Sachin Rao Archon Consulting Systems
Sachin Rao, Founder & CEO, and Ramanujam S, Co-founder & Director, Archon Consulting Systems, recall their journey together from the early days of the enterprise to its present happy position
“Our transparency in dealings has helped us to build the trustworthiness we are known for. This has been the main reason for our success in the last couple of years”
An IT company digressing from its core area of business and moving to a non-IT business became a turning point for Sachin Rao and Ramanujam S. The duo later founded Archon Consulting Systems which has become one of the most trusted companies specializing in server, storage, virtualization and client computing solutions.
“Our strong belief in our core values, and transparency in our dealings with both employees as well as customers has helped us to build the trustworthiness we are known for. This has been the main reason for our success in the last couple of years,” says Rao, Founder & CEO, Archon.
Archon Consulting Systems was founded in August 2010, when Bengaluru-based Dreamquest (where Rao was the CEO) slowed down its business. “I spent 10 years with that company and was the CEO during the last four years. I moved away when I saw that the passion was missing, and Ramanujam joined me,” recalls Rao.
The new company was named Archon, meaning ‘ancient rulers of Greek provinces.’ Rao and Ramanujam made investments to the tune of ` 10 lakh from their savings, hired four engineers for services delivery, and rented a small office in Bengaluru. They were later joined by Prakash R as Director, Client Computing Solutions, and Kiran Holla as Director, Finance, Operations & Logistics.
Fund flow with their limited capital was a challenge. “Our small capital made fund flow a difficult task. This continued for almost 5-6 months. After lots of discussions we eventually got an investor to sail us through the tough times,” recalls Ramanujam S, Co-founder & Director, Archon.
On the third day of starting the business the young company hired a market research start-up run by common friends to build business intelligence on opportunities to chase. “We knew we needed professional help in understanding precise trends before plunging in completely. This was the best decision we took because it added 25 customers in the first seven months,” Rao recalls.
Their first big deal, worth ` 10 lakh-`12 lakh, was with a semi-conductor manufacturing company for implementing backup in a Linux environment. “It was a difficult job and the completion of the project gave us a different high altogether,” explains Ramanujam.
During the first year of operations orders worth $160,000, $450,000 and $600,000 which were executed in FY2011-12 from three semi-conductor companies for HPC clusters and data center migration, took the turnover to ` 5 crore.
In April 2011 the company bagged an order worth ` 50 lakh from a UK-based logistics giant for setting up its IT infrastructure.
Another large project was the implementation of proactive pre-failure alert software in a 300-server Linux hardware cluster for a large semi-conductor company in Bengaluru.
Rao and his team acquired several new certifications in FY2011-12 from vendors such as HP and VMware. “Certifications helped us to win the confidence of customers. They reflected in our communications and helped to convince prospects faster, thus leading to more customers and more business,” explains Ramanujam.
During the fiscal the company bagged five orders ranging between ` 3 crore and ` 7 crore for server and storage infrastructure; this helped them to register
revenue of ` 35 crore by the year-end.
The company grew 5 percent in FY2011-12 with revenue rising from ` 35.4 crore to ` 37 crore in FY2012-13. Corporate reselling at 55 percent contributes the largest chunk of its revenue, solutions contribute 35 percent and the rest comes from services.
Because the last fiscal was slow Archon designed a mixed strategy to acquire new customers, add new brands and deep-dive into existing businesses. While the company added around 30 more customers in the last fiscal, it also added a few new brands like Cisco for the entire stack. “Last fiscal we worked both on breadth and depth. Deepselling new technologies to our existing customers contributed significantly to our revenue,” informs Rao.
During FY2012-13 Archon grew its business on the strength of stronger relationships with vendors such as NetApp and Hitachi Data Systems. “While we are predominantly aligned with HP, we have averaged almost a million dollars of business with both NetApp and Hitachi,” informs Rao. He concedes, “If it were not for the trust shown in us by HP in the initial days we would not have reached here.”
The company focused on IT-ITeS companies and the manufacturing sector. Explains Rao, “We were very clear that we would not go after the defense, government and education verticals for the first three years as they have tough guidelines and eligibility criteria.”
Archon also increased its focus on virtualization, thin clients, servers, storage and services, and won several new projects which ranged from a few lakhs to crores. “The projects that we won in FY2012-13 were very different from our previous wins,” says Ramanujam. “We won an analytics project where we set up infrastructure for SAP HANA. For another customer we did software implementation—complete service desk management tool deployment. For yet another customer we deployed network management tools for a data center.”
Other wins during the last fiscal included an ERP
“Certifications helped us win the confidence of customers. This reflected in our communications, thus leading to more customers and more business”
migration project, setting up a Hadoop cluster, and implementing a BYOD solution for a customer with 800 users.
At present Archon has around 80 mid-market and enterprise customers who provide yearround repeat business; it hopes to grow the number to more than 100 during the current fiscal. The company aims to grow its topline by 15-20 percent and garner revenue of ` 45 crore in FY2013-14. It intends to add 15 more employees and aggressively increase its customer count. “We will also increase our focus on storage, cloud and virtualization, and aim for large corporate houses,” says Rao.
Archon wants to get into IT security in a more focused way and sign up with vendors such as WatchGuard, CheckPoint and Fortinet. Rao informs, “We are looking at strengthening our security portfolio in 2014 and adding substantial customers.”
The company will also look at VDI with a renewed approach. “Back in 2011 we had tried to get into this segment but due to the high price of $1,100 for VDI per node versus $800 for a notebook it was difficult for us to convince customers. We will rework our strategy and try to build on our expertise to come out with a more acceptable business proposition,” Rao discloses.
Archon has plans to create a separate business unit for its managed services, and will expand geographically from 2015 onward.
Remarks Rao, “We are building an organization where the first preference is given to employee happiness and satisfaction. We have been customer-centric from day one, and we feel that as long as we build a customercentric company we cannot go wrong.”
On a personal note
Both Rao and Ramanujam are avid readers. While Ramanujam loves to read fiction, especially thrillers, be it psychological, mythological or legal, Rao loves to read thrillers, management texts and self-help books. Ramanujam is currently reading Amish Tripathi’s The Secret of the Nagas while Rao is reading Ken Follett’s Winter of the World.
Rao loves traveling and often hits the road in his SUV for joy-rides. “Driving helps me concentrate and gets my thoughts organized. It also acts as a stressbuster. I spend hours driving through interesting places on weekends.” He is also a movie and music buff, and watches and listens to all genres.
Sachin Rao and Ramanujam S