SD Squared Labs: Built for the Cloud

Date:   Monday , December 14, 2015

Just walking around SD Squared office gives you a sense of something very different. With a mass of white encompassing the space between floor to ceiling, indoor grass, and hanging chairs, there\'s a distinct feel here - one that resembles a Silicon Valley company that is on a mission to build generational products; and most definitely not one of a services firm sitting in the heart of Gurgaon.

\"That Eiffel Tower was from the launch of one of our companies,\" points one of the founders of SD Squared Labs Sachin Dev Duggal. You\'d easily be mistaken to think that this firm had just raised a large venture round and was doing the requisite build a funky office routine until Sachin walks you through what SD Squared has become, where it started and what it has achieved in the span of 30 months.

Sachin and his co-founder Saurabh are the same duo that created Nivio, one of the first cloud companies in the world. They took the company to a $100 million valuation before exiting and became one of the youngest people to ever attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.

SD Squared (or Version 3.0 as Sachin calls it) has a few interesting stats to its name: 20 percent month-on-month growth three years straight, 85 percent market share in providing cloud services to e-Commerce companies in India as a leading Amazon Partner and software that has touched tens of millions of users from giants such as Videocon D2H through to startups leading the charge like

\"We\'re more than a credit card for our customers buying Amazon Web Services,\" says Sachin about SD Squared partnership with Amazon and how they provide billing services to the Indian e-Commerce, Media, Logistics and Retail companies. \"But I don\'t think we\'ve done a great job at explaining this well to our customer,\" he adds. It\'s because whilst SD Squared\'s Partner Product Group has grown from tiny feet to over 300 customers selling Amazon and Tableau Products, the true heart and passion still remains in helping companies build better products and ensuring they keep running to be best of their ability.

SD Squared\'s core belief is that every company today is a technology business whether they function like it or not, so the role of a technology partner is not to simply build and pass on but rather partner and insert themselves in a way that lets them grow symbiotically. This is where Version 3.0 of the company has come to birth and it stands tall in its two core service areas.

Partner Products

Starting off with their reseller business, SD Squared\'s PPG (Partner Product Group) is building relationships with key suppliers of systems and at the same time, building up its customer base for the services it currently offers with the goal of becoming a curated market-place for Business Software that its clients are looking for. \"We have a lot of conversations with our customers, even the ones that know us only as their AWS billing partner, and are starting to see trends in what they want,\" adds Sachin, and the company uses this information plus the power of its rapidly growing customer base to bring the best in breed solutions into the desks of its largely CXO based audience. Gradually, the company has started building stacks of its services in a bid to create a marketplace for business software products.

\"We feel that there is a massive opportunity in building a SaaS marketplace that lets our customers now and coming, enjoy a single place for recommended solutions (an app store per se) with a single bill, keen offers and unbeatable pricing coupled with roll-out & implementation services by us or by credible partners we want to work with,\" elucidates Sachin.

Engineering & Design

The second group is the Engineering and Design Group which is tasked with helping customers manage their Amazon Web Services infrastructure right the way through to building and designing Mobile App, Web Experiences and even Wearable Technology. With a strong engineering team in place, SDSquared has built tech for other companies such as Videocon D2H, Rebecca Minkoff, Case-Mate, and others.

Software like a McDonald\'s Menu

\"We are in a unique time in technology, today\'s entrepreneurs are not sitting in garages tinkering on an idea but are coming to the frontlines sometimes in deep technology spaces, and are in need of reliable and credible technology partners,\" Sachin expounds. He further adds that he & his colleagues believe that as more of these companies sprout up, as more big companies behave more like startups, we will see more people engaging at a partnership level and less at a project level, since technology businesses are never just finished at the end of their development. They continue to course correct, grow and create further engagement. \"We want CXOs to be able to access software and product engineering talent as easy as looking up French Fries and a milkshake in McDonalds, and knowing what you got is exactly what you asked for,\" Sachin further adds.

Having been through a number of projects using SD Squared\'s Engineering-as-a-Service model, Sachin claims they have been able to crystallize the team needed for most types of projects. Ask him the cost of a Social Mobile App or a WordPress Blog or a Mobile Electronic Program guide and he can refer you to his chart of project vs people vs cost, with the option of choosing where you want it built (India, SF or a hybrid).

The company foresees ample room to make a large Engineering-as-a-Service group that provides its customers with access to top five percent engineering resources across the world in a hybrid delivery model that matches budget and location of resources across its hubs (San Francisco, Amsterdam and Delhi).

The Heart of SD Squared - Build Cash. Build IP. Invest in People.

There is a three-prong strategy at the heart of SDSquared which starts with building cash. This company has no debt, no outside money and yet it\'s straddling both services and product development - something that a lot of people have tried but very few have managed.

\"Often the venture part of the business get deeply involved with a customer, and we see magic happen in moments like this where we can provide both technology and cash,\" adds Sachin when he quips a little about the kind of investments they are doing, but is very tight lipped about the details.
This strategy has helped the company grow over sixty times in less than five years in revenue (from Rs.2.5 crore to Rs.120 crore for financial year 15) and is key to achieve the company\'s goal of a Rs.2000 Crore valuation target within 36 months.

Beautifully Built, Beautiful Inside

Today, SD Squared is one of the largest AWS partners in Asia, yet the company\'s philosophy runs through the veins of every team member. \"We are a Design and Product Company with a focus on people & design first. This means more homework is done on the \'what\' before the company starts working on the \'how\',\" asserts Sachin.

This core belief in Design, Analytics, and User Behavior Design upfront sets the company apart from most of its peers. Before building necessary triggers, the company does a brainstorming session with clients to understand the behaviors they are trying to create and the motivation behind such behaviors.

The company is also engaged in moving its users to Engineering-as-a-Service model, where clients get a cost effective portfolio of shared and dedicated resources that spawns all core functions including design, infrastructure and quality control functions. SDSquared also provides engineers on an hourly basis to extend the client\'s existing team.

Sachin says, \"We compete with any app factory or developer shop that exists between San Francisco and Shanghai, but our strength is the cloud. In fact we also invest and build our own products, which make us more than just a contracting shop. And because of that, we not only have the ability to suggest best practices, new technology and trends, but also ask the kind of questions that\'s important to measure a business- true unit growth\".

The users can start or establish Engineering-as-a-Service model to get up and running within a week. The engineering & product principles are built heavily around the Build, Measure, Learn model; thus having analytics at their core.

The \'Let Them Be\' Attitude

\'Let them be. Breed transparency and bring them to the decision table if they want to be there\'. These sentences summarize the work ethos of SD Squared. A 45-minute brainstorming session daily brings together groups from across the business, gives ideas and opens unprecedented opportunities. The company actively builds out ideas its team comes up with, using its own capital. To further move the boundary of being nimble and smart, the company has recently introduced unlimited leaves, and the ambience in its new office in Silicon Valley is quite astute and serene that lets engineers work according to what suits them best.

When asked about innovative future offerings, Sachin proudly shares, \"Now that would be a secret. You just watch us for the next 12 months; we have a number of big ticket plays across our organization\".


Key Management

Sachin Dev Duggal &Saurabh Dhoot, Co-Founder & Partners

Sachin & Saurabh, the college buddies are more of brothers. Engineers by education, profession and heart, the duo hold strong technical skills to build products and services that are devised to bring universal change in a positive connotation.

Pooja S Duggal - Managing Director

- Resell for AWS and Tableau
- Develops Apps, Websites and Wearables

Clients: Videocon, Airtel, HSBC, Jabong, Popxo, Myntra and Lenskart

Headcount: 80 worldwide - 4 in Amsterdam, 4 in San Francisco and the rest in India (Noida & Delhi)