SaaS was not considered by people in India: Piyush Somani

Piyush Somani CEO ESDS

“SaaS was not considered by people in India. They always preferred to buy a product, then deploy it on their premises, and that was the model,” says ESDS CEO Piyush Somani.

“That has changed now. We have seen people start considering many SaaS offerings,” adds Somani.

Adoption of SaaS offerings is one of the many changes the software industry in India has witnessed over the past two years of the pandemic.

And in the post-pandemic phase, people’s perception of technology buying has changed with the understanding of digital transformation and its need for business growth.

This change is visible not only among the private sector enterprises and businesses but in government organisations too. Interestingly, this change has directly increased the demand for the cloud and data centre centres as more organisations have moved their businesses and services online.

In this interview, Piyush Somani, Founder, MD and CEO of ESDS Software Solutions talks to TechHerald about the change in perception of technology during the pandemic years, the needs of most businesses, SaaS offers and the company’s overall business growth and plans and much more.

Edited excerpts…

Q1.In the past year or so, what has been your experience while dealing with customers in terms of their requirements for cloud and managed services?
Piyush Somani:
Definitely, the pandemic has changed the way people looked at digital transformation. Before the pandemic, they wasted a lot of time talking about technology and learning about what all solutions are there in the market but didn’t bother to invest in technology.

But post-pandemic that perception has changed and now people have understood that digital transformation is a compulsion, it’s a necessity. You cannot continue to run any organisation in this world without doing proper digital transformation – internal DX, external DX. So you need to implement all types of solutions for growth and business transformation.

Now when we meet customers, they don’t waste time. Earlier, we saw that government organisations spent two years discussing a tender document, RFP and did not close on it, while enterprises went on negotiating for a couple of months or beyond a year, but did not conclude on a deal.

But now that has changed. So, that’s a very welcome move that people have started taking digital transformation as a necessity, it was always a necessity, but the earlier they didn’t realize it. Now that realization is there and this realization is bringing a massive transformation in the world.

Q2. As a data centre and managed service provider, what are the basic requirements for most businesses in India?
Piyush Somani
: SaaS was not considered by people in India. They always preferred to buy a product, then deploy it on their premises and that was the model. I want my data to be on my campus, the data should reside in my facility and that was the thought process earlier. That has changed now.

We have seen people start considering many SaaS offerings. We also have a couple of good SaaS offerings and people are giving business to us for our SaaS offerings. No one ever thought that government organisations in India can take SaaS (software-as-a-service) like Microsoft Office 365 or our iPaaS (integrated planning and automation system), VTM Scan.

There are so many products in the market now, which are being considered by people. So SaaS and PaaS (platform-as-a-service)has got a good time. Now they do not hesitate to host their data in someone else’s data centre.

Earlier government or the banking customers would say to own a data centre with their premise, but now they have started co-locating. Some have moved their data on a colocation model, others have moved on a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service model, while some started directly going for software-as-a-service.

Q3. What kind of growth have you seen for ESDS in the last year in terms of customers base, segments and solution offerings?
Piyush Somani:
So until the end of FY 21, which is March 31, 2021, we had 1400 customers. The growth has been in the banking and government sectors as well as enterprises. All three segments are growing at the same rate for us. There’s demand for all the new generation solutions that people want to implement in the banking sector or the enterprises. On the government side, they were just looking for a basic office automation solution.

But now in all the verticals, people are looking for advanced solutions and that’s very welcoming for us. We can convince customers of the next-generation technologies like IoT. The world’s largest IoT project – the smart metering energy efficiency services project is going live right now in India, where more than 2.5 million smart meters have gone live from our cloud platform.

Banks are implementing multiple channels and we are playing a crucial role there also. Government organisations also are implementing the G2C – Government to Citizen services. Now portals for Mudra Yojans, Startup India or Standup India are allowing people to just log in and apply and they get facilities online. So, all these kinds of technologies, which are benefiting the citizens directly, are being implemented and we are playing a crucial role over there.

Q4. As you expect higher growth in the next financial year, do you see the demand for data centre services to increase or there will be any change?
Piyush Somani:
The trend will continue and I don’t think that trend can be reversed. Now, people have understood that they cannot risk any more. Even if the pandemic comes to a complete end, you have to be self-dependent – Athmanirbhar is not an option, but it’s a compulsion.

So to be self-dependent, and self-reliant – Athmanirbhar, you have to implement a digital transformation, and completely digitalise your business. And let people experience all the services from your business should be available online.

People should be able to work online, customers should be able to communicate online and get all facilities online. So, there’s a long way, yet to be covered by all the organisations in India. Where we are today, we are not even probably 1% of what we will be in 2035.

Q5. What are your plans for ESDS this year and what’s roadmap you are looking at in the Indian market as well as overseas?
Piyush Somani:
Our primary focus is on India as a market. We have invested a lot of time doing business here, creating a positive perception in India. And in this country, you have to be very sure about your reputation and position in the market, build a very positive reputation for the company, and then be consistent.

We want to continue to focus on growth in India and then other markets, which are similar to India. So, we have targeted the Middle East and African markets. We are selling our software-as-a-service and managed services to the banks and enterprises in the MEA markets.

Q6. Are you planning to recruit more people and open new offices and facilities to tap the markets both in India and MEA?
Piyush Somani:
We have hired people in the Middle East market and have opened offices in Dubai and Bahrain. Hiring is happening on a large scale over there. At the moment, five people working over there but very soon, we will have over a few dozen people working in our Dubai office.

So, we are scaling up outside and also hiring in India. In a one-full calendar year, we have hired more than 400 people in India and this year, we are hopeful to hire more than 500- 600 people.

A data centre and cloud business don’t need many people, but in our case, we are hiring people because we see the need for innovative technologies and solutions. The customer wants us to design a solution for their future as they are unable to get proper solutions from other players in the market.

When the customers go to someone else in the market, they just get infrastructure, platform or software-as-a-service. They don’t get that vision from an organisation like what should be their solution architecture. Because we are helping our customers to see the future, we are getting a very good response.

And for that reason, we need people who bring an understanding of our company’s vision, understand the customer’s vision, business growth and design solutions for them. That’s where we are seeing a lot of people joining our organisation to help customers.

So we are not just a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service player, but we are a cloud solution player. We make a complete solution for the customer and help them evolve that solution in the future.

You can’t deploy something today, which will continue to run the same way for the next five years. Every three years, you have to review the architecture, update it and upgrade the entire infrastructure. And we do that for our customers.

Lift and shift along with migration is the strength of our company. We upgrade and provide proper managed services on all types of cloud environments. All that is our strength and we’ve been very good at that for the last 15 years.

Q.7.How is the competition in India in the overall data centre market with more local and global players trying to tap the customers?
Piyush Somani
: You are right. There have been a lot of people who have entered this market. But as I mentioned earlier, India respects companies, which have been there in the market. Consistency is respected here and being there in the market for a long time is highly credible.

Because one thing, which Indian customers have suffered big time, is that they get cheated by the organisations. Many times a new company enters the market, without even spending two-three years in the market, and acquires the customers. And then it will get sale-off or shut down the business. That has happened many times in India.

That’s the reason, why a credible organisation with decades of experience in India, is consistent being there in the market. And not here to just get acquired by someone or shut down the business.

Our customers have given us a last right of refusal. Even if there’s a negotiation with the customer, but the customer says we want ESDS only to do the work for us, will you accept the business at this price. Due to the vertical auto-scaling technology, we have, we can optimize the use of resources and can make good profits as well.

In some cases, we will compromise on the margins but we get a choice from our customers. So that’s a major advantage of being a reputed organisation, which has been very consistent in the market.

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