3 veterans set base in Pune to incubate tech product companies; kPoint is the first smiling baby
If you happen to walk by a Big Bazaar on Baner Road in Pune, it’s unlikely you’d notice what’s going on in the 9 floors above it. But sitting quietly on the 8th floor are GS Lab and incubatee company, kPoint Technology Solutions. Founded by three stalwarts who’ve built and sold companies in individual capacities to the likes of Cisco and Intel, they have had 5 exits put together. And when these three come together to build something, expectations are bound to run high.
Sunil Gaitonde: Starting his career in 1988 with IBM, Sunil has more than 25 years of experience in the tech product domain. He co-founded Sarvega (acquired by Intel) and Internet Junction (acquired by Cisco) and has the distinction of raising $20 million in 2000 during the dot com burst.
Dr. Shridhar Shukla: Another veteran with more than 2 decades of experience in the field, Shridhar was a Director and COO at Persistent Systems, helping its growth 25-fold over 8 years. He is an IIT Bombay alumnus.
Atul Narkhede: Also a IIT Bombay alumnus, Atul is a hard core techie with 15+ years of experience in computer graphics, data mining and visualization of large scale scientific data and web infrastructure products at Strand Genomics and Tessera Systems
GS Lab (Great Software Laboratories)
Not unlike many of the IIT connections coming together to build a company, Shridhar knew Sunil from his school days from the 1970’s and got in touch with Anil during the early 2000’s. The three found a resonance in their frequencies and decided to build something lasting as they all wanted this to be their last stop. And that is how GS Lab arrived on the scene. Started as a services company, GS Lab since inception in 2004 has grown to more than 300 people.
Operating as a purely services company, the trio always knew the potential of a product company and once settled, the idea to incubate ideas and build products around it took shape.
GS Lab doesn’t have a formal structure for companies to apply and neither do they have a mandate on the number of companies to incubate. “We are neither investors nor want to be office space providers. We will be very tightly integrated with the product development of every company that we incubate,” says Shridhar.
They were in no hurry to just roll out products and it took them close to 3 years to build upon an idea and roll it out. And the first baby coming out of GS Lab was KPoint.
kPoint Technologies Pvt. Ltd
kPoint germinated from an idea in 2007. “There are millions of people entering the workforce each year in India and they all need to be trained,” says Shridhar. The initial idea was around online meetings but WebEx and GoToMeeting had it all pretty much covered. Then the three of them started looking at other areas where they can make a difference. What happens after a meeting? Are there gaps in the process? And they found aplenty.
kPoint is a B2B solution in India with clients in the technical and manufacturing domain (e.g. Cognizant in tech and Kirloskar in manufacturing). The product is targeted towards companies that offer training to their employees and the clear mandate was to improve the internal know how within a company. “Trainings, the way they took place created very little value for both the employee and employers. There had to be a better way to internalize all the learnings and pass it on,” says Shridhar.
With the tagline of ‘Beyond videos’, kPoint has comprehensive solutions for a company’s training needs. kPoint’s product has multiple features and some that can be easily understood includes the ability to search for things within a video by keywords (one can directly jump to the part they want to watch), recording tutorials and such and keep it online for others to watch, simplyfing informal knowledge sharing, etc.
kPoint shipped its first product in 2010 and once they acquired 3-4 paying customers, they decided to spin off kPoint as an individual entity.
The kPoint team currently consists of 26 people and works out of an office adjacent GS Labs. Sunil, Shridhar and Atul are the founders and the money that has been put in doesn’t solely come from GS but comes in from the personal capacities of the founders. Capital amounting to a typical seed round was invested and going forward, kPoint might look to raise funds to scale. kPoint has 5 pricing options and they have acquired 15 customers within the two years since they first shipped.
The Road Ahead
Post their massive success, all three of them could have given up everything and decided to spend the rest of their lives playing golf but they didn’t go that way.
Although, GS Lab in the grander scheme doesn’t want to increase the number of companies incubated just for the sake of it. “We’re open to entrepreneurs reaching out to us to collaborate but we will be working very closely in the product development,” says Shridhar.
Going forward, GS Lab will roll out products with a quicker life cycle as the time taken with kPoint was considerably long. Not wanting to invest or remain as a office-space provider, the focus of GS Lab will purely be on building world class tech products.