TechSparks Winner: Vivek Subramanyam, Founder and CEO, iCreate Software

18th Aug 2010
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TS Winner

iCreate Software has been on a roll of late. This three year old venture has not only managed to get funding from IDG ventures, the company has just released its Business Intelligence suite Biz$core, which has been received fairly well in the market. Earlier this month, the company was also featured on the NASSCOM EMERGE 50 forum, an initiative to showcase promising companies in the Indian market. Yourstory catches up with CEO and entrepreneur Vivek Subramanyam to discuss the iCreate story

 

Beginnings of iCreate Software

Anup Pai, who was my classmate at Regional Engineering College Surathkal, founded iCreate Software about three years ago. By then, I had come back from the US to India and was working with iGate. Anup and I got talking again and he sought my advice on scaling up the business. We were figuring out the strategy that iCreate should take, and Anup persuaded me to come on board as CEO. Since then, there has been no looking back.

What is iCreate trying to solve

iCreate primarily works in the area of Business Intelligence for banks. One area that today’s Core Banking Systems does not address is helping banks leverage all the data available with them in making better decisions. This could be in terms of understanding the customer better, what is leading to profit or loss, or efficient ways to market new products. Using our BI suite Biz$core, banks can have a fully functional BI solution up and running in as little as a hundred days.

How traditional BI offerings work

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Historically, Business Intelligence has been treated as a technology problem rather than a business problem. The people who provide the solution may or may not understand banking, though they do understand the tools and technologies much better. For instance, this is how the solution works today -- A banking CIO would buy different parts like a reporting tool or the ETL tool from various vendors, and then find a system integrator like IBM, Infosys, Cognizant or Accenture to stitch the solution for him.How Biz$core does things differently

The guiding philosophy behind everything we do at iCreate regarding business intelligence is that we have to come up with a significantly better solution than what is out there. It has to have a significant impact on the lead time of the solution -- benefits must be visible quickly. And the solution should also keep the total cost of ownership low.

Features of Biz$core

Essentially Biz$core is an integrated reporting, analytics, BI, and performance management tool. Typically solutions would take 2-3 years for a bank to implement and cost around 3-4 million dollars. With Biz$core, we deliver a business intelligence solution in 100 days, significantly reducing the lead time to take advantage of the solution.

One of the things we provide is a single view of all our customers, irrespective of the various channels that they use. Today’s customer typically consumes multiple products -- a credit card, a home loan, or a savings account. The way existing systems work is that you have multiple views of the same customer, because all the data related to customers is sitting in different systems. But considering the kind of interaction you have with the customer, it makes more sense to have a single view of all your customers.

We also help banks in targeting new products to customers. For instance, if the bank is launching a new product, how can it spend a limited budget to get the best possible response. For this, we provide banks with solutions where they can apply a model which allows you to target customers with higher probability of a particular product.

Other features include providing customer insights, business 360 degree view, marketing analytics, and product profitability. There is a regulatory reporting pack to help banks in their interaction with central banks such as the RBI or the European Central Bank. We also provide solutions around risk or fraud that can identify terror-related or money-laundering related transactions. Our operational reporting tool is used by collection agents for day-to-day operations. We also provide performance management solutions that can be used by the Board to keep track of goals committed to by the CEO, CFO, and the heads of various departments.

The difference between available alternatives and our solution is that the kind of reports and dashboards that are required have been powered by a data model that we have defined. We have designed it in such a way that it is efficient and able to support each of these reports. For this, we need to get data from multiple systems, harmonize it, and build a single view of the data across multiple systems. To enable this, we have pre-built adaptor frameworks that connect to banking systems by Oracle, Infosys etc.

Funding

While we had an angel investor when we started off, since then we‘ve had opportunities that have given cash to keep us floating. In December last year, we were funded by IDG Ventures, and got Rs 15 crore into the company.

Customers

While the product was ready about six months ago, we took some time to get our leadership team right. April was when we began to focus on the market. Since receiving the funding, we’ve closed about 3 customers. National Bank of Kuwait, the largest bank in Kuwait, chose us among a lot of vendors for their strategic BI programme. We have also worked with Ali United Bank run by a Bahraini group. And we have also closed a deal with a recently launched bank in Western Europe. They wanted to put in place BI infrastructure for which they chose us.

In South Africa, we have worked with Capitec, one of the fastest growing banks in the country. They’re using consumer technology to differentiate their offerings. We’ve also worked with the National Bank of Greece for their operations in Cyprus and South Africa

Marketing

One of the things we decided early on was that we would enter the market region by region. We would work with banks in one region, before activating sales in the next region. If we over-expose ourselves, our ability to deliver might be challenged. So we started off with the middle east, and we have just activated the Asia-Pacific and European marketplace.

We also have a Africa based business unit, and we have another in Asia-Pacific which includes the SAARC region. We have one more at Singapore looking at the ASEAN belt, and we’re also actively looking at both Eastern Europe and Latin America.

Indian market

While we’re targeting some of the mid-tier banks in India, with larger banks we are facing some challenges unique to the Indian market. We need to tie up with larger system integrators to bring our solutions to larger banks, since they have some fairly clear procurement rules. Another route we’re considering is to OEM our products for core banking vendors who already have customers for their Core Banking Solutions.

Employees

Currently, we have around 100 employees. While we don’t have a problem with talent at the higher levels, we do face a problem in recruiting good talent at the developer level due to their unfamiliarity with how startups work.

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