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Bootstrapping a SaaS Company in India: Greytip CEO Girish Rowjee (Part 3)

Posted on Tuesday, Dec 3rd 2013

Sramana: Did you complete your project as planned and purchase a new computer with the 5,000 rupees earned from that contract?

Girish Rowjee: We did finish the project, however, the individual did not pay us. We were able to get the bulletin board up and running in Mysore and we were able to connect to AOL and download messages. Unfortunately, he was not able to find anybody in Mysore to subscribe to the service.

Sramana: He did not honor his commitment?

Girish Rowjee: No, he did not.

Sramana: What did you do after that?

Girish Rowjee: We started thinking about the next big idea that we wanted to pursue. We also made a strategic decision to move to Bangalore in October of 1993. This time we set up a proper company. One of our co-founders left because he did not feel that our work was going anywhere.

Sramana: How were you paying your bills? Was your family supporting you?

Girish Rowjee: Our families were supporting some of our personal expenditures. Our rent was 400 rupees. We used to do some side jobs as well to earn money; for example, we would assemble machines for other people.

Sramana: Were you able to pay the majority of your own bills?

Girish Rowjee: We mostly took care of ourselves. Once we had paid our rent, our monthly expenses were done for another month.

Sramana: What happened after you moved to Bangalore in October of 1993?

Girish Rowjee: We found a partner for our business who had good business contacts. We made a deal where he would do business development and we would do the coding. We started our current company in Bangalore. We got our first order from a child company of Unilever. They had an HR database of all of their employees’ data. It was provided to all of the child companies of Unilever. The database was FoxPro, but they did not have a good reporting tool for the database.

We went there looking for work, and they asked us if we could develop a good reporting tool. We took on that project. Internally we had taken the initiative to purchase our own x386 machine. My co-founder and I split access to the machine in two slots. He worked the morning shift and I worked the evening shift. Together we finished the project and built them a very nice reporting tool. At that time nobody had heard of things like data warehouses. We were able to do more work where we took data from disparate places and put it in a single location where it could easily be queried.

Sramana: How much did you get paid for this project?

Girish Rowjee: We were paid 5,000 rupees, and this time we were paid! The first thing we did with that money was purchase a stabilizer! We were still scared because of all the pain we went through in Mysore. I still have that stabilizer with me as a reminder.

Sramana: Were you able to get follow-on work and build on your success?

Girish Rowjee: Yes. Once we completed the first job, then they asked us to write a small application to help them manage their employee data. We essentially wrote the first portion of our employee information system. We really wanted to write something that would be useful in many business cases and that people would enjoy using. We were extremely happy that a big company would use an application written by two guys and that they would get a lot of value out of it.

After we completed that application, we started getting a lot of other sub-jobs. We did some work in the market research department. We wrote a training module. We did a few other projects. After a short time, people started getting jobs at different companies and since they liked our software, they would call us from the new companies to see if they could use it there as well.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Bootstrapping a SaaS Company in India: Greytip CEO Girish Rowjee
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