Sameer Penakalapati Founded Avani Technology Solutions. He came from a rural schools and he knew that education is the only way to lead a better life. He did his Masters in Engineering in BITS Pilani and went to do an Executive management course at Harvard Business School. He spanned his career from IBM and went on to work with Arthur Anderson in technology and moved into Satyam in Pre-Sales and there began a shift in his thinking.
In-spite of him being a core techie, he began interacting with customers and understood their problems intuitively which led him to giving great solutions for their business problems and his clients loved it. He was able to acquire six new customers as part of the pre-sales team helping the sales team and every account he touched worked magic for him.
He began thinking about business because he was able to understand the customer needs and was able to sell well. Since he was spending too much time on the road with new customers, he joined a tier2 technology services company to spend time with family. He began building customers for that company and he grew the company from less than 100K$ to 8 Mn$ in six years and also acquired several global customers for the company. He realized that he wanted to do this on his own because the job in this company could not fuel his aspiration.
His employment helped him gain experience and save money which gave him the necessary buffer. He sat over the table and told his wife about starting something on his own and might lose but within one year he would go back to a job and start all over and his experience was his biggest asset and he started. Sameer says that he did not expect any Angel or a VC to come and invest in them, but had a good plan on where to spend and how to spend. He was able to see the end of the product/service – 3d vision which helped him identify customers that suited his product/service and tell them how it will help their business and began getting new customers
Sameer started as an IT services firm because the idea was clear and he had a reputation and connects with his customers from the past. He found a big gap with big IT services companies that promises many things but lacks big time when it comes to implementation. This is fundamentally because the sales pitch is different from the execution team and he wanted to build a system to promise what he delivered. The best thing for him to do was to go back to his contacts that he had built over time who were willing to bet on him. Six to Seven of those customers gave him small projects and took it to heart and implemented it.
Sameer also realized that many aspects of automation in large ERP products which can be done so simply was done very expensively. He went through the idea of trying it with cloud solutions where customers can access the enterprise data with mobile. They did some pilot solutions and demonstrated them the prospects to convince them. When companies began adopting it he found out that the smaller companies began liking it more than larger companies did and he decided to focus on the SME clients and automated simple business processes like HCM, CRM etc and one thing led to another one.
Sameers Advice – Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities because you never know which one will open up so vast. Issues based on business and technology will change constantly. Every business issue is an opportunity and if you can extrapolate it and can solve it for a few companies , it becomes an industry solution and that could be a Million Dollar idea. His business model is to sell the products to his customers and then cross sell his services to the same customers. Because of the services revenue, he was able to use it to spend on the product development space only with his internal team and after four years, the growth had come in through internal accruals and he grew the company to USD 15Mn revenue.
Sameer says that there was no innovation in his product lines. He took the existing issue, made the solution better compared to the competitors and simplified It for the customers to buy it 1/20th of the competitors cost and his customers loved it. He plays in the mid-market space by building products for his customers in the cloud and in the mobile space.
Sameer talks about one opportunity with the No 2 pharma company in the world where the entire bigwigs of the IT industry was competing for the deal. There was a need to integrate applications developed on three technologies such as Terradata, .Net and a Mobile Interface with their corporate systems. IBM came up with a top end solution costing over a Mn$ and the project was put on hold. Sameer went in one of the conferences and met this client at their exhibition booth and began talking to the person and found that this lady was looking out for an IT solution. He convinced them to send the RFP and met the customer with a price quote and got a little worried with the expression on the prospects face but was surprised that she was happy with the price but wanted Sameer to prove what he said was possible . He asked for time till the next morning and built the prototype overnight and showed it to her . The client was thrilled with the kind of turnaround time and just signed the contract in front of him.
The story is, you don’t have to worry about being a first timer and not having a brand. The POC and the solution is compelling enough. The big clients will give opportunities in spite of you not having a brand as long as you can prove what you commit. If you understand the customer problem, you have a winner. He extensively researched on the competitor’s products – Feature by Feature on pricing and on usability and how intuitive it is to use. He primarily checks if it is workable on mobile because 60% of the workforce works outside of their office hours outside the office and hence it is a huge opportunity.
They categories these areas, put the best case scenario and then put a product comparison sheet and were able to deliver a low cost – because they were also able to generate business out of services and hence able to customize it for each customer – 70 customers in four months. – 90% of the work can be done on the mobile – killer is the UI. They also conduct workshops, webinars and take feedbacks to continuously change the product to make it successful. Since it is a cloud base and there is no cost of implementation it made people to sign up straight and use it
Avani (http://www.avanitechsolutions.com/), has 260 employees globally with 15 Mn$ Revenue. At one end they work with 8 out of 10 big system integrators in the services space. They have a quite a few fortune companies as in the product and services space. They prove in one industry and would replicate and always cross sell. They create a platform for one department and will cross sell into the other and a big% of his revenue is through cross selling. Awardee Rochester top 48/100 in IT Services by RBA and KPMG, Inc 238/500 fastest growing private companies in America in 3 years, featured by SBA (Small business association – government) – product of the month by CEIPAL talent hire, top 20 most promising enterprise mobile company by CIO review top 100 companies by silicon india in 2013. Featured in many magazines in Rochester in local leading magazines