Tag-lined as the complete business solution provider, SMBTechEdge aims to provide a comprehensive IT infrastructure solution for companies of any domain and size. A product of Safew Labs, SMBTechEdge claims to reach what is called the ‘last mile’ of the consumer base of IT products and services, thereby bridging the digital divide. Being an open source software, it is available free of cost, and the only cost that customers would have to bear include those of implementation and customization.“SMBTechEdge is a single window for IT Infrastructure to state in very simple terms. We being canonical (the parent company of Ubuntu Linux) partners were involved in migrating several small businesses from proprietary platforms (Microsoft Windows, Office, IBM Lotus Notes , Microsoft Exchange, Autodesk Autocad etc.) to Open Source based platforms”, says Saurabh the co-founder of SMBTechEdge.
The inspiration behind creating the product SMBTechEdge was three pronged. Firstly, it was observed that most of their targeted customers use pirated software knowingly or unknowingly and end up getting chased by companies. Secondly, there were multiple vendors for multiple operations. On a bad day if more than one of these services would fail, it could quickly turn into a horror for these customers. Finally, a lot of locals use proprietary platforms to build apps, thus locking them further into an ecosystem that forces them into piracy.
Talking a bit about how it all started out, Saurabh says “We had 3 pilot customers and there were a host of others joining the list soon as we had multiple installations going live. The sectors we’ve covered so far are finance , manufacturing, pharma and optical . Our case study, also published on OpenStack, was with Geecon Fx, a company that deals in forex trading.”
The SMBTechEdge team is a small and dedicated one. Besides founders Saurabh and Raghav SK, Sudhir VIshwakarma and Hasmukh Rathod handle the app development. Chetan Tandel is the system admin who handles the cloud development and virtualization side of things while Alankar Misra is the designer for the team.
Besides SMBTechEdge, the team had embarked on an ambitious project of developing an ERP system called ShoonyEk. The origin of its name is interesting since ShoonyEK is Shoonya + Ek (0+1) and it is meant to bridge the digital divide. Customers of this product up until now range from real estate companies to cotton vendors and optical shops.
Alongside the fact that being an open source platform is a huge plus, SMBTechEdge believes in providing a solution that is completely flexible, technically as well as in terms of price. Applications like ERP, CRM and Payroll are all on top of private cloud solutions of OpenStack. All these components can also be managed and remotely serviced through this dashboard. Also, the complete source is present on github.com, so that developers can customize it for their own purposes. Apart from this, Saurabh adds, “we believe in openness and transparency. We provide training to selected people from the company and train them on basic troubleshooting. This creates a first line of defense, something like first aid in case of emergencies and till the time support responds to the query.”
Logistics and Marketing
The cost of product would vary from company to company, but the average price range being dealt with would be around 2.5 to 3 lakhs for installation. The revenue model is precise and works on two things - customization and installation charges, followed by support. A service level agreement for a year can also be set up.
Marketing a product, which quite often is the make or break process as far as startups are concerned, was done with the help of two techniques - road shows and referrals. “Referral is the key as our work speaks for itself. So we ask our customers to educate their peers. We offer them group discounts and build products with similar customizations for all of them, so that it’s profitable for us and they get to avail a certain discount,” says Saurabh.
The obstacles faced by any software based product would primarily revolve around making people understand the benefits of the product and justifying the pricing. Also, making customers resist change and having end users adopt the product would be a huge challenge.
Looking ahead at the future, the team feels that there is a definite need to increase the strength of their technical and marketing teams. With the evidence of their success so far in terms of expansion, one wouldn't be wise to bet against them making it big in the IT solutions industry.