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May - 2010 - issue > Cover Story
Tavant Redefining Team Work
Christo Jacob
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
When the top notch financial services companies including MB Trading, optionMONSTER, Fifth Third Bank and others open their wallets in search of best-of-breed technology solutions, they knock the doors of Tavant Technologies. The Santa Clara, CA, based Tavant helps the biggies to decrease latency and increase speed, upgrade technology platforms, build management solutions, and to set themselves up at co-location facilities. As we know, the race to have the best technology that will slice latency down to microseconds and eventually to nanoseconds is far from over. So in the big IT services market where even the biggies are now focused on the BFSI sector, what gives Tavant the edge and advantage?

“Customers are not just our clients, they are like partners and they need to know as much as we do,” says Sarvesh Mahesh, CEO, Tavant Technologies. Mahesh was quick to carve a niche and break the conventional mode. He follows the simple mantra of ‘transparency’, and ‘access to real-time status of each project’ and believes that it has really worked among the customers.

Now, the company is in a momentum of growth as the mantra that worked well to woo the top notch online financial clients has in turn helped them get more players. Tavant’s legacy of having transparency among the employees and its unique global client engagement helped Tavant to make sure that the customers get focused attention on minimizing issues and maximizing customer satisfaction. Unlike its competitors, the company believes in building and strengthening relationships with its customers and delivering the deep understanding of domain expertise. As the financial services market continues to evolve every day, the customers in this space are constantly demanding improved services and better experiences on their web-based applications. So at the same time reducing overhead remains a critical challenge to stay competitive.

Currently, the financial services industry is undergoing a significant transformation in how applications are designed and delivered. A key driving force behind this shift is the growing imperative to be global both in terms of providing customer-facing services and in taking advantage of a distributed global workforce. Applications that were previously deployed locally on well-provisioned workstations or kiosks need to be redesigned to serve an increasingly distributed global client base running ‘thinner clients’ such as consumer PCs, laptops, notebooks, and mobile phones. Mahesh was quick enough to grab the opportunity.

“For Tavant, e-business is our blood, and that’s where we started,” says Mahesh. Having had stints at Junglee and Amazon.com, Mahesh’s expertise in Web technologies has helped Tavant have an advantage in development of Web technology based e-business applications. This includes user experience design, leveraging the latest Web 2.0 technologies and the use of emerging open source Web technologies. Over the last year, Tavant has also developed expertise in building applications for mobile devices. “Some of our biggest projects in the securities and trading domain, are done on open source components, and are the first of their kind in the world. Such high availability, concurrency and transaction rate Web-based applications based on open source had never been done before,” he says. To create such a history of first-of-its-kind was possible only due to its strength in e-business. The combination of domain expertise, technology excellence, executive commitment, and transparency also gives added mileage. "Tavant’s expertise and platform allows us to better compete in the online channel and offer our customers a positive application experience," says Marilyn Mocilnikar, SVP at Fifth Third Bank.

The Edge

Online brokers have a huge demand for online tools that streamline the selling process in a personalized Web 2.0 environment. Those solutions combine simplicity of data access with customizable user interfaces, providing on-demand views and multi-account snapshots with dynamic information aggregation and analysis. With such solutions, agents and channel partners have the tools to quickly and easily analyze account positions and focus on growing revenues. This drives productivity and improves the retention of valuable independent agents. Tavant has created an edge in this arena. Tavant brings in game-changing services, solutions, and components to the trading industry using the latest in SOA, Web 2.0, Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), and real-time streaming technologies.

Most online brokers’ key objective is to continue to be a low-cost provider in all major asset classes and offer solid customer support and software solutions for everyone from beginners to advanced traders. In fact the California-based provider was able to understand the pain points of the business. Having domain expertise of over three years in the trading and securities value chain, Tavant offers solutions that combine leading edge technology with business insights to power the next generation and scalable operations that allow online brokers to offer new levels of customer experience, while minimizing the costs. It has a legacy of transforming banks, brokerages, and financial firms to become Web 2.0-enabled, develop advanced equity options, futures, bonds, and mutual fund trading systems; deploy real-time, interactive, trader friendly rich Internet applications, implement algorithmic trading strategies and portfolio decisioning systems using complex event processing engines, and provide value added services on top of direct marketing access channels. This was possible only with Tavant’s advantage in development of Rich Internet Applications for zero footprints and zero maintenance trading applications using Flex, Silverlight, and AJAX with expertise in key enabling technologies for trading: complex event processing systems and reverse server push technologies.

Even though Tavant is well equipped with domain expertise, Mahesh does not want to miss any flaws that make the customer feel unsatisfied. The company does not believe in the heritage of not doing for each other, but doing together and giving importance to have complete open communication. To ensure such an ecosystem, the company has created a multi-level engagement model ? engineer to engineer, project manager to project manager, engagement manager to engagement manager, and finally executive sponsor to customer’s executive sponsor.

So Tavant has created a project management portal an online dashboard wherein the customer can get realtime status of each project. Moreover, the company has leveraged the best shore model in which its workforce, especially senior leads and experts close to the customer side, come in. Moreover, based on the client and project requirements the company has its workforce based in Noida and Bangalore. “Over the years we have realized that this model really works well,” says Vibhor Mishra, Head of Marketing Department at Tavant. There are weekly calls with the engineering teams, monthly calls with account managers, and quarterly meetings with the executive sponsors that help them optimize the findings in the meetings and share them with the stakeholders. Access to realtime status is well appreciated by Tavant’s customers. Moreover, the participation of executive management in every level of the project helps customers gain confidence in Tavant.

Making a Difference

The famous Harvard business professor Nicholas G Carr once said, “IT is not going to be a differentiator.” While IT services market being a crowded one with over 1,000 companies delivering array of services focusing on BFSI, manufacturing, and more, it’s hard to make a difference and pool in the customers. But Mahesh knows how to play the cards right. He breaks the conventional mode of what most big players think. Mahesh has carved a niche for Tavant Technologies wherein they focus on providing solutions for micro verticals – trading and securities, e-business, consumer lending, and service operations. Since its inception e-business has been Tavant’s strongest revenue source.

In fact Tavant’s outsourced Web application and technology expertise has helped its customers accelerate features and functionality to the market and lower the IT cost. Its products and services are routinely rated high by the industry and media and deployed by leading business names, like Electronic Arts, TiVo, Major League Baseball Advanced Media, New York Times, Ingersoll Rand, Bobcat, Federal Signal, Wolters Kluwer Financial Services, and many more.

For instance, one of its customers, Electronic Arts (EA), a leading independent developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software for advanced entertainment systems, wanted a revolutionary way for gamers where they could extend games online and share and interact with other gamers. They needed game creation tools and a Web portal to make game creation simple and sharing easier and accessible. One of the biggest challenges was to create an online portal platform for creating, discovering, playing, and sharing 'user created' casual games and micro and mini games for one of the divisions of EA, rapidly develop a robust and scalable solution in the set time frame and help reduce the time-to-market. Tavant provided core functionality of the new gaming portal using latest AJAX and Flex technologies.

Having used this expertise across many industries and e-business contexts, Electronic Arts has now extended these core capabilities successfully to the gaming industry using Tavant. They retained Tavant Technologies to provide offshore enabled services in an agile, onshore-offshore development approach. TheSimsCarnival.com is an online community and gaming experience from The Sims that makes game creation and sharing more accessible. "TheSimsCarnival.com project allowed Tavant to showcase two of its core differentiating capabilities: use of Web technology in complex application environments and rapid and agile solution development with an onshore-offshore approach," says Mahesh. For most of the players time-to-market is a key factor and in fact delivering Electronic Arts a new online gaming experience to market in a short time frame has leveraged Tavant’s offshore development expertise.

"Our team developed the Web portal and helped Electronic Arts design the overall solution," says Manish Arya, CTO at Tavant Technologies. "Our expertise in system integration and open source Web technologies allowed us to rapidly develop and deploy a robust and scalable solution for the highly demanding and complex online gaming environment."

Warranty Management

Another area which Tavant adds up to its portfolio is warranty management. When a company is leaking money at the rate of about $1 million a day, it’s surprising that the reason behind it does not receive more attention. For about a dozen major US manufacturers that’s the amount they are spending just honoring their product and service warranties. For the industry as a whole, the numbers are staggering. In the US alone, the warranty business accounts for about $2 billion each month, or just under $24 billion annually. About two percent of every sale goes to warranty spending. It all adds up to a lot of money.

Still, more effective warranty management processes are just not on the radar of most executives today. The area of service management is often an afterthought, and warranty management as a subset is even lower: the afterthought of the afterthought. In practice, companies often pay attention to their warranty management processes only when high levels of liability are involved with a claim or recall. As a consequence, they are missing opportunities for significant bottom line cost savings, as well as increased business value through better quality products and higher levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Businesses in search of high performance today need to be treating warranty management not as a cost center, but as an asset that can create tangible shareholder value. Tavant was quick enough to identify this for its customers.

As a leading diversified industrial organization, Ingersoll-Rand (IR) specializes in providing products, services, and integrated solutions to industries ranging across various sectors. IR had multiple business units under its belt, each of which had diverse requirements and multiple legacy systems. They needed a comprehensive, one stop solution to streamline the warranty process, initiate early detection and correction of failures and provide IR with a wider global reach. But IR’s challenge was to retrieve information from its independent business units. Tavant identified lack of inventory management and visibility because of the presence of disparate, independent systems. Tavant Warranty Management Solution – a one stop solution which integrated all the business units provided early detection and resolution of flaws and reduced warranty costs. The system automated the claims processing cycle of Ingersoll-Rand by about 40 percent and also facilitated a wider global reach by supporting global languages and various currencies. "Through Tavant we can provide powerful technologies that will enable our channel partners to greatly enhance their marketing programs and resources. Our dealers provided valuable input as we adapted Tavant's technologies for IR's channels. The resulting solution enables our customers to benefit from greater access to IR equipment and parts, as well as expanded dealer service,” says Herbert L Henkel, Chairman and CEO, Ingersoll Rand.

Great Place to Work

The company is just not only well known for its unique model and services, but it has got lot of acclaims as one of the best employers. “We are not a sausage factory, instead we are an open kitchen,” says Mahesh. Tavant believes in the philosophy of transforming the lives, especially of the employees. They are keen on grooming the employees and creating a place where they can learn and grow. “The employees are not just considered as employees but as stakeholders of the organization,” says Hassan Rashid, SVP, Head of Sales and Marketing, Tavant. The key to Tavant’s success was the close coordination of the hierarchies within the organization and bringing to desk innovative suggestions given by employees. In fact this has helped Tavant to score high in the work culture. Regular open house discussions, open door policy, employee empowerment, innovation at work, trust in management, and openness to ideas and suggestions are the key highlights that Tavant hugely focuses on. There are groups within the organization that promote partying; and every quarter the company recognizes high achievers, which encourages employees to be more competitive. "In keeping with the Tavant culture, we celebrate all achievements - big or small, together as a team. We take fun seriously and believe in working hard and partying harder,” says Tina Vas, Head of HR, Tavant.

Vas finds that people at Tavant learn much faster. “When we started doing the trading and securities business, the key was to train our workforce to meet the client requirements,” she says. Tavant created a center of excellence and has identified the areas where improvement is needed in its service line. They made sure that workforce at Tavant gets mentoring from the best of the specialists in the industry and train their architects and senior experts. Also, to be in pace with its competitors they make sure that their employees are kept updated by attending industry trade shows. Along with the center of excellence, the company also has set up internal training and certification. For example, for consumer lending there are computer based trainings available for the employees wherein they have exams and get certified. Almost all those working on consumer lending - including the QA engineers, development engineers, and architects - have to go through the test. “One of the customers liked this concept and even wanted their engineers to go through the training,” says Rashid.

Tavant also offers a training program called Tavant Rookie Induction Program (TRIP) for freshers, which is an intensive three month training program. The training is carried out by high performing internal employees. The company has also initiated training and mentoring for first time managers. All the programs are hands-on and tailor-made for specific applications. The company has an initiative called ‘innovate’ where people come up with innovative plans and anyone can approach top executives in the organization to make their presentations. Tavant has made it mandatory to run the appraisal process through the HR portal and makes it a process of continuous feedback (rather than once in six months) to improve transparency. At Tavant Technologies, it’s all about people, passion and excellence.

Growth Wave

With 750 employees, Tavant Technologies is on the cusp of a growth wave. With its unique multi- level engagement model and transparency, it has become the cynosure among the customers especially in new verticals outside e-business. “We are actively engaged in a number of new markets. With North America and India as primary markets, we have started growing in Asia pacific,” says Mahesh. Though the company has set up a team that focuses on new verticals, its main area of focus will continue to be e-business where it has established significant credibility. But getting the right talent has increasingly become tough and will continue to be so in the coming years, as it is tough to get people with the right attitude that jell with Tavant’s culture.

Last year had been great for the company, for it won bigger companies to their client portfolio. “I am confident that Tavant will become an expert in each market we enter, offering unquestioned value, extraordinary service, and mutual success and growth for our customers, shareholders, and employees. Tavant is well placed to take the e-business and trading and securities market by storm,” says Mahesh. But for him what is more important is to see a billion dollar smile in on the face of every customer.

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