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Thought Leaders in E-Commerce: Arish Ali, CEO of Skava (Part 1)

Posted on Tuesday, Feb 14th 2017

Can you imagine what a retailer has to go through these days in their effort to stay cutting edge? Amazon is innovating at a furious pace, and all online retailers are scrambling to keep up. This interview discusses some of their challenges.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself as well as to Skava.

Arish Ali: Skava is a Silicon Valley-based startup that was founded in 2002 in San Francisco. My co-founder and I wanted to bet big on mobile. This was 2002 before iPhone and Android. We were pretty early in the mobile sector. It took us a fair amount of time. We struggled a bit in the beginning before mobile took off in 2008.

At that time, we pivoted from a more general mobile company doing mobile platforms and apps to mobile commerce. The reason we made that pivot is, we saw consumers of large retailers adopting the iPhone and other smartphones very fast. They really took off in that form factor. They, themselves, weren’t able to create a good enough experience with the existing tools that they had. That was the window of opportunity for us.

The traditional e-commerce platforms who were servicing these retailers were built in a monolithic architecture designed to spit out pages for desktop browsers. Mobile commerce was a real existential crisis for retailers. If they didn’t have a good enough experience in mobile devices, they would go somewhere else. They’d go to Amazon. This was a huge challenge for retailers. That was our opportunity in the market.

We had the right technology platform focused on optimizing experiences on these devices and working with backend systems. We were able to, very quickly, empower some of the biggest retailers with their mobile experiences. That was how we grew. Every year, we have revenue growth and managed to run within our budget and stay profitable. It was important for us to build a sustainable business. We didn’t want to go and burn money and try to capture more market share.

The strategy we followed was to be very careful about which customers you take on and make sure that you are generating real revenues that can be sustained. In some ways, we grew slowly than many other VC-funded companies but on the positive side, it allowed us to be in full control of our destiny and made sure that all the decisions we took were positive. This is the path we are on. From mobile commerce, it became mobile marketing and digital commerce. That led to our acquisition by Infosys two years ago.

That was the next part of our journey. That gave us a much bigger platform. It was a great experience for us in terms of letting us continue with our part of innovation but giving us a bigger global platform. In the past two years, we’ve been working very closely with Infosys to take our technology and platform to the next level.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in E-Commerce: Arish Ali, CEO of Skava
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