Underserved market? Pilot your way into the market
Guru has spent nearly 27 years building software applications and products for the telecommunication industry before embarking on his entrepreneurial journey. He has served at senior IT positions at ITI , CDoT (10 years) where he was involved in developing an indigenous switching system ; Axes technologies (US customer for their switching system) and with Infosys for close to 12 years where he was responsible for handling one of their key accounts (Cisco Systems) where they developed and maintained their telecom/datacom products. Guru teamed up with like minded people Prasad Nagalapura and Jayaraman both of whom bring in rich experience in Telecom in the entrepreneurial journey.
At a time when enterprise mobility was still in its nascent stages, the founders saw a window of opportunity in field force mobility software. Based on personal experiences with field service and domain expertise, they zeroed in on a solution to address the challenges faced by field services teams. The founders at Vitamap conceived mEdge, a mobility platform connecting a mobile workforce to back office coordinators using ubiquitous mobile technology. A closer look at the market allowed in-depth analysis of a real business problem. Manual ways of working leading to leakage of information and delay in response times.
In Guru’s words “mEdge is a mobility platform connecting enterprise field force workers to internal systems to manage customer requests/task at hand” . It provides real time updates from the field and captures workflows as it was performed on the field allowing the field worker to seamlessly continue his job at a later stage either in office or while on site. mEdge is a native application, menu driven with specific workflows for different scenarios including features such as signature capture, photo capture and location intelligence. Cloudtrac is the web application which is integrated to the back end system of enterprise and communicates with mEdge over internet/SMS. The overall solution was especially relevant to sectors were critical maintenance teams were required to react to breakdowns such as Power, Telecom Tower management etc., These sectors were underserved in terms of relevant technology based solutions that were affordable and easy to maintain as well as user friendly for a large set of users.
The founding team was assured that the platform was able to solve a real business problem, however the challenge was to introduce technology for teams who are used to manual ways of working and convince them to take a look at their new age solution. As with most B2B sales, the team relied on finding contacts who would introduce Vitamap to the right clientele. However, the team was focussed on finding the right first client to partner with. It was imperative to the success of mEdge. They were soon in talks with a contact in top Fortune-500 company to demo mEdge and find a fit in their operations. Despite serious hierarchical constraints and a rigorous vendor evaluation they reached the perfect audience within no time. The buyers at the enterprise were in for a pleasant surprise with the versatile yet simple system that mEdge demonstrated. The pilot included a two month trial period. The pilot enabled getting feedback on the solution and also user sentiment in adopting newer technology for work. At a time when smartphones were a lesser known phenomenon, they had to take a step back and tailor mEdge to work based on popular technology such as SMS to ensure success for the product. When they gave first concept demo, it was with two slides, one on mEdge and another on Cloudtrac with minimal enough workflow captured!
Vitamap also engaged with a Retail Field Services’ Company focussing on servicing of consumer goods parallely for sometime.
What worked for Vitamap was that the product was a fresh and new approach to a problem that the client was concerned about. Additional thing which worked was the business model. For the buyer upfront payment and on premise hosting changed to transactional pricing and hosting on the cloud. It removed the overheads for the buyer significantly reducing the barrier of adoption and scale. Additionally, the willingness of the team to make sure that the client got maximum value out of mEdge within the existing infrastructure won them the deal. The first client has stayed with them ever since and advocated mEdge through the years to their other business units within India and Asia Pacific countries.
Guru says “Pilot route is one of the ways to win accounts and demonstrate the value that the product brings to the client in the infant period of entrepreneurial journey ”. With this anchor client, it became relatively easier for them to win other large and medium accounts as their customers.
Guru’s advice to startups – “Find the client who is most in need of your idea and put your energies in the first impression your product makes with them. Win their confidence in you as a vendor and this will help you to qualify with the subsequent set of customers you approach.” One has to be on the constant lookout for finding and solving problems. For the team at Vitamap, mEdge is not a technology solution, but a solution that improves the customers situation and makes the customers life easier. Guru also advises founders on not getting wedded to the technology but suggests that founders test the waters or proof of concept with what you have done and look at a prospect who is willing to give you the opportunity as that will give lots of confidence because you gain insights and continue to innovate on the product.
Also to note is to speak the language of the customer and empathize with his/her pain point. Technology is only a tool. If you speak customer’s language there is high chance you will get a look in with a pilot.
Vitamap has a strong engineering team currently focusing on further development and innovation. Vitamap currently have multiple customers with around 3500 field service engineers across India and Asia Pacific countries using mEdge.
Vitamap’s mEdge (http://www.vitamap.com/) was recently featured in Frost and Sullivan & NASSCOM Product Excellence Matrix and also they won NASSCOM Emerge 50 2014 award and Top30 IBM Smartcamp award. Vitamap is focusing on further innovation on mEdge and started working with wearables like Google Glass and Watch. Vitamap is engaging actively with System Integrators to reach out to the bigger market both in terms of volume and geography across different verticals and domains.