Betting on a bigger pie of Mobile app Market
Date: Monday , October 01, 2012
A person from rural part of southern India and the son of a timber merchant, a dreamer and a doer, a person who is known as a horse in the industry whom you can bet on everyday of the week, Kishore Khandavalli, CEO?of Seventablets can be credited for more than this. He not only dared to start a technology company, iTech US, during the time of recession, but succeeded in making it to the list of top growing companies in New England. iTech is a custom software services and solutions company offering services to the Fortune 500 companies like Pepsi, Bally, DIRECTV, eBay, IBM, Microsoft and several others. And he has triggered the pistol again yet by entering into another hot sector, the Mobile Space with his app development company Seven Tablets.
With an escalating demand of the mobile app market where every player had one or the other app to offer its clients, Kishore found that there is a dearth for the enterprise app market specifically developed for every particular client who can directly download and use it according to their need. The clients are also looking for simplicity, choice and customer engagement along with continuous appreciation in the client value. He wanted to bridge this gap with his new venture Seven Tablets whose success he can bet on without any clients and no apps in pocket. But, how can he still do so?
The THRASH about
The success of iTech gave him the gut feeling that he can repeat the success and create a history again. Kishore wishes to do so by tapping in the experienced executives and satisfied clients from iTech and with two-way strategic approach that he has framed for the resources end.
Things started aligning since he came to the U.S. from India at the age of 23 with his young dream of making it large in the country. After a five-year long job, he started his first venture PrimeSoft in 1998. Since then, he never looked back and in a span of 15 years of his entrepreneurial journey, he merged his company with Glodstone Technologies, a public company based out of India, and was the CEO for the combined entity. Two years later, due to issues relating to core value and ethics, he parted ways from Goldstone.
“With an entrepreneurial experience of 4-5 years, I started iTech with four core values. Transparency: to clients, employees, vendors and partners alike; Integrity: stay true to your words, say what you are going to do, do what you say; Driven: I have come all the way out of India with good and not so good times, this is the driving factor that I want to nourish in my company; and Compassionate: to accomplish whatever we promise to our clients,” says Kishore Khandavalli, CEO, iTech US and Seven Tablets. His new venture, Seven Tablets will inherit and work on these four core values.
The birth of Seven Tablets
The mobile industry is a fast-growing market, not just for smartphones and devices, but also for the applications. Industry analysts predict that the mobile app market will grow up to $36.7 billion by 2015, and Gartner says that the market will reach $29.5 billion by 2013.
With such huge opportunity in the market, Kishore has plans to offer custom apps for Fortune 2000 clients through Seven Tablets which was born out of a mobile conference that he attended in 2011 in California.
“The U.S. has several small mobile development companies, lots of them 20-30 people range and most of them are 2-3 years old. These companies either focus on services approach which the client wants in app development, i.e., custom app; or small shops that develop apps and upload in app stores as free apps and they have a great business model,” adds Kishore.
The company is also developing its own enterprise apps and will be one of the first in the market to start downloading enterprise app to enable its corporate clients to download those apps and start using them for their internal process.
The People’s company
Kishore bets that if one looks at his company’s website, he will know that it is a people’s company. He has a philosophy that he doesn’t hire people for a position, but he sees either talent or loyalty in a man or woman. “We do not sell any physical products other than creating software. We are a team of people with strong core values and this is a big differentiator,” explains Kishore. Today iTech, the flagship company, does strategic consulting, software development, staffing and data services out of India. With its two off-shore centers and 500 employees out of India and around 700 in the U.S., his global team stands abide with the core value of the company. This team has created a success story for iTech and now it is their turn for Seven Tablets.
The Manpower Dearth
“We all know that the mobile market entails a good business opportunity. If you have the right approach, tools and solutions, the business will grow and no one can deny this. But the biggest challenge in the mobile space in particular is the ‘Talent’. As this is a new industry in itself, we do not have enough mobile development talent available and those who are have already been taken, there is a huge competition for them,” explains Kishore.
He wants to position his company Seven Tablets in the near term as a completely U.S. based solution provider company and not to take it offshore. He feels that there is a niche need in the industry in the creative side and the user interface front of it, and wants to tap into the U.S. clients with American creative side rather than developing creative user interface from overseas. “This will be our value differentiator when compared to our competitors. I believe that the user interface, graphics and color scheme in a particular place is different from another, and not that one is better than the other. I want to position Seven Tablets as a high-end app development company and my biggest challenge is to get or attract talent as the mobile space is competing for it,” adds Kishore.
The Two-way approach
He plans a two-way strategic approach to overcome this challenge. With the available manpower resources that he holds in iTech, he plans to tap and use them by providing training in the mobile space. Seven Tablets has already identified two partners, IBM and Motorola. “IBM has a mobile platform and we are the only partner at the moment. I want half of my employees to be trained in IBM platform and other half in Motorola. This team will be working for the core iTech, but when I get business in Seven Tablets, I will migrate the iTech legacy business into Seven Tablets,” explains Kishore.
The second strategic move that he has taken is to recruit fresh talent from high school senior level to undergrads from college. He thinks that being the newest space; mobile app development needs cutting edge creative ideas. He wishes to have a creative team between the age group of 17-25 years. “This is where the fresh brain and fresh talent is and this generation has grown up with computers, mobile phones and Xbox. On one side, I have mature, seasoned individuals that will be doing coding, architecture and deployment, and on the other side, the younger generation will bring the creative side and the user interface,” adds Kishore.
He has finalized on two colleges where he is going to set up RDCs (Remote Development Centers) offering internships to students on his mobile projects and mobile product developments. Kishore says, “It is a win-win proposition; tapping into the fresh talent and also getting work done which addresses my resources issue. My seasoned team can make coding and software work and the fresh talent will come up with creative ways of presenting it.” Currently, Seven Tablets has 20 employees and plans to grow to around 150-200 in numbers in next 18 months.
But the challenge still remains. The young folks may not know exactly what you want, as they do not have the consistency and maturity level that one gets from the seasoned employees. Engaging employees at such a young age is a risky proposition. While fully aware of the risks, Kishore still bets on this format. “I do not know how their longevity and commitment is going to be as at this young age as one wants to explore a lot of thing when they are young,” hitches Kishore.
The shipping of mobile and tablets has surpassed that of PCs, and like many others, Kishore also feels that in next 3-5 years, the laptop is going to become obsolete. The world will be either tablets or hand-held device driven and this is the time to click the right target. And with the existing client base in iTech, Kishore plans to tap his existing clients and offer the solutions to these satisfied and well known clients.
The industry is changing rapidly and everything will be done at a faster pace. Even though Kishore has a team in place, he has to deploy apps from start to finish in anywhere between 90-180 days, a time frame long enough to allow another shift in technology. “What we envision today as a user interface as a mobile app, it may change six months from now, so what we developed for the older version needs to be updated for the current version and that is the challenge. With so many hardware suppliers releasing a new mobile hardware every other week, the biggest challenge for us is to make sure that my app is working properly on all those devices,” explains Kishore. Seven Tablets is focusing a lot on the front end and creative side of it. It cannot bear to have less and imperfect interface on any mobile device.
Kishore is not afraid of the competition but knows how important it is to keep him and his company abreast with the latest technologies relative to the competition. And that is why his employees constantly undergo training programs to update their skills at least every six months.
“How you get ahead is how you create a differentiator. We do it by talking the talk and walking the walk. We want to make sure whatever we have developed or are developing is going to look great on any interface and platform. We also have planned to establish similar partnerships such as Apple to stay ahead of the curve. This is not only with the hardware companies, but also the software,” explains Kishore.
One of the greatest challenges in the mobile app development industry is to introduce real-time innovation. Seven Tablets is focused on innovative products within the enterprise arena. One of them is for the medical manufacturing companies who are unable to get consistent and accurate feedback from physicians regarding the use of the company’s product in medical procedures. They are dependent on such information to constantly innovate things in their industry. Using smartphones, physicians are able to capture and log real-time data, images and comments as they complete cases and procedures during the day. This real-time data is uploaded directly to a centralized repository which the medical manufacturer can review to monitor the use of their products. Seven Tablets has come up with a real-time solution to this issue. It has developed an app that can also be used by physicians to keep track of their daily case schedule and communicate diagnosis/procedure information back to their administrative and billing staff. The app also features an Executive Dashboard that can be used on Tablets or web browsers to monitor global use of the company’s products by geographic regions, product types, procedures or hospitals. The information gathered provides valuable insight for product development and marketing purposes. The company primary focus is to develop enterprise-grade Mobile App for corporate clients. Additionally, it plans to develop its own commercial mobile apps to be sold through major app stores such as Apple AppStore and the Android Market.
The initial defy
Kishore has a strong clientele base in iTech; most of them are Fortune 2000 companies. When all of them recognized the need to go mobile and expressed this desire, he planned to tap them all into his Seven Tablets business. “However, there exists a great deal of uncertainty with most of the companies on the exact path to get transitioned to mobile from client server and web interfaces. No one is sure on how to make the leap and what platform to use,” says Kishore. He also does not have all the specific answers to these immediately but when engaging with clients, he saw the business opportunity as every single company wants to beat their competitor and reach their clients in the mobile platform.
With the existing base of clients from iTech, Seven Tablets is going to provide them with certified mobile folk either by IBM or Motorola or both. The clients and the iTech team are already known to each other and the mobile product that Kishore will propose to them will be internally developed. “We do not have a fully developed custom app yet, but with our approach and team, it is not too far,” explains Kishore.
Seven Tablets is in talks with its existing clients focused on starting custom development projects in the next few weeks. It has a few products developed but not yet deployed into the app store which will be done in the coming days. The clients may not have a clear picture on the path they want to take and it is Kishore’s job to mitigate the risk and issues on how to do it. Motorola and IBM will walk with him in his first few implementations as they already certified Seven Tablets. Kishore knows that the first couple of them will be the learning curves for him, but he has put all measures and staffs in place to move smoothly.
With the world eyeing the New Year, Seven Tablets and Kishore eyes to release three products in enterprise space and two custom apps for clients along with at least one RDC at a college campus. He also will be expanding his team from 20 to about 40. Kishore puts every move of his to get a bigger pie of the cake of the mobile app market.