Sramana: In the history of any company, a few key people become the legs on which the table stands. Who were those people for you, and how did you find them? Kolkata was not the hotbed of management talent.
Arvind Agarwalla: If you look at a product company, research and development is one leg. Sales and support are the other leg. I am very passionate about marketing, so I took that on as my responsibility. By the time we had moved to Singapore, my partner had built a very solid engineering team. We worked like a family. Today we have 160,000 people worldwide, but we still function by the power of five. I strive to have five direct reports whom I trust implicitly; I am doing my job. In turn, each one can have five direct reports whom they trust implicitly. That was the strategy we followed.
Sramana: Around the mid-1990s, the Internet started coming about. What was happening in the market that impacted your company?
Arvind Agarwalla: In our industry I have found that we would have one strong local competitor in every market. There would be one strong competitor in Kolkata, Bombay, and Delhi. The only competitor who went nationwide was Tally. When it came to India, they were the top product in the company and we were second.
When we came to Singapore, Accpac was our strongest competitor. When we went to Malaysia, it was Accpac again. Accpac International was owned by Computer Associates. It was sold a few years ago to Sage and it is now known as Sage ERP.
Sramana: How did you compete with those companies?
Arvind Agarwalla: In Singapore we were the only real-time accounting software. The moment you made an entry it would go up against the balance sheet instantly. The other packages did batch processes. We also touted our size and emphasized our ability to be nimble compared to Accpac.
Sramana: What about the local competitors in Bombay, Delhi ,and other cities? I am sure you also ran up against Tally. How did you compete against them?
Arvind Agarwalla: Tally sold through channels, and they did a great marketing job. In a way it is nice because they educate people into computerized accounting, and we can convert them later. We are a far more comprehensive solution. We also have better experience working across diverse regions. In that manner we are a global company as opposed to a local company. When you look at our brochure, you will see that we have a footprint in seven companies. Despite that global presence, we still act like a very small, nimble company. We do 260 enhancements a year, which is almost one per day.
Sramana: Are you still selling packaged software, or have you converted into an SaaS model?
Arvind Agarwalla: The moment a company hits $5 million, they are profitable and have a lot to lose. What does it take to hack a public server? Not much. I think the SaaS models have a lot of risk with their security layers. I do see SaaS companies getting a lot of traction, but the types of companies that turn to them are not the types of companies that use us.