Sramana: You essentially operated your business in a consulting mode while you built your product suite. How much business did you do in 1995 while operating in this mode?
Girish Rowjee: We may have done around 4 or 5 lakhs in 1995 ($6,408 to $8,022). We were just a couple of guys who were extremely happy with what we were doing. We really did not have any pressure.
Sramana: How long did you operate as a consulting company to Indian corporations, and how did your revenue ramp during that period?
Girish Rowjee: Our work with Indian corporations grew by word of mouth. As employees moved to new companies, they brought us in to do work. During that time we also wrote our own mini-ERP because so much of our work was repetitive. We operated that way until 1997 or 1998. By 1999 our revenue was hitting 70 lakhs in Indian rupees ($112,100). We had about 15 people working for us at that time.
We had about 40 clients by 1999, and most of our work was on the HR side. By that time we had developed a payroll module and had done work for companies like Compaq. Our payroll module really started getting decent traction around 1998.
Sramana: What was the price point of your payroll module?
Girish Rowjee: We were selling a full license for about 50,000 rupees. The issue we faced was that the market was flooded with products. A lot of competitors were selling their solution for 8,000 rupees. We had to differentiate ourselves. We knew we could go the route of a becoming a product company and sell the software for less money or we could go a different way and sell a high-end solution that could be customized for our customers’ needs.
We decided to position ourselves as a comprehensive solution that could fully address a company’s issues. After that we ended up picking up larger corporations and that gave us a steady stream of revenue. There were companies willing to pay for the type of solution we were offering.
Sramana: The market was also different in India because there was no Internet.
Girish Rowjee: Very true, the Internet was very new and nobody had it. We did adopt Internet technologies very early. We were one of the first companies in India to offer a web-based front end to our products. We also were the first to offer an electronic pay stub in 1999.
We had to migrate our technology several times. We went from DOS to FoxPro for Windows. When the Internet was introduced, we had to adjust again. We had to remain relevant despite the rapidly changing technology ecosystem.
Sramana: You had 15 people working in your company and you were bringing in 50 lakh a year. That is a very comfortable situation.
Girish Rowjee: We had steady revenue. We did not have a significant sales team. Most of our orders came in via references. Around 1999 we focused solely on our HR business.