Jay Pullur is one of the few entrepreneurs who have built and sold multiple software products to global companies. His company, Pramati which started in 1998 as a single product company now has 5 products that are run as different businesses by over 750 employees. Pramati sold social collaboration platform Qontext to Autodesk in 2012. In 2005, US based Progress Software bought Pramati Studio, a platform to build developer tools. In this series, we bring you some insights from Pullur on building a company, selling it, acquiring a customer and playing global.
Essential Ingredients to An Enterprise Product Success
Technology and product: Most Indian startups have capabilities in this area. But to really build a successful product, you need to build a company around it. There must be always an edge to your product when a buyer or customer looks at it. His options are global. He has no obligations to buy from Bangalore or India. They aren’t talking to one guy. They will be talking to your competition.
People: You could have a situation where you keep building the company from one side and it fall apart from the other. The questions one should ask is:
How do I bring the right people?
How do I keep them motivated?
How do you bring in people who are right for the company but may not be ready to join you?
How can we bring global talent to join? How do you compensate them?
Money: Just the presence of venture capital is not going to be enough. One key question around that could be: How do I take the right kind of money? In our case, we run our products as different companies so that one product doesn’t lean on the success of the other. Pramati acts as a shared resource and a safety net.
Markets: Sensing the market is also important. I should be constantly asking: How is the market going to be, what sense do I have of the market, how will it develop in the coming years? All products must also be built for the global market. Because you don’t go global, it doesn’t mean global companies won’t come to your market. You need to build capabilities in India as well as in the United States.
Customer: Why would a customer buy from you? How do they get the confidence to buy from you? How do you sell in an unbranded situation? While at Microsoft you can sell but it doesn’t mean that you can sell your product which is a completely new and has no branding. This is a different ball game. It mostly involves proving your ability to the customer on smaller projects and then gaining a larger wallet share.
Fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), is something you will see in a lot of customers. Nobody gets fired for buying from IBM or MS, that’s the standard theory. But what about the startup which could fold up tomorrow? How do you address this?
Competition: There will be lot of adversaries. The media will write: this product will never succeed when there are so many other guys. But that doesn’t matter much if you are quick enough.
Strategy: You can’t build the whole big product and expect customers to come in. By that time, you will already be exhausted. One has to intelligently run all these at the same time. You have to be very quick on your feet. It’s like a one day match: even if you aren’t all out, if you don’t score fast enough, you will lose.
Next in this series: Getting in the M&A radar of Big Companies.