Interview with Ankur Nandu, Co-Founder at Canvass

Canvass-Firecart Overview

[This interview is sponsored by , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit]


Canvass is a marketing software that aims to help businesses on four fronts, lead generation, lead nurturing, marketing communication and marketing automation. It is not just another marketing software but a comprehensive marketing operating system. It provides ready templates and marketing workflows that the business can use to launch and track their marketing activities. It also has an analytics engine that provides valuable insights about the campaigns being run so that the business can optimize their marketing efforts. The interface being provided is also hassle free and the users can run marketing campaigns for their businesses using a single dashboard with options such as email marketing, SMS marketing, referral programs, customer feedback etc.

Canvass was founded by Rahul Lakhani and Ankur Nandu in 2011 during their MBA at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. The company already has a number of clients in India but is also exploring markets in the rest of the Asia for business opportunities. The software is being offered by the company as a SaaS tool with a recurring subscription fee based on the number of lead records uploaded and the features desired.

Let’s learn a little more about this innovative company that is combining marketing and technology.

Give us a snapshot of your professional journey till now.

Born & brought up in Mumbai, I did my Electronics engineering from Mumbai before doing my Masters in Electrical & Computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in the US. Thereafter, I worked for a few years with Cisco Systems in the Silicon Valley on a next generation wireless product that allowed applications to be built on top of a wireless infrastructure.

At this time, I returned back to India to pursue my MBA at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. It was at ISB, that my co-founder Rahul and I started Canvass.

When & how did the entrepreneurial bug bite you?

I was greatly inspired by a few words that Prof. Abdul Kalam spoke at a session while I was studying at Carnegie Mellon. One of the students in the audience asked Dr. Kalam, what kind of opportunities does India offer to students who have pursued advanced education in western universities, to which Dr. Kalam responded that ‘young, well educated Indians studying abroad should not be worried about opportunities that India offers, but instead should contribute towards creating opportunities for others’.

It was clear that I would like to drive a company by myself as soon as I would have a chance. At ISB, I was very fortunate to meet people from diverse backgrounds and as luck would have it, found a great co-founder as well, to start a company together.

With a clear intent, some luck & support from family, the Canvass journey began.

What were the early days at Canvass like?

The early days at Canvass comprised of a lot of meeting prospects, brainstorming activities, building an MVP, hard work and fun. It was a game of patience, yet we were hungry for growth and kept experimenting. Essentially a lot of hustle to identify the product-market fit. Also, since both of us founders had worked in the Silicon Valley, we started the company out of a garage (HP, Apple & other inspirations) in Mumbai – both to keep costs low & stay grounded


Can you please describe what a typical day at office is like?

A typical day at office is a mix of reading up on latest news, interacting with existing customers & prospects, planning features & new projects, helping in resolution of tech issues faced by the team, pursuing hiring activities, closing on any open company level discussion with the co-founder & mentoring the next level of tech leaders in the company.

Can you tell us about the technology stack used at Canvass?

We strongly believe in the concept of building applications for scale and hence we build on the cloud extensively (AWS, Heroku). In terms of the stack, we use a mix of Java, NodeJS, PHP, PostgreSQL, Mongo, Javascript, Angular, RabbitMQ, Git & a bunch of other web technologies. We are relatively technology agnostic & use the appropriate technologies as deemed necessary or useful.

Is there any technology that you’re personally betting on to help you scale up?

If you are referring to the technology stack, we are betting on the cloud – Amazon Web Services (to provide a reliable infrastructure) to scale up our applications. In my opinion, scaling up an application has more to do with the architecture you create to build the application, rather than a specific programming language or technology.

How are you using Business Intelligence and analytics at your company?

We use BI & Analytics in two ways. Firstly for internal use where we observe our product usage & are able to attribute specific usage of product to specific types of customers. This allows us to keep tab on key product level performance metrics & fine-tune our marketing activities.

Secondly we use it as part of our product to allow our customers better segmentation & marketing for their own products.

How else does technology help your company stand apart from its rivals?

We focus on building great scalable, modular cloud based applications for our customers, which is what people want today. We really differentiate ourselves in the sense that our DNA is of a product company that believes strongly in smart automation. We focus on lean methodology fundamentals, building with the idea of reusability & developing in quick sprints.

What has been the biggest technical challenge you’ve faced while running Canvass?

Although not a technical challenge, hiring like-minded, smart yet humble individuals & growing the team quickly has been tough.

What are some of the attributes you look out for in prospective technology employees?

There are three things that we look for in any prospective employee –

  • A positive, Can-do Attitude,
  • Ability to think scalable & modular, and
  • To be able to execute independently.

How do you keep up to date with the latest happenings in the technology world?

I try to spend at least half an hour every day to read up on the latest happenings on the technology space via other popular blogs such as techcrunch, mashable, etc.

What gets you excited about coming to work every day?

Working with incredibly smart people, taking on new challenges & helping make our customers successful keeps us excited about coming to work everyday.

What sets Canvass engineering culture apart?

Canvass engineering culture is of a can-do attitude, willing to take on difficult technical challenges & then pushing each other to come up with awesome creative solutions.

Which Canvass value resonates best with you?

Positivity and Realistic Optimism

Any piece of advice for techies out there?

Too many techies tend to over-think & over analyze, delaying taking the plunge on a big challenge.

So don’t spend time thinking. Start building.


[This interview is sponsored by , India’s leading aggregator of co-working spaces, meeting rooms and shared offices. If you have additional office space and are looking to rent it, please do list it on If you are looking for space for your startup, do visit]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *