Understanding and addressing Customers Business IT challenges helped iValue grow at 5 times market growth!
Sunil Pillai founded iValue InfoSolutions along with 40 of his ex-colleagues. Sriram, one of the Co-Founder was with Wipro Infotech / Wipro ePeripherals for 20+ years. Sriram came in touch with the team at iValue when WeP acquired Select Technologies during 2003. When some of the founding team left Select in 2005, Sriram was appointed as its CEO from WeP side. Sriram and Sunil along with rest of the core team at iValue rebuilt Select and made it the largest Value Added Distributor focusing in Network Security and Storage offerings. When WeP decided to focus on their own branded offerings, 40+ from Select team came out and formed iValue with WeP blessings, during June’2008.iValue was formed with a mission to help customers effectively manage their “digital assets” which are key business differentiators, to ensure profitable growth of their business.
When iValue was incorporated, the market was doing well and the team believed that they had the OEM, market, partners and the customer contacts in their favour. iValue had signed many niche, relevant and compelling offerings in the Digital Asset Protection and Management offerings. Things changed dramatically when the world economy went through one of its most challenging periods soon after iValue formation. The partner centric model did not yield desired results due to risk averse approach of Customers especially when iValue portfolio had many niche but not established brands.
The team realized that the partners themselves had few opportunities in the recession market and they wanted shorter sale cycles and did not want to talk about new offerings to their customers because of the risk averse nature of the market. The Go To Market approach which was purely partner centric was then changed to Vertical/Customer centric approach to understand and address Customers business and IT challenges and then offering customized and optimized solutions. iValue team spent time with customers to sell concept, create opportunities for its partners. Over time Partner team realised the benefit and profitable growth opportunities in iValue offerings and started replicating the success creating a scalable and mutually complimenting business.
Sriram quotes another pivot that the team adopted. Having seen success by selling concept directly to Customers and then leveraging partners to fulfill, iValue further went deep and created two vertical practices.. With the kind of data that they collected out of their sales efforts, they concluded that Government and BFSI were the two most relevant ones. They went behind projects which were Pre-RFP stage because the founding team understood the business challenges faced by the enterprises and also the IT challenges these enterprises faced and fine-tuned the raw requirements and stitched multiple services and products at that stage of the life cycle. The enterprises loved it because their offerings were customised and optimized addressing its business and IT challenges. The whole team at iValue went through structured coaching and mentoring to graduate from product and technology mindset to understanding and addressing business and IT challenges around Digital Asset protection and Data, Network and Application (DNA of every business) management. This helped iValue grow consistently at 5+ times market growth rates over the last 6+ years.
The team also moved ahead of the market in 2010 w.r.t cloud service broker business. They formed an entity, invested in technology to aggregate cloud offering, recruited pre-sales and sales teams, etc. Looking back they were ahead of the curve and hence had to wind down the initiative and park it for re-launching the same at the right time. They did that in 2014 again with better success. The learning here is to have the flexibility to adapt and fine tune based on market traction.
Sriram’s advice to startups – The key to success and scale is not based on technology but its relevance to customer business needs – one needs to validate this from the potential market before diving deep. He regularly mentors start-ups and states that the many of the founders are in technology background and they fall in love with technology and do not look at the relevance of technology from a customer’s business needs. He has seen many even in a funding round, the founders do not have an apportioned budget for sales and marketing because their thought process is that technology is so good and customers will buy if they make a good product. Compounding this is the fact that there is also lot of noise created on the supply side where making products on the cloud is so easy and cheap. Selling becomes difficult, if the technology start-ups do not bridge their technology relevance to business benefits. He says that start-ups should know how to connect this with the customers, figure out if there is a scalable customer base and how one can communicate the value and once they think through, the start-ups can easily cross the bridge.
iValue (http://www.ivalue.co.in) is now 100+ team at 10+ locations, growing at 70% CAGR since inception, profitable from its 1st year operations. iValue transaction model is 100% indirect and does all its transactions through local, regional or national system integrators. iValue has direct OEM partnership with 22+ brands and has a partner network of 450+. They received Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award for India and Technology Fast 500 Asiapac award for the last 2 years. They also won the Red Herring Asia 100 for 2014. iValue has around 6000 customers and BFSI, IT/ITES, Govt, Manufacturing are its Top verticals. iValue is proud to have most top 100 brands in each of these verticals as their repeat Customers, year after year.