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YourStory in conversation with Shirish Deodhar, co-founder of InnovizeTech Software about Sapience, their time-efficiency improvement product

Team YS
6th May 2011
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Shirish, tell us about the business idea behind Sapience.

InnovizeTech Software’s patent-pending product Sapience helps companies improve time efficiency at work.

Employees in IT companies, KPOs, Eng services, Finance etc. spend 9-10 hours in the office, yet nobody knows how much of it is on actual work. At over 25 installations, Sapience has discovered that it is less than 6 hours, and this awareness has helped individuals and teams deliver one extra work hour while reducing time in office.

The management also gets visibility of work patterns and capacity utilization which helps them achieve business efficiencies leading to greater profitability.

How does Sapience increase productivity? Who do you look at as competition?

Companies whose staff work on computers extensively track deliverables. But they have no visibility of the actual time and effort going into achieving the scheduled goals. Companies attempt to measure time and effort through complex timesheets and CRM applications. These rely on human inputs which are subjective, inaccurate and without the right details. Bad data leads to flawed decisions.

Sapience resolves the challenge of measuring and optimizing employee time utilization and team effort in a highly automated manner. It has several unique capabilities, for which we have filed for a global patent, such as:

  • - Automatic capture of time at work
  • - Intelligent assignment of time to activity (nature of work) and purpose (end objectives)
  • - Smart enough to focus on actual work, ignoring details of any personal time
  • - Maps and aggregates individual time to organization structure, thereby providing effort analytics at all levels
  • - Available on our cloud server (SaaS) or as on-premise deployment

We have no known competition in the enterprise space. There are some US based startups that measure time utilization for individuals and small teams. But there are none that have translated that into an enterprise class product.

But how did the business idea for Sapience come about? How did you zero in on the name ‘Sapience’?

In 2008, we realized that services had become a commodity business and that the future of Indian IT belonged to product startups. We began mentoring early stage product firms. I even wrote a book called ‘From Entrepreneurs to Leaders – Building Billion Dollar Software Product Companies from India’ which was recently published by McGraw-Hill.

In mid-2009, Swati Deodhar, one of the co-founders, came up with a prototype technology that initially focused on capturing software engineering metrics. During our brainstorming, we realized that it had limited potential. But its underlying technology addressed a more fundamental issue. This had to do with visibility of how employees and teams are going about doing their assigned work. We had experienced this challenge as our Pune operations grew from less than 100 employees to 500+. The problem was even more severe across the much larger global operations of our client companies.

Today’s flexi-work timings, work from home policies, globally distributed teams, contractors and outsourcing is making this challenge of work visibility even more acute.

Since the new technology looked extremely promising, we decided to try and build a product business around it. We called it ‘Sapience’, since it means ‘intelligent insights based on analysis.’

We understand that there are four co-founders. Tell us about your backgrounds.

All 4 of us have worked in software companies for past 22-27 years. For Madhukar Bhatia and I, this is the third startup. And for Hemant Joshi and Swati, InnovizeTech is their second startup. All 4 of us were part of In-Reality Software which was launched in 2003 in outsourced product development, and was acquired later by Symphony Services Inc. We scaled Symphony Services Pune operation to 725+ employees and over 30 clients in 3.5 years.

I have a B-Tech (Electrical) from IIT Bombay, followed by an MS (Electrical) from US, and several years of work experience at Burroughs, where I got a US patent for his work on error correction system using pipelined processors.

I returned to India and founded Frontier Software in 1988, which I grew to 150 engineers and 15+ clients before being acquired by VERITAS Software (now Symantec) in 1999. Along with Hemant Joshi and Madhukar Bhatia, and other VERITAS India managers, I scaled VERITAS Pune to 600+ employees in 16 product teams. By 2003, VERITAS Pune represented 22% of worldwide engineering and 30% of patents filed!

Madhukar has a B-Tech and M-Tech from IIT Bombay, and was also part of a product startup in late 80s in CAD space. He has previously worked at PTC before joining VERITAS in 1999.

Hemant Joshi has done his BE from College of Engineering, Pune, and worked at several product companies in India, UK and US, before joining VERITAS Pune in 1999.

Swati Deodhar has done an MS (Software Engineering) from the US, and has worked as Business Unit Head and VP (Engineering) at companies such as Mafatlal Consulting, Price-Waterhouse, and Ruksun Software, before joining In-Reality Software (Symphony Services).

So, how’s Sapience doing in terms of paying customers?

We started our early beta trials in July 2010 and started selling the product in December 2010. Since then, we have ramped up to 25 installations. This includes large IT services companies, and medium and small product ISVs, KPOs etc. Around 50% of them are now paying clients.

Where do you see the productivity solutions space, Sapience and InnovizeTech five years from now?

We believe the product has an opportunity to transform workforce efficiency. We wish to become the number one global player in this space. InnovizeTech is adopting an “expanding spider’s web” approach for future growth whether in terms of product capabilities, geography and verticals.

We will add capabilities to track off-PC work by interconnecting with Blackberry, swipe card, VOIP and other servers. Sapience will be integrated with other applications like Project Management, Quality and HRIS software. We will support platforms other than Windows, and look at connectors for deep level data from certain select applications.

We are targeting IT services firms, software product companies (global with India presence), KPOs, Eng Services etc. first since we understand that market. Sapience has potential to fit into any organization where people spend lot of time in front of PCs – which is pretty much most companies today!

In terms of geography, we are focused on Indian metros currently to keep cost of sales and support at reasonable levels. Luckily, India has huge number of people intensive operations in IT and elsewhere, where there is rising concerns about efficiency of those working on PCs. This will be followed by reaching out to global clients who are outsourcing to India, since their installations will still be at their teams with Indian vendors.

We are targeting SMEs with our SaaS version, while large companies prefer an on-premise server.

What is InnovizeTech’s revenue model? Have you been funded? If yes, can you throw some light on how the funding came about and from whom?

Our product is available on InnovizeTech-hosted cloud server (SaaS) or on the client’s own server in their premise. We charge on per user per month basis (subscription model) or as a one-time permanent license fee (with AMC from year 2). There is a separate charge for the on-premise server.

The founders invested their personal funds in the first year. All of us have been working without any salary. In July 2010, we signed an agreement with Indian Angel Network (IAN), which invested $350,000. Funding has come from 24 of India’s best known IT CEOs, entrepreneurs and investors. Besides the investment, the IAN network also helps connect us to hundreds of potential customers. IAN approached us when they heard of our product from an innovation contest. We presented to them, and had a term sheet signed within two weeks.

As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?

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It is exciting to have built a software product from concept to one that is selling and which has no global equivalent today. That is a rare achievement in today’s software business. We have filed for a US patent. After having built products for global clients as part of services companies, it feels great to drive the entire roadmap ourselves. It is especially good to be one of the few Indian companies that are creating original IP from India.The challenge is build a truly successful company in terms of revenue and value that our customers will derive from the money they spend. We feel a great sense of responsibility to our investors, employees and our early clients who believed in us, to make this happen.

A specific challenge has been to ensure that Sapience is not confused with monitoring tools. We have to keep emphasizing how it delivers vital information that leads to self-improvements in time and effort utilization for both individuals and teams. It is smart enough to distinguish between personal and work time, and has been specifically designed to block any view of personal time. By optimizing work capacity, it improves revenue and profits for the company, thereby benefiting everyone.

We are meeting the challenge with focused messaging, listening to employee and management feedback from early installations, and continuously improving this aspect of respecting individual data privacy while generating desired work visibility.

How big is the InnovizeTech team? Give us some info on team composition. Also, are you looking at hiring?

The InnovizeTech team is very experienced and consists of 4 founders, each with 23+ years of industry experience as entrepreneurs and technologists. There are 3 senior level architects with 10+ years of experience, 8 developers and testers with 3-6 years experience, and one pre-sales executive. Innovizetech has several experienced industry veterans on its Board of Directors and Advisory Board.

We plan to hire couple of people in sales – one at a senior level, in the immediate future.

So, how has the Sapience journey panned out till now?

We have around 25 installations and 1000+ users signed in the past four months. Around 50% are now paying clients, while others are in pilot mode. Most of the customers are using the InnovizeTech- hosted cloud server. Our clients are mostly from Pune, Mumbai and Bangalore at this time.

The most interesting finding is that while employees spend long hours at work (9-10 hours average), time on actual work is less than 6 on average. My blog explains why this is happening, and also sharply exemplifies the value proposition of our product.

We at YourStory wish Shirish and InnovizeTech all the very best with Sapience. To know more, check out www.innovizetech.com. Also, do share with us your thoughts and views on this story by writing to us at feedback@yourstory.in.

Sriram Mohan | YourStory | 6th May 2011 | Bangalore

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