Building micro-enterprises within a large enterprise: the story of Pramati Technologies
As Nasscom predicts that the Indian IT services industry will be worth $350 billion by 2025, Pramati Technologies is innovating with digital technologies to enable the future of work, experiences, and marketing.
At a time when the life and success of an entrepreneur is determined by valuations, fund raises and rapid customer acquisition, everyone forgets that those narratives don’t build businesses; they build popular founders.
But in the era of Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji what mattered most was to build trust as a business. No other narrative mattered more than the value the word “trust” created for founders.
These two IT services icons, along with the ideals of management guru CK Prahlad, gave rise to a bunch of businesses that believed in building the fundamentals of the business - profitability and exceeding client expectations. Although their businesses did not get huge valuations, they became successful entrepreneurs by remaining profitable and being employee friendly.
One such business is Pramati Technologies, which was founded by Jay Pullur in 1998. A man of science and a software professional, Jay passed out of IIT Kanpur in 1987 and has been one of the pioneers in the Indian IT Industry.
“When I was younger, there weren’t icons in computer sciences. It was only after watching Narayana Murthy build a business from scratch that I was inspired to become an entrepreneur,” he says. He adds that spending almost a decade in Wipro taught him how to build global services.
Sources say Pramati's revenues is close to Rs 100 crore (the company does not reveal numbers) and it has done so by helping its clients stay up to speed with new technologies. Filings of the company garnered from the Registrar of Companies database shows that in 2015-16 the company's net profit stood at Rs 5.37 crore.
Jay, along with his brother and Co-Founder Vijay Prasanna, built his company through strategic sales and acquisition. Pramati turned profitable in 2006 and has remained so since.
Not the classical IT services company
The story of Pramati is not that of a classical IT services company. Most IT companies are busy securing application development and maintenance business deals, and focus on product integration services rather than on intellectual property created by software.
That’s where Pramati decided to do things differently. Since the early days, the Pullurs looked at creating software that could make their business valuable and make it count.
Global companies like Progress Software and Autodesk grabbed a couple of in-house products from Pramati. It sold Pramati Studio, a developer tool platform, to Progress in 2005; in 2012, Autodesk acquired Qontext, a cloud-based collaboration tool that helps employees connect with each other.
In 2012, Pramati acquired Gallagher Technical Centre and set up Imaginea, which would become their enterprise digitisation business unit. In 2013, they acquired WaveMaker from VMWare to focus on web and mobile businesses.
Jay says, “Growth has been phenomenal and we have the size and scale for launching the company into global orbit.” He adds that the company has more than 1,000 people spread across three centres and that with this scale his company can build globally successful branded products that are made in India.
A future in software
After the focus on technology, Pramati is now turning its attention to the one thing that affects all companies - finding talent in sales, marketing and strategy.
“If we complement those skills through our experience as builders of platforms, many more Indians may want to build products,” Jay says. He adds that India does not have its own product companies like Google or Amazon and it becomes important for Indian software companies to progress to that stage.
“Since we do not have a Chinese wall, addressing global markets is imperative; you will notice that Google of India is Google and Amazon of India is Amazon; if the door is open, it lets in traffic both ways. We have to compete to be the best,” he says.
Clearly, India must use the foundation built by the IT service industry and take it further. That’s why leaders like Vishal Sikka, former CEO of Infosys, and Non-executive Chairman Nandan Nilekani have been eyeing a future in software over IT services. Infosys has already trained 180,000 employees to be future-ready in digital technologies.
Atul Jalan, founder of Manthan, the $100 million analytics company, agrees. “Products are the way forward for Indian businesses. The only thing we need to do is focus on going global and work with global enterprises. We have the talent to do so,” he says.
The evolution of Pramati
Between 1998 and 2017, Pramati switched from a single product company to a multi-product company with each offering housed under a separate venture to create value. The reason for this structure is to ensure the company the freedom of exit, entry, funding and building a management team.
With this structure, Pramati is supporting a startup culture within the company itself. It offers investment and other important services like HR, accounting, compliance, global offices, legal, marketing, design, IT and infrastructure. Each venture is free to build its own capability in these areas using Pramati Corporate Services.
The company is mentoring six such products and is focusing on digital technologies that will enable the future of work, experiences and marketing.
“The goal is to build minimal viable products of the future along with full-scale engineering, and marketing and sales,” Jay says. He adds that all their products are under the common theme of using cloud and internet to enable a new kind of business agility. All Pramati ventures are micro-multinationals from day one, with Imaginea serving as a solutions partner.
Agile enterprises of the future
Nasscom predicts that the IT industry will reach $350 billion by 2025 from the current level of $150 billion. So companies like Pramati will be in the forefront of a global push towards creating an agile enterprise of the future, one that use cloud and data to stay ahead of the race.
DD Mishra, Research Director at Gartner, says: “IT is moving from being a support function to an important business enabler.” He says the boundaries between technology and business have blurred and, in some cases, even merged.
“We are now in a digital era and every business leader is also a technology leader.”
Ravi Kumar, Deputy COO and President, Infosys, says, “Over the past few years, technology disruption has fundamentally transformed our clients’ business landscape with established business models being surpassed by innovative new business models and emerging competitors.”
He adds that clients are now focusing on “Optimisation” and “Reinvestment”, which is in line with Infosys’ framework of “Renew and New”. Almost every Indian IT services company is reinventing itself by acquiring companies. Infosys itself has made six acquisitions and is looking at a platform strategy to remain a global powerhouse in IT Services.
Jay and his team are taking the right step forward. It takes experience and tenacity to build a company and Pramati is showing us how.