Working at a network virtualisation company, technologists and product leaders Shyamal Kumar and Karthik Madhava observed that networking was lagging in innovation even as applications, storage and computing were being disrupted by rapid tech advancements.
“At the same time, India was increasingly becoming a mobile workforce environment, and every enterprise was distributed, so we saw an exciting opportunity to create a pure networking software solution, and decided to go after SD-WAN,” says Shyamal.
They quit their jobs to launch Lavelle Networks in 2015. In 2018, they were joined by Vishal Khare, who shared a similar passion to take such innovation to the market.
Shyamal is Founder & CEO, Karthik is the Founder and VP, Business Development and Vishal as Co-Founder and VP at Lavelle Networks, work together to race to the pole position in next generation enterprise networking in India.
Partnering with ShoreTel, an American VOIP service company, Lavelle Networks built an optimised cloud-delivered, network solution. The startup went from concept to field trial in under six months. Taking the lessons from the field trials, Lavelle Networks built their first production platform in the next six months and took it to their first customers in India.
Today, its platform, ScaleAOn is in many ways unlike most other players in the market. Shyamal says, “We are built on 100 percent SDN (software defined networking) architecture,” ScaleAOn SD-WAN is a software-defined networking solution built to provided enterprises with distributed WANs - a scalable, secure, simple solution that results in drastic enhancement of Network Experience, Network Management and Monitoring. The founders say that the solution also reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and increases savings when used with broadband connectivity.
Winning the enterprise market hands-on
Today, Lavelle Networks counts over 75 enterprises and large startups, some of the top private banks, public sector banks, financial and insurance companies, retail brands, manufacturing companies as its clients. This includes the likes of ICICI Bank, HDFC Ltd, Max Life Insurance, Motilal Oswal, SBI Mutual Fund, Flipkart, Godrej and Swiggy. This helped Lavelle Networks accelerate its growth to become among the top three names for SD-WAN solutions in India, all in a span of just five years.
Shyamal says, “We have deployed some of the largest SD-WAN installations in the world proving the scalability of the technology and the speed of deployment. In fact, in 2017 we deployed our solution in over 1,000 locations in less than two weeks for a national leader in retail. This was also one of the largest-ever deployments in India.”
Shyamal believes that the scalability of ScaleAOn SD-WAN and the novelty with which it tackles the networking challenges has been why Lavelle Networks has not just been able to impress enterprises, but also win them. The Founder and CEO, says, “ScaleAOn SD-WAN differentiates in terms of the excellence it brings into enterprise wide-area networking with its simplicity and ease. The technology behind the ScaleAOn SD-WAN brings a fresh perspective into Enterprise Networking, bringing the knowledge and learning from web-scale applications to building, consuming and operating an enterprise network. It offers the enterprise with a network that effortlessly scales just as the business scales across geographies and regions, differentiating from other enterprise WAN solutions in the market.”
He adds, “Scale is not a run-of-the-mill scenario in the enterprise networking world when you have a 1,000+ nodes network that is connected in a matter of four weeks starting from scratch. Building such a network is one part, while keeping it running without downtime for years together while billions of dollars of transactions occur on the network is something else. This is where ScaleAOn stands apart due to its architecture that is built on 100 percent SDN.”
Championed by customers and industry
The co-founders say that Lavelle Networks boasts of having a high NPS and an extremely high recommendation rate with customers providing positive feedback and industry references. That is one of the reasons that helped them win. “In fact, our first seed investor – IdeaSpring Capital was surprised that all three early customers, Malabar Gold, Barbeque Nation and Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail provided references during investment diligence, which is an amazing testimony to our customer focus. Our initial GTM was founder-led sales, with channel sourcing the leads and opportunities,” explains Shyamal.
The other significant factor has been association with JioGenNext, Reliance’s flagship accelerator. “It did wonders for us in the market,” beams Shyamal.
He explains, “The fact that we were working with the Jio network team gave us incredible exposure. They connected us to global companies and encouraged them to work with us to build joint solutions.”
Shyamal explains that in addition to industry introductions, JioGenNext also helped the startup gain deep industry insights.
“With direct access to the Jio Executive leadership, we were able to have wide-ranging conversations on the market, the customer needs, viable cost points in providing the solution, and most importantly we learnt the right kind of scale that will make such a platform successful.”
He added, “the biggest advantage it provided was to cement our belief that India has vast market potential of its own.”
Not surprisingly, the startup focused on India for the last five years. The startup believes just the market opportunity for ScaleAOn SD-WAN is $50 million in revenue in India alone. That said, the startup is now gearing to enter neighbouring markets in Asia – like Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, where the market challenges are similar to India.
“Even as we expand and strengthen our market position in India, you will see us announce international wins over the course of the next 12-18 months,” says Shyamal. The startup also has plans to expand its portfolio to cover multiple aspects of network experience in the years to come. “
Why WAN matters
Even though WAN is the backbone of digital enterprises, innovation in WAN was an oft-ignored area.
“Most of the enterprise networking Innovation was focused on data centre communication while the edge and access networks did not receive enough attention. Even today you have enterprises using two-decade-old technologies like MPLS and private circuits are still the technologies, But, if enterprises need to achieve performance improvements, cost optimisation or network experience, WAN is the key,” shares Shyamal on the importance of WAN for enterprises.
But, he believes that this has been changing over the last couple of years with players like Lavelle Networks accelerating innovation in this space.
“Lavelle Networks is probably one of the only companies building world-class and truly next-generation scalable software-defined networking platforms. We are solving the biggest access problem for enterprises, and we are solving it using the right technology architecture that is future-proof.”
The numerous awards and recognition that Lavelle Networks has received is a testimony to Lavelle Networks’ relevance to the enterprise market. Lavelle Networks has won the CIO Choice Award for SD-WAN for two consecutive years - 2019 and 2020. Lavelle Networks’ SD-WAN product is the only one from India to have made it as the Gartner Cool Vendor for Innovation and Disruption. It has also won a mention in the Magic Quadrant for WAN Edge released by Gartner in vendors of Note for two consecutive years in 2018 and 2019. The startup has also received numerous recognitions including Startup 50 Awards, NASSCOM Emerge 50, among a host of others. The Series A funded startup, Lavelle Networks, has also raised Rs 24 crore in funding over the last four years. “At the core of all this has been our focus on making sure companies can transform their network to SD-WAN quickly.”
SD-WAN is the way of the future, says the CEO. “It’s a way that distributed networks and branches will connect to the cloud. Our vision was that the SDN intelligence in the cloud (as a service) is the true end goal of this transition in enterprise networks,” signs off Shyamal.
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