[Startup Bharat] With its proprietary software, this Coimbatore startup has bagged top Valley clients
Usually, when companies respond to tenders, they have a comprehensive, long, tedious application mechanism for creating, storing, managing, and organising content. And as competition increases, most firms often find it difficult to respond to lengthy information requests such as RFPs (Request for Proposals) in a short duration of time.
Similarly, when Ganesh Shankar and his co-founder were working on bidding a tender, they had to do a lot of re-doing, copy-pasting, and duplicating of content for the tender proposal. Ganesh felt the need to create a technological product to eliminate all the unnecessary menial work. This led him to start RFPIO in 2015.
From left to right: Ganesh Shankar (CEO), AJ Sunder (CIO), Sankar Lagudu (COO), Manish Bafna (CTO)
Opposed to the conventional tender bidding process, RFPIO exerts its focus on automating the end-to-end process for making RFP. In short, the Coimbatore-based company helps organisations manage and build business proposals with greater efficiency and less time. Something that takes days to complete is accomplished in a matter of hours by using an RFP software.
Ganesh (36) credits the connection of several dots coming together (his co-founders) to build a product that now serves the likes of Freshworks, Browerstack, Adobe, and SIEMENS.
With a straightforward return of investment (ROI), the company claims it has more than 40,000 users from across the world.
RFPIO’s in-built proposal management software comes with an open API and bi-directional integration, supports collaboration across several teams, and thus fosters a better efficient response process.
"It’s been a little over three years since we started here, and the employee retention rate has been 100 percent. This explains that people in Coimbatore are excited about the scope to build a global-scale tech product for RFP.”
The patented technology allows users to save a large amount of time while processing complex proposal documents. The team has brought in a key concept of using their own text extraction methodology and some Machine Learning to automate the content.
Speaking of the bi-directional solution integrations, he says, “We integrate with pretty much any CRM such as Salesforce and Hubspot, with communication solutions such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, and with security layers such as Okta and OneLogin, and content management and document management systems such as SharePoint, Google Docs, and Dropbox.”
According to Ganesh, Coimbatore has many prestigious educational institutions. “This kind of education opens scope for a tremendous talent pool, which is leaving to find opportunities elsewhere. We want to change this job economy, which is why we chose Coimbatore as RFPIO’s headquarters outside the United States,” he says.
On a nostalgic note, he says, “Years ago, I didn’t have any opportunities here, so I worked in Chennai. Like many other young professionals, I wanted to be closer to my family and friends. People are very attached and passionate about Coimbatore. Now that job opportunities are increasing with companies like ours, we are seeing more talented professionals return to their homes and families.”
Ganesh and his team knew there was a market for their product and where it exists. He goes on to add,
“It’s not like we had some cool idea. RFPIO came out of our own experience, and our former colleagues faced similar challenges as well. RFPs/tenders/bids are global, spanning verticals and departments. And, the challenges are the same for everyone.”
Having acquired the first set of customers from contacts and referrals, the company now boasts of having a mature sales team, whose primary approach is to educate the responders better. “We have produced the most quality content in the space. Our clients always come to the RFPIO blog for research and support.”
Over time, the 90-member team has built a strong user community in the industry, and claims they continue to learn only and only from the clients, when it comes to product improvisation.
Ganesh says, their response management platform has 40,000 users in over 100 countries across the globe.
“Though we have grown and evolved, some things have not changed. From day one, our strategy has been to educate responders and deliver the best solution to help our clients solve problems and succeed.”
Product-market fit for growth
In July 2018, RFPIO raised $25 million in Series A funding with K1 Investment Management, which is based out of Los Angeles, USA. As per latest developments, Ganesh claims RFPIO is the seventh fastest startup in Portland, and eighth fastest in Oregon, USA.
Speaking of market potential, Ganesh seems to have absolute conviction with product-market fit. The company works with enterprises based on annual contracts.
He says, “If you’re bidding for a $100,000 contract, it is possible that you are spending a minimum of $2,000 on response management. Depending on the deal size, we’re potentially talking about a $100 billion market.”
He goes on to boast about the fact that RFPIO is an employee-first company. The founding team is constantly in touch with next-level managers to ensure that employees are treated fairly. “Employees tend to sacrifice their personal lives for work, so we encourage our team to take time away and refocus on work-life balance,” he said.
The biggest competition for RFPIO is essentially a manual response management system, where organisations rely more on spreadsheets and documents rather than using a SaaS solution.
“RFPIO played a major role in creating the RFP software category, which did not exist until recently. We learned that clients were using RFPIO to respond to a variety of business queries, including RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs, SOWs, and proactive proposals. We are proud to make a difference by transforming Coimbatore into a hub for developing world-class software,” Ganesh says.
Ganesh and his team are now in the process of creating a response management system. Not just a response system for proposals, but a formidable response system in itself, which according to him has great potential, considering the supply gap.