One of the early movers in the product space in India, back when it was far from fashionable to be a product company, and services was king, Noida based CRMnext has come a long way since 2002. The company, today a robust organization with around 400 employees and growing at 100% in terms of strength over the last couple of years, is a success story that many a product company in India today would like to replicate. From getting featured by Gartner in the 2014 Sales Force Automation Magic Quadrant to accepting VC funding from Norwest Venture Partners (NVP), it's turning into a stellar year for CRMnext. So, what's behind the trajectory and what lies ahead?
Going against the grain
"When we first began and I told people we were doing a product company out of India, people would ask if we were crazy, saying India does services, not products," Singh recalls. His team spent the first eighteen months to two years in research, to ensure that they had the right approach to build the right deep IP product. Where a normal product that addresses a single concern takes six months to build and go to market, deep IP products tend to have a much longer cycle, with years of engineering and work involved, but the product that arises is platform driven and can solve a variety of problems, points out Singh.
Traditionally deep IP work is not done extensively in India, where many companies have a goal of rolling out products quickly and generating revenue rapidly. In terms of domain, the space that appealed most to the start-up team was CRM, since there were only two choices at the time - either clunky high end CRM systems that were less easy to work with and extremely expensive, or ASP CRM (the precursor to SaaS) which was a simplified option with limited scope and flexibility. Singh says that as much as 70% of the CRM investments at the time (the company launched) were a failure, either because they never got off the ground or because they were not meeting the objectives. After reviewing the CRM products in the market, over sixty products, Singh and his team came to his conclusion that while every company needed CRM, none of the existing ones met expectations and had left users disillusioned.
The team therefore had a clear vision - build an enterprise-class system system that was flexible, configurable and one that could interface with multiple systems without complex integrations. The resulting product, with its functional coverage and provisions for rapid integration delivers on that original vision.
The Commutable Cloud
CRMnext's go-to-market is based on the principle of the commutable cloud (a term coined by the company) - which essentially assures the product licensee seamless self-upgrades with no further cost to keep abreast with the latest technology within the framework of a fully managed service.
The strategy has paid off. "In India, we are the absolute leader of BSFI, with the blue bloods of enterprise using our system," proclaims Singh proudly. "Worldwide, average CRM enterprise seat size of Microsoft Dynamics is 50 and SalesForce is around 18, while at CRMnext we are at 1150! Before us Gartner was looking at a 100 seat size - we said, it should be 1000," says Singh. India's top 3 banks - HDFC, ICICI and Axis, use CRMnext.
Growing by leaps and bounds
Profitable from day one, the company has followed a fugal and cost-prudent strategy to propel a growth that was organically funded. By 2012, CRMnext had achieved critical mass and brand recognition through appearances in analyst reports. The company then embarked on an expansion drive beginning with the Middle East, Africa and South East Asia markets. Although this was initially funded internally the company finally decided to take funding from NVP. "This funding is our war chest, and will be utilized to go into the developed markets," says Singh. Part of the effort will be directed at the US market, the hardest market to crack, yet the most lucrative. CRM is a USD 16 billion industry, with an annual growth rate of 12% and 50% of that money comes from the US market - a very large slice of the pie. "We are so confident on the technology and we understand we can crack the market, having won the best accounts in India," adds Singh.
The secret of his company's success? "As a product company you can't be great if you don't spot trends ahead of others and if you don't lead in thought; innovation is your trump card because you're not as big ," ends Singh. Innovate, stay confident and be ready to expand, seems to be the mantra that has brought CRMnext to the top of its game.