on this kind of thing? Because like every technology, maturity has a certain thing, right? See what I mean by that is if I am building a SaaS business on a no code tool and I want to implement my growth methodology. I want to recruit users and I want to go to such maturity. What kind of customers are adapting you today and this is a very open question. I know you are also discovering the market and stuff like that but I just want to kind of get some thoughts from you on what you are seeing as strength for tomorrow.  

Bala: Yeah so, see for us, we are largely focusing on product managers, okay or people in that persona. So, the reason for that is, we are building like internal mobile applications and largely one of the reasons why customers come to us is because they don’t have engineering path to build these platforms. Like last year, they run on Excel sheets and other things. But to build an application I fundamentally believe that you need to understand technology. You need not be a coder but you need to have a sense of how technology works. So that’s where the product manager becomes a good persona for us. At the same time, like other platforms are like very very different. Like when you look at something like web flow that is very different. Somebody uses a API that is very different.   

So, it depends on the application you are using and what needs you are trying to solve. Like to give you an insight right, for us more than the features or more than their usability, the reliability of the platform and the scalability of the platform become very very important because we are ops, people are on the ground like low-end mobile phones, they use it across.  

They use it probably 15 times a day compared to any customer-facing mobile application. So, for me, reliability becomes much more important. Scalability becomes much more important because we have customers who have thousands of people using a day. So, the kind of decisions we make is very different from, let’s say, another platform. 

Rohit: Fantastic. Fantastic Bala, this is so much fun learning. We have a 3 minute closing session. I just want to ask a couple of questions and round up. One thing I want to plug in, Anirudh I know, because he’s somebody who I know through a friend and he’s their kid, here’s a quick question for you. If you’re open to an internship whenever you want to do that, I would love for you to connect to Anirudh then I’ll connect you to him if that’s something that you’re open to. Just giving the kid a chance to do internships and stuff. 

Anirudh: Thank you. 

Bala: Oh, you were telling me Rohit? 

Rohit: Yes, I was asking but if you’re open to. 

 Bala: Oh yeah, I would love to. Yeah, I’m actually planning to reach out to Anirudh after this. 

Anirudh: I would also love to do the internship. 

Bala: Amazing yeah. Yes see this is fantastic, yeah? 

Rohit: And both of you are in Bangalore. That’s why I wanted to connect the dots there. This one is good thing. Bala one thing that I’m trying to say is when you develop no-code tools, what is your good market? Is it a sales-based good market or you’re still thinking of this as a organic growth or retrial? How are you thinking of all this. 

Bala: Yeah, see the like the fundamental tremies of how we are trying to solve this is. My root thought of how we started building this that the people I worked with internally who run ops, they use crazy stuff with Excel sheets. So, I know People can build good logic given the right platform, right? So, I want to enable these users without waiting on you know engineers and other folks to build something further. So, that is the fundamental principle we actually building this with. 

So, we know that people will be able to use our platform very easily and build a lot of stuff. But the discovery or how they arrive at the platform or creating the first application, they may not be like super comfortable with. OK? So while we are largely self-serve driven, our customers on board themselves and start using the platform. 

We do offer a lot of support to our customers so that they get onboarded onto the platform. Because once they get onboard and people figure out, people will do all those changes by themselves and they start learning over a period of time. 

Rohit: What you’re saying is, even for the SaaS self-serve, you hand hold in the onboarding but other than that, it’s still primarily self-serve, experience yourself but get help from the platform owners’ kind of model, correct?  

Bala: That’s correct, yeah. 

Rohit: So, folks, this was a fun, fun conversation with Bala and Anirudh. We were talking about how no-code tools have taken a rise in the SaaS. You heard from Anirudh who’s a 10-year-old programmer who has previously built a no-code SaaS web builder. You heard from an entrepreneur Bala Paneerselvam, whose building Zorp.one, a no-code tool that helps for the mobile workforce. Both have a perspective. Both have a place. They’re doing something so interesting. I think SaaS and no-code tools are going to be a continued story, and self-service is going to be a continued GTM methodology.  

I want to thank all of the listeners for joining in. This was a fun, fun session. Will share the recording very soon. Thank you. Bye. 

 

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