Editor’s note: Launched in 2003, Drishti-Soft Solutions specializes in software products for Customer Interaction Management and now empowers more than 10 million customer interactions per day for customers in 40 countries. We interviewed CEO Bishal Lachhiramka about the company’s product development journey and other advice for startup CEOs.
This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.
SandHill.com: How did your company originate?
Bishal Lachhiramka: When I and the other founders (Sachin Bhatia, VP Business Development, and Nayan Jain, CTO) were in college 10 years ago, an idea clicked in our heads to build a technology to manage information better than existing ways, something that would stand ahead of its time even if we take today’s scenario.
While talking to seniors and advisors, we were told that India was not the location for building software products. Call it youthful exuberance or passion — whatever it was, we believed that we could succeed. This was the seed of Drishti, but we wanted to learn business fundamentals first before turning on our geek personas.
We provide innovative solutions that help businesses improve and manage their customer experience and customer reach. We were adamant that this technology would change how information is managed. Looking towards the future now, we aspire to be one of the top 10 recognized CIM solution providers across the globe.
SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?
Bishal Lachhiramka: The meaning of the word Drishti is “vision.” When we started the company, we only had a vision. That vision was to build a successful technology from India and change people’s perception on our capability. The strongest thing we had when we started the company was purpose and vision.
SandHill.com: What is your target market, and did it change from what you envisioned at the outset?
Bishal Lachhiramka: Our target customers include: Hospitality, Healthcare, BPO providers, BFSI, Entertainment, Travel & Tourism, and B2C enterprises.
We initially catered our solution to enterprises and BPO providers. But small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have always been an important segment for our company. Our biggest challenge to date is scaling our solution to this segment, not only in terms of acquiring new clientele but to also help their businesses grow in the long-term.
Through hard work, several revisions and iterations, and constant learning with external help, we developed a better understanding of the SMB customer segment, sales process and success criteria. Thereafter, we were able to establish effective sales practices (including CRM development) that helped us address the challenges in this market.
SandHill.com: How is your product differentiated from competitors’ products? What business value does it provide for clients?
Bishal Lachhiramka: Our core product is Ameyo, which stands for boundless. We built Ameyo from the ground up. The solution, which is IP-based, deviates from the standard hardware-centric solutions predominant in the market and enhances customer interactions of businesses. It provides businesses with capabilities such as IVR, ACD, Predictive Dialer, Voicelogger, CTI, Graphical Analysis, Customized Reports and much more in a comprehensive communications suite. We have devised different packages based on the client’s type and size.
Our solution enables businesses to immediately improve customer experience and reach with enhanced service delivery, reduced Total Cost of Ownership and improved process efficiency. It allows businesses to identify and manage important factors such as customer entry points and interaction workflow and define KPIs and SLAs around that. It includes tools to manage the entire process as well as improving employee productivity.
SandHill.com: Did your company change direction at some point during product development? If so, please describe what led up to the change.
Bishal Lachhiramka: Initially we had an idea to get into multiple products, which were small products that could easily get into the market. We basically wanted to establish ourselves as a completely product-based company through the sale of multiple products. During the early stages, we worked on a single product that was successful; this was DACX CCS. From this we researched on other products to give us diversification.
But as we went along, we discovered that we needed to have a focused approach, and we decided to focus on one domain and one set of customers and grow as a recognized player in that domain. Luckily we went with that and got through the initial cash flow challenges and made a success out of a single focus.
SandHill.com: Your company has existed and grown since 2003. As the company leader, what did you need to do to build a corporate environment that enabled your employees to move beyond the early stage of a startup?
Bishal Lachhiramka: I have learned that motivating people around you can be increasingly difficult. A leader has to manage different personality styles and professional stages, and motivating them to go beyond becomes a challenge.
I sought to create an atmosphere where we would establish best practices across departments and positions. This is in line with very transparent communication to everyone on their role in the company, how they can contribute in the corporate milestones and what the future roadmaps are. By having this transparency and enforcing milestones, we could show that we achieved our objectives and that we are growing. This has allowed everyone to take ownership and feel like they are directly contributing to the organization.
SandHill.com: How did you get your first customer?
Bishal Lachhiramka: Our approach was to find and get commitment from prospects even before putting forth a serious development effort. Luckily we were able to close with two prospects for a small application in the domain we were working in, who became our first customers. They were helpful by providing a timeframe of more than six months for us to deliver a functionally working product. Our initial customers further helped us by providing critical input for completing the overall aspects of the product.
What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
It is an exciting phase for our company; we have set up concrete milestones for FY13. We are looking to strengthen our hold on the domestic CIM market, expanding our presence with the large BPO provider segment as well as the enterprise segment. We plan to grow our international sales twofold in the coming year. We are on our way to launch a few technical differentiators in the year ahead to strengthen our positioning in the CIM domain.
SandHill.com: What is a trap your company was able to avoid because of a mentor or other advisor’s advice?
Bishal Lachhiramka: Usually a technology startup focuses on technology and how it can benefit customers from their own point of view. Our mentors suggested that we focus on understanding the customer’s perspective. A product, no matter how great it may seem, may not sell if it does not address problems in the market and is not deemed usable by the customer. We learned through this advice to equally focus on domain understanding and brought customer orientation across disciplines.
SandHill.com: When you encounter challenges or setbacks, how do you pull yourself back up and become inspired again?
Bishal Lachhiramka: All we had when we started was a vision; we did not have the resources or the business knowledge. We only had the drive and the motivation that was spurred on by our vision. Whenever there was a setback, we compared ourselves from the days we started with nothing. We further reinforced our objective, and that by itself pushed us forward.
SandHill.com: Who is the person you would most like to meet, and why?
Bishal Lachhiramka: I wish I could have met the late Steve Jobs. He has been known as an innovator. The way he transformed products into mass fanfare has been impressive. This is how everyone sees him and I would have liked to meet him for similar reasons; however, I also have been quite impressed by his commitment and hard work. He never gave up in whatever he did; he always demanded perfection and he went full steam to achieve his vision.
SandHill.com: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
Bishal Lachhiramka: Don’t plan on overnight success, be prepared to work hard for a long time and, most importantly, open up yourself for learning. Take the experience of other people and don’t be scared to ask; even if you think it is the dumbest question in the world, it is relevant to you and your business.
SandHill.com: If you could change something about the software industry, what would it be?
Bishal Lachhiramka: An industry body which does a neutral validation and rating of software products coming from India. This would lead companies to focus on quality as well as give confidence to customers in mature products, which is today lacking when compared with western counterparts. This is important because there are a lot of inferior quality products coming from this industry, which is detrimental to the Indian brand.
As CEO, Bishal Lachhiramka has conceptualized various strategies and instruments, taking Drishti-Soft Solutions to the next level as a global product-centric company. His strategic initiatives have led to involvement across cross-functional departments, including Marketing, Operations, Research and Development, Sales and Business Development. Under his guidance, Drishti has established itself as one of the pioneers in IP-based Communications Technology with its Ameyo product and has spread its presence across 40 countries.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.