Shifting Base for Western Market Penetration
I have had the fortune of being a serial entrepreneur and this only meant that I never give up on hopes, ability to make a difference and aptitude to learn. Founded Netlabs in 1995, co-founded Servion Global Solutions in 1998 and am into my third start-up, Green Quotient Systems (www.gquotient.com) since 2009. Groomed with professional skills for 14 years, with the final element of guts and gumption egging me, I ventured on my own in 1995. It has been a fascinating journey, never short of dull moment, but a life that I am still not fully equipped to balance risk and rewards. In my professional career, I have been exposed to selling to OEM Clients and Channel Partners and not so much to enterprise customers.
In 1998, when we created Servion, there were 5 promoters with diverse work experience and skillset with overlaps sometimes. We had consciously decided to focus on our core competencies as a founding team and expand the business to international markets. Early part of this arrangement, I started developing the APAC market for Servion, a company that was a pioneer in automated customer interaction management.
By the time our APAC operations had stabilized, I had settled into the dual roles of CMO and CTO for the company and had a different experience is selling to a Client in the USA. Over the years, we were selling bespoke applications developed to meet individual client needs. I had championed the creation of a productized version of the software that can be rolled out to multiple clients. As it often happens, the conviction that founders have on their pet ideas seem to take time to rub-off on the sales team.
Two of the founders, including me, worked on creating the product marketing and sales plan to acquire early customers in India. I had the ring side view of the skills we has used to develop the product and wanted to leverage the same for overseas market opportunities. We had marquee customers in India who bought the product from us, but the competition in the western world was intense.
We knew the challenges to build customer traction in the US market, from India as a base. Colleague of mine shifted base to the US and started setting-up the operations, including the hiring of sales people. One of the things that stuck me was the emergence of off-shore model to build products for clients in early 2000. We happened to come across an opportunity for secondary outsourcing where the US client was building a product in the space we were in – contact centers. I had a team and they had a need – all that was required was to forge a relationship with the prime contractor.
Our US office with my colleague in charge just did the right thing – dine and wine with the partner and the potential client using his social skills to the hilt. After a few trips and many conference calls with my team, the Client wanted to off-shore product development work to us, with a stiff deadline. I was able to “position” the technical capabilities of my team to bag an order worth US 250K in 2001. The American client was very different in his approach and they were quite candid about the good, bad (some) and the ugly (non-existent) part of our interactions. Ten thousand miles apart, after 10,000 man hours of effort, we delivered the software code that ran in tens of customer sites, until the division of this company was acquired!