Q&A with Manufacturing ERP Provider Syscon Solutions

Syscon Solutions was launched in Hyderabad, India in 1996. Its ERP product, Syscon Cronus, is targeted for small and medium manufacturing enterprises. In 2006 it became one of the first ERP solutions to be offered in the SaaS/cloud model. We talked with co-founder and managing director S. Vijay Venkatesh about Syscon’s startup experiences and lessons learned. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

How did your company originate — what was the original vision?

Vijay Venkatesh: Having worked for 13 years with various midsize manufacturing companies, I thought of starting my own business and started a chemical trading company dealing with pharma and rubber chemicals and representing manufacturers from Tamil Nadu, Mumbai and Gujarat.

When the opportunity came to start Syscon with one of my old colleagues with two developers, I thought it would be something which was of my type. Added to this was the fact that IT was only afforded by big corporates; SMEs could not dream of it.

Our initial idea in 1996 was to develop a customized solution for manufacturing industries. As we started, I observed that we might end up doing the same thing differently for different people. This would leave us with several versions of codes, which might make the maintenance and upgrade impossible. With all the facts, we decided to go in for a product development and tell the customers to use what we have rather than asking them what they want. We shut our marketing department for a while and went for a small loan and working capital. There was no looking back. 

Is there a story behind your company name?

Vijay Venkatesh: Syscon stands for “System Consulting” or “System Configuration.”

What are some of the challenges you’ve had that you didn’t anticipate? How did you resolve them?

Vijay Venkatesh: I always used to think, though there is a huge number of SMEs in the market, that the rate of customer acquisition is very slow. But now, instead of blaming the SMEs, I think that it is due to the fact that there are more failures than successes of ERP among SMEs in India.

It is the responsibility of the ERP vendor to bring in all the missing links to address this challenge. I learned that we needed to make our ERP product simple and also train our customers because SMEs are not computer savvy. I also recognized that SME CEOs have so many things to do that they cannot devote time to software product reviews. To address this challenge, we implement only the essential modules to start with and then scale them up step by step.

Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and where it occurred in the time line of your product development.

Vijay Venkatesh: We have learned several important lessons of being a product company as opposed to an IT services company. First, instead of asking the customer what they want, we learned to tell them to use what we have. Next, we needed to make sure any new requirements made sense for larger target clients and make sure that we take time to bring those features carefully in to the product.

Also we learned that a software product company needs a complete ecosystem including sales, implementation, support and training, coupled with training partners, technology partners, hosting partners and industry associations.

How did you find your first customer? Did it take longer than you anticipated?

Vijay Venkatesh: Everest Organics Limited (EOL) became our first customer in 1999. I met the managing director and told him about our product and vision of being a long-term committed vendor for the SMEs. We gave several rounds of demos for EOL’s core team. After four months they released a purchase order for us.

At that time our product was not fully mature in several functionalities. We have done numerous amounts of customization (almost 60 percent) and made more than 250 visits over nine months for training and implementation. Since there was no Internet in those early days, the data transfer was happening through floppy discs on a daily basis.

The EOL office and factory works online now. We are proud to continue serving EOL today after 14 years!

With our experience of EOL and the product maturity of our ERP solution we are in a position to serve much bigger clients in the pharma segment. Some of the new pharma clients have seven manufacturing units. Our implementation now takes eight to 10 visits over three to four weeks compared to nine months with EOL. We also have started remote implementation for SMEs, which is very cost-effective and easy to manage.

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Interviewstreet’s Role in Recruiting Software Developers

Launched in 2009, Interviewstreet’s recruiting tool helps companies hire software programmers. It was the first Indian company to be chosen for an incubation program at Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley seed fund. Co-founder Vivek Ravisankar discusses the company’s journey to a differentiating recruitment product. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.   

Please give me the elevator speech about what your company does. 

Vivek Ravisankar: We are on a mission to connect great talent with great opportunities in the fastest, efficient and the most fun way. We use coding challenges and contests to help companies hire programmers. Our product is used by startups (Drchrono, Matterport, etc.), fast-growing companies (Palantir, Evernote, Box, Quora, etc.) and large companies like Amazon, Facebook, Walmart, etc.

Is the contest aspect what differentiates your product in the recruiting marketplace? 

Vivek Ravisankar: There are a lot of testing platforms on the Web, but most of them focus on testing through multiple-choice questions, poor programming questions or good programming questions with no customization to the hiring company.

We worked around these parameters to build the best platform to screen programmers. It includes theoretical and real-world coding challenges that are customizable as much as possible by every customer to match their bar. Performance is measured on both speed and accuracy.

Has the tool made a difference in your own company’s recruiting? What challenges have you encountered as a startup that you didn’t anticipate?

Vivek Ravisankar: I didn’t anticipate that hiring people would be so tough. A good guy has at least three companies competing for him. It takes a lot of convincing and a lot of people talking to get the person on board.

If you could go back and start your company all over again, what would you do differently the second time around? 

Vivek Ravisankar: I would fail fast. We took a long time to figure out that our first product (mock interviews) wasn’t working well. 

Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and how it affected your product development. 

Vivek Ravisankar: We learned to test the app thoroughly before we make a major production push. It’s very easy to get hooked into the “move fast, break things” model, but it may not work if you are in the enterprise business. Your product is being used by large enterprises and any change breaks their process and flow, which is hugely unproductive for them.

This was a big learning when we almost screwed up a good relationship with a customer because of a component that broke. Since then, we have constant tests that run in the background testing every part of the application to ensure nothing breaks.

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Kreeo Makes Disparate Information Discoverable and Manageable for Collaboration

Launched in 2007 in India, Kreeo helps organizations enable information discovery, collaboration and co-creation. CEO Sumeet Anand discusses knowledge/information management solutions in a Big Data world and shares lessons learned along the startup’s journey and pivot from consumer to enterprise software. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation 

SandHll.com: Please describe your company and product focus. 

Sumeet Anand: Our key offering is the “Kreeo Enterprise” product and solutions around it.  Kreeo helps organizations to enable information discovery, collaboration and co-creation among people to synergize them as a corporate mind. We strive to facilitate better expression, creation and management of knowledge in ecosystems and to address the needs of a future driven by Big Data, open data and linked data.

Kreeo uniquely combines the strengths of social computing, application PaaS, Big Data and an interoperability layer in a unified framework. Kreeo solutions are applied to a wide variety of contexts such as market-intelligence management, knowledge-centered support, corporate KM intranet, social learning, etc.

By using Kreeo, customers can get rid of multiple application silos and can unify information from multiple sources (internal and external/Web) and make it easily discoverable and collaborative.

Kreeo is currently available for on-premises and private cloud deployments, and we are working on our SaaS offering. The product is applicable to almost all industries and we provide vertical solutions to customers for specific scenarios. Our key targets are medium and large organizations in the BFSI vertical. 

SandHill.com: There are a lot of software products for information management. What is unique about Kreeo? 

Sumeet Anand: Most of the knowledge that matters for a business is either with people or is outside an enterprise on the Web. Traditionally for information discovery and collaboration, companies applied multiple solutions such as social networks, search appliances, micro blogging, content management, document management, file sharing, wiki, blogs, RSS, bookmarking and analytics.

With Kreeo organizations don’t need any of the above as modules or separate solutions; they can do all that and much more with a unified solution that also intelligently organizes (multi-dimensionally) a company’s knowledge and interactions and makes them easily discoverable in a simple, sensible and highly secure (object-level secure access) way.

Using Kreeo, people can get access to real-time results from the Web around their interests (news, customers, competition, technology, markets, etc.) along with all that is available internally inside the company (documents, project info, support content, learning content, user-generated content, etc.).

Users can create content objects and co-edit them like a wiki object or keep them as author-editable blog posts. They can co-edit in draft as well as published mode. Kreeo provides access to near-real-time structured data (graphs, charts, tables) from sources like Bloomberg, etc. along with unstructured content created internally and from multiple Web sources.

Our solution can greatly enhance the productivity of knowledge workers across marketing, sales, R&D, strategy and operations teams.

Read the complete article at Sandhill.com

CollateBox: Cloud-Based Software Simplifies Small Biz Collaboration

Small businesses with growing lists of data are the ideal customer for U.S.-incorporated CollateBox, a software product of India-based WOLF Frameworks. Sunny Ghosh, co-founder and CEO, describes CollateBox’s value proposition and the factors that influenced its development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your product and how it provides business value for your customers.

Sunny Ghosh: Companies collaborate on lists of data with a lot of people, internally and externally, for different projects. But organizing and keeping track of these growing lists is a nightmare — from scouting mailboxes to finding the latest spreadsheet version to collect validated data.

CollateBox is a simpler way to collaborate on a list without creating and emailing multiple copies of spreadsheets. It lets users collect data from multiple sources, organize and securely share parts of a growing list with team members. And there’s no software to install; everything works online in a secure cloud environment and can be used for any business process.

CollateBox also helps companies set up processes to maintain a workflow and keep data organized, saving precious time and money. Users can also view instant notifications and summaries on every record of their data with the added ability to comment and add attachments. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your market and typical users of CollateBox.

Sunny Ghosh: CollateBox is best suitable for companies and teams with 100 people or less. It is suitable to any business scenario that involves growing lists of data. HR managers use it to work together with HR executives to qualify a list of new recruits. Companies can use it for sales leads, automatically assigning prospects to the sales team as a new lead is qualified. A marketing coordinator can use CollateBox to maintain a single list to coordinate email campaign dates with the marketing team.

Other examples of how small companies use our product include: tracking production updates and sharing it with top management, allocating service requests to support agents and visualize a summary of service statuses, and an operations manager can use it to recruit new partners using online forms and automatically collate all data in their CollateBox account.

SandHill.com: How did your company and CollateBox originate?

Sunny Ghosh: We founded WOLF Frameworks in 2006 with an aim to democratize computing by introducing savings of more than 60 percent in time and cost and with zero technical coding skill for developing and delivering new business software.

Our first WOLF product was an Online Database Application Platform. Launched in 2008, it helps database architects and application developers to rapidly configure and run all sorts of online applications without writing a single line of technical code — even for firing complex business logic. We netted over 40,000 end users during out first 30 months of business.

A year later, our Platform as a Service product was being used in more than 20 business applications. In 2010 WOLF bagged the Information Week Silver Edge Awards at INTEROP and was named GARTNER Cool Vendor Award for Platform as a Service worldwide.

In 2011, we ideated on DBMonk, which was incubated by VertExperts LLP for early validation.

DBMonk renamed to CollateBox Inc. and was incorporated in October 2011, in the state of Delaware, USA. We released the minimum viable product for selected users in 2012 and subsequently had more than 10,000 user registrations. In 2013 we signed up our first set of paid customers for CollateBox and released version 2.2 for more than 1,000 users.

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Q&A with ERP Ecommerce Company, InSync Solutions

InSync Solutions Ltd. provides ecommerce solutions for online retail businesses. Many software services companies in India are evolving to products companies. Atul Gupta, founder and managing director of InSync Solutions Ltd., describes how InSync made this transition. 

SandHill.com: When did you launch InSync as a services company, and what led to the switch to a products focus? 

Atul Gupta: We launched in October 2005 in Kolkata, India. At the time it was the only prudent career choice for me, as I was unwilling to work as an employee.

InSync was made to be a service company targeting small and midsize businesses (SMBs). But after four years we realized we couldn’t build a sustainable business with services. There were too many challenges. So we changed direction in the winter of 2009, switching our focus to products and incorporating the learnings we had gained up to that point.

SandHill.com: Did you also encounter unanticipated challenges when you started out as a product company? 

Atul Gupta: Once we changed gears and became a product company things started to fall in place. The challenges we have encountered since then are not related to building great products and delivering them to customers; our challenges since then are related to non-core activities of running the company. 

SandHill.com: What steps have you taken to overcome the challenges of an entrepreneur dealing with running a company? 

Atul Gupta: Having a strong management team / leadership team is very important, and it is equally important that they bring in unique skills on to the table. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your products and their differentiation in the market. 

Atul Gupta: Our Flagship Product is SBOeConnect, which integrates SAP Business One ERP and Magento eCommerce. SBOeConnect has gained good traction in the market so far. We have acquired the business of more than 100 Magento merchants globally with 95 percent customer retention, which means the customers benefit from our product.

SBOeConnect is the number-one choice for an ecommerce platform among SAP Business One users. Our market focus is on SAP Business One ERP users in the retail industry.

As to differentiation, no other ecommerce solutions have the capability of back-office ERP, and none of the ERP systems so far have been able to come up with a compelling ecommerce solution.

Businesses need to use multiple systems to be functional. We help businesses keep their investments in multiple systems intact and yet be efficient by integrating these systems.

Read the complete interview at Sandhill.com

Q&A with Seclore CEO on Information Rights Management Software

Often, enterprise goals of security and collaboration are mutually exclusive. Seclore, with customers in Asia, Europe and North America, resolves that dilemma. Seclore’s CEO, Vishal Gupta, discusses Information Rights Management trends as well as development of the company’s IRM product. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

SandHill.com: Please describe your company’s software product and your market.

Vishal Gupta: Seclore is an information security software product company. Our core technology enables information to be “remote controlled.” So you can send me a document, image or email and then, after 10 days, if the relationship changes, you can press a button on your computer and the information will effectively vanish from my computer! Sounds Mission Impossible? It is definitely doable.

During the 10 days you also can control whether I can edit, print, forward or copy-paste from the document, image or email. You can also monitor who is doing what (tried to print the document) with the information, when (on Sunday morning) and from where (from his home computer).

The mission of the company is to help enterprises achieve the mutually conflicting goals of security and collaboration together. We currently have customers in the financial services, engineering services, manufacturing and defense sectors across three continents.

SandHill.com: How does your product differ from other security products?

Vishal Gupta: Seclore’s technology is different because it allows information usage to be controlled without the prerequisite of everyone installing a local agent. It is the most integration-friendly Information Rights Management (IRM) system in the world. Any person or system within the enterprise that is creating documents or emails can use Seclore’s technology for securing the information.

SandHill.com: How did your company originate?

Vishal Gupta: Seclore came out of the IIT Bombay incubator. The company was initially a campus project, which became a company. The company was launched with the specific mandate of providing a secure outsourcing solution to enterprises looking to outsource business processes. Over a period of time we realized that what we had created as a solution to a specific problem was in fact applicable in a much wider context.

The formal operations of the company were started in June 2006. The name Seclore comes from “Sec” (for “secure”) and “Lore” (for “knowledge,” as in folklore). So Seclore stands for Secure Knowledge.

Read the complete interview at Sandhill.com

Conversation with Software Vendor Stelae Technologies

Software vendor Stelae Technologies provides a content extraction and automated conversion solution for multiple categories of content. Its product Khemeia™ is a cloud-based technology that combines multiple analytic methodologies into one product. In this interview, CEO and founder Aruna Schwarz discusses the unique nature of the company’s product and shares product development advice for first-time entrepreneurs and startup CEOs. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. 

SandHill.com: When and where was your company launched?

Aruna Schwarz: Stelae Technologies was launched in 2002 in Paris and was flipped to an Indian company in October 2012. It’s based in Chennai.

SandHill.com: How did your company originate — what inspired you to launch the company and what was the original vision/hope?

Aruna Schwarz: Stelae Technologies was born out of my experience as marketing director of a content management solutions vendor, where one of the service lines was manual and semi-automated processing of magazine and newspaper print content to create Web publishing outputs.

Khemeia originated out of the idea to create an automated conversion solution for multiple categories of content. My original vision to create a product company in the content analytics and conversion space has been rigorously maintained throughout and 80 percent of our revenues are from product sales (license and maintenance revenues).

SandHill.com: Please describe your company’s products.

Aruna Schwarz: Khemeia enables automated analysis, metadata extraction and structuring of unstructured content from multiple formats (e.g., PDF, Word, ASCII, HTML) and creation of multiple outputs (e.g., XML, XBRL, S1000D, Epub). It enables customers to produce structured, indexed, searchable and pertinent information quicker, better and cheaper.

The product has been developed from scratch and contains over 90 content analysis algorithms. The content categories we focus on are financial accounts, technical documentation, legal content (cases, judgments, legislation, statutes and regulatory information) and publishing (newspapers, magazines and books). We have processed over 10 million pages in multiple categories, formats and languages.

The other product in our portfolio is pdf2xbrl ™, an XBRL taxonomy editor with multiple accounting taxonomies (UK GAAP, Indian GAAP, etc.) integrated.

SandHill.com: Who are the funding sources behind your company?

Aruna Schwarz: My first investor, Barrington Davies (former MD of BT France, former MD of Business Units of Cable & Wireless), was my former boss at Cable & Wireless UK. Over breakfast in a café in Paris we discussed my business idea and he was excited enough to invest and also be the chairman of Stelae Technologies France. He continues to be an investor in the Indian company.

R&D, product development and customer acquisition has been funded with innovation grants from the French government, customer revenues and investment from angel investors in France, UK, the United States, Israel and the Indian Angel Network.

SandHill.com: Please describe how your product provides business value for your customers.

Aruna Schwarz: Khemeia enables up to 70 percent cost savings for end users and BPOs and faster turnaround times (two weeks compared to eight weeks). For the BPOs that currently use manual and semi-automated processing and separate work flows for each content category, Khemeia significantly reduces set-up times and costs.

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Q&A with Cloud-Based Application Penetration Testing Company iViZ Security

iViZ Security “takes ethical hacking to the cloud,” says Bikash Barai, its co-founder, CEO and director. Currently iViZ focuses on cloud-based penetration testing services for Web applications. He shares insights for other entrepreneurs about lessons learned in finding a market and growing a startup. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. 

SandHill.com:  Please describe your product and your market. 

Bikash Barai: We provide application security testing in the cloud. The idea is to hack yourself before others do. We figure out the flaws and also provide the recommendation to fix them. We conduct tests so that you can protect your website from hacking attacks like cross-site scripting, XSS, business logic flaws and many others.

Our solution is beneficial not just from the perspective of security/business continuity but also for compliance with PCI, SOX, HIPAA, etc. Today for any company doing serious business, it is mandatory to conduct such tests.

We primarily focus on verticals like banking/insurance, online/ecommerce and manufacturing. Basically anybody who has an online application that is critical for running their business finds us useful. 

SandHill.comPlease describe your product’s differentiation and how it provides business value for your customers. 

Bikash Barai: Let me first talk about the customer problem before I get into the differentiation. If you have to conduct a penetration testing/security testing, there are a couple of conventional options. One is that you buy tools and the other to hire consultants. The tools throw a lot of false positives (vulnerabilities that are not true) and also cannot detect advanced business logic vulnerabilities. So you need to hire an expert who will have to augment these gaps manually. But the biggest problem is to hire enough good guys and retain them. On the other hand consultants are costly, non-scalable, time-consuming and also not flexible to work during non-business hours.

Our differentiation is that, unlike any other competing products, we provide advanced business logic testing by leveraging our patent-pending “hybrid approach” that integrates automation with manual testing by security experts. So you need not buy tools or hire people/consultants. Unlike consultants, you can test anytime, anywhere. For organizations that make frequent changes in their applications, we provide unlimited testing at a flat fee.

SandHill.com: How did your company originate — what inspired you to launch the company and what was the original vision/hope? 

Bikash Barai: While studying at IIT (Indian Institute of Technology), I approached Nilanjan De (the current CTO of iViZ) for collaborating on a possible venture on ethical hacking. We made the decision in our hostel room. And that’s how the company was born.

While conducting a conventional penetration testing exercise, it dawned on us that even as security experts we could not comprehensively detect all multi-stage attack-path possibilities. Especially, once a network is successfully broken into, people tend to become complacent and the incentive to find all ways to penetrate diminishes.

To overcome this barrier related to basic human instinct, we began in 2005 exploring the use of artificial intelligence to simulate all multi-stage attack possibilities. We built a prototype and refined it over nine months and then stabilized it after testing it in several environments. Thus, the automated penetration testing product was born. This technology is currently under “patent pending” with the US Patents & Trademark Office. We formally launched our company in 2007 in Kolkata, India.

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Q&A with MAIA Intelligence, India’s Largest Business Intelligence Software Company

MAIA Intelligence, launched in 2006, was the first business intelligence software product company in India. Its product, 1KEY Agile BI Suite, is designed with the vision of serving the analytics and reporting needs of an entire organization from the operational end users to the top executives. In this interview, CEO and founder Sanjay Mehta discusses the product benefits and the importance of customer feedback in developing a market-leading product. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.   

SandHill.com: What is your company’s mission and what was your original vision? 

Sanjay Mehta: MAIA Intelligence is a young and innovative company committed to developing powerful BI reporting and analysis products. MAIA’s mission is to democratize BI and take it from a few expert users to the operational managers, and from frontline executives to the back-office team.

While at my former company (Udyog), we realized that for ERP software there are too many challenges in creating reports as and when required. The Udyog customers wanted a reporting tool to the business software as a plug-in. These customers then started asking for enhanced reporting capabilities and features in other business applications such as CRM, HR Management, etc.

Business intelligence is a domain which traditionally is aimed for the top decision maker. But what we have observed is that with adequate information at hand, operational-level decision making also improves drastically — improving productivity, increasing revenue and market share. We now have more than 45,000 users across India and are the largest BI software product company in India. 

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name? 

Sanjay Mehta: MAIA is a female given name of Greek origin. MAIA also means the eldest of the Pleiades in Greek mythology, also identified with an Ancient Italic goddess of spring and the most beautiful. Similar to Laxmiji, goddess of prosperity. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your product suite and your market. 

Sanjay Mehta: Our flagship product is 1KEY Agile BI Suite, which is a comprehensive business intelligence software application catering to strategic, tactical and operational data analysis and reporting needs of multiple vertical industries. An integrated offering with a choice to pick and choose modules (business user interfaces), it enables organizations to deploy the BI framework with minimal investments and have a secure, enterprise-wide, dynamic reporting platform in six weeks, irrespective of existing applications.

We also have other products such as 1KEY Touch (an advanced interactive dashboard and reporting software), 1KEY FCM (a financial consolidation management solution) and postXBRL software (an XBRL reporting tool). Our upcoming product is 1KEY HPC (high-performance computing analytics software).

Our 1KEY BI application is suitable for small businesses as well as enterprises. We have been making good inroads in almost all the industry verticals, especially BFSI, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, FMCG, Consumer Durables & Retail. As of now we have customers largely in India and the Middle East, but we are looking to expand soon in the other global markets through strategic alliances.

Read the complete story at Sandhill.com

Q&A with Communication Platform Waybeo Technology’s CEO

Waybeo Technology Solutions was launched in December 2009 and was selected by Nasscom as one of the top 15 emerging, innovative companies in India in 2012. Its product, BounzD, is a global inbound communication platform enabling instant voice assistance to customers using a variety of mobile devices. In this interview, CEO Bushair AP discusses aspects of staying focused in the journey of product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation  

SandHill.com: What was the vision you originally had for your company? 

Bushair AP: We are a young team who is a part of a movement to change how the world communicates in the new age. Our team was formed out of our never-ending passion for creativity and social contribution. We all were fascinated by the revolutions in the communication sector. Our first attempt was a global group-messaging platform, which we developed for our early European customers. This was much before we formally launched Waybeo as a company. This opportunity opened up our vision to create products that we believe will attract millions in the future.

BounzD is a stepping-stone to achieve our vision of a well-connected world without any barriers like cost and geography. Once integrated with an enterprise’s online channels, end customers would be able to connect businesses with just an Internet connection without being charged across the world.

We work with large-scale and midsize enterprises in India and abroad that have online channels as a major way of customer acquisition. We handle their voice communications with potential customers and provide business insights and analytics. Our global plan is in beta stage and releasing this month. Waybeo is based in Trivandrum with offices in Mumbai, Delhi and California.

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name? 

Bushair AP: The name Waybeo was derived out of our ambition of going way beyond by exploring an inspiring way of entrepreneurship.

SandHill.com: What differentiation and business value does BounzD provide to your customers? 

Bushair AP: We connect business and potential customers across the world within seconds. Besides being cost free, we have made it easier to connect with a business located in any part of the world. Our product has helped our customers improve their customer acquisition, sales cycle and cost of sale.

We have helped various companies in industries such as hospitality and realty to reduce abandoned calls by 30 percent and achieve an increase in online visibility. Many of the large enterprises in India have told us that they “felt” their Web presence after taking our services. In the hospitality sector, we have reduced contact center cost-to-sales ratio in a drastic way. And the business insights we provide though our analytics has helped various realty segments to plan contact sector operations and customer support services.

SandHill.com: How did you determine the right pricing for your product? 

Bushair AP: We reached out to a limited number of customers with a cost-plus-margin model. From limited early innovators, we moved to value-based pricing, which had improved profitability. The business dynamics of our customer segment had to be learned during this engagement with early innovators to have a better pricing. The key realization of how much value we create for our customers had to be quantified during this period. Value-based pricing involves understanding of business dynamics of a customer’s model, customer revenue generation checkpoints and behavior of end customers.

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Bizosys Technologies’ Tools for Simplifying Software Development

Bizosys Technologies, launched in January 2009 in Bangalore, India, is an award winning, India-based software engineering company that has developed several tools that are available free to use online or as open-source software with downloadable source code. One of the most significant tools is HSearch, a real-time Big Data search engine for Hadoop. In this interview, Sridhar Dhulipala, co-founder and director – solutions, discusses his company’s tools and also shares lessons learned in the software development journey. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.  

SandHill.com: What was your vision; what inspired you to launch Bizosys? 

Sridhar Dhulipala: Bizosys was born out of a question and not out of a smart business plan. The question we had was: how can one simplify software development? This translated into an engineering quest where Bizosys founders were consumed in research for the first two years, entirely self-funded, thanks to the low capex model afforded by cloud infrastructure.

The three co-founders at Bizosys met during their careers at Infosys in Bangalore and decided to start Bizosys. Bizosys is self-funded and has had no sustained mentor in a formal sense — but a mentor would surely have helped from a go-to-market perspective.

We now provide IT services for enterprise and SMBs, mostly around Big Data, search and analytics, IT performance engineering, new application development targeting existing on-premises deployments or cloud architecture, addressing existing application technology stacks or emerging NoSQL technologies such as Hadoop.

Our tools are now accessed by users from over 100 countries globally. In the longer run, evangelizing our products and having vibrant user communities is a desirable goal.

SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name? 

Sridhar Dhulipala: The idea behind Bizosys is “business operating system.” As our quest was about simplifying software development, the application of this was to develop a business operating system that is easy to build, robust, scalable and especially intended for frequently changing, rapid deploy, long tail of applications. 

SandHill.com: Please describe the tools your company has developed. 

Sridhar Dhulipala: Bizosys has developed several tools that are available free to use online or as open-source software with downloadable source code. 10Screens is an online high-fidelity prototyping and requirements collaboration tool for remote teams. It’s free and has close to 4,000 registered users spanning more than 120 countries. HSearch is our open-source Big Data search engine with real-time capabilities on Hadoop and it has had over 2,200 downloads by users in more than 80 countries. It includes a kids-safe search engine for YouTube videos. 1line is a server-side backend.

They are ready to install and use as shrink-wrapped, off-the-shelf software. They are also available as frameworks that are compiled with custom applications. As a third option, we offer our products and frameworks as a service via robust APIs. Our tools are backed by email support today.

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Design-Led Software Engineering Improves User Experience

Editor’s note: Focus on user experience now shows up in numerous surveys as a major determinant of success in software product sales. We interviewed the co-founders of software development provider Clarice Technologies: Sandeep Chawda, who is also CEO, and Shashank Deshpande, who is also president. Between them they have more than two decades of experience in user-centric design (especially at Symantec/VERITAS) and now lead Clarice Technologies in design-led innovation for Clarice’s software customers. 

SandHill.com: Please explain what you mean by design-led innovation in software development. 

Shashank Deshpande: Design-led innovation is to understand users and their needs to come up with a design that is usable and consumable and then to apply technology innovation to translate it to a user-centric product. It is about providing an optimal balance of design and technology in the process of product development to ensure intuitive and high-performance products. More often than not we see that products are over-designed or over-engineered, and neither is good for consumers and end users. A product that really delights the customer has a good balance between design and technology.

SandHill.com: What causes developers to over-design or over-engineer? 

Sandeep Chawda: It’s caused by the lack of sensitivity of one aspect or the other. We seldom see companies with an ecosystem that has the right mix of designers and technology engineers. If the product is designed without considering various technology aspects, that will cause the product to be over-designed. There are several design studios where designers take a flight of fancy in the product design without really considering whether or not that can be meaningfully engineered.

And the same applies for the engineering side. Many technology companies try to build the product without having a meaningful information architecture in how product functionality is presented. This results in a product that won’t be exposed to the users properly and they won’t be aware of its key functionality, or they may be aware of it but will tend not to use it.

SandHill.com: What do you do differently in design-led engineering to avoid these problems? 

Shashank Deshpande: We do up-front design of the complete product without writing a single line of code. We come up with “product storyboard,” which is a pixel-level detailed mockup of the key screens of the product, and we tie them together so as to mimic the complete product. All this is done without writing a single line of code because changing pixels is an order of magnitude easier than changing code.

These mockups are then used by multiple stakeholders of the product in a very effective manner. Product Management can use it for validating the product functionality. Sales can use it for talking to customers about the product roadmap and what is going to come. And the storyboard acts as refined requirement specifications for the engineering group to go ahead and build the product.

We use this process iteratively when developing software products for our customers to ensure there is a heavy emphasis and high priority on the user-experience angle.

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Conversation with Banking Software Solutions Provider InfrasoftTech

Editor’s note: InfrasoftTech provides core banking, microfinance and anti-money laundering software solutions for the global banking and financial services industry and focuses on enhancing banks’ reach through e-channels. Hanuman Tripathi, co-founder and group managing director, discusses the global market for his company’s products and shares information for other entrepreneurs about the risks involved in product development decisions. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation. 

SandHill.com: How did your company originate; what led you to know you had a winning vision? 

Hanuman Tripathi: The blueprint of current-day InfrasoftTech was written over a single 24-hour meeting between my co-founders and me sitting at a suburban five-star hotel in Mumbai in November, 1994. Once the writing pads were full late in the night, the final blueprint was completed on hand tissues! After months of negotiations, we finally got started in July 1995 in Mumbai, India. 

I previously worked for 20 years in the banking software and solutions space and, prior to that, about 10 years in IT and the Telecom sector. I worked with reputed business houses in senior positions before starting InfrasoftTech 17 years ago.  At the time of conceptualizing InfrasoftTech, I selected other co-founders and core team members who are qualified engineers in the space of software technology, software development, software services, all in the banking automation space.

The name InfrasoftTech was derived by merging the words infrastructure and software together. Our core banking solution caters to boutique banks or SME banks by physical size of operations, although the product or architecture does not restrict scalability. The rest of our products are used by blue chip and SME financial enterprises alike. Our software services are used by top-of-the-line financial brands in every market.

SandHill.com: You launched your company 17 years ago and now have over 200 customers worldwide in the banking and financial services industry. What was your path to globalization? 

Hanuman Tripathi: We have a strong market presence in the product space of core banking, microfinance and anti-money laundering. Our first target market was domestic banks, fulfilling their rapid automation needs. After 2000, our globalization process commenced and we added the U.K., Middle East, Africa and South East Asia to our client list. We also have a growing presence in Canada and the USA.

Globalization has been our biggest challenge to date, which is not uncommon. We needed to continuously innovate, and also acquire market leadership in several spaces. 

SandHill.com: Please describe your product. 

Hanuman Tripathi: InfrasoftTech is one of the few companies globally who have created a unified, single technology architecture that delivers a fully integrated front-end, middleware and back-end application that can automate banking and other financial services businesses. This architecture is known as the OMNIEnterprise™ suite of solutions.

The individual products are Core Banking Solution, Anti Money Laundering & Financial Crime Surveillance Solution and a Microfinance Solution. We also have a full-fledged working Islamic Finance Solution. All our products inherit fully integrated online operations automation delivered in the architecture and carry state-of-the-art business processes as required in the individual systems.

Read the complete interview at Sandhill.com

Q&A with Startup ArrayShield’s CEO

Editor’s note: Two brothers co-founded ArrayShield Technologies in Chennai, India, in 2010 to provide a two-factor authentication product for secure access to corporate data. We interviewed co-founder and CEO Pavan Thatha about lessons learned thus far as a startup in the security space. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

SandHill.com: Please describe your product and how it provides business value for your customers. 

Pavan Thatha: ArrayShield’s flagship offering is an innovative pattern-based, two-factor authentication (2FA) product for enterprises to protect against Identity theft and other hacking attacks. ArrayShield’s patent-pending technology is backed by extensive research done by my brother Rakesh, who is the co-founder and CTO of ArrayShield. 

Password is one of the most outdated forms of basic security. Relying on mere password strength to grant access to an organization’s customer, business, prospect and financial data in an environment of high competition is very risky for businesses.

Our 2FA solution leverages visual patterns that users can remember and a card that can be carried in a user’s pocket. Our innovative solution ensures only authorized users are allowed to access key applications and IT resources, thus offering productivity and flexibility along with security to our customers. Our product easily integrates with most of the applications and technologies such as VPN to ensure connectivity and access along with security. And it’s affordable, easy to deploy, use and manage. 

SandHill.com: How did your company originate? 

Pavan Thatha: I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I spent a few years early in my career getting an understanding of how the software industry operates. Once I got a good understanding of various aspects of the technology business, I decided to start. My brother Rakesh meanwhile had been spending a lot of time researching the information security space, which is his passion. He hit upon a very simple but effective idea of replacing obsolete password-based authentication with an alternative pattern-based authentication that provides a very high level of security against modern hacking attacks. We decided to take the plunge of starting up ArrayShield to commercialize his innovative 2FA idea. 

SandHill.com: Please describe an aspect of your company’s business that has been frustrating and how you worked through the challenge. 

Pavan Thatha: Our major challenge in the initial days was to convert the interest from prospects to get an order and get them to use our product. Being in a sensitive area of authentication and security, very few were ready to experiment with a new product.

To address this challenge, instead of building a full-feature product, we developed the product with minimal features that are highly stable and secure. We worked very closely with our initial prospects and took a consultative approach in building their confidence that our product is highly stable and secure. Once they got the confidence on our product, they implemented to a limited number of users followed by rollout to a larger user base.

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Conversation with HR Solution Provider, Saigun Technologies

Editor’s note: EmpXtrack is comprehensive, global HR solution and the product of Saigun Technologies, a startup launched in 2002. We interviewed Tushar Bhatia, Saigun’s founder and president, about the modern elements of an HR solution as well as the challenges for startups in identifying the right target market and funding product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.

SandHill.com: Please describe your product’s differentiation among the other HR solutions available and how it addresses today’s business problems.

Tushar Bhatia: Our EmpXtrack Platform is an integrated HR automation solution that covers the entire HR lifecycle and is perhaps the most comprehensive HR automation product in the market.  It is very modular in nature. EmpXtrack contains 18 modules in four different categories (performance management, human capital management, strategic HR and recruitment).

Besides completely automating HR processes and mundane transactions, EmpXtrack provides: data analytics for quick decision making. Another critical differentiator for our product is that it is compliant to the local regulations in all the geographies we operate in. The solution is also designed to ensure complete accuracy in HR transactions.

Our aim is to enable our customers to innovatively meet their talent management needs and hence we continuously build innovative components in our offerings.

SandHill.com: What is the story behind your company name and how the company originated?

TusharBhatia-smallTushar Bhatia: The name Saigun is a combination of the names of my daughter and my wife. I worked for several companies in the United States but always had the urge within myself to start my own business. So in the early 2000s I returned to India and started Saigun. Initially, the focus was on offering services, but gradually we started looking for a scalable business model. In 2004-2005 we started focusing on products and, with my prior experience in HR automation, this area was the obvious choice. 

SandHill.com: Is your product for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) or for large enterprises? 

Tushar Bhatia: Saigun and our product have been evolving very strongly over the years. Initially the company’s focus was only on SMBs, but now we also service larger organizations as well. The product is available in a SaaS (software as a service) model, which works well for SMBs. For enterprise customers and government agencies, we also offer the solution behind firewalls in a perpetual license model.

One of my favorite books is Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, by C.K. Prahalad. The book says that there are significant opportunities available in targeting smaller companies. Most companies focus on larger customers. However, my focus is on smaller companies as well, giving them a world-class product at a reasonable price and being profitable as well.

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