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NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Startup 12: Prasad Guntupalli, CEO, Attra

Team YS
posted on 11th April 2010
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NASSCOM EmergeAttraPrasad Guntupalli, over the course of 5 years, has been responsible for shaping Attra from an Australian financial services consultancy firm in the domestic market into a consumer financial services company in the European, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Australian markets. In 2007 Prasad took over as the global CEO of the company after having been the CEO and co-founder of the Indian subsidiary since 2005.

Prasad’s current focus is to expand the company’s range of existing financial services in the consumer finance and core banking markets. He is also focused on expanding Attra's presence in the African and American markets and further developing relationships with consumer finance product and processing institutions around the world.

AttraAttra provides IT services and solutions to the banking, finance, and payment industry with specific focus on  cards (credit, debit, private label, prepaid etc.), loans (dealer finance, mortgages, sales finance, auto loans etc.) switching  (postilion, base 24, sparrow, etc.), mainframe services, and independent testing services.

Attra's services offerings spans across high-end consulting, application design, development, implementation, customization, BAU support, production support, portfolio migration, conversions, integration and independent software testing services.

Having successfully transformed the company he is part of, Prasad gives his tips on entrepreneurship to Indian Startup NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Initiative.

1. Why did you take up Entrepreneurship journey?

Prasad: Like most of us, I have always dreamt of doing something on my own.  Creating an enterprise with a difference was my vision. Before my entrepreneurial journey in 2005, I have spent 18 years in the Indian IT industry doing diverse roles with evenhanded success.  Throughout my career, the differentiation has been in doing things with an entrepreneurial bent of mind and with a determination to perform all the roles well within the constraints of the existing norms.  To break open from the conventional constraints and unleash my full potential to think differently and spot opportunities where none exists, entrepreneurship was a logical option, which has been on my mind right through my career.

The opportunity came in the form of my association with a Melbourne-based small IT consulting company (Attra) with strong domain skills.  My belief that there is a lot of head room for niche market players within the IT services space coming out of India has got me on the expedition of entrepreneurship.

2. What keeps you going (how and where do you find your motivation levels)?

Prasad: Within 5 years of start up, we have built a strong team of over 350 people, won several contracts with some big name clients, and managed to attract and retain the best of talents within our space.  As a company exclusively focused on banking finance and payment industry, we were in the middle of the squall that hit everyone in 2008 and 2009.  Within less than 5 years, we have evidently become the second largest India-based service provider within the cards and loans space.  There is a cavernous gap between the number one player with over 2500 people within this space and us with close to over 350 people as the second largest player.

We have already become a credible alternative to large global customers within our domain and our endeavor to conduit the gap between the number one player and us is a huge motivation to keep going.

3. What is your advice to wannabe entrepreneurs in India?

Prasad: My experience has been only in the IT services space and the key is to “differentiate, differentiate, and differentiate.”  Even “me too models” offer scope for differentiation. What has worked for some of our iconic establishments would not work for startups now.  The market place is different and diverse, the off-shoring maturity is at a new plane, and customers have a tendency to flee to size (most of them to big and some of them to smaller ones).

The key is to be able to customize one’s model within the realms of commoditization.  I strongly believe that there is very little scope for startup companies now to be full serviced players.

One needs to find a niche, customize the offerings (even within geographies), differentiate with the customer, adopt people centricity, and execute with care and correctness. This model has worked well for us.

4. What success means to you and your organization?

Prasad: We function in a niche space and want to be market leaders within the niche.  We have some strong competitors (who probably spend more capital daily on their coffee machines than our annual revenues!).  We have managed to win marquee clients through our drive and excellence in delivery and execution.  We win 60% of the RFP responses that we prepare albeit getting access to only 1% of the opportunities.

We measure success in two dimensions – from the market place perspective and from the people perspective.  From the former, we would like to get access to at least 30% of the opportunities in the next 24 months. From the latter, we would like ensure that we maintain to deliver excellence in customer engagements, even as we grow, continue to retain the talent (we are proud to state that our attrition has been less than 5% between 2005 and 2009) and continue our differentiator as an international company in culture.

5. What are your learning’s from the failures?

Prasad: We have seen CAGR of 143% between 2005 and 2008.  We assumed similar growth and made investments in facility expansion.  We obviously did not see the imminent slow down.  We had a difficult calendar in 2009 but relied on our earlier lessons and refused to let people go.  When the demand picked up during the 4th quarter of 2009, we were practically ready.

We have done our facilities expansion with borrowed funds, deviating from our position of not funding growth through debt.  With the benefit of hindsight, we should have done one more incremental jump in facilities than going through the big bang.

Prasad has provided lucidly his views on entrepreneurship. His success lies in deep strategic thought combined with a steadfast focus on people. What a powerful combination people and strategic intent has turned out to be for Attra that it has captured a crucial position in its niche domain.

As part of the Indian startup NASSCOM EMERGEOUT initiative, 11 entrepreneurs have shared their views. To know what they are, please visit the links given below.

1. Kishore Mandyam of PK4 Software

2. Anil Pagar of Spadeworx

3. Ajay Sharma of Shristi Software

4. Pallav Nadhani of InfoSoft Global (FusionCharts)

5. Manoj Srivatsava of Hanu Software

6. Sriram Raghavan of Comat

7. Sushil Chaudary of Mann-India

8. Manav Garg of Eka

9. R. Swaminathan of Matrix Business Solution

10. Suresh Sambandam of OrangeScape

11. Ajay Mian of Alletech

NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave, Chennai, April 30, 2010

NASSCOM EMERGEOUT conclave comes to Chennai on 30 April 2010. With “Nurturing the IT DNA in India’s growth sectors” as its theme, the conclave focuses on sectors that hold relevance to Chennai such as the automotive sector, in addition to opportunities that exist in the UID space, and workshops on marketing, product design, and many others.

Mr. Bharat Goenka, founder, Tally Software is the keynote speaker. It is a no-brainer right now that if you walk to anyone and ask them to cite you an example of an Indian product, Tally ranks among the top list, and it has been that way for a while. Mr. Goenka is without doubt one of the most prolific icons of the Indian product software industry. Talk to him about product positioning, understanding user behaviour, pricing, marketing and building a brand that is as big as Microsoft in terms of training and development centers, and you are sure to walk away in awe. Would you miss hearing him?

To wrap up the conclave, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman, Cognizant, is going to engage in rather inquisitive conversation with Prasanto Roy from CyberMedia. He has been a technology industry leader for over 30 years. As a founding member of Cognizant, he was been responsible for the company’s high-touch customer relationship and delivery excellence model. Under his leadership, Cognizant became the youngest IT services company to reach the $1 billion revenue milestone. He is also the part of NASSCOM Chairmen Council and under his leadership, some new initiatives in the EMERGE Forum were started.

To find the speaker list, please visit http://bit.ly/dvMYqq.

Please register for the conference here.

Contributed by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist, YourStory

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