Why you need to research your Salesforce ISV solution (Trails Podcast episode #8 with Kanan Gafarov)

Introducing Trails Podcast, an engaging series guiding you through the dynamic Salesforce ecosystem. Come along as we delve into the pathways of innovation, transformation, and achievements enabled by the Salesforce platform.

  • Published 18 Dec 2023
  • 7 mins read
Why you need to research your Salesforce ISV solution (Trails Podcast episode #8 with Kanan Gafarov)
Table of contents

Episode eight: Kanan Gafarov, Co-Founder at TraveLite​​

Join us in this episode as we delve into the perspective of Kanan Gafarov, Co-Founder of the TraveLite app, discussing the importance of thorough research and understanding what gap in the Salesforce and travel CRM markets you can fill. Explore his journey, gain insights, and discover valuable tips.

Could you please introduce yourself and tell us about your journey with Salesforce?

Our journey with Salesforce started in 2012 – a long time ago. I was introduced to Salesforce by my partner, who was part of a technology ecosystem. By then, he was developing and working for other companies in the Salesforce ecosystem. I was part of a corporate environment working for Nokia Siemens Networks, helping the company streamline its business processes by working with different CRM and ERP solutions.  

At that time, I was experienced working with prevalent and famous systems for the business, but there is never a limit to perfection. I was always looking for other solutions in the market. And at that time, I think Salesforce invested heavily in the European market. So, that came at a time when I was introduced to Salesforce and its growing ecosystem.

We decided to join our efforts and try to do something around Salesforce. So, that's how Nubessom Consulting started. I'm currently playing the role of Managing Partner at Nubessom Consulting. I also recently found TraveLite, a travel CRM ISV application built on the Salesforce platform.

Tell us more about founding and growing consultancies successfully and how you became an ISV

We went over a massive transformation over the last ten years. We started as a Salesforce consultancy company, which is typical for everyone who started in the Salesforce ecosystem back then. That was a consultancy practice being focused on selling standard Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud.

We started as a consultancy company primarily active in Central Asia and my home country, Azerbaijan. We then slowly started growing into European locations, with the Prague headquarters.

That's how we started building the team. Naturally, since we started shifting our marketing and sales activities to Europe and working with other partners in the ecosystem, we started doing more development work than consultancy work.

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We grew our development force, earning a lot of certifications related to technology, development, and architecture. We mainly supported clients who had some on-demand development work. Those who had already purchased standard Salesforce products and were expecting to do something on top of it. 

We also worked closely with other more extensive consultancy partners in the ecosystem, who did some standard implementations but needed more development capacity and expertise. Eventually, PDO came into the Salesforce ecosystem, and the ISV and AppExchange Marketplace started growing. It also happened organically that we started supporting companies from the ISV and AppExchange ecosystem.

One of them was IPfolio, and that's how we met. This transition happened naturally, but at the back of our heads, we always thought about doing something internally, building our in-house application. The transition helped us understand the ecosystem and how ISVs work from a development and business perspective – because we were helping other companies get onboarded into AppExchange Marketplace and advance through complicated processes.

There are some business routines and security measurements that you need to understand. So, it all gave us a complete end-to-end understanding of how the AppExchange ecosystem works. Eventually, we saw that it was time to do something on our own – our in-house product. And, of course, it has a little more background because you need to know what you want to develop on Salesforce.

All apps listed on AppExchange undergo a stringent security review process conducted by Salesforce. This process includes code analysis, vulnerability assessments, and other checks to ensure the security of the applications.

From the ecosystem and background knowledge perspectives, we thought we were ready. And that's how we gave it a try to become an ISV partner at the end of the day.

Tell us a bit more about the TraveLite app. How did you come up with the idea? What is the app? Which problem is it solving? Which market is it addressing?

At the moment, we're still active in a consultancy, and we're still looking after Central Asia markets. We recently became a reseller, so this is something that we're still trying to put our efforts into. For the TraveLite app, the idea evolved from our multiple implementations for travel CRM agencies in and outside of that region.

We were implementing standard Salesforce CRM for them. We clearly understood that there is a massive gap because of how travel CRM agencies and tour operators work. Their work is entirely different from the standard sales cycle we used to have in traditional retail companies or other businesses. They have a very intensive sales cycle. Inside that cycle, there are a vast number of operational activities. And it became apparent that more than just Salesforce's CRM is required to capture all of it.

This was our first interaction with the industry. We gained some knowledge. We understood how their business processes work and the gaps and problems they're facing. That gave us the idea that building something specifically for industry players could be good. The second research step happened when we tried to understand if Salesforce is active in the travel CRM, transportation, and hospitality vertical, as they call it.

Salesforce consistently invests in research and development, introducing new features and technologies. Developers building on Salesforce benefit from being part of an innovation hub, staying ahead regarding technology and trends.

It became apparent that Salesforce sells its solution to transportation and hospitality, such as airlines and accommodation providers. Travel CRM agencies, destination management companies, and experience providers are not covered. That gave us another assurance that our idea could work out.

The last part was that we already knew how to build an ISV application. So, when we put it all together, we saw that it could be the right moment and time to get going.

We started building the application back in 2019 – right before COVID-19 started. That was frustrating because it significantly affected travel CRM agencies and the overall industry. But at the same time, we took it as an opportunity, as we would require some time to develop the application and wanted to do it properly.

It took us one and a half to two years to develop a product we eventually launched. We used this period of COVID-19 to complete the development, and in 2022, we made the first commercial launch.

Do you have any plans that you are happy to announce? Is there anything that excites you specifically about Salesforce, be it from a technology or market perspective?

We're just beginning our journey, currently running on ten active customers. From a trend perspective, we might double that number in the next year. We're investing heavily into the markets now to make it happen. The TraveLite app has a lot of potential.

Through having those ten customers on board, we understood our initial evaluation was correct. Of course, we keep adjusting and improving the solution from customer to customer, adding features, and following our global roadmap.

But the main idea remains that we're addressing the customers' core needs, bringing operational efficiency with lots of tools specific to an industry. That confirms that Salesforce is trying to move its strategy towards industry solutions but is still trying to build them around traditional CRM products.

In this industry, there are so many scattered and fragmented systems. Many new digital industry players, aggregators, and companies are trying to enter the e-commerce space. At the same time, most players are still traditional players. They're running their business old-fashioned, using many legacy systems. It isn't easy to transform their operations in days or weeks.

Considering all of the above, we're trying to deliver an end-to-end travel CRM platform built in a modular way to address different segments of the industry. But at the same time, we want to provide tools and features that every industry player needs to realize smooth digital transformation.

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I'll give you an example. We have small and medium companies who only require automating their booking processes and improving their booking ratios and reservations process with suppliers. So, they don't care about contract management. They don't care about extensive reporting. So, all they need is a booking and reservations module. We can cover their needs with just two modules within our application.

Some companies want to improve customer relationships and create beautiful itineraries. This is a considerable problem for legacy tools. They're like Excel-style tools, old-fashioned and challenging when creating quick and beautiful itineraries to support these agencies' sales cycle. That could be another module that we're offering them.

But again, we built a modular product and an end-to-end platform for travel CRM industry players. Suppose it's an enterprise or larger company. In that case, they can do an end-to-end process on TraveLite, starting with:

  1. CRM and customer databases
  2. Operational cycles
  3. Sales cycles
  4. AI
  5. Analytics.

Some features are part of a roadmap, including global integrations to improve inventory management and product databases. When I say global industry players and aggregators, this could be an aggregator platform for accommodation and flight offers. There are many different aggregators and players around there.

Our ultimate goal is to bring all of them under one umbrella of the TraveLite application, allowing industry players and travel CRM agencies to have everything in one place as a one-stop shop to operate and access different inventories, processes, and tools. So, this is the idea. And I think the roadmap is just being built up. The features are just building up because the more you implement and talk to customers, the more ideas and interesting features pop up.

It's exciting – we're looking forward to growing rapidly in the following months.

Do you have any advice for aspiring Salesforce ISV founders?

Building applications on Salesforce is advantageous due to go-to-market time and out-of-the-box features and tools available in the platform. I would encourage them to rely on Salesforce backbone functionality and research to ensure they're addressing the right industry. You will then understand the need and that building on Salesforce is not always easy. You may need help understanding how to do it properly.

With some care and an accurate approach, I recommend becoming a Salesforce AppExchange ecosystem partner. You will benefit from being an ISV partner in the future because Salesforce has its marketing advantages, which you can utilize while being at a go-to-market stage.

Did you know that according to a study by IDC, for every $1 spent on developing on top of Salesforce, there is an additional $4.14 of revenue generated in the ecosystem.

Over time, when your solution becomes more mature and possesses unique capabilities, you can improve your marketing and sales proposition. But as a starting point, Salesforce is a great platform and brand to partner with.

Find your gap in the Salesforce market

Thanks for joining us in this episode of Hutte's Trails Podcast.

Any predictions on who our upcoming Salesforce specialist might be?

Last updated: 12 Jun 2024