Author Archive for Anup Pai

Lessons for a 1st Gen Entrepreneur – Managing cash flow

I had often heard of the importance of cash flow and thought that I had taken adequate steps in year 1 to guard against running dry. But, when a fully charged technical team is at work, minor details like cash flow are sometimes temporarily ignored or wished away till reality stares you in the face.

I guess until you reach the brink, you never realize the true importance of managing cash flow. There was one VC I met around the same time we demoed at Proto that gave me the words of wisdom – “If you truly believe that your idea will work, you will have to make it work yourself”.  

Until then, I guess my vision was clouded by the wish that some angel will give us money to take us from lab to market. “Save” is a better word, I now ponder. 

Spurred to action, we got cash started by consulting. We continued to fund the technology development, but choked it enough to remove any inefficiency that might have crept in. Consulting revenue grew rapidly (we were good), but, with growth came larger cash flow management challenges. 

I guess it is true that when faced with challenges, solutions come from unexpected quarters. In an earlier assignment, I had worked with State Bank of India and helped customize an Aussie banking system to match SBI’s products. One such product was called Packing Credit – a revolving receivables financing product tailored for export business and subsidized by the Government of India to enable SME organizations generate more export revenue. 

Armed with the knowledge of structuring a proposal for credit with a PSU Bank, we got a healthy overdraft sanctioned at a very decent rate of interest. Thanks, Canara Bank. Funding growth based on booked business was now not a problem. 

The other big advantage of going through the process of getting credit sanctioned from a PSU Bank is the rigors of reporting they put you through. Added to this were the really well thought of clauses within the Packing Credit product which spurs the business availing this credit to constantly (every 90 days) get fresh business into the system.  

Once the concepts of finance take hold of the running of an organization, I guess it’s in the right hands.

Business Oriented Architecture

Once primary focus changed from building a product to selling it, i-Create was a different place. We realized that there was going to be no external funding that could help us spend some more time in the comfy confines of the lab and delay diving headlong into the competitive world that is Enterprise IT sales. 

Amazing things happen when a team is looking for business problems to solve. Every problem that a potential client discusses becomes a candidate for our technology to solve. The ADS solution was one such result.  

A bank in South Africa had been doing small ticket business for over five years with a growing customer base. Its OLTP database was bursting at the seams with reams and reams of small value transactions. They needed to get them out of the OLTP system and archive them. 

The traditional way to solve the problem would be to archive these transactions on low cost storage where retrieval would be a manual operational process on demand. Not so with ADS (Archive Data Store). Combining data warehousing techniques with the traditional need to archive, the solution provided a BI-ready, real time query and search facility on historical transactions which would otherwise have been banished to the realms of archival. 

A company’s urge to solve business problems with innovative application of technology assets and management’s urge grow the company while also making every customer engagement profitable – Business Oriented Architecture?

One year in the life of a technology startup

Once upon a time there was a group of people who wanted to create the next generation Business Intelligence software for the Banking industry. We theorized that there is a lot of data being accumulated and wasted by Core Banking systems which could be used to drive profit enhancing decision making. 

We set out to create a technology platform that would be cheap to buy, easy to install, maintain and enhance. The outcome of this technologically charged, creative attempt was Vyasa – A Web 2.0 J2EE platform weaving together various BI technologies such as OLAP, Search, Reporting, Scorecards, and Analytics etc.  

We made business plans claiming to sell this technology to banks across the world that were looking to reduce the cost and complexity of Business Intelligence implementation projects.  We spent iteration after iteration of development effort in perfecting the platform, integrating it with workflow and OLTP systems. 

Vyasa was showcased in the first edition of Proto.in, a proud moment for the team that spent a good part of a year developing it. Proto.in, January 2007 happened to be a turning point for the young company that was i-Create. Several conversations with a number of people across various stages of the startup experience triggered action on a thought that had lingered for a while, but, never had come to the forefront till then. We need to sell this thing! 

Experienced hands at entrepreneurship (we were new to it then) would know that a whole new organizational architecture emerges when the primary goal of an organization changes from building a product to selling a product. We called this Business Oriented Architecture.