(By Sagaya Christuraj @ CIOreview.com)
The benefits of outsourcing seem obvious, touted by experts across numerous industries as the answer to cutting costs for business functions ranging from information technology to accounting, marketing and human resources. Many companies have tapped upon this opportunity of catering to these companies. InfoNam is a company that started software engineering outsourcing back in 2010 and is one of a kind in paving way for an India+1 strategy for technology companies, big or small. From the inception they toiled to visualize their big dream by providing clients an innovative partnership that emphasized creativity & cost reduction at every stage of the product development lifecycle that significantly reduced time-to-market getting the customer ahead of the competition.
In a short span of two years the company has catered to the needs of big names in the Media and Entertainment, Mobile Computing, Telecom and Automotive industry and in the process has won the trust of giants such as Sony, Spirent, Hitachi, NEC, Ixia, Renesas, Open Clovis, IDS, Kit D, ANZ and Harman amongst others. InfoNam, headquartered in Cupertino and development center in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam which ranks among the top 25 outsourcing cities in the world, is today one of the top outsourcing companies in the country. The crucial characteristic that truly sets this company in a league of its own is a fantastic concoction of outsourcing from Vietnam with a successful blend of unbelievable costs, Indian processes and solution architects which is a feat, that Prithvi Puttaraju, Founder & CEO, InfoNam and his battalion are very proud of.
Touching First Base
The temperature in Vietnam is constantly rising and so is the number of technology firms. Regardless of the size of these companies that outsource, they all face similar challenges. The first and foremost is the competition offered by their peers from other emerging countries, notably India. The second is the ability to recruit enough talent to satisfy large projects and last but not least, the sales and marketing strategies coupled with the western management style that need to be deployed to compete in the world class market.
Although many other startups and seasoned campaigners are battling against these tides, the crew at InfoNam, stationed in a Class A infrastructure is relaxing in the chill of the A/C at full blast, knowing that these issues have already been taken care of. The reason being the experience and wisdom that the trio of Ash Bhardwaj, Chairman, InfoNam, a serial entrepreneur with multi-billion dollar success stories of Flextronics Asia, Aricent, SnapStick amongst others along with Rakesh Mathur who had previously founded Webaroo, Junglee, Armedia, Stratify, Snatpstick amongst others and Prithvi, an Entrepreneur with more than two decades of sales, business development and operations experience, brings into the company.
So when the InfoNam team procured a small organization at the end of 2010, they turned it around with their new story and pleased their customers. Mansoor Khan, Head of Business Development & Strategy, Americas came into InfoNam, whose Silicon Valley customer base helped InfoNam attract more customers. In 2011 they retrained the staff, injected the right kind of metrics, processes, development, disciplines, and in mid 2011 started acquiring customers. Mobilizing InfoNam.“Amongst us, we had the right platform and now we had to turn the ship around. We knew exactly what was supposed to be done and our simple mantra was to keep costs low, go delight the customer beyond expectation. I had the support of my team here in Vietnam who diligently worked to follow our vision. We did this one customer after the other, meticulously. The first million is very tough (gaining customer trust), but once you have achieved this, you have created a momentum” says Prithvi.
Vietnam is a place where testing is taken up as a serious career. Engineers walk into InfoNam’s office in Ho Chi Minh City and request for a job in Testing over development, which is not easily found anywhere in the world. There was a huge potential for network configuration testing and wireless products testing, which is the reason InfoNam initially decided to start off working in the domain the company set their sight on the mobility industry towards the end of the 2011. Coincidentally at the same time the world was witnessing the Smartphone war between iOS and Android and the coming of age of the tablets through iPads. 2012 was a milestone for InfoNam in terms of mobility. They got into mobility market and one unique feature of InfoNam is that they have very strong embedded skills. Having this fundamental low level knowledge, it was easy for InfoNam to move in to building applications, porting applications for the Smartphones.
Stepping into Unchartered Territory
Mobility picked up and InfoNam realized the big potential in the media and entertainment
business. They tapped the opportunity and today in the media and entertainment business they develop and test end to end digital content delivery platforms which could be video on demand, print media, e-books and so on, Mobility enablement is a big opportunity growing very fast and the investments InfoNam made in infrastructure, tools and test labs have helped them be close to the customer today. Prithvi says, “We kept pace with the technology evolution and built infrastructure accordingly. Digital media is a given today while the physical media business is clearly declining and M&E companies need teams to implement a good digital strategy to grow, sometimes even to survive. That’s where we are coming in”. We agree this is necessary in today’s world because physical media is a thing of the past. The M&E industry needs to have a digital story; it is a strategy that they must implement to survive. They need the support of content delivery platforms. InfoNam offered Digital Content Delivery services to many companies.
InfoNam helped to achieve the company’s vision by providing them with Enhancement of legacy apps and development of new apps for a better UI/UX experience in watching live or
catch-up video for movies, TV, sports on multiple screens and platforms such as smartphones, tablets, PC/Mac browsers, smart TVs, and set-top boxes with multiple language support.
Testing was a critical challenge to this project and InfoNam QA team put in the right process that helped improve overall product quality.
In some cases the team at InfoNam adapted to customize applications for different geographies as localization becomes an important aspect for the new business growth for the customer. InfoNam has also entered the gaming industry and port games on mobile phones for some of their customers under the Media & Entertainment umbrella.
Expanding their Network
The Telecom industry is a major part of stable revenue for InfoNam. Coming from telecom background, InfoNam management understands the Telecom & Networking industry and the on-going challenges related to Testing, Test Automation & Sustenance of Legacy product. With the investment in strong solution architects, the crew services Wireless AP Companies, Switching & Routing Manufacturers, Carrier, Metro & Datacenter Ethernet Equipment Manufacturers, L4-L7 Appliance Vendors, NGN Equipment Manufacturers, VoIP End Points, Call Management Server vendors and MCU/Video Conferencing Vendors.
“Our testing service is really strong. As a company we take it very seriously and spread it across all the industries” says Mansoor Khan President of Americas.
Another feather in InfoNam’s cap is a strong team with iTest expertise. iTest is owned by Spirent, an integrated test authoring and execution solution built for testers, developers, and automation teams. It provides QA organizations with a unified approach for rapidly developing, automating, and maintaining test cases. iTest is a very popular tool in any large organization today. Not many companies specialize in this domain.
For large telecom companies, developing automation scripts is important but it also consumes abundant technical resources,which can be utilized well on next generation products. The alternative is to utilize a platform, which deeply understands the technologies, scripting techniques and most importantly,, visualizing scenarios. “That is where we step in with our expertise and in-place infrastructure to add tremendous value at low cost for customers, which is very exciting for their management. InfoNam has had less than seven percent attrition for the last two years and this stability directly impacts on productivity in a positive way. Customers love it!,” says Prithvi. They see this growing as a huge space for them.
InfoNam has stepped into Medical & Healthcare areas too with patient portal developments on the application side and remote monitoring on the systems areas. Some of the Japanese companies produce medical equipment in Vietnam and hence the industry is aware of general dynamics of the industry making it easy for InfoNam to attract the right talent.
As any industry has it, InfoNam continues to have its share of challenges. Vietnam is evolving as a software industry with great potential but not there yet. Talent pool is the biggest challenge and also good flow of engineering degree holders, the main ingredient for software services, is low but improving. English communication is an issue too. Prithvi
mentions “We went into Vietnam knowing this and I was confident, after building operations in China, that we will overcome this. It was a very uphill task initially until we built a successful engagement model”.
InfoNam has set a path to capturing services opportunities in the Media & Entertainment, Telecom testing, automotive and Healthcare spaces. In a country with many advantages and challenging factors, InfoNam owes its initial success majorly to the experience of its management team. A look into this magnetic entrepreneur’s past reveals the hurdles he had to overcome to be in the prestigious position he is in today.
Of Prithvi, InfoNam and Vietnam
Prithvi hails from Bengaluru, India and graduated from BMS college of Engineering. He started off his career by working in a small company’s sales and marketing division. He show cased the entrepreneur inside him very early in his career by initiating a small business in the embedded software sector in the pre Internet era, which eventually was merged into a Software IP organization. During this time he dealt with DSP IP licensing and
software solutions for the emerging SOC/VoIP markets then. With the advent of outsourcing industry in India he was exposed to American, European and Japanese customers.
Over a period of time he worked deeply with Japanese customers before moving on to Hughes Software Systems now Aricent Group. “Software companies in India were picking up very fast. By managing large projects and businesses for Hughes software which was into telecom solutions, I realized the advantages and issues in the outsourcing space in the tech domain,” recalls Prithvi. He moved to China in 2005, taking care of the Hughes software operations. Running the operation for five years, sole expat on the field, he grasped the entire outsourcing gambit of low cost destinations. He learnt Mandarin. Working with Indian and Chinese engineers and global customers he realized that the cost was going up. The customers were constantly not happy about the growing employee turnover, which has an impact on the cost as well as continuity and productivity in the outsourcing business.
They started searching for a place from where services could be delivered at a cheaper cost; with better stability and environment yet make use of the advantages of the other two destinations. It was Ash’s deep insight into emerging markets which brought the idea of setting up in Vietnam where a young, hardworking, highly motivated and well-educated labor force exists. And Prithvi moved to Vietnam to create the InfoNam platform.
Vietnam has a population of close to 85 million people with a high literacy rate of 95 percent. A safe country with a potential to being one of the major hubs in SE Asia. Highly stable and humble workforce who are very leadership driven. A device and gaming society, Vietnam is a tropical country. To cater to such a crowd there was a very small software industry and that is when they decided that this is where they need to go. The clever bit was bringing in Indian processes and solution architects and tying it to Vietnamese engineering. They then made sure the target costs were at a certain point; otherwise the customers were not going to get excited about the story. “Vietnam has a great ecosystem for a large software company to flourish with the right platform. It is clearly an India+1 story for software and you cannot go wrong there. With labor turnover issues all over, the stability that InfoNam can provide is incomparable. So we made sure that the cost points were such that everybody would jump at it while the InfoNam team delivered beyond expectation. Putting these two things together is the recipe for success that attracted customer to InfoNam” says Ash.
InfoNam team is trudging towards becoming one of the largest software outsourcing companies in Vietnam, the dream which passionate investors from the Valley have backed seeing the potential. “We are headed towards making this a large global organization and the potential is very big as we move on we will focus on multi industries and we will build our expertise accordingly,” comments Rakesh. With already a huge list of big names in their clientele and many more in the pipeline it would be safe to say that InfoNam has booked a one way ticket to top of industry.