Jyoti Chidambaram Ayyar
It was the 1990s, the IT industry was just starting to come of age, and Bill Gates was the poster boy for tech enthusiasts. Across the world, geeky youngsters wanted to grow up and be like him. Vasanth Rajan was no different.
The founder of Chennai-based Vertace Consultants reminisces, “I used to read articles about Bill Gates, on how wealthy he is, and how, if his wealth were stacked up in dollar bills, it would reach the moon, or maybe even Mars. It was a fairy tale and hugely inspiring to me as a youngboy. I wanted to be as rich as him and so computers or software seemed an obvious career choice.”
He may not have reached that kind of iconic status yet, but Vasanth’s been taking small and steady steps towards fulfilling his dream of building a successful IT business. Founding Vertace was a key step in this direction.
Vertace builds mobile-enabled products and solutions across different domains like travel, healthcare and finance, with a pronounced focus on the fintech space. The reason for this focus, according to Vasanth, is because, “Finance is a domain that will never die and will thrive as long as we live in this interdependent ecosystem. With improvements in technology, fintech has become an indispensable part of everyday life through mobile payments, card payments, and even cash withdrawal. This will only improve and scale higher in the coming years with a cashless economy. When that day comes, we want to position ourselves as an effective facilitator of seamless transactions between people, businesses and countries.”
Like his childhood idol Bill Gates, even he has a true-blue garage startup story. “Even before the company was launched, I had a prototype built for online tests and had even identified a paying client who wanted to license the software. So, with the first order secure I put in my savings to set up a home office and that’s how Vertace was born. At the time, I was the only full time employee and I had some assistance from a recent graduate. The online test software we built was our first product and turned out to be a successful one too, with a number of engineering colleges licensing it. We went on from there working with both the services and products market,” he says.
According to Vasanth, Vertace has some serious market cred for being among the fastest and most reliable software developers, and credits his team for this reputation. “I’ve been fortunate to get an awesome team. Vivek Gandhi, my CTO, is an exceptional architect and is referred to as the wizard within the company. He amazes us by his ability to architect solutions and foresee potential problems and solving them right at the beginning. This makes our solutions extremely scalable with little or no effort. Since we are now scaling internationally, Mahesh Ratnam, a college buddy who was supporting us from the outside, has joined as the Director of Marketing and Strategy. He has consulted for various international companies, and his work in strategic management and market penetration expands across multiple industries including energy, technology and non-profit organisations.”
Explaining their solutions, Vasanth says, “With proven wallets built on our platforms and partner platforms, we have enabled transactions in the order of millions of dollars. The core product enables transactions and value management, and this is applied for any use case. For example, if there is your regular food vendor whom you pay in advance once a month, we enable wallet-like solutions where a deposit is made and it is debited via a simple QR scan, a biometric scan, an OTP, or even a simple mobile tap, every time you make a purchase from them. We charge a miniscule amount on the transacted amount, which is a fraction of what it would cost the vendor to manage these payments via conventional methods.”
In the manner of most startups, even Vertace saw its share of varied challenges. “Our first product, an Online Assessment Tool, was a browser-based product. We wanted it to have a rich graphical UI and invested heavily in Microsoft Silverlight. But Microsoft deprecated the full technology in a few years, rendering all our efforts obsolete. Another roadblock we hit was when the building our office was located in was sealed without warning due to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) violations. All our systems and furniture were locked in. Fortunately, we had all our data and code in cloud repositories which saved the day.”
But that was then, and today they are in a comfortable space. The company, with 40+ employees, has been scaling up successfully in terms of revenue, customer acquisition, profits and employee strength. He credits the company’s almost 100 percent year on year growth to their balanced vision on the changing socio-economical landscape and technology advancements. “We have been quick to grab any opportunity to explore a promising avenue – and never hesitant to take calculated risks,” he says.
Vasanth mentions that back when he was a college student, his family could not afford to buy him a computer, and he had to make do with one on a rental basis. “When I started working as a software developer, I could finally afford to buy a laptop with my monthly salary. The very first laptop I bought was a Dell Inspiron 1525. I still have it in working condition though I don’t use it any longer. I fell in love with the computer for several reasons – its performance was awesome and I could sit anywhere and code. It had amazing battery backup. Later I shifted to an Inspiron 7000 which just took my love for Dell to another level. Its looks are classy and well-suited for a CEO. Above all, one of the most important factors is the amazing warranty they have. I had accidental cover warranty and exactly on the last date of the warranty period I dropped my laptop and a part of the screen broke. I just raised an online request and after a photographic confirmation, the part was replaced at my location through their engineer. The story does not end here. Unfortunately, the part that was replaced was faulty and they offered to replace that too without any cost. That kind of customer support makes me want to keep buying Dell products,” he says.
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