This man from UP makes over $10 Million a Year, solo

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This man from UP makes over $10 Million a Year, solo

Agra is not the first name that comes to mind when you have conversations about tech in India. In fact, it would be a miracle if it even makes it to the top 10. That’s why it was a massive surprise when I read about Amit Agarwal aka @labnol (he’s an original blue tick, not a paid one) who draws in anywhere between $10 million to $20 million a year in revenue through his firm Digital Inspiration.

Amit develops niche plug-ins for Google apps like Gmail and Docs. Here are a couple of them:

1. Mail Merge for Gmail: You can send personalized Send email messages that will land in the recipient’s Inbox, not the ‘Promotions’ tab. Include unique attachments, track emails, schedule messages and more.

2. Document Studio for Google Sheets: This automatically create documents with merge data in Google Sheets and Google Forms submissions.

3. Email Google Sheets on Schedule: Email Google Sheets and dashboards on a recurring schedule in PDF, CSV or Excel format.

There are a few other that he has created. Now, who uses these plug-ins? A lot of small businesses around the world. And some really big ones too: Disney, Uber, Airbus and LinkedIn to name a few.

How does he make money? He follows the freemium route. You can use his plug-ins straight up. And if you want an upgraded one, you pay anywhere between $50 to $100 per user. Mail Merge has been downloaded 8.5 million times and Document Studio has over 6.5 million downloads. He has 13 such plug-ins. A YouTube extension plug-in has over 8 million downloads and a notification plug-in has more than 10 million downloads.

Amit’s story started in 2004 when he moved to his hometown Agra after working in Hyderabad for a few years. He decided to blog on tech. Today, blogging is mainstream but back then, it was something very new. He was India’s first professional blogger. He had a first-mover advantage, and he was smart enough (he graduated with an engineering degree in Computer Science from IIT Roorkee in 1999) to take advantage of this advantage.

A few accounts on LinkedIn and a couple of interviews say that he makes $60,000 a month just from his blogs. However, he says that the actual number is far lower. But his money doesn’t come from blogs.

If you take a 5% conversion rate for each of his apps, the revenue numbers add up to $20 million. If 5% seems like a very high number, you do the math to take a lower estimate. I would think a number between $8 million to $12 million (2-3% conversion) is more likely.

Yes, you might say that Amit is an IIT guy and so he’s a lot better than you and me. But remember, an IIT degree comes in play only when you want to raise funding. If you are building plug-ins for Google, I doubt if any user is going to check who the founder of the company is. They will simply try out the plug-in, and if it works for them, they will pay for it. As simple as that.

Key lessons from Amit:

1. Find a space that has limited competition.

2. Find leaders: In 2004, he understood that the Net would change the world. When Gmail came to India (around 2005-06), he took a big bet on Google despite the fact that Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo!, and Hotmail were the bigger players then.

3. Focus on core needs.

4. Build good products.

5. Don’t rely on others. Amit is a one-man army.

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