Editor’s note: EmpXtrack is comprehensive, global HR solution and the product of Saigun Technologies, a startup launched in 2002. We interviewed Tushar Bhatia, Saigun’s founder and president, about the modern elements of an HR solution as well as the challenges for startups in identifying the right target market and funding product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.
SandHill.com: Please describe your product’s differentiation among the other HR solutions available and how it addresses today’s business problems.
Tushar Bhatia: Our EmpXtrack Platform is an integrated HR automation solution that covers the entire HR lifecycle and is perhaps the most comprehensive HR automation product in the market. It is very modular in nature. EmpXtrack contains 18 modules in four different categories (performance management, human capital management, strategic HR and recruitment).
Besides completely automating HR processes and mundane transactions, EmpXtrack provides: data analytics for quick decision making. Another critical differentiator for our product is that it is compliant to the local regulations in all the geographies we operate in. The solution is also designed to ensure complete accuracy in HR transactions.
Our aim is to enable our customers to innovatively meet their talent management needs and hence we continuously build innovative components in our offerings.
SandHill.com: What is the story behind your company name and how the company originated?
Tushar Bhatia: The name Saigun is a combination of the names of my daughter and my wife. I worked for several companies in the United States but always had the urge within myself to start my own business. So in the early 2000s I returned to India and started Saigun. Initially, the focus was on offering services, but gradually we started looking for a scalable business model. In 2004-2005 we started focusing on products and, with my prior experience in HR automation, this area was the obvious choice.
SandHill.com: Is your product for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) or for large enterprises?
Tushar Bhatia: Saigun and our product have been evolving very strongly over the years. Initially the company’s focus was only on SMBs, but now we also service larger organizations as well. The product is available in a SaaS (software as a service) model, which works well for SMBs. For enterprise customers and government agencies, we also offer the solution behind firewalls in a perpetual license model.
One of my favorite books is Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, by C.K. Prahalad. The book says that there are significant opportunities available in targeting smaller companies. Most companies focus on larger customers. However, my focus is on smaller companies as well, giving them a world-class product at a reasonable price and being profitable as well.
SandHill.com: What is the biggest challenge your company has faced so far? How did you address the challenge?
Tushar Bhatia: Our biggest challenge was developing a software product out of India because India did not have an ecosystem to support this. Although there are efforts now to create such an ecosystem, the Indian software industry primarily has had a “services” orientation, so there is very little talent or experience available in the products field. We overcame these challenges by iterating the product often.
SandHill.com: In what ways did you iterate in your product development?
Tushar Bhatia: We started out focusing on the services sector. I realized that it was not very scalable and then focused on products. Later, we changed direction three times. For example, we developed a SaaS model and later developed a multiple-region compliance framework. I believe that innovation should be market driven; it should be driven by customer needs. Innovation for the sake of innovation does not mean much. This is the stage we are in and this principle works very well at Saigun.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began planning for your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Tushar Bhatia: I would raise venture capital early, which would have enabled the company to grow faster. I also would have targeted the U.S. market much earlier rather than focusing on the Indian market. This is because the U.S. market is much bigger and is a more mature growth market.
SandHill.com: How did you get your first customer?
Tushar Bhatia: I had gone to meet a prospective customer in Pune; however, when I arrived for the meeting, I was told that the gentleman I was supposed to meet was no longer with the organization. A little dispirited, I sat in the reception area and flipped through the company’s employee directory and saw a familiar name — a college friend. I called him up and fortunately he was in the office. We met and I realized that he was heading a business unit that was looking for a performance management solution, which was exactly what Saigun was offering at that point in time. They evaluated our solution and liked it and became our first customer.
SandHill.com: Who is your personal software company or software executive role model?
Tushar Bhatia: I do not have one single person as a role model; however, there are several people I admire such as:
- Steve Jobs – for his product and design focus
- Narayana Murthy of Infosys – for being able to start a company in India and make it truly global
- Bill Gates – for building a scalable software product
- Sridhar Vembu of Zoho – his ability to acquire customers and convert prospects is very enlightening
SandHill.com: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Tushar Bhatia: Don’t give up. Innovate!
SandHill.com: What business experience prior to launching this company has been most valuable in helping you not give up and helping you deal with unexpected challenges?
Tushar Bhatia: I joined a startup very early in my career. This was very useful since I got hands-on experience in all functions, from sales to finance and technology. Later I joined a mid-tier company and managed the P&L of one of their business units. This helped me understand how to run a business while keeping profitability as the key focus. In my company, all my managers are focused on profitability at all points of time.
SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Tushar Bhatia: We are exploring various options to raise venture capital. Also, we are planning to open offices in multiple locations across the world. These offices will be both sales and service offices. Apart from this, we are planning various technology initiatives and anticipate significant growth.
SandHill.com: If you could change something about the software industry, what would it be?
Tushar Bhatia: Nothing at all! I love it, love the people, the energy, the ecosystem. There is huge opportunity available.
SandHill.com: What is your favorite sport?
Tushar Bhatia: I love running. It can be done anywhere in the world. All you need is to pack a pair of trainers and you can be off. It gives me time to think, focus and strategize. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but haven’t done yet is to run a half marathon.
SandHill.com: Do you have a philosophy about life?
Tushar Bhatia: Life isn’t about the endpoint. It’s really about the journey.
Tushar Bhatia is founder and president of Saigun Technologies. He has over 18 years of experience in the software industry where he has donned several roles from software architect, designer, to specialist. He founded Saigun Technologies in 2001 and has since then built a successful HR platform that is being used by over 200 customers across the world. Tushar is driven to helping improve his clients’ profitability through the innovative use of technology and a focus on developing talent.