There have been star performers (entrepreneurs) that contributed significantly to the IT industry in the early years. They built companies that took on global giants and showed the world India’s software engineering prowess. Back home, the top 5 IT companies viewed these stars as threats, as they could offer better quality at lower costs.
One such entrepreneur is Ashok Soota, Chairman and co-founder of the Bengaluru-based Happiest Minds. Brian Pereira met Soota for an interview in InformationWeek magazine back in 2011, when the company was initiated. In just three years, the company has gone global and achieved a revenue run rate of $45 million. Brian recently caught up with Soota to talk about the milestones and achievements at Happiest Minds. Here are excerpts from the e-mail interview.
Q. When I met you in 2011, you had just launched your venture, Happiest Minds. What have been the notable achievements/milestones in the past 3 – 4 years? How have you grown? Tell us about the size of your team now, new offices, new lines of business, revenue growth etc.
Soota: The last three years have been a joyous adventure for Happiest Minds.
During this brief period we have won 90 valued customers, built a team size of 1,400 and reached a revenue run rate of $45 mn. We believe this is much faster than any Indian IT Services company to date. You have already noted that Happiest Minds was rated No.2 on the Deloitte Technology Fast-50 India 2014 list.
We will share more financial data when we complete our 3rd full financial year in March 2015.
Q. You also told me that you want to avoid being a niche company, and that you want to be a Global Player. Where have you opened offices around the world?
Soota: We have 8 Sales offices in the US itself. In addition, (we have) offices in UK, Amsterdam and 3 Sales offices in India. We have customer presence in Sweden, Australia and Malaysia also. 60% of our business is from US, 30% from UK/Europe and about 8% from India. So you can see that we’ve become global in a short time.
Q. You said there would be 3 components to your strategy: Using disruptive technologies, the industry group and cutting-edge solutions that differentiate you. Can you update us on how you have executed this three-pronged strategy? What has changed since then?
Soota: Our strategy has evolved along the 3-pronged approach that I indicated to you in 2011 and has been further enhanced. For example, we have articulated that we enable companies to implement Digital Transformation by providing a Smart, Secure, Connected experience using Disruptive Technologies.
Regarding industry groups, we have a strong focus in a cluster of industries we label as TIMER (Travel, Media, Entertainment, Retail), BFSI, Hi-Tech and Manufacturing/CPG.
In terms of cutting edge solutions, we have introduced a whole range of iSaaS offerings for Infrastructure & Security. We have developed an Engagement Platform in our IT Services business and developed an M2M platform in our Product Engineering Business. Several more IP led solutions are under development.
Q. How important is the Hospitality, Aviation, Travel and Tourism sectors for your business? What solutions and services do you have specifically for these verticals? Can you name some of the major clients?
Soota: The TIMER cluster is very important for us and constitutes 28% of our sales. Can’t share the names of customers, but these include many big names and 22 of our 90 customers are from this segment. Our offerings/solutions include Omni channel, Personalization, Mobility, Big Data and Analytics covering Customer, Marketing, Web and Operations analytics.
Q. How will you help companies through their Digital Transformations in 2015? What are the disruptive technologies that come into play here?
Soota: The basic vehicle for introducing Digital Transformation are the SMAC+ disruptive technologies on which we focus.
We see a strong traction in this area, including developing revenue enhancing models for our customers through Digital Transformation. We also have developed an offering of Infrastructure for Digital Transformation.
Q. We know that you have given your employees wearable technology solutions. How are you pursuing the wearable trend for business, particularly in the Healthcare sector? What other sectors are you looking at?
Soota: We have supported our team with a GetActive device, which helps to measure physical activity. This is to encourage our people to stay healthy, and it is part of our 7 Wellness Initiatives.
Our R&D focuses on building Wearable products, using our SMAC+ disruptive technologies. Healthcare is definitely a leading segment for Wearables. The main use of wearables will be integration into our lives and seamless connectivity between human-machine interface, it will bring in more personalization of services. With sensors closer to the body, it can monitor our health on the go. We also see much need of this for specially abled people and older people.
One major use we see is in the Enterprise sector, right from a person’s attendance, to safety, to controlled access, and integrated with all systems including light controls etc. The other industries that could adopt wearables include Education, Retail, Field Workers, Miners etc. Three things which would determine success of wearables is the battery life, costumed designs (like for women, children etc), and user perceived value.
Q. Customer delivery was a top priority for you then. Perhaps it still is. Tell us how the delivery model has evolved and what are customers asking for now.
Soota: Customer satisfaction is a key to success in the IT Services business as it’s a relationship business, and repeat business only comes if customers have a happy experience. Customers are increasingly looking for agility, flexibility and senior management commitment. This is one major reason why we have no difficulty even when we compete against much larger players.
Q. What’s your vision for Happiest Minds? Your goals and roadmap to achieve these goals?
Soota: Our Vision for Happiest Minds was clearly articulated in the beginning and is a beacon for guiding us. The Vision covers:
Be the Happiness Evangelists for each other, our customers and society.
Create the launching pad for a very successful IPO in Year 6 or 7.
Be known as the company with the highest standards of Governance.
Be recognized for Thought Leadership in our focused areas of technology and solutions.
Be a leader in integrating Social Responsibility initiatives with core business operations.
We are making steady progress towards the goals thanks to this being a shared Vision with our teams, and everyone is doing their part to achieve the same.
Q. We spoke about Leadership and leadership qualities back in 2011. What are the qualities that a good leader needs to have today?
Soota: I would have to write a book to truly answer this. To mention only a few important things a leader must do: create a shared Vision, develop a Values driven organization, give people an opportunity to participate in the wealth creation process and at the same time, a higher sense of purpose.
The characteristics for a leader to achieve the above include humility, continuous learning, tenacity, resilience and genuine caring.