NASSCOM did a Face 2 Face session with Jayant to know how Intense got into a niche domain of “Digital Transformation” even before it became the next phase of evolution for organizations. Below is transcript of the interview.
Q: Why did Intense choose to foray the enterprise software product domain? At a time when India’s software industry was focusing on IT services, what made you decide on software products?
A: When we started Intense Technologies, the IT outsourcing /wage arbitrage model had already been well established. However, despite services opportunities available aplenty, the challenge of creating something on our own and the model of ‘build once – sell many’ excited us more. The founding team had left behind promising multi-national careers and it was important for us to build our futures on what excited us most. Also, as first-time entrepreneurs, we may have been naïve in following our instinct than established practice. Nevertheless, we backed ourselves and took the leap of faith and while we have worked to our riches, the journey has certainly been enriching! We sometimes wonder how things would have been had we followed the then conventional wisdom of pursuing services opportunities. I am sure we would have been struggling to pursue a product strategy!
Q: What were the strategies Intense embraced to achieve success? What are the learning’s there for start-ups and emerging companies?
A: While technical brilliance and innovation seem like the most obvious attributes that any product focused company must have, there are a number of other factors necessary to build a robust business.
First, the importance of domain expertise should never be understated. This becomes even more important for emerging companies, when brand recall and customer references are limited. We are seeing a perceptible shift even among large enterprises from ‘big and expensive’ to ‘niche and relevant’.
Second, your customers can be your best (or worst) advertisement. In a young or emerging company, more resources are spent on engineering than on marketing and branding. It is very important to have a single, or few anchor customer(s), who are willing to endorse your technology and support.
Finally, often young companies are naive to assume that building a superior product is half the battle won. However, our experience has shown that it just ticks a few boxes in the qualification criteria. It is important that equal (if not more) time very early in the product development cycle is also spent on strategizing go-to-market activities.
Q: What were the challenges you faced in the initial years? How did you overcome them?
A: All companies in their formative years go through the pangs of finding customers and retaining talent. Brand recognition drives a partner and reseller eco-system that drives the revenue engine. Until that is in place, it is vital to build a network of anchor customers who will willingly testify for the solution and the company. However, the bigger problem with growing companies is to find and retain talent. It is important for entrepreneurs therefore, to constantly communicate the vision of the organization to all associates and celebrate its successes as milestones that take them towards that vision. Having said that, it is also the responsibility of the entrepreneur to make sure that the disparity in compensation levels from market standards is not so large as to continuously distract the associates.
Q: How important is it for product companies to select a niche and maintain a strong vertical focus? What has been your experience in this regard?
A: It is important to realize that established players in any domain have gone through their own evolution cycle and reached there because of the strength and value they bring to that domain. Having reached there, they will do everything possible to not vacate the podium. It then becomes very important for any new entrant to choose its battles wisely. Creating a niche space through Blue Ocean gazing is particularly relevant to emerging companies because here, demand is created rather than fought over. There is ample opportunity for growth that is both profitable and rapid.
Q: What are going to be the key trends that will drive the enterprise domain going forward? What do customers need today?
A: John Steinbeck said ‘humans are never satisfied’ and similarly enterprises also are like humans, they will keep expanding no matter what. The world is going through a kind of digital transformation as everything—customers and equipment becomes connected. The connected world creates a digital imperative for companies. They must succeed in creating transformation through technology. Technology’s promise is not simply to automate processes, but to open routes to new ways of doing business. While executives see the potential for using digital technologies to achieve transformation, very few are clear on how to get the results.
Q: Digital Transformation is the next phase of evolution for organizations. How has Intense positioned itself in this space?
A: Intense’s products have always being enabling digital transformation. Our main goal is to enhance end customer experience that will improve enterprise revenue and give them a good ROI. We have comfortably positioned ourselves in the digital transformation of customer-centric processes. These include customer onboarding, Omni-channel customer engagement, demographic and spend pattern based customer profile insights, delivering world-class customer experience and are applications that directly interact with the end customer. Our customers have immensely benefited by streamlined operational efficiencies and an enhanced customer experience.
Q: How can companies digitally transform their customer-centric processes? What are the benefits of doing so?
A: Our unique approach to digital transformation rests on the fact that we have a rapid deployment architecture that enables faster implementation and does not mandate rip and replacement of IT infrastructure. Enterprises benefit from short turnaround times and see immediate results. Our framework enables digitalization of all aspects of processes related to the end customer experience.
Q: What are the critical factors that go into building a digital enterprise?
A: The key factors would be the value of going digital, prioritizing the processes that need to be digitalized, customer needs and skill. Digital will reduce labor-oriented tasks by automating the process, thereby reducing the cost of running the business. Always measure cost of going digital with the revenue it generates. The customer is the center of every business and going digital should comply with the customer needs. The main reason for going digital is to make your services more attractive to attain new customers and retain existing ones.
Originally posted at NASSCOM