The software eco-system in India is still influenced by the services model. Product companies require a completely different mindset, especially when it comes to the programming workforce.

Infinite Analytics is a predictive marketing and analytics company set up in 2012, by two MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) graduates, Akash Bhatia and Purushotham Botla. The company has built a real-time personalization platform that learns and predicts by utilizing all available data to match a customer to a product or service. In an interview with, co-founder Akash Bhatia talks about his innovative offering and predicts “there will be a big shake out in the data analytics space”. 

Tell us about Infinite Analytics. How and when it was started and its mission?

logo-1The mission of Infinite Analytics is to “Make Sense of Data”. Infinite Analytics was started by my co-founder, Puru Botla and I, at MIT, in a class taught by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web. We were working on one of the best projects in the class, and we decided to take it from a class project to a startup.

After graduating in 2012 we pursued this earnestly. Puru left his day job at Fidelity to focus full time on the start up, and I never took up a job or went back to my earlier start up – KyaZoonga.

Infinite Analytics has now evolved from our beach-head market of e-commerce to even offline retail. We are only an 11 people strong company – lean, efficient, and extremely committed to our mission. We have a very strong advisory team in Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Deb Roy – Chief Media Scientist at Twitter and Erik Brynjolfsson, the guru of Big Data Analytics.

What are the emerging trends in big data and social data analytics worldwide, and in India?

Analytics is going to drive decision-making in every organization and function. With so much data being generated every single day, organizations are already beginning to understand the enormity of being able to use this data effectively – to use clustering, predictive analytics and even AI to improve CRM, increase revenues, optimize supply chain and inventory planning, etc. And this is just in retail/e-commerce. We haven’t even begun talking about how big data analytics is being useful in healthcare applications.

There will be a big shake out in the data analytics space. Companies that pretend to be Big Data Analytics firms, but in reality are nothing more than listening tools are in for a reality check.

“Startup of the Year” at the etales 2015 awards in partnership with Ernst & Young

Infinite Analytics recently won the “Startup of the Year” Award at the eTales 2015, which was organized by eTailing India.

This award recognizes innovative start-ups which offer an innovative product or service, or those that are using an exciting new approach to improving or disrupt a traditional market. The jury included the Managing Director of Facebook India and CMOs of eminent firms in Retail & e-Commerce.

About Social Data Analytics, much has been said about its usefulness. Eventually, that’s one place online where a lot of people let down their guards and interact with people. If you consider traditional market research, surveys are generally the way research is done. A sample set of people are asked a bunch of questions and their responses are then extrapolated to reflect a larger audience.

Akash-Bhatia_profile_picAlso, in a country like India, how can a small sample set represent the vast and diverse nation that we are? And it’s only now that this data exists digitally. Social Data Analytics is the ability to analyze this data, both at a macro and micro level, to uncover trends and patterns that traditional market research does not. But that does not mean just listening to conversations in social media constitutes Social Data Analytics. Just using packaged sentiment analysis toolkits to understand positive or negative conversations does not constitute Social Data Analytics.

Infinite Analytics is at the cutting edge of analyzing social data, amongst other data sources. We use the latest NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) techniques, Semantic Technologies and Predictive Modeling to come up with various inferences about consumers.

Using predictive analytics, how effectively does this help transform e-commerce business performance?

For example, if you can understand what colors the user likes, what patterns the user prefers, or what her / his spending potential is –imagine what that knowledge in real time can unleash for you as an e-commerce site. You will be able to personalize the experience for each and every consumer, allowing them to discover products or even nudging them to products they might like, just like someone at a shop might be able to do.

Predictive Analytics does just that. It helps e-commerce sites unleash the power of their customer data to increase Average Order Value, Conversions, improve product discovery and even get back lost customers.

What are the core features of your analytics offering? Do you offer it as a software product or service?

Our product is more like Predictive Analytics-as-a-service. The core features of our analytics offering are:

  • Semantic Ontology –The Infinite Analytics team has developed a proprietary semantic ontology that allows us to understand relationships between various data points. We are able to process Product Catalogs where none exist, to come up with relationships between products.
  • Predictive Analytics – Our predictive algorithms are constantly updated with newer and newer models, as and when we update new data sources. This allows constantly refreshing and relooking the way we predict and optimize our models.
  • Data Sources – We are data hogs. We consume data like a Hummer consumes Gasoline. We will take in data from any intelligent source. For example, we will use Macroeconomic data, Stock Indexes, Social Data, Electoral Rolls, along with the traditional sources of data like transactional data and clickstream data to predict and personalize the user experience for both, an online user and also an offline customer
  • Extensibility – Our product is extremely extensible.

For media and content – Let’s take the example of Netflix. Netflix first started using customer media habits to recommend top movies and shows. That led them to declare that almost 70% of their revenues came from these recommendations.

For travel – Uber and its Surge Pricing is an example of how predictive analytics can be used to effectively price a service according to supply and demand, in real time, thus increasing profitability of the company.

For enterprise businesses – If using macro economic data along with user behavior, businesses are able to predict buying patterns; they will be able to better manage their inventory. For example, in most businesses, there is a 80/20 rule – 20% of products do 80% of their business.

What kind of investment have you made so far and how was your project funded?

We were semi-finalists in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, the most coveted business plan competition in the world; a part of the inaugural MIT Founders’ Skills Accelerator (now GFSA), and even Startup Chile. We were able to get some funds from these accelerators to keep pushing product development.

Then in 2014, we raised a seed round of $1.1 Million from various investors across Australia, Taiwan, India, US and the UK.

What are the market opportunities for you in India?

India is a growing market, and the data revolution is just beginning here. Our product puts us in a very unique position vis-à-vis competitors. We are the only company to actually bridge online and offline retail. We have competitors doing solely online or offline work – no one does both. Hence, it won’t be an apple-to-apple comparison.

Have you attained profitability yet? If not, when do you hope to?

We have not achieved profitability yet, but with our current run rate and burn rate, we should be expecting to break even in the next couple of years.

How would you describe the eco-system for software product development in India? 

The software eco-system in India is still influenced by the services model. Product companies require a completely different mindset, especially when it comes to the programming workforce. 

Any plans to sell out or go public?

We have been really focused on building the company and the product, and haven’t focused on the exit. At the same time, we have had companies approach us for buying us out. We continue to keep our options open. 

Tell us about some of your customers in India and internationally.

Our clients in India include Croma Retail, a Tata Company, Trendin – an Aditya Birla Group company; Indianroots, an NDTV company and the Future Group, the world’s biggest media company, and one of USA’s largest retail giant are our customers.

What advice would you give to others about what you did right?

Perseverance and Just Do It. If you do not persevere through the storms, you will never be an entrepreneur. You will forever be a Wantrepeneur.

How Foradian has established its position in school management software with an innovative product

Kerala based, Foradian Technologies that began as a web development and services company, soon emerged to be one of the fastest growing firms in the field of school management software. What came as a small software requirement to store school records and procedures soon caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala, which deployed Fedena in all their schools under the Project Sampoorna. Founded in 2009, the company has a rapidly rising business and a global presence in 200+ countries that uses its solution.

In an interview with ProductNation, Arun Raveendran, Cofounder, and Director, Foradian Technologies, says, he is upbeat about the future of the company. Foradian has already recorded profits. Moreover, with fresh funding early this year, the company is ready to expand its operations to markets like USA, Canada and the UK. 

ForadianWhat was the mission behind forming Foradian Technologies?

Foradian was established in 2009, by 8 childhood friends who met at various points in their lives. Formed in a small town in Kasargod, Kerala, we wanted to do something different from our peers and decided to start a company. We had no concept plan for a product or which market to cater to, just a dream to be entrepreneurs.

What were the driving factors to build solutions for school education market?

Foradian was started as a web-development services company. During the course of the work we came across an educational institution that wanted to implement a school management system. In our search for an available school management solution, we realized that there was a huge gap in the market as the only available solutions in education software were from big players and they were costly. That is when the idea of developing Fedena School ERP software came into force.

What was the technology adoption scenario in schools before you entered this market?

It was very narrow as it still is. Schools, especially in India, were not very comfortable with the idea of having paperless records and procedures. It’s not the same now. Schools want to adopt technology as it is the right thing to do.  But still there are managerial challenges in making the teachers use it.

How will specialized solutions change the education sector?

Specialized solutions can enable the education sector to deliver a lot more than what they are delivering now. A school with online ERP system can perform tasks like: collaborating with parents anywhere and anytime, go paperless, plan timetables and examinations months in advance, inventory management and a lot more. Technology in any sector is a tool for solving business problems as well as an enabler of progress, so is the case with education sector.

What is the potential of this market and who are the players who are leading in it?

Fedena being a flexible product can be customized to cater to all geographies, types and institutes, irrespective of size. Therefore our market is huge. There are millions of schools, colleges, universities, evening schools, learning centers, etc. worldwide, which makes it a very big market for us. Most of the big players in the market, who offer ERP solutions to education institutes, do not offer specialized products but only a modification of a general ERP product. Also, their solutions are expensive. This gives Fedena an edge over them as we provide a specialized education technology product at much lower cost.

Tell us about Project Fedena and Ruby on Rails (RoR)? How successful did it prove to be?

Project Fedena is the open-source version of Fedena Pro. It comes with only the core modules. In the initial deployment of Fedena, we realized that every school had different requirements and required extensive customization. For scaling up the product, we were required to offer one product that fits all. In 2010, Project Fedena – a free, basic version of the product was rolled out. The basic version of Fedena was free and whoever wanted a customized product had to pay a fee.

We decided to go with RoR because it is developer friendly. All our technical employees were beginners and it took them only 2 months to start coding in our system. Since RoR is widely used nowadays, we get fantastic support online. Also there are plenty of plug-ins and gems available for specific requirements.

What is the story behind creation of Fedena? How did you get the funding? What were the challenges faced in developing and marketing the product? 

Foradian was started as a web development and services company. Fedena was developed after a school raised a requirement for school management software. Soon, Fedena caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala which deployed Fedena in all their schools across the state under the Project Sampoorna.

Foradian received a funding of $2 million earlier this year from William Bissel of Fab India who had a very keen interest in the education sector and saw the potential in us. The funding came at the right time as Foradian, which was already running into profits now wanted to expand its reach in countries like USA, Canada and UK.

Were you able to breakeven with Fedena? How early? What were the challenges faced in selling the software product? Do you sell direct or through channel partners?

It took us about 2 years to break even. The main challenges faced by us were need for customization and limited usage. Every institute is different from the other, so are their requirements from their ERP software. Therefore we started Fedena ecosystem which consisted of many resellers, IT professionals and developers. This ecosystem helped us provide customization and after sale services to all our institutes.

Most management information systems are difficult to learn and configure, so many schools don’t use them. Fedena was designed to be easy to use. It is so user friendly that anyone with a basic knowledge of computers and email should be able to use it within 10 minutes.

What is the company’s turnover today? What’s your next project? Have you explored the overseas market?

Last year we closed around $1 million. We are also under the process of launching Learning Management software called Uzity. It is a global university where you have the ultimate freedom to teach and learn anything you want in any pace you prefer. It is still in testing phase.

Fedena has a global presence. Currently Fedena is being used in 200+ countries.

How favourable is the eco-system for development of software products in India? What is needed to make it more conducive?

Software industry in India is booming. The eco-system for development of software products has gained momentum. There are new pro-active policies by government being introduced to enable the incubators and accelerators and also to impart skill development which will make the work force in this industry more employable.

As a product development company what learning would you like to share with others? What are the highs and lows of product development?

The high side is that you get to introduce innovations in the industry. Once you find a scalable model for your product you earn high profits, high margins. There is a chance of explosive growth with a disruptive product, like it happened in our case.

In contrast, product development can sometimes run into high development costs like R&D, human resources deployment etc. You can sometime run into dead ends where you spent a lot of time, effort and money on product development and the market doesn’t respond to your product.

A through market research is a must before you start developing a product. Best approach will be to find a gap in the market and develop a product that fills that gap.

Is the team still managed by the ‘eight childhood friends’ or has the equation changed?

We are 6 full time Directors now, handling various verticals of Foradian.

Tell us about how you started and how it ended up being so popular?, a social networking website for Malayalees was launched as a leisure pursuit project and it went viral. The user base of grew radically and was soon reported by all popular media in Malayalam. It was celebrated as a cult by the youth of Kerala.

You have received numerous awards and accolades. How would you describe the journey so far?

Even though Fedena is a simple yet powerful product, it got the right kind of attention from the tech world. Awards bring a sense of confidence that we are on a right track and that has greatly helped us in moving forward.

Our journey so far has been very rewarding and fulfilling. There is a new challenge everyday and it is this challenging nature of entrepreneurship which makes it so exciting and worthy. Fedena as a product has gone places and with the funding in the picture we are at a very exciting point in our journey and we wish to make the best of it.

The Most Important Technology Trends of 2014, According to Gartner

Leading market analysts issue their latest technology trends every year. Gartner, Inc., the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company has defined the top 10 technology trends and drivers that will be strategic for Indian organizations in 2014.

134459715These technologies can impact an organization’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives. Implementing business process improvements, revenue growth through differentiated products and services, and business expansion are the top business priority areas of investment for Indian organizations.

Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for Indian companies in 2014 include:

Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics

The BI, analytics and performance management segment is the hottest software market in India, fueled by IT prioritization and expanding business buying centers. A competitive business environment and economic conditions are also forcing enterprises in India to focus on using fact based decision-making tools to rationalize costs and time for businesses.

Mobility Solutions

Mobility in enterprise has created a huge opportunity for IT leaders to reduce costs, increase productivity and enable smooth business transactions. Swift growth in the prevalence of mobile devices, a decline in their price, and falling data plan costs have the potential to completely transform some business models.

Cloud Computing

Although still in its infancy in India and other emerging markets, cloud adoption is increasing. Led by infrastructure-as-a-service engagements in the data center, disaster recovery and storage areas, there is a broad range of providers that target large organizations as well as SMBs. This fast growing adoption by a diverse range of organizations has catalyzed providers to invest in high quality data centers and innovative cloud infrastructures, as well as a portfolio of cloud-related offerings such as security, communications and managed services.

 Social Media and Computing

Social media in India has seen exponential growth in the recent past with enterprises using it for customer support and customers using it to offer opinions. A growing number of enterprises used social media to connect with their customers and for marketing campaigns in 2013 and social media is playing a pivotal role in Indian politics with the government and political parties increasingly using it to connect with citizens

Machine to Machine (M2M)

The M2M market in India is in a nascent stage but growing rapidly. Indian enterprises driven by demands to improve agility and productivity are evaluating the use of M2M-enabled solutions.

 Hosted Virtual Desktop (HVD)

In India, server-based computing, which is also referred as “hosted shared desktop” or “terminal services,” is seeing more adoption. More than 80 percent of desktop virtualization implementations are based on HVD. Organizations are only looking at desktop virtualization from the point of cost requirement, and they overlook other benefits such as full data backup, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) support, extended hardware life cycles, security, compliance and anytime-anywhere access.

 Personal Cloud

Adoption of cloud computing in India is currently limited to the private cloud. Organizations are focused on protecting their applications located in enterprise app stores, as well as the content on employees’ personal devices used at work. Tablets are becoming the first-choice user device and this form factor’s explosion is creating device ubiquity. Users are creating their own personal digital ecosystems with their own sets of apps, games and media. Content is starting to shift to the cloud but, in the future, the cloud will become the primary storage for personal content, and local versions of the content will exist only as staged or cached elements.

 The Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT delivers tangible value to enterprises through the ability to better utilize remote assets and creates business cases in three key areas – operational technology (OT), digital supply chain and customer interaction.

 Collaboration Technologies

Collaboration technologies (otherwise known as workflow management or team collaboration) consist broadly of – real-time electronic meetings, content delivery, desktop and application sharing, text chat, group document markup with electronic whiteboarding, security and remote control. More advanced features include integrated voice over IP, file sharing, videoconferencing, content archiving, media streaming, feedback and polling. Real-time collaboration technologies not included in the Web conferencing category include instant messaging and stand-alone audio conferencing.

 3D Printing

In India interest levels in 3D printing are slowly picking up and this is reflected in the increased presence of providers in the 3D printing space. Because of the country’s large population base, high volumes and low cost requirements, 3D printing is expected to take off rapidly and revolutionize industries as diverse as aerospace, consumer goods, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and the military. 3D printing has the potential to radically transform design, manufacturing and the supply chain model in India.

According to Gartner, while Indian companies may be keen to invest in new technologies, there are still barriers to full-scale adoption including business readiness, a lack of capacity for organizational change and low levels of IT funding. Implementing business process improvements, revenue growth through differentiated products and services, and business expansion are the top business priority areas of investment for Indian organizations.

“Software distribution in India is limited to only moving products to warehouses, and not really encouraging its use. This needs to change.” Jayaraman Kesavardhanan, K7 Computing

K7 Computing LogoK7 Computing is a leading provider of information security solutions that protect individuals and organizations from IT threats like viruses, malware and hacker attacks. The company, which builds world-class products and competes with global market leaders like McAfee and Symantec, first achieved major success in a foreign market like Japan, where it has a near 28% market share. The Chennai-based firm has now shifted focus to India and is poised to repeat its triumph in the domestic market.

Founded in 1991 by Jayaraman Kesavardhanan, K7 Computing has come a long way. Today, its products are installed on more than 11 million systems across the world. It has set up a sophisticated ‘Threat Control and Prevention Lab’ that monitors and identifies threats and helps improve product development.The company’s strategy is simple: not compromising on customer needs and sharing maximum profits with partners.

In an interview with ProductNation, Kesavardhanan talks about the challenges facing India’s product ecosystem, the lessons he has learned and how he hopes to make K7 Computing a global product company out of India. 

How did you get into building security systems?

Photo KesevenWhen I passed out of class x in 1984-85, I joined a computer programming course during my summer vacation. It was an occurrence that changed my life. I enjoyed programming so much that I decided this is what I wanted to do. System level assembly languages are what interested me most. While both software and hardware were equally exciting, I decided to get into antivirus solutions – more as a challenge to help people facing virus attacks.

Inspired by McAfee and Norton, I decided to develop a security product as nobody in those days was focusing on developing an indigenous antivirus solution. So in 1991, we founded K7 Computing to develop an antivirus product from India.

How has the company evolved over the years to its present state?

We faced a lot of challenges in our early days. First, we lacked the experience or marketing skills to make the company grow. Our mindset was only to help others by creating and sharing solutions for latest virus signatures. We did not really understand the commercial aspects of business or taking products to bigger markets. We were just good at building products. We decided to move from antivirus solution to offering security suite – this included having separate solution for firewalls and making our product to a better one.

In year 1991, we launched our first product VX2000, said to be the first-ever DOS-based antivirus software. The solution was a great success and got us firmly established in the antivirus software arena.

In 2003, we got our first major break in the overseas market with an attractive partnership with a Japanese software firm SourceNext to promote our suite of K7 security systems in Japan. Our foray into the Japanese market proved to be a great success as people appreciated our products and customer support. Even today, we have a strong relationship with our sales partner in Japan. We are now also working in USA, APAC and the Middle East markets.

Like every other company, K7 too also faced stagnant growth. For instance from 2007 onwards, our turnover failed to grow significantly for five years (2007-2012). This was largely due to slow growth in India as well as flat sales in Japan. However, a revamped sales strategy helped the firm make a quick turnaround and enabled us to record Rs 50 crore in FY13. This year we hope to achieve a significant rise in revenues.

To what reasons would you attribute your dominant position in the Japanese market?

It was in 2002 when our product K7 Total Security was getting completed that we met one of the biggest publishers in Japan called SourceNext. They were looking at new products. As the channel partner had worked with McAfee before, they got greatly interested in seeing our passion and creativity and decided to support our product.

Our partnership with SourceNext was the real turning point for our company and realization of a dream. The new opportunity meant getting entry into a big market and competing with established players like MacAfee, Norton etc. in a market which has been traditionally difficult for Indian products to crack. We started focusing heavily on the product and enhancing its quality to stay competitive.

Thanks to our amazing channel partner, we started doing very well in Japan. We were eventually able to garner 28% of the Japanese market share.

How optimistic were you about making an impact in the Indian market after achieving success in a foreign market?

In 2008, when after making good profitability from the Japanese market, we decided to shift the focus to India. We had a success story behind us and we were confident we would do well in the home market. We set up a team, moved to a bigger office and got sales and marketing strategy in place. But we faced tremendous problems here.

What challenges did you face in the Indian market?

India is a very difficult market to penetrate. You need to learn a lot about the market before you can establish yourself. Users are still using old hardware and there is piracy going on. One thing we realized is that India never had a good distribution system for software products. So we tied up with a few software distributors. What we later learnt was that the distributors work more like logistics partner and do not push sales. They just ship products from one place to another without understanding the concept of packaging, or collecting user feedback. Therefore, this makes the customer acquisition pace slow. Also we don’t have the concept of publishers here, unlike Japan.

We realized that if we wanted to succeed, we would have to step up our focus on marketing. We started becoming a marketing company. We established the entire channel network that took us 2-3 years. Another major shift was to focus on customer service and bring in end-to-end enterprise products.

Today, an antivirus solution is like a commodity product. We decided to sell our products through a typical IT distribution channel just as any other FMCG product. We set up a strong sales team with 120 sales guys promoting our products. Our radical change in marketing approach resulted in 500% growth and we started doing well.

In this highly cut-throat market, what efforts do you take to stay competitive?

We strongly believe in technology and building a product from the start. Some companies are building a solution on top of other services.  We start from ground up and then build end to end products which are efficient and superior. We don’t scare users with technology, we believe in educating them about the product and then selling our product.

What is the company’s vision?

The vision is getting bigger. We want touch Rs 500 crore revenue in the next 3 years. We are determined to remain a globally top rated product firm in scanning and performance benchmarks by independent labs like AV Comparatives, AV-TEST, CheckMark Platinum, VB100 award or SoftDisk Magazine. When we can lead in other markets, why not in our own country? The domestic market is growing really fast and we are also hearing about the government’s focus on cyber security and stronger security regulation for corporates. Besides, we already have a good market share in the enterprise section.

We are also expanding our product portfolio from antivirus to other domains of enterprise security. We have been investing heavily in product research and development over the last 3 years.

What has inspired you to get this far?

It is very important to stay focused and have patience. Besides, products take time to mature and you have to continuously improve upon it. Indian market has been growing thanks to IT & ITES, Indian companies have started adopting new technologies, we don’t find technology gaps between India & USA any more, and so it is worth to focus on India all the more.We strongly believe that there is no real leader in enterprise security space from this part of the world, and our aim now is to attain that leadership position.

What changes would you like to see in India’s eco-system for product development?

We would like to see government stepping in with initiatives to promote indigenous software product companies that can incubate from India, scale and compete in the global marketplace through tax incentives like they had earlier given to IT service providers through STPIs, SEZs, etc. We would also like to have legal issues around service tax resolved at the earliest,

iSPIRT can play a significant role in consolidating the voice of product industry and communicating with government. I wish them good luck in this endeavor.



What You Missed at the #PNCamp

In case you are one of those who did not make it to the iSPIRT PNCamp for Product Entrepreneurs at Pune on December 4 and 5, 2013, here’s an overview of what happened during the two-day event.  Over 128 delegates took part in the camp that brought together entrepreneurs, developers and experts under a common platform for learning and sharing of ideas and experiences. Participants came from Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi, including distant places like Kochi.

Pune was a strategic venue as the city has about 400 startups who are contributing to the positive evolvement of software product eco-system in India. As  is usually the case with such strategic events, PNCamp provided the right opportunity to network with peers and talk to iSPIRT mentors that included icons like Pallav Nadhani, CEO, FusionCharts; Sharad Sharma, co-Founder, iSPIRT; Shashank ND, CEO of Practo, among others.

Focused Tracks

Day one of the event focused on Discovery Hacking for the early startups with initial traction. The experiential learning was aimed at taking the product entrepreneur on his forward march starting from its original plan to making the first successful sale.

Day two was more intense with discussions revolving on the difficulties getting the first few customers, validating the need for the product in the market, generating the first rupee (or dollar!) in revenue and how to grow the startup from a buzz in the head to a live organism.

There were numerous sessions that focused on what it takes to be a successful startup firm. In particular, entrepreneurs got deep insight into how to make the first crucial sale or pick the right timing of stepping up the gas to get on the fast track with your startup.

Positive Feedback

Participants felt the insights shared by peers were real and relevant.  Said Raghavendra Singh, Head-Marketing, Intellileap Solutions, “PNCamp is a great initiative by iSPIRT and focuses on select and right mix of entrepreneurs that enable a two way process. The learning and sharing of ideas, experiences, and strategies was very stimulating.”

The significance of being in the top ranking of a product category, the importance of its positioning and PR was not lost on anybody. Impressed by this learning, Praveen Singh. Founder & CEO of, a company that offers testing solutions, admits, “Differentiating your products is key to success and building a market for it is crucial, I gathered.”

Considering its advantages, PNCamp has become a not-to-be-missed event for product entrepreneurs. Says Rinka Singh, entrepreneur, a person who rarely entertains disruptions or hardly ever stays away from work, but makes PNCamp an exception, “It was a great experience listening to the speakers and connecting with various participants. Besides, the boot camp model allowed us to share problems, discuss them through with those who were in the same state as us and to learn from each other. It will be worth coming back for it next year.”

If you missed this one, we hope to see you next time around!

India has the potential to create great product companies. The ecosystem is evolving and we are glad to be part of it

Anup Tapadia, CEO, TouchMagix, has revolutionized interactive systems with his innovation. Driven by an aspiration to innovate and deliver great experiences in gesture based interactive display systems, his products have reached numerous brands and consumers since the company’s inception a few years back.

His work has earned him recognition from the likes of Bill Gates, Dr. Abdul Kalam, Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar, R. Balki and Azim Premji who have acknowledged his sheer intelligence and tech driven entrepreneurial spirit. The British Government awarded him the “Global Young Creative Entrepreneur” honor in 2010.  In an interview with ProductNation, Tapadia talks about his aspirations in making India an innovation hub and to develop world-class products.

You offer a variety of interactive display solutions. What is the market potential for these products?

At TouchMagix, we are focused on creating next generation interactivity and engagement technology and have created products that use motion, gesture and touch for various applications. We manufacture and supply both technology and equipment that have been creating global standards for giving audiences a lasting impact and brand impressions. TouchMagix has a variety of interactive display products like Interactive Floor, Interactive Wall, Multi-Touch MagixKiosk & Table, MagixFone and rich capabilities to build customized solutions and content.

Customization of content is an aspect which increases the market potential of these products manifold. These applications range from creating engagement and experiences for brands, creating an interactive ambience in hotels and lounges, to marketing initiatives at on-ground activities. This technology is also being used for children entertainment, education and health. Being unique in nature, it enables brands to create conversations with their consumers, thus enabling them to become one with the brand. Over the years, we have penetrated globally across a variety of sectors including real estate, banking and financial sector, education, information technology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and hospitality sectors.

Is the market willing to bet on new products?

Today, Indian and global brands are looking at innovative avenues and channels to communicate with their target audience be it customers or internal audience. With brand fatigue becoming a cause of concern for brand managers, interactive products like TouchMagix is an ideal solution. The real USP of our product is in the usability, open SDK interfaces and core tracking technology IP which allows us to track gesture/touch at a higher accuracy level and speed.

How soon was /will be your company feasible in terms of generating revenue? What are your sales projections?

We have been profitable since the first year we started business. More than a million people have engaged/experienced TouchMagix products world wide and the number is growing continually.

Indian IT industry has largely been IT services focused. What has been your experience in building products? What were the challenges faced?

We firmly believe that India has the potential to create great product companies. Our experience in building products based out of India has been quite interesting. Building electronic products is not an easy task in India as it is capital intensive and expensive. A major challenge was to find the right people and retain them for R&D based jobs. The ecosystem is evolving and we are glad to be part of it.

Do you feel the Indian ecosystem is software-product friendly? What is needed to create world-class products?

The eco-system is still evolving and education needs to promote research driven product innovations. Most of us prefer the safer route and hence many end up in starting service based companies.

For a young 24-year old guy to have been honored with the ‘International Young Interactive Entrepreneur Award 2010’ by British Council, and ‘Best Young Entrepreneur Award’ by a business magazine, says a lot about your achievements.

I was drawn to computers when I was just seven. In the subsequent five years I mastered over 15 different computer programming languages. Art and Technology have always intrigued me. When I saw Tom Cruise playing around with large displays in Minority Report, it triggered a series of thoughts in my mind on the possibilities of this kind of technology if brought to reality. This led to launching of TechnoKarma Labs. At TechnoKarma, we undertook many projects in the IT networking space such as creating low-cost firewalls and a low cost wireless mesh router, which enabled Wi-Fi connectivity in IIT Pune’s campus. One of the projects from TechnoKarma Labs was later spun off as TouchMagix.

My passion and perseverance to create a truly Indian product for global markets was the reason for my success.

You have also received appreciation from the likes of Dr. APJ Kalam, Bill Gates, Azim Premji and others. How does it feel to be acknowledged by these eminent people?

It is overwhelming when stalwarts from the industry appreciate your efforts. These endearing comments reinforced my confidence and also encouraged me to keep moving on the path of innovation.

What is the road ahead like for TouchMagix? Where do you see the company going?

While multi-touch technology revolutionized the way we currently perceive and engage with technology, gestures and motion will make user-interface even more immersive and instinctive. The potential of this technology is great today, and we are seeing that with the response for our products globally.

From keyboard and mouse to touch and gesture, the human interaction with devices have evolved in a big way to help people interact in a manner that is appropriate for their lives. In future, we aim to create products and content that would make human interaction with devices more intuitive and enable us to create memorable experiences.

What learning would you like to share with others from what you have learnt?

For emerging entrepreneurs I would suggest it’s essential for one to work at one large corporation and one small start-up to experience and understand the functioning of both setups. I feel India is a land of great opportunities and there is never a better time than now to kick-start new business in a growing economy.

TouchMagix Products

  • MotionMagix™) converts any floor/wall into an interactive space for educating and engaging users with fun, action and excitement.
  • MagixTable™ is world’s thinnest 40 point multi-touch plug-n-play surface computer table loaded with rich application suite and easy customization for corporate and entertainment application.
  • MagixKiosk™ 32″ 1080p HD can be used in 4 different form factors like table, tilted kiosk/workstation, high bar table, or as a standing flat display.
  • MagixFone™ is Any Display Any Phone interactive technology which gives your audience the ability to control the screen for playing games, answering quizzes, sending social messages and much more using their mobile phone.
  • MagixFone™ hardware picks-up the call or interprets an SMS which allows the user to use his/her mobiles keypad or voice to interact with the display.

“For a product business the product roadmap, customer segmentation and a delightful user experience are extremely crucial.”

Started in 2011 with only three employees, Emportant has grown to serve thousands of users with their cloud based end-to-end HR and Payroll products. Co-Founder and CEO, Emportant, Sandeep Todi says his company is focused to appeal to firms that would identify with its motto, ’Employees are Important’.  In an interview with ProductNation, he says his biggest learning is you must always take good care of your customers even as you keep expanding.

How would you describe the shifting paradigm from Outsourcing software to Software as a Service?

Software as a Service (SaaS) allows you to try business class software with ease and without being tied down with painful and expensive procurement and deployment cycles. With no upfront investment, it’s easy to try and buy SaaS products. In that sense, a SaaS network of products mimic the behavior of a ‘technology grid’ that you can tap into. In contrast, building custom software is like installing a captive power generation unit at prohibitive cost that is hardly justified when the grid is at your doorstep.

Companies have also realized that SaaS is not just amortizing costs over several years, but a new way of thinking. You are not selling a box, rather a product that’s constantly on the move. SaaS products see anything around 4-12 releases a year, are built on rapid release cycles. Moreover, customer feedback is acknowledged and incorporated in these rapid release iterations, something which is impossible in outsourced software or licensed software. The customer is therefore always on the latest release and does not suffer from “version fatigue”. Businesses are realizing this by adopting SaaS products with very little risk, tasting success and then quickly going on to embrace this new pedagogy.

In what way does this new model benefit users in terms of effectiveness, cost and support?

This SaaS apps-grid or ecosystem of apps that can co-exist with each other, is becoming more powerful by the day. No outsourced software is able to deliver this as elegantly and as cost effectively as SaaS product delivered over the cloud.

SaaS software is able to deliver benefits rapidly through new releases and eliminates risk of obsolescence. FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) has been used by traditional software vendors, scaring users about impending obsolescence. Having left with little choice, customers had to regardless opt for expensive upgrades and consulting efforts. A transparent SaaS business always keeps users on the latest version and ensures that this version works 100% with all customer environments. This dramatically lowers the cost of maintaining the product because you are no longer dealing with different versions that must be supported for different customers.

Tell us the story about your recently launched web based HRMS and Payroll software, Emportant? How did it happen?

We are in the HR software business for nine years now. Having sold our product PowerApps to several mid-to-large enterprises, we delivered mission critical and high performance HR/Payroll software to customers like Bank of Baroda, Ford, TI Group, ITC, L&T, GTL etc. In 2009, we wanted to adopt cloud computing in a big way and struggled for two years. It was then that we decided to carve out a separate company and a separate product for the cloud – this was the genesis of the birth of Emportant in 2011.

In creating Emportant we initially feared it would cannibalize our own product PowerApps. Thankfully, that did not happen and now both products have a good market presence of their own in two different customer segments. drives every HR process with the Employee at the center. Every HR / Manager / Employee interaction can be initiated by the Employee and is available on a self-serve platform.

How easy or difficult is it to market a software product in India?

The going was pretty tough in 2011 as cloud was not very well accepted back then. Now it’s different, as CIOs are less wary about the cloud and more concerned about the stability of the vendor, maturity of the cloud product, etc.

Custom software is still viewed as a viable alternative primarily due to the inexpensive cost of hiring programmers. Moreover for a product sold to mid-market and large businesses, you have to traditionally sell one-to-one, engage in multiple meetings and convince customers about the solution fitment without landing into the trap of customization.

What are the factors that make a successful software product and the challenges faced in taking it to the market?

For a product business the product roadmap, customer segmentation and a delightful user experience are extremely crucial.

We have focused on how HR can be employee friendly and have a focus on achieving business results using software tools. The product’s benefits must be easily understood and should quickly demonstrate value. We have successfully kept bringing original thought and real customer feedback into our product, coming out with unique and uncomplicated ways of solving business problems.

Emportant drives HR administration in real time and moves away from the concept of HR software being only a system of record. This model of ours has led to a success rate of > 80% in converting prospects to customers.

We are now looking at stepping up our efforts on social media and on overseas customer acquisitions. Establishing credibility amongst large customers continues to pose interesting challenges and working with business partners means we have to convince them about long term value vs upfront margins.

What is the future of software products vis-a-vis services?

Software products and services will always have their own separate customer segments. I don’t think software products can solve every business problem out there and services have an important part to play. Customers are beginning to realize that service consumption burdens them with unreasonable costs of operation and in an increasingly competitive world they would rather adopt a product if one exists which can meet their requirements. The benefits of products to the customer in terms of cost, sustainability and continuous improvement are already well established.

Look at Dropbox’s recently announced Datastore API. They have just commoditized the offline storage market for independent app makers. In fact, storage is now being turned from a service into a product as will be any service which can be wrapped into a standardized and repeatable delivery.

What learning would you like to share with other product companies?

Every launch of a new version is a learning experience for us. We are faced with the challenge of what to build in the next version, how does it affect pricing and how does it affect our current customers. What we’ve learnt is that you must always take good care of your current customers even as you keep expanding. To ensure this, we reward existing customers with new features for free whenever we release new versions and keep them protected on price changes perpetually.

What role do you foresee ProductNation to play in nurturing the growth of software products?

The biggest obstacle to exponential growth of Indian products is the lack of access to experts in marketing, product growth and cutting edge technology. Too many companies face mortality because of an idea or execution gone wrong.

ProductNation will hopefully help overcome these hurdles quickly and open up the opportunity for Indian products to be recognized globally.

In the next 3 to 5 years, Jamcracker seeks to leverage and contribute to India’s product ecosystem, and bring the latest R&D and innovations in cloud brokerage solutions to Indian enterprises and SMBs.

Set up in 1999, Jamcracker develops and markets software, services and an ecosystem of cloud services that enable customers to become Cloud Services Brokerages (CSBs). K.B. Chandrasekhar, CEO & Chairman, was also co-founder and Chairman of e4e Inc., a business process outsourcing company. In the mid-1990s, Chandrashekar founded Exodus Communications, which he led to become the leading provider of enterprise hosting services. In 1999, Chandra was honored as the Ernst & Young Northern California Entrepreneur of the Year.

In an interview with ProductNation, Chandrashekar says he is bullish about designing and selling to the Indian market, but there are some specific challenges hindering SMBs, including low broadband penetration, and ubiquitous and cost-effective access to bandwidth.

1.    What is cloud service brokerage and is this phenomenon really desired?

Gartner defines a Cloud Service Brokerage (CSB) as an entity that will “play an intermediary role in cloud computing… [to] make it easier for organizations to consume and maintain cloud services, particularly when they span multiple providers.” CSBs broker relationships between cloud services consumers and multiple cloud providers, aggregating many services into one place with a single point of catalog management, user administration, access control and security, billing, auditing and reporting, and many other aspects. CSB operators are either Internal CSBs or External CSBs, and some will serve double duty. Internal CSBs are operated by centralized IT organizations that provide internal Cloud AppStores for employees and affiliated members. External CSBs monetize cloud services delivery by aggregating and selling from their own private-branded Cloud Marketplaces. An analogy is how the power grid interconnects energy producers with energy consumers. 

If we are considering a collection of interdependent cloud services taken from separate providers, what sort of help or value would cloud brokerage offer?

Cloud brokerages provide an abstraction layer that enables cloud consumers to have unified control – across disparate cloud services – of catalog management, user provisioning, security (including single sign-on), administration, reporting/auditing, support and billing.

This greatly reduces the overhead costs associated with procuring and life-cycle management for organizations that are incorporating cloud services into their businesses. It also improves their ability to secure and manage how their users interact with disparate cloud providers, to provide a unified support experience, and other benefits.

2.    Could you tell us about Jamcracker’s home-grown cloud services brokerage (CSB), and how do you differentiate yourself? What are your offerings as part of this solution?

Jamcracker develops and markets software, services and an ecosystem of cloud services that enable our customers to become Cloud Services Brokerages (CSBs).  Jamcracker’s CSB enablement solution – the Jamcracker Services Delivery Network (JSDN) includes a cloud services aggregation, delivery, and management platform; a pre-integrated catalog of cloud services; and  best practice enablement services that allow our customers to unify the delivery and life-cycle management of public and private cloud services.

The Jamcracker Services Delivery Network (JSDN) includes a white-labeled cloud aggregation and delivery platform, a global ecosystem of pre-integrated cloud services, and business operations that enable our customers to operate their own Cloud Services Brokerages. The JSDN is a complete services delivery solution that includes hosting, provisioning, licensing management, billing, identity management, compliance management, single sign-on, services administration, business operations and customer support—enabling organizations to get to market quickly and cost-effectively as a Cloud Services Brokerage (CSB).

3.    How will this solution help enterprises streamline their cloud IT services delivery to speed up organizational innovation, and provide a unified usage experience?

Cloud services provide significant benefits to IT operations. From an IT perspective, however, adopting cloud services presents significant challenges. Implementing cloud services from multiple vendors creates cumbersome management and complicated billing, and CIOs have compelling concerns around security, compliance, auditability, accountability and supportability.

A highly effective way for organizations to unify cloud services management and delivery is through internal cloud services brokerages (CSBs). CSBs can help IT provide unified security, compliance, license management, and support.

4.    What have been the pain points in designing a cloud brokerage solution given India’s existing eco system?  What were the challenges faced?

There are two aspects here: designing cloud solutions from India, and designing for the Indian market. In designing cloud brokerage solutions from India, we have benefited from the excellent developer pool in India. Regarding designing and selling to the Indian market, we are bullish but there are some specific challenges hindering SMBs including low broadband penetration, and ubiquitous and cost-effective access to bandwidth. In the next three to five years, we at Jamcracker seek to leverage and contribute to India’s product ecosystem, and bring the latest R&D and innovations in cloud brokerage solutions to innovative Indian enterprises and SMBs.

As an early market mover in this offering what gains have you realized?

Jamcracker is well positioned as a thought-leader and technology-leader with respect to cloud brokerage enablement solutions.  Now that the market is poised to see explosive growth, this puts us in a fantastic position to succeed.

5.    How do you envision the current cloud computing paradigms to evolve? In that context what innovation do you see forthcoming from Jamcracker in the cloud space?

Unifying cloud services delivery and life-cycle management is becoming a well understood need, and to a great extent cloud services brokerage platforms will become the virtual “platform” that combines the innovation advantages of distributed computing with the traditional IT management advantages of standardized platforms.  We’ve seen this need for centralized management controls with every new wave of computing innovation – starting with mainframes, desktops, client-server and the web.

What is your business revenue strategy from this cloud-brokerage solution?

We support a few different models based on our customers’ needs.  In some cases, our revenue is a purely license-based model of our platform, whereas in other cases it’s more of a revenue-share partnership.

6.    Gartner predicts that IT organizations will increasingly be assuming internal “cloud services brokerage” roles. What are the prospects for cloud brokerage in India? How mature is the market for such solutions?

After the U.S., India is the #2 source of cloud-based services development, so the CSB model will be an important one from a supply-side distribution perspective.

From the demand side of the cloud services market, India is an emerging market that is competing on a global stage. In this cloud services will play a critical role in enabling small to mid-sized Indian businesses to leverage IT and application services that would previously have been prohibitively expense for them to purchase and operate on-premise.

Larger Indian businesses that already operate on a global basis will increasingly look to the cloud delivery model as a means for them to compete more cost-effectively and in a more agile manner.

Indian companies have a poor conversion rate of ideas into innovation because of a lack of structured processes’

Sridhar D. P. Founder & CEO and Dr. Shankar Venugopal, Chief Mentor, Thatva, say their company’s vision is to be a true enabler of innovation. Their strategy is to provide a software framework that could facilitate and enable innovation. Thatva came to be established when Sridhar was pursuing a program on innovation and IP at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, in September 2007. He discussed the idea of enabling innovation with Dr. Shankar Venugopal, who was one of the expert instructors for the program. He encouraged Sridhar to pursue the idea and has been mentoring him since then.  Although the venture formally started in 2011, the Thatva team had already developed a concept framework, Thatva Innovator to address the challenges in the innovation lifecycle. 

In an interview with ProductNation, Sridhar D. P. and Dr. Shankar Venugopal explain why innovation is affected due to absence of scalability in ideas and how success of a product depends in customer empowerment, which makes it a game changer in the marketplace.  

How would you describe the current innovation practice followed by Indian enterprises? How mature are their processes?   

Every company wants to innovate – be it for business growth, survival in the market or for building brand image. Indian companies do manage to create a few impactful innovations and manage to take them successfully to the market such as Tata Nano, Godrej Chotukool etc. But for every idea that hits the market, there are several others that get killed. This poor conversion of ideas into innovation is primarily because they lack a structured process for facilitating innovation. Most companies lack a culture of innovation that encourages their employees to pursue new ideas.

How does a structured flow in innovation help in terms of time and effort? What are the pitfalls of an unstructured approach? 

Innovation has three components – the idea has to be insightful, the idea should create unique value to customer and it should overcome all barriers on its way to market. Most innovations start with an insight – a structured approach provides customer insights and helps in creating value to customer. Structured approach also helps to plan and take proactive steps to overcome barriers and create a path to market. 

You refer to statistics that state 100 ideas achieve less than five impactful innovations. Why is this number so low? How do products like Innovator help improve that ratio? 

Every great idea needs to be aligned and scalable from business growth perspective. Although business alignment is more easily achieved, scalability is not easily found in most ideas. Additionally, IP and defensive patenting by the company, is a must-have in order to guarantee long-term returns and to create an entry-barrier for competition. The final test for a product lies in customer empowerment, which is a game-changer. An aligned, scalable, IP-protected idea may still fail if it does not meet the final criterion of empowering customer. Thus the conversion rate is low because of these four barriers, each of which plays a pivotal role in the success of an idea as an innovation – alignment, scaling, IP and customer empowerment. Thatva Innovator helps in facilitating enterprises to cross these four barriers upfront.

When Thatva decided to innovate with a new product, what was the vision and development strategy? What has been the response to Thatva’s efforts so far?     

Thatva’s vision is to be a true enabler of Innovation. Our strategy is to provide software framework that can facilitate and enable Innovation, and complement it with Mentoring & Consulting Services.

Thatva believes that Innovation needs to be all pervasive, and in order to facilitate this, every individual in the enterprise should be empowered with tools and techniques to take their ideas further. Most enterprises have mere idea management systems where employees post their ideas and people vote on it, but what we have conceived is a true innovation enabler system which empowers individuals to generate ideas and cover the entire innovation lifecycle using tools and techniques. 

In short, Thatva’s Innovator serves as an Innovation Partner for enterprises by effectively enabling ‘Pain-to-Idea-to-ROI’, be it in their current or new initiative that may be new product development, cost optimization or revenue maximization.

We have received positive responses, and many enthusiastic early adopters have returned to us with their feedback that has helped us to improve our offering. We have had more than 350 users who have used the ‘Lite’ version of Innovator at our workshops. There have even been instances of some users who were able to develop patented ideas and others who were able to develop complete marketable products.

Referring to statistics that say 44 percent business projects fail to achieve their profit targets, what are your revenue targets and how optimistic are you about Innovator’s business success? 

Once we got the idea of enabling Innovation, we started meeting many people who were part of R&D in both large MNCs and Indian enterprises to validate our thoughts. Also, there was a need to look at Innovation holistically, and not just reduce it to Idea management. 

So, we validated our findings early on with lead users, market research, meeting experts and with our own experience in the Innovation domain. 

In terms of Growth – we are looking to create tangible outcomes with at least five enterprises in India this year, and we are getting traction from international markets. We have executed couple of Innovation FLOW workshops in the US, UK and Australia.  

What are the Innovator’s product modules and approach strategy? Do you have any metrics for measuring progress / results?

Thatva Innovator modules include Problem Analyzer, Idea Generator, Opportunity Mapper & IFR Manager that can be used by R&D scientists, engineers, operations team, and finance and product strategists. Thatva Innovator also has Innovation Management modules like Innovation Portfolio & Project Management Suite & Opportunity monetizer. 

Innovator has modules to launch Idea campaigns and seek solutions for challenges. Innovator has developed algorithms for tracking and stacking relevant information. It is integrated with patent systems and can provide information about trends & competitors. Innovator has automated workflow, intelligent search systems, and evaluation systems in place. 

Innovator has built in best practices that are both qualitative and quantitative. It helps Innovators in validating the concept that the user has generated and facilitates project managers / reviewers to measure the concept with quantitative data.

Are there any other products similar to Innovator? What are your differentiators? What are your future plans for Innovator? 

There are many idea management systems that are meant to simply capture ideas, rate ideas, and serves as collaboration platforms. There are some tools that are meant only for R&D, and limits innovation as a function of R&D.  However, there is no tool that helps in enabling ideas and taking them all the way to the point of monetization, and this is one of Thatva Innovator’s capabilities. 

We are planning to address other emerging markets that have similar challenges like the ones we have in India. Innovator will have vertical specialized versions that will be domain intensive; like Innovator for pharma, Innovator for chemicals, Innovator for hi-tech industry etc. 

What has been your experience in selling an IT product in the Indian market? How do you sell your story to an enterprise who wants to create new, innovative product or improve their existing process? 

Enterprises have been receptive but challenges are more in terms of marketing a new concept to customers that has a long gestation period.  Sometimes, organizations may not have a clear direction and are not sure about their approach to Innovation, and at times they do it because their competition is doing so.  We have to work with them in aligning their Innovation vision, which means tackling the challenge of getting the top management’s time and get their involvement. 

In India – we are going as a Co-Creation Partner, where we start by understanding the needs of an organization and then plotting an Innovation roadmap. We conduct Innovation FLOW workshops and identify the organization’s challenges, following which we customize and implement Innovator product. We will continue to work as Co-Creation consultants for at least one complete iteration of our client’s Innovation project to help give their innovation project team, a full understanding of how Thatva Innovator and its component modules should be used to optimize their work and reap the benefits.

In enterprises where the Innovation process is more streamlined, we directly start with the implementation of the Innovator Product.

What learning would you like to share with other product developers?

Product development is an iterative process. There were almost two releases that we had to write off because we wanted our mental map of the product to translate into real good user experience and had to validate our concept. This is true for any product development company that is working on new concept.  Another important finding is to involve and continuously engage with lead users. This became a source for our own learning. Workshops are another option wherein new concepts can be introduced to test people’s responses.

Sapience Analytics is driving over INR 10 million in annual value per 100 employees

CEO and Co-Founder, Sapience Analytics, Shirish Deodhar, is pleased with the market response to their first software product, Sapience, and says their objective is to become the default standard for Automated Enterprise Effort Visibility and Gain

Sapience Analytics was set up in 2008, as a software products company. It was formed by four serial entrepreneurs, who had come to realize that the future of Indian IT belonged to product ventures and that software services was a commodity business. The team faced the compelling need of stepping into the market of software products. The core product in this case is an award-winning, patent-pending, Sapience, an employee productivity analytics solution that claims to deliver over 20 per cent increase in work output from your existing team. In an interview with ProductNation, Shirish Deodhar talks about the Sapience product journey, its unrivalled position in the market and the company’s future plans.

Why and how did you start Sapience? Why this area of work efficiency?
Sapience Analytics has been co-founded by four serial entrepreneurs. By 2008, we had spent 25 years in outsourced product development, including successful exits of previously founded companies. After mentoring a few product companies, one of us, Swati Deodhar, decided to build a solution to address the challenge of measuring and improving productivity.

In mid-2009, we had a prototype with an integrated dashboard displaying software engineering metrics aggregated and analyzed from different tools. This had to do with visibility into the underlying effort of employees and teams as they went about their assigned work.

Absence of work visibility makes it difficult to increase work output, and affects productivity. Contemporary practices of 24×7 work using laptops, flexible office hours, work-from-home (WFH) policies, globally distributed teams, and outsourcing intensify the problem of measurement. Many companies even stop these progressive HR practices in order to improve productivity, just like the recent controversial ban on WFH at Yahoo. We saw an opportunity to benefit the business through greater productivity while encouraging employee friendly policies. The solution also helps employees work smart and improve their work-life balance.

What are your product’s key differentiators?
Sapience helps deliver over 20 percent increase in work output from the existing team without requiring any change in process or additional management overhead. Sapience achieves this through Automated Work Visibility. This is a game-changer for any business, driving over INR 10 million in annual value per 100 employees.

Sapience captures employee work patterns in a highly automated manner with virtually no manual intervention. Agents installed on the individual machines collect user data, and forward it to the central server. Each user gets an individual dashboard, while long term analysis / reporting at business level are available to managers on the central server. Sapience integrates with the customer’s ERP and other systems to enable effort analytics and capacity optimization across all aspects of the business. Customers can opt for Sapience hosted cloud server (SaaS) or an on-premise server.

Besides the revenue/profit gain for the business, here are a few benefits for various stakeholders:

  • For employees – they can ensure better focus on key activities
  • Managers – they can guide their teams to work smarter
  • Senior management get the ‘macro view’ – pointing out which teams are under-utilized


What was the funding strategy to create this product? Time and effort taken to develop it
Once the product concept was validated with some initial installations, we received US $350,000 from the Indian Angel Network in May 2010. Then in November 2011, we received around US $1 million funding from Seed Enterprises.

Who are your competitors? What is the biggest challenge Sapience has faced so far? How did you address that challenge?
Sapience remains the only product available globally that delivers enterprise class automated time/effort analytics. At first glance, some prospects confuse Sapience with employee monitoring tools that have been around for a long time. User time is classified into productive and non-productive work, and aggregated for a pool of employees on weekly and monthly basis.

One of our challenges is to highlight that Sapience does not change corporate culture, but adapts to it. We are addressing this with focused messaging, listening to employee and management feedback from our installations, and building the required capabilities.

What’s been your success mantra in expanding to emerging markets / its reach?
We have been fortunate to have India as a large potential market for Sapience, since it keeps the cost of sales and support low. The product timing has also been good, since productivity at work is becoming a key concern at IT Services companies and for subsidiaries of global MNCs. Since the economic downturn in 2008, revenue growth has declined and billing rates have remained flat or even dropped. Costs have continued to escalate, and profit at IT companies is now taxed.

We were warned that India is considered a very challenging market in which to sell enterprise products, especially for a start-up, and even more so for a ‘Made in India’ product. We encountered the classic innovation curve when selling the products. While everyone liked Sapience, most managers were reluctant to change the status quo in their companies. However, a few bold and innovative leaders recognized the value and signed up as our initial customers. In late 2010, the first release was picked up by companies such as IdeaS (a SAS subsidiary), Excelize, and EnVenture. These were all 75 to 150 user license deals. The next step was to persuade larger 2,500+ employee companies. In mid-2011, senior management at Zensar and KPIT gave Sapience its initial break into the medium sized segment. By early 2012, we got a breakthrough at Tech Mahindra, a leading IT company.

What have been your BIG lessons – personal, professional and otherwise? What lessons would you like to share with someone who is struggling or planning to get into product development?
I wrote a book called ‘From Entrepeneurs to Leaders – Building Billion Dollar Product Companies from India’ that was published by McGraw-Hill in 2010. But the BIG lesson is a very fundamental advice from an ancient Indian text (the Bhagvad Gita): ‘Do your work well for its own sake, without aiming for rewards.’

What inspired you to be an entrepreneur? What lessons would you like to share with someone who is struggling or planning to get into product development?
I did my B-Tech (EE) in 1980, from IIT Bombay. Following a Master’s in the USA, I worked at Burroughs Corporation in Southern California for several years. Got a US patent for the work that I did in my first year of work. I became an entrepreneur by accident when I met someone from the US, who wanted to outsource work to India, and helped co-found my first company, Frontier Software, in 1989. Frontier was a pioneer in outsourced product development, and with product offshoring to India being uncommon then, it took us 10 years to scale to 150 employees. One of our first customers, VERITAS Software (now Symantec Corp.) acquired Frontier in 1999. By 2003, we had scaled VERITAS India to over 600 employees in 16 product teams, and over 30 percent patents filed (though the India operation was 22 percent of worldwide engineering).

In late 2003, I and two others came together at In-Reality Software and grew it rapidly, before another successful exit to Symphony Services Inc. We scaled the Symphony Pune business to US $25 million and 700+ employees by 2007.

After mentoring a few product start-ups between 2007 and 2009, we decided to try and build a successful product company from India. We are now focused exclusively on Sapience Analytics.

Time on Work matters not Time in Office
Sapience automatically determines on-PC and away-from-PC time, and differentiates between actual work and personal time.Your 9-6 pm staff (typically women) may be more efficient than those staying late

The 9-6 pm employees are most efficient at work – since they contribute high work hours in proportion to time in office. They often tend to be women employees who have commitments at home.

Programmers don’t spend even 50% of their work day in programming!
It is about whether you are focused on activities that matter and which result in most work being done, rather than less important but seemingly urgent tasks.

Sapience is discovering that a large amount of employee time is being spent on emails.
This is often a case of poor email habits: opening each email as it arrives, copying too many people, etc. Similarly managers spend a lot of time on planned and informal meetings. The two most important training programs required in companies are on email discipline and how to conduct meetings.

What are your future plans –in terms of this (work efficiency) product / and any other?
We have a multi-dimensional ‘expanding web’ growth strategy that covers product functionality, platforms, enterprise scale, and geography. The goal is to become the default standard for Automated Enterprise Effort Visibility and Gain.

For example, in the current year, we will cover all platforms including Linux, iOS, smartphones, calendaring tools and third-party presence servers. We have just released mSapience beta for Android smartphones, which help you track time spent on phone calls, travel and meetings away from office. You can distinguish between business and personal work.

What has it taken so long for Indian software market to focus on software product development?  What changes have you see in people’s perception toward domestic software products?
India has dominated in the IT Services space for the past twenty years, which has benefited the country and generated self-confidence and reputation for India on the global stage.  However, IT Services growth has slowed, and profitability is down. Cloud technologies and widespread adoption of mobiles and increasingly smartphones has caused a technology disruption that new companies can exploit. Indian market for IT products is reasonably large and growing. Moreover, the presence of MNC subsidiaries and large number of experienced software professionals returning back to India means that the right kind of product talent is available. Finally, some degree of angel and VC funding is now possible in this product ecosystem.