“There are three types of Customers- True thought leaders, Follow the pack and Bargain Hunters” – CRMNext

CRMNext is a product from Acidaes, a Mumbai based company. The company has been in stealth mode for quite sometime (has clients like HDFC Bank, Reliance Mutual Fund, Tata AIG, CNBC TV18, Sodexo etc) and here is a qna with CRMNext team regarding the business opportunity, the sales challenge they have faced in selling a SAAS service in India.

Qn: Please share details about the founders (background/work experience before starting CRMnext).

CRMnext was started in 2001 by Nishant Singh with a vision to create an enterprise class ultra scalable CRM product. Singh is regarded as a leader of single-vortex architecture, crmnexta concept that allows business to use the same software on premise or on cloud. CRMnext is the only CRM that is single-vortex for the last 9 years while others in the industry are still struggling to realize this dream.

He is a known inventor with 2 class-I patents registered to his name. These patents enable improved usage of internet bandwidth and traffic prioritization, key concepts that have even been extensively used in CRMnext and now used in many open source browsers. Strong believer in sharing research, these patents have been allowed for royalty free usage, directly contributing to browser development as understood today.

Prior to building CRMnext, Nishant Singh co-founded a company in New York, qMGN Inc, which worked in advanced advertising delivery in the online space. For five years the company was at the forefront of online advertising doing technology collaborations with Engage (a CMGI company), Doubleclick (now with Google) and AdContext(now with MSN).  Prior to that Singh worked in the R&D labs for a leading product company, developing advanced route optimizations products based on Global Positing Satellite (GPS) systems. These products developed in 1996, when GPS was in formative stages, today form the backbone of many mining automation and route management software. Singh was one of the key members of the team that computerized India’s first stock exchange, developing the entire solution on high performance “non-stop” tandem stack. It was one of the most celebrated solutions in league with NYSE. Singh received his Bachelor of Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology.

Throughout his career, Singh has been committed to using technology for social change. In 2008, he launched Nimayaa Foundation, a NGO that works with under privileged children to provide equal opportunity in education. Nimayaa today adopts primary schools in backward areas of India, bringing to classrooms dignity in education and advancements in instructional techniques.  Keeping with the spirit, as a company, CRMnext is provided free to NGOs wishing to leverage this platform.

Qn: Focusing on Indian market: Why is that (as opposed to building a global SAAS product)?

CRMnext has been organically funded. The cost of marketing and sales had to be kept to minimum. Focus was to build top end enterprise product that can also be bought on SaaS as opposed to making SME focused SaaS products which can then be extended to enterprise and mid market. We run a single code base for our large enterprise clients and SAAS customers which is a great strength because this helps us to provide all upgrades to both set of customers with great ease. 

India was a market where most rigorous evaluation and performance meet. We thought if we are able to crack this market, it will be a great story to take to other markets.

Qn: Selling in Indian market: Share your experience. Given that you started this in 2005, there has been a market awareness part. Please walk us through that journey!

It was more difficult than what we thought. Eventually we found there are three types of organisations- true thought leaders, follow the pack and bargain hunters. So we decided to focus on thought leaders. It was easier to convince them since they were already using another product and could appreciate our concept of “High Impact CRM” and the way we delivered it. “High Impact CRM” involves restating customer strategies and holistically reworking processes resulting in a new culture that drives results.  That is why in a difficult market like India we have thought leaders in all verticals as our customers. To name a few in banking we have HDFC Bank, in asset management we have Reliance Capital (largest mutual fund house in India), in media we have TV18, in insurance we have TATA AIG and so on. To us picking up deals with thought leaders is natural. Now we are looking at 2nd level of companies who tend to follow the thought leaders. 

Qn: What’s your funding status? Is CRMnext completely bootstrapped?

Absolutely. We have been profitable for the last 5 years. Based on our successes we are now powering our growth in international markets.

Qn: Future plans?

Now we are coming out of stealth mode. Expansion in various international markets. Asia, Africa, Europe. Setting of CRM subject matter blogs/website to enable improved, unbiased vision of what CRM can deliver. This financial year we have almost doubled our team size and are looking to achieve 5 times current revenue in the next 3 years. We have made some important hiring in our top management in the current year.

Qn: CRM implementations: There suddenly is a wave of SAAS based CRM startups in India. Though very few of them understand the market/bring insights regarding ‘Indian’ usage of CRM. How have you guys gone about this? Share a few usage behavior.

Lately many me too SaaS CRM players have mushroomed. The only value proposition they feel is pricing without understanding what it takes to deliver a high impact CRM which would add measurable and significant value to the organisation.

These products have superficial features. Most people who adopt such CRMs either run out of depth very fast or they believe CRM doesn’t work for them. Today CRM is USD11Bn+ market they are all trying to get a share of it. They end up making glorified contact manager and call it CRM.

In 2002 we saw that CRM implementation failure rate was very high, Siebel was in its 12th quarter of continuous losses. We thought till companies continue to grow they need to manage their customers and they will need an effective CRM system. We studied 100+ products and 75+ implementations.

Qn: Why do CRM implementations fail?

We found 3 major reasons why CRM implementations fail

1. Difficult to upgrade/change:
Changing the CRM system with changing needs was proving to be very costly. Every upgrade or patch would result in downtimes, breakdowns and increased cost of ownership. This stopped organisations from changing their CRMs which resulted in them becoming obsolete.

2. Loss of vision/strategy during implementation:  

Often there were 3 different stakeholders in the form of a consultant, product vendor and system integrator who would implement the crm. This resulted in only 40-50% of effective strategy implementation conceived during the start of the project.

3. Single process trap:

It was difficult to accommodate multiple processes as per the organisations unique structure and work culture. This resulted in lower user adoption.

We have addressed this by 

Building CRMnext on a unique Shape-shiftingtm meta data driven architecture which provides

  • Extreme flexibility in configuration, new feature addition and business process automation.
  • Capability to maintain a single code base for SaaS as well as On-premise version and across verticals. This provides enterprise class depth of CRM to SaaS customers. For Enteprise customers we provide the next generation configuration capability today only limited to SaaS CRM’s.
  • Ultra scalability.
  • Highly reliable uptime.
  • Unique Autobot Upgrades capability
  • Seamless upgrades without breaking integrations and analytical models.
  • Protection from expensive migrations. 

Qn: Challenges in the current CRM services – where do you see the gap? 

CRM is a checklist item for many companies without understanding the impact it can have if it is implemented with a proper vision and strategy.  Focus is departmental. Example- customer service is reduced to a ticketing system. Although in a true CRM different services will have different workflows that will work across departments improving accountability, visibility and turn-around-time, thus, customer satisfaction.

If you want to come out of this you need an extremely able consulting team that can not only create strategies but execute them at the ground level. CRM should not be delivered with engineers but consultants and this is a special practice we have developed. This leverages our framework which enables us to configure the most complex processes without writing any code.

Qn: Your take on Cloud and the hype surrounding it?

To us cloud is not new, it has been around for years. It is just that as companies today find a lot of SMEs and parts of enterprise buying demanding more managed delivery of software. We believe many people are encashing on the sentiment best represented by cloud. To us cloud is just a new nomenclature for business but architecturally it remains the same i.e. abstracted, multi tenant and elastic. We believe cloud is a very good offering for SMEs in the enterprise space. The price point of cloud still remains a challenge, given the sizes of large enterprises we believe there will be more focus on private clouds or the same architectural framework running dedicatedly from the enterprise data center.

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