Bootstrapped for 8 years, how this woman entrepreneur is making a dent in the shared enterprise SaaS space
In the early 2000’s, women’s contribution to the technology sector was not known to be significant. Be it IT, marketing or finance, women as leaders in these departments were few and far between.
However, Srividya Kannan was different. With degrees in BCom, MBA Finance and ICWA, in her 20 years of professional career, she had worked across diverse functions including sales, alliances and channels, strategy, innovation, business finance, operations and sales enablement.
“I used to stand in courts for litigation, and also manage collections during the tough recession period of 2009-10. Even my mother used to always tell me at the time that this is the kind of job I should be doing as a woman,” Srividya chuckles.
After earning extensive experience in creating and managing high-performance teams, working in large matrix organisations such as Wipro, Oracle and SAP, she decided to start up on her own.
“This was 2012. At the time, there were not many women entrepreneurs setting up businesses from scratch. But, I've always been passionate about two things. One is that I try to turn around something that's been defunct, or when I set up something which is non-existent - that’s when I feel I'm in my best flow,” Srividya tells Yourstory.
Today, with a team of over 120 people, her company Avaali Solutions has been operating in a completely bootstrapped manner, without any external funding for the last 8 years. “With our targeted go to market being large enterprises primarily, we are today completely profitable with zero debt, zero write-offs and zero bad debt across these years,” adds Srividya.
It claims to have enabled over 120 large enterprises across MEA, Asia and parts of Europe to bring down process cycle time by over 35 percent to 50 percent via consulting and digital technologies. It has set up subsidiaries in Singapore and UAE. A few of its key clients include Bidco, Compass, and Nayara Energy among others.
In terms of revenue channels, they have license and AMC revenues via product channels and their service revenues for the projects executed which are around 25 percent to 30 percent.
The journey towards entrepreneurship
During her stint with various organisations, Srividya realised that there is a huge white space in between wherein 80 percent of the business processes such as workflows, approvals, and collaboration, are still being carried on email, excel and other Microsoft applications.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is an important part of day to day operation of any company today. The standard software can cost anywhere between $75K to $750K for small to medium-sized companies while for large businesses, it may range from $1 million to $10 million.
However, just 20 percent of the last mile sits in any structured data application, where significant investments are happening. Plus there is no transparency in the process, and it is almost impossible to keep a track of who approved what until the final version comes in, losing the knowledge gained during the process.
This gave her the opportunity to take the gap as a problem statement, and build a solution around it. She thus launched Avaali Solutions officially in 2013.
Based in Bengaluru, Avaali Solutions, with its B2B shared service offerings in the technology products and consulting segment, helps enterprises automate various elements of this unstructured content and workflows, and integrate them with structured data applications, thereby ensuring that processes are largely automated.
Optimising costs with shared services: How does it work?
The Velocious solutions stack offered by Avaali caters to a number of business processes such as procure to pay, order to cash, finance processes, human resources and others. The platform works on various technologies such as RPA, OCR / ICR, workflow automation, digital signature, and chatbot among others. These solutions are available to access on both cloud and on-premise for the companies, and mostly works with a combination of both.
Avaali’s Velocious product stack with its flagship product, ‘Source to Pay’ platform helps bring down procurement costs, and provides immediate visibility into various supplier collaboration processes. With its shared service offerings, enterprises can consolidate, standardise and automate processes again thereby bringing down the cost of operations.
Avaali’s shared service offering integrates technology expertise at multiple levels to help companies with process standardisation, policies and controls with regards to good practices, enabling transitions/ change management, new technology recommendations and integrations among others.
“Shared services is not a new theme. What’s new is how we are executing it,” she adds.
Fighting the initial challenges
Srividya recalls, when they started Avaali operations, challenges were plenty. As a bootstrapped organisation, it was not easy to juggle multiple aspects like finances, customer acquisitions and talent attraction all at the same time.
Plus, winning the trust of large enterprises was a huge task. These organisations had various large incumbent vendors and in addition, had no dearth of large and mid-tier vendors who wanted to work with them.
“Being new, it was tough to schedule meetings, and even more difficult to convince these large enterprises to buy our offerings, as I had no legacy to showcase,” she reminisces.
However, a key turning point was when they won a couple of big-ticket deals for shared service transformation in 2016. The engagement with these customers set the stage for other enterprises to see the impact of automation on enterprise business operations.
“Building something from the ground-up in such an environment, and winning the trust of large enterprises has been one of the toughest things that my team and I have done. It took us two years to nail our first project. I think it is important to stay focused on the goal while also constantly validating the intent in the context of new learnings,” she advises.
For Avaali, the challenge ahead is to scale to meet the growing demand by growing their pipeline of solutions. The founder believes competition lies in beating big incumbent vendors at their customer accounts.
“We have built scale in our shared services offerings, and have the largest number of implementation experiences in solutions like Accounts Payable automation in India. This has helped us win several marquee brands via word-of-mouth references. We get a lot of incoming enquiries, especially when it comes to shared service automation areas,” she adds.
Moving forward, Avaali is investing heavily in automating procurement and supply chain processes for its customers. They aim to come up with solutions that will enable more effective working capital management and optimising inventories.
The company’s next generation dynamic discounting solution will also help its customers to bring down their procurement cost by at least 8-10 percent. Investing in long-term engagements with enterprise customers and increasing their share of wallet in other geographies such as MEA and Europe are the other immediate goals.
There is never a dull moment in the life of a woman entrepreneur, and challenges are expected. However, the ace entrepreneur believes that one should not get disappointed with any initial failures, and emphasises on defying conventional wisdom and negating one or more assumptions when it is really needed.
“I strongly believe that what you focus on grows. Hence, if the desired outcome is to succeed and thrive in one’s field, then it does not make sense to focus on difficulties and hurdles. It could be more productive to focus on planning and executing actions that will get one closer to the outcome,” she concludes.