Startup > My Story > Umesh Sachdev
Umesh Sachdev

Umesh Sachdev


Short Description

One should learn to keep the head low and focus on execution even as you think of a larger than life vision. The ability to take the right baby steps is as important as having a large dream

Brief about company, offerings and foundation of the company

Uniphore’s mission is to harness the power of voice to transform any ordinary mobile phone into an enterprise-class service delivery platform. Uniphore’s solutions connect businesses with customers, partners and employees via multilingual speech recognition and voice biometrics capabilities by elegantly integrating voice and data (GPRS, 3G) technologies to deliver an efficient, cloud-based, enterprise mobility service delivery platform. Uniphore boasts a roster of high-profile, satisfied customers across multiple verticals – Financial Service Providers (mobile commerce & banking), FMCGs & NBFCs (sales force automation), and Agriculture, Healthcare, & Education (content delivery services).As a leader of voice-based solutions in India, Uniphore has pioneered the development of mobile applications with the combined capabilities of Speech Recognition, Voice Biometrics, and Data. Since its inception in 2008, the company has grown at an exponential rate, and today it supports nearly half a million registered end users on its platform every month. Uniphore is the honorary recipient of various prestigious awards from around the globe, and the company is renowned for its publications on the unique value of voice in enterprise mobility.

Risks involved in business and way of addressing

Risk of adoption:  To understand how applications are being used on-the-ground, Uniphore has invested in a field adoption team. The team goes on-site and learns how the application is being used. This evaluation method helps Uniphore to not only keep an eye on the utility of their applications, but also to effectively work backwards and gain insights into any new revenue-generating activities that are coming out of application practice. As we learn more about languages and BOP interaction with technologies, we’re also constantly adapting our product offerings, so that they are most responsive to the needs of the end user and face the easiest adoption curve. Risk of scale (of remaining small for a long time).Competition and regulation

Most critical decision

Of weather to model to business as B2C or B2B. We discussed our core strengths in the founding team and realized tech was forte- hence B2B.When the company was founded, the co-founders launched it as a B2C service, but their research efforts taught them that they should be operating in the B2B space. They learned that to reach out to end-customers directly meant that Uniphore would have to be “masters of content and technology providers”: customers need information and assistance to execute transactions across various industries with whom they interacted. Sachdev and Saraogi realized following a B2C model meant the company would be stretched too thin and, therefore, decided that the company focus should be on its core competence, speech technology. Uniphore shifted its target customer focus to industry leaders who could adapt to content relevance in their respective fields.

Some of the difficulties faced while building product/ solution

Vernacular speech recognition is a non-trivial problem to solve. Indian dialects vary, noise conditions are different from the west as usage can happen even on highways etc. Also voice biometrics in Indian conditions is non trivial- but we overcame.

Three big lessons/ mistakes encountered while building company

1)Fiscal discipline is of paramount importance.2)A good team is the differentiator.3)Good corporate governance is the only way to grow.

Different actions if I rebuild my company from scratch all over again
We will focus on productizing from the beginning and sales and marketing.
Motivation and Drives factor

 Seeing that our solutions can impact the lives of the end user. There are hundreds of millions of underserved people in India who can vastly benefit from speech based solutions. 

Unique about my way of motivating troops
We treat our entire team as part owners of the company. We believe in giving a sense of ownership to all employees hence deriving the best out of them.
Way of choosing my people

We look for motivated, driven, enthusiastic people. We don’t mind taking people who need more training on the technical skills, as long as they are passionate about our solutions and want ownership in moving the company forward. 

The challenges and lessons learnt to get first customer

Our first customer was Thompson Reuters. We saw that they were sending important information to farmers about market prices, weather updates, etc. At the time, they were doing the entire thing through SMS. However, because of the restrained literacy levels of farmers, we believed could enhance and expand their offering by producing the same content through a voice-based medium. It took a lot of time to convince them that as a young company we can give them robust service, but we managed to make it happen. We had to learn fast to show that we were a process oriented organization which could support them

My role at different dimensions as the company evolved
When we started this company, I was simply a technology innovator – exploring new technologies, developing IPRs, and brainstorming applications. Once we got our first customer, I had to delegate some of that responsibility in order to manage project deliver and be a strong interface to the customer. Now, with 40 customers across verticals, I have graduated to the head of sales and CEO. Most of my energy now goes into being the face of Uniphore (and voice-based mobility solutions), high level discussions with industry leaders about applications for voice technology, and instilling the vision of the company within our employees.
As a leader how I make sure that I am connecting the right dots

Ravi and I have always been conscious of the fact that we are a young team with limited experience before Uniphore. However, our passion and diligence has enabled us to build a robust network of wildly successful mentors and advisors from all walks of life. I use them to bounce off tough situations and avoid mistakes. 

My thoughts related to entrepreneurship/ leadership and management

Entrepreneurship is a way of life. It is about living each day striving to give the maximum value to all stakeholders- employees, customers, investors. 

Best company I admire globally

Like most entrepreneurs, I truly admire Apple. Not only for their innovations, but the way they have built innovations into their processes. Moreover, I admire their ability to have faith in their gut – which is not easy to do, given the data-driven world we live in.

Advice for fellow entrepreneurs

One should learn to keep the head low and focus on execution even as you think of a larger than life vision. The ability to take the right baby steps is as important as having a large dream