A 100-Day Sprint for Positive Unit Economics


VAssist Services provided visa consultancy and fulfillment services to Indian nationals via an online portal. Funded by EQT Partners, which also owns VFS Global, VAssist was a digital portal that allowed visa applicants to enter their travel details and upload necessary documents to get their visa without having to visit an application center, except for routes that mandated interviews. When I was hired in 2017, the unit economics stood at negative $100 and EQT was yearning to turn that positive.

Building a Cross-functional Growth Team

I started with a meticulous data analysis of their situation, breaking down different phases of the customer journey and documenting the areas for improvement. I recommended assembling a growth team by combining resources from functions like marketing, product, design, web development and operations.

We soon restructured the team, rejecting traditional ideas of organizing by function and hierarchy and drawing inspiration from the Tribe Engineering Model popularized by Spotify. We now had a Lead Squad to bring relevant traffic to the website, a Conversion Squad to ensure sales from this traffic and a Fulfillment Squad to process the applications and deliver the visas. We started working in weekly sprints for incremental improvements to the system.

Spotify - Tribe Engineering Model

Strategic Overhaul to Curb Losses

The strategy was overhauled in three parts. The first was marketing cost optimization by reducing or completely eliminating spends on activities that did not contribute to conversion, while improving the output of digital advertising campaigns to drive high-intent traffic to the portal at a lesser cost.

The second was a strategic selection of countries to target. Till that time, VAssist had been prioritizing the UK and USA, given that the commissions were higher on those routes. However, I tested routes like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand and realized that the average pax count was much higher, delivering attractive ARPUs at the cost of a single conversion.

The third and final element was executed in the form of a CRO project that led to better conversions and perfectly complemented the marketing revamp to increase the overall cost efficiency in customer acquisition.

Positive Unit Economics and Growth

In less than 100 days, the unit economics had improved from a negative $100 to a positive $15, which further grew to $30 over the next month. At that point, I started populating the top of funnel with more website traffic so that overall revenues could start turning significant.

To further enhance revenues, we launched new services like preparing customers for their visa interviews, especially for USA applicants. Customers could pay and sign-up for consultation on a dedicated microsite and choose to avail the service either in-person or on a video call. The offering was an instant hit with anxious customers and generated additional revenue.