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February - 2005 - issue > Cover Feature
Small Company, Giant Leap
Pradeep Shankar
Monday, November 17, 2008
MicroWorld Software Services maybe small with just 150 employees, but its ambitions are big. They want to offer cutting edge software security solutions to its customers worldwide. But to even get a nibble in the crowded security space, MicroWorld needed to prove that it possessed the technology required to address customer pains—a tough task for an Indian company.

“We do not have huge resources for brand building as compared to established giants,” says the company’s founder and CEO, Govind Rammurthy. MicroWorld’s answer to being small was partnership with one of the world’s largest mail server providers, Deerfield Communications. Deerfield’s MDaemon mail server is used widely across the world.

MailScan, MicroWorld’s mail server content security and anti-virus software, was a perfect fit for MDaemon. Partnering with Deerfield turned the fortunes of MicroWorld. The company tapped into Deerfield’s channel partners and began establishing tie-ups with various resellers, vendors and technology providers.

MicroWorld’s entry into the U.K. market followed a similar pattern. It struck a deal with Paul Smith Computer Services, a leading software company in the U.K. that had many channel partners.

Today, the company has a large network of established partners in various countries- USA, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, U.K, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

All incoming and outgoing mail passes through the WinSock Layer at the server and client level. MicroWorld’s WinSock Layer (MWL) sits on WinSockAll. Content passing through WinSock must pass through MWL, where it’s checked for any security-violating data. If such data is discovered, it is removed and the clean data is passed on to the application.

Simply having an innovative product doesn’t advance one in the race, especially when it comes to selling security products. The challenge was to offer 24/7 service.
“All established players earn a lot from customers and partners through various levels of paid support,” says Sunil Kripalani, VP of International Sales. “We are the only company offering free 24/7 technical supports not only to partners and customers but also to important prospects. This has helped us make real breakthroughs.”

MicroWorld has also explored the advantage of offering customized deals, which have enabled them to enter important segments and signup with some of the best names like Vodaphone, Australia and UK, Ford U.S, and WHO.

For several years now, the company has worked closely with worldwide partners. The proximity has changed the perception of MicroWorld’s senior management about the India-centric startup. “Clients abroad do not make their judgment on the basis of the size of the company but on the quality of the product and loyalty,” says Rammurthy.

The key to MicroWorld’s success is the way it manages the channel. Channel-oriented focus has helped, and currently 70 percent of MicroWorld’s revenue comes from these channels. MicroWorld has a team who constantly monitor relations with partners across the world. Meetings between partners and resellers are held regularly. “A partner is dissatisfied when you directly deal with a client in the partner’s geography. We don’t do that,” says Kripalani. “Loyalty is crucial. Once you have loyalty from the channel, the number automatically increases. If we take two steps they will take four steps.”

Opportunity Areas
The penetration of Linux into corporate networks and desktops has been increasing over the years. The general misconception is that Linux systems are not open to virus attacks. However with the increase in the usage of the Internet, virus spread far and wide only by emails. Observing the need for protecting Linux-based systems from virus attacks, MicroWorld launched the development of a complete range of security solutions to protect both Linux servers and desktops. It did this with the introduction of eScan for Linux Desktops and Servers. It also provides protection from the spread of virus via email with its MailScan for Linux servers’ product.

Last month, the company introduced WebScan for Linux, a security solution to protect GNU/Linux-based systems. It enables users to scan web pages for content policy violations as well as for viruses, worms, Trojans and other malware.

With the latest launch, the company hopes to garner traction in the large ISP market. The company is also increasing its thrust on developing security products in local languages. For instance, MicroWorld launched a German version of its products sometime back, which gave it an entry into the German market. MicroWorld has also set up a joint venture in Germany along with its local distributor. “With localization, we expect to add to our bottom line”, says Kripalani. Shortly, the company will launch Spanish, Chinese, and French versions of its products.

Tough Walk
Rammurthy founded MicroWorld in 1994 with a capital of Rs 75,000, just years after he graduated from engineering college. That was a time when the Internet was almost non-existent in India. During the early years, the company’s anti-virus product, Red Armour, catered to the domestic market. There was no strategy to penetrate the international markets, making these initial years disturbing. By 1998, the company’s turnover had just managed to touch Rs 1 crore, which was not enough for a product company to survive. Also, as the Indian market opened up the product could not stand the test of time in the wake of competition from International players.

Rammurthy had to grapple with the attitude that Indians had towards packaged software. “The U.S and the Europe had come to accept that any intellectual property, though it could fit in a single floppy or a CD, had to be paid in multiple times of the actual price of the software,” he recalls. “Unfortunately in India the reality was different. It was impossible to grow our business.” Unless MicroWorld considered international shores it was virtually impossible to keep the spirit of a product company alive.

Rammurthy believes that the big guys in the space—McAfee or Symantec—are in a disadvantaged position because they cannot see the winds of change as quickly as a small company does. A small company always looks out for opportunity. Most of the big players failed to forsee the Internet boom. “We sensed the opportunity and developed a product for MDaemon,” he says. “In fact, we were one of the first few in the world to launch such a product. Symantec or McAfee did not have any product for the segment. While they addressed the desktop space we focused on Windows-server segment.”

Getting a sample of the virus is important to write a code to dismantle the threat. For a company based in India, especially when Internet access itself was a luxury, obtaining this was almost impossible. In 1998, MicroWorld entered into technical tie-up with Finland-based Data Fellows, a company that popularized F- Prot anti-virus software. “Through this collaboration we managed to bridge the gap between what we knew and what we did not know,” says Rammurthy.

The break came in 2000, when the company launched its new product—MailScan for MDeamon. “It was a huge hit and since then it is full steam ahead with no stops,” says Rammurthy.

Today, MicroWorld's development team numbers more than 30 engineers responsible for the research, design, and creation of MicroWorld's the company's award-winning products and services. Rammurthy, himself, is responsible for the development of several technology patents for detection and removal of computer viruses.
It is innovation that has always been the driving force behind MicroWorld, which has made it a global success in a few years.

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