Take up a challenge of your prospects and prove that your product can solve those problems
George John Vettath comes in with around 16 years of experience in Enterprise applications before he Founded Kallos Solutions (www.kallossolutions.com), 11 years ago. He had worked with CMC and with Ramco Systems. His last position at Ramco was as Corporate Director – Enterprise Applications where he headed both the product management as well as global marketing function. His primary responsibility was to provide materials and inputs to the sales teams in the 8 countries and translate the feedback from the sales teams to the product teams. He found that building a typical enterprise application was very labour intensive and complex, often involving half a million to one million lines of code. That was the time when some Rapid Development and SaaS based technologies were emerging in the market and he thought of developing a product to accelerate the way software was developed and he quit his job and started Kallos Solutions.
He spent the first three to four years doing research in building a framework for Rapid Application Development which enabled them to reduce the effort in enterprise application development for a typical project by around 50% to 60%. He had two options on GoToMarket – offer this as a PaaS (Platform as a Service) platform on the cloud like other players like Force.com (OR) keep the platform inhouse and offer services to customers using the platform so that they could get the benefits of the platform in terms of speed, quality and business relevance. . His past experience in the Enterprise Application space helped him understand that its difficult to sell technology, but customers like solutions for their requirement.. He chose the option of not selling the platform itself but to market products and solutions around this product. This was the early stage of the product six to seven years ago and he had to evangelize a lot to sell.
On the market outreach, George realized that a regular sales person will not be able to do this and felt that the first few sales needs to be done at the founder level. He had built three products when he got ready to sell. First one was a HR product, the second one was an ERP product and the third one was to offer Rapid Application Development Services. Both the products and the services would leverage the Internal PaaS platform. The differentiation for each of the products were would be as follows
KServeHRMS.com the HR product, had integrated HRMS capability like contemporary products but differentiated in the readiness to adapt the product to unique market situations
KServeERP.com was not as comprehensive as the international products, but in some verticals customers only required a backbone ERP and ability to rapidly develop their unique processes. KServeERP was right for these verticals
In addition Rapid Application Development Services (currently called Rapid Personalized Assembly) would focus on speed, quality and superior delivery parameters while delivering custom solutions
With these three messages, he set up suitable websites and suitable in bound lead mechanisms and his team went to meet genuine enquiries and converted them into customers. In those days, SEO was enough to generate incoming inquiries since the number of players in these spaces were few.. When the markets developed over time, in-bound leads became a bit slow and they adopted multiple channels like social media marketing . George also says that contacts were so crucial those days because buyers required confidence and trust in the provider they were entrusting their key enterprise applications to.
George talks about two early customers acquisition stories. The first one was with CSS Corp and the client wanted a CRM product for their customer management. They were looking at standard products and were not happy and thought of doing this in-house but felt that they will have some issues. George met CSS Corp’s CEO by chance and they began talking and George spoke about his RAD framework which can give the speed and agility but the CEO was more interested in fitment as their process was unique. George presented their unique capability of rapid development and the CEO was convinced at a high level. George however, did not have the answer to the obvious question that any startups will be asked. “Where have you done this before where the system can scale upto 1000 users?”. George had to overcome the objection by proving that this product will work. He challenged the CEO that he can take up a tough task and come back with the actual work within one days thereby demonstrating the agility of the framework. The CEO immediately called the Head of the Division and was asked to give George develop a complex screen. George got the specifications and went back the next day first thing in the morning with the developed screen. The CEO asked him if his team worked overnight to do it,, George said that the team finished the work during normal office hours the previous evening itself. The CEO got convinced, but asked him to do a small portion of the application to prove that it works in real time context and then gave him the entire assignment once the system began working well.
The second customer was SCOPE International (Subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank) with around 3000 employees in Chennai. Standard Chartered Bank along with Nasscom had come up with a challenge through an event for startups called TechExpo 2010. Kallos Solutions was shortlisted as one of the 10 out of the 60 companies that applied and was asked to present it to the CIOs who came in from all over the world. The CIOs were interested in the pitch and met them in the booth but the clincher was when people from SCOPE came in and challenged them to develop a complex loan origination screen very rapidly if we had that kind of speed. He called his key engineer from office and created a Loan Origination Screen with about 100 fields within 2 hours in front of them during the event event. This lead to an an order to develop a unique application for their recruitment needs.
Kallos’s approach has always been to prove their capability and the speed and affordability.
In verticals where there aren’t good products, the combination of the KServeHRMS, KServeERP and Rapid Personalized Assembly are much better than buying standard ERP products from well known brands.
George’s Advice to early stage entrepreneurs – Sharpen your pitch very clearly based on what the prospects business need and talk about your product only as a means to solve that problem. Don’t keep saying that I can do this and that but be specific on what you can do for each vertical and each persona, as that will help you convert prospects into customers. This is something that most startups have not nailed well.
Kallos Solutions,today has around 200 plus customers spread across UK, Middle East, Singapore and Hongkong in addition to India. They are bootstrapped and they have grown based on their internal accruals. Kallos has been rated among the top 8 SaaS providers in India award during the Nasscom Emergout Conclave, and have also won the TechSparks 2010 as the winner in the popular category and was interviewed by CNBC. To scale the victories to a global level and to make the sales consistent, George has now appointed partners in these countries and is now selling through them.