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

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“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.

The be­gin­ning

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.

Cur­rent busi­ness

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.

Fu­ture plans

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

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