D P Samantarai
Brief about company, offerings and foundation of the company
Softtrends Software Pvt Ltd was founded by me and Scott Magnes in year 2001 in Bangalore, India. Its primary focus then was to develop products and customized services around Palm OS, Symbian and Microsoft Pocket PC platforms. Some of the bestselling products then included 1) Agenda4us – a group agenda solution that had received Nokia Best application award worldwide 2) LivePVR – and enterprise compliance management solution for mobile users 3)Today the focus in on the newer mobile platforms Apple iOS, Android, blackberry and Windows Phone / Windows 8, and the focus is to develop cloud enabled products and applications. Some of the bestselling recent products include: 1) Mobile CRM+ - a Cloud enabled solution for mobile platforms that mobilizes various CRM servers 2) PVRtracks – Workforce management solution using Mobile, for small and medium sized businesses
Risks involved in business and way of addressing
Mobile technology and platforms have changed dramatically over last few years.Some of the older platforms are dead and buried and the newer platforms are quite disruptive in nature. The challenge is to embrace this change and effectively utilize it to gain early advantage. No doubt, early start has its own share of risk but can be very rewarding if risk is calculated and product and application delivery executed in time.
Most critical decision
Decision was to go full throttle of product development on LBS, Compliance management and Enterprise computing for multiple mobile platforms during the recession [2008-2010]. Instead of letting go resources, we used retained earning investing in R&D and it paid back when markets started recovering around end of 2010.
Some of the difficulties faced while building product/ solution
Implementation phase took the hit, since it was difficult to find skilled developers for some of the newer platforms. Increasing pressure on the margins as bigger companies are bidding aggressively for mobile projects. High cost of availability of mobile devices to test and release the solutions.
Three big lessons/ mistakes encountered while building company
1) Market for mobile products was very small initially ($27 million worldwide) so finding customers for our solution was difficult due to very small market penetration of smart mobile devices.2) Investor awareness on mobile was almost nonexistent so we had to invest our own funds and retained earnings. 3) Expecting people to be loyal just because you take care of their interest resulted in loosing financial resources and time.
Different actions if I rebuild my company from scratch all over again
If the conditions of availability of the various resources and mindset towards mobile computing were the same today (as it was when we built the company), there would not be a better way to rebuild the company. However, since the condition are different today, if I were to build a similar company, I would first mobilize enough financial resources to pick a few good people who can be real prolific in implementing ideas for enterprise mobility. Training new people and helping them to build career are they build out solution will be secondary.
I believe the world is going to be more and more instrumented and mobile will serve as a key for data and information transmission and presentation. In an age where BIG DATA,ANALYTICS and CLOUD COMPUTING are poised to change the way 21st century will compute, I see great scope and share for my company who is already in the forefront of mobile technologies. That what motivates and drives me.
Challenging people to deliver the BEST or nothing. We don’t think multiple times before dropping any feature development (for fear of losing financial investment) where we believe the end result will not be outstanding. There can be no compromise with the quality of products we deliver. This motivates my troops and helps build a work culture which is performance driven, where each and every employee is expected to contribute and the top most level of their potential. The rewards for good performance include additional bonus and incentives which is calculated based on the profit. Plus employees scale up the career ladder based on their aspiration and desire.
We select people based on their General Aptitude, Ability and interest to learn, adapt, Communication Skills, and Technical Skills. Anyone who satisfies these conditions generally can be inspired to deliver as per the company’s expectations.
Our First customer sign up was rather painless because there was negligible number of mobile application development companies at that point of time so; my credentials are technocrat carried more weight in selection process. Challenges were no different than today i.e. delivering quality product in planned time frame.
Experience reaching out to potential investors have not been very satisfactory primarily because of 2 reasons (a) although research studies show enterprise mobility is where wealth is made by mobile solution companies, investors are more receptive to ideas for masses / individual users that brings in large non-paying customer base, (b) most investors are looking for much younger generation entrepreneurs.
With 27 yrs of experience in R&D and product development experience, computer science education from the top institute in India, and award winning products in my personal portfolio, my initial role was to guide people technically and in product management. As we kept building teams, major part of my role shifted in training managers to do what I have been doing. Once the products were developed, my role also included guiding the sales and marketing team. But, I still continue to mentor product management and technology selection resources as we formulate new ideas and work on new technologies.
Keep things simple and make the best effort to simplify complex things. A leader as the name suggests is one who leads by examples and just does not sit and delegate work. The leaders I have are some of the best that industry can have. I advised them to use their intuition and experience to get things delivered. I ensure that my interference is limited only to the aspects for which inputs are needed from me. I trust my leader and frankly this trust motivates my leaders. A motivated human can connect earth and moon, needless to say for dots.
Ethics is important and is the backbone for any company to grow and prosper long term. It allows us to earn customer loyalty and retain existing customers as acquiring new customers is an expensive proposition. So upholding ethical values is quite important. In today’s world, there are many ways to earn wealth for someone who can be an entrepreneur. But there is only one way to feel good about it and continue in the right spirit and ethics is the biggest catalyst for one to be successful in this path. Ethics comes in multiple forms – not stealing customer’s IP, transparency to customers, and making sure HR, and finance acquire and use resources in ethical way are a must.