The tri­umphant trio

Chen­nai-based Mukesh In­fos­erve has suc­cess­fully tran­si­tioned from a hard­ware re­seller to an ap­pli­ca­tion so­lu­tions provider. The trio of B Mukundh, Vard­hara­jan VS and Senthil Ku­mar talk about their jour­ney so far, and the fu­ture plans


B Mukundh, Vard­hara­jan VS, Senthil Ku­mar, Di­rec­tors, Mukesh In­fos­erve, talk about their tran­si­tion from a hard­ware re­seller to an ap­pli­ca­tion so­lu­tions provider

Chen­nai-based Mukesh In­fos­erve started in 1997 as a HP re­seller. To­day, with a wide port­fo­lio of prod­ucts and ser­vices, it is im­ple­ment­ing niche so­lu­tions for SMB and mid-mar­ket cus­tomers.

The be­gin­ning

It was in 1997 that three friends—B Mukundh, Di­rec­tor, Vard­hara­jan VS, CTO and Senthil Ku­mar, CFO, started their busi­ness from a small house in Ad­yar, Tamil Nadu, with a seed cap­i­tal of ` 60,000 bor­rowed from their par­ents. The new en­tity was named Mukesh In­fos­erve.

From 1997 till 2010 Mukesh was known as a hard­ware com­pany and was fo­cused only on the topline. “Our first big project was to sup­ply 1,000 lap­tops for an or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­e­cut­ing a project for the Tamil Nadu govern­ment. We also signed an AMC con­tract,” re­calls Mukundh.

Over the next 2-3 years the com­pany sold HP PCs to ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and cor­po­rate cus­tomers in deals worth ` 50 lakh to ` 1 crore.

Change of for­tunes

The turn-around came in 2005 when Mukesh signed up with VMware for server vir­tu­al­iza­tion. Says Mukundh, “We signed an or­der for a global pro­cure­ment, en­gi­neer­ing and con­struc­tion com­pany to vir­tu­al­ize all their 80 servers at the back­end. Vard­hara­jan front-ended the ` 3.5 crore project in 2006.”

Speak­ing about the slow­down which plagued the econ­omy in FY2008-09, Ku­mar says, “We faced a dip, but also re­al­ized that we were cater­ing to only the up­per-end of the mid-mar­ket seg­ment. We were largely work­ing with auto man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies in and around Chen­nai. Al­though their project sizes were large, their buy­ing de­ci­sions were of­ten de­layed. We had to ex­pand our hori­zons, and de­vised an SMB strat­egy.”

Mukesh then ap­proached prospects in many ver­ti­cals in the SMB seg­ment. The com­pany went on to sign more than 250 SMB cus­tomers who con­trib­uted more than 30 per­cent to its over­all rev­enue in the next 3-4 years. It also saw some large wins. As part of upgra­da­tion for a large multi­na­tional fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany, the SI de­ployed HP servers as part of a multi-mil­lion dol­lar deal.

In 2011, Mukesh im­ple­mented a com­plex net­work­ing

In FY2008-09, Mukesh de­cided to fo­cus on SMBs and de­signed a sales and so­lu­tions strat­egy, which in the past four years has helped them sign up 250 SMB cus­tomers

project worth ` 2 crore for a large hos­pi­tal­ity con­glom­er­ate. The project in­cluded de­sign­ing ac­tive and pas­sive net­work­ing for more than 2,000 nodes, and sup­port­ing nine dif­fer­ent func­tion­al­i­ties in­clud­ing ap­pli­ca­tions such as voice, data and video.

The SAP fac­tor

Mukesh im­ple­mented SAP B1 ERP in FY2008-09 to im­prove its pro­cesses and con­nect all its in­ter­nal stake­hold­ers. Says Vard­hara­jan, “Not only did the ERP lend trans­parency, it also gave us clar­ity into the sales cy­cle and fun­nel man­age­ment.”

In fact, so im­pressed were its cus­tomers with the re­sults that they asked the SI to im­ple­ment a sim­i­lar so­lu­tion for them. “Since we were into HP re­selling, we passed on the leads to lo­cal SAP part­ners. How­ever, the de­mand for SAP so­lu­tions grew, hence a year later in 2010 we for­mally part­nered with SAP,” Vard­hara­jan adds.

“Senthil im­ple­mented the SAP ERP in-house and was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up our SAP busi­ness di­vi­sion,” Mukundh in­forms.

Grad­u­ally, Mukesh ex­panded its SAP team and in­vested in re­sources and train­ing. “From nowhere in FY2010-11 the prac­tice in­creased to 60-70 people. Over the last three years we have im­ple­mented SAP B1 for close to 70 SMB cus­tomers who have rev­enue rang­ing from ` 10 crore to ` 500 crore in deals rang­ing from ` 5 lakh to ` 50 lakh,” Ku­mar re­veals.

Their ef­forts, cou­pled with cus­tomer wins, en­abled Mukesh to win the Best SAP Busi­ness One Part­ner Of The Year Award for the south re­gion for three con­sec­u­tive years—2010, 2011 and 2012.

Cur­rent busi­ness

Mukesh grew 12.5 per­cent from ` 48 crore in FY2011-12 to

` 54 crore in FY2012-13.

“While we bagged large deals in net­work­ing, stor­age and servers, we also added doc­u­ment man­age­ment which con­trib­uted 2 per­cent of our turnover,” Mukundh de­tails.

Says Vard­hara­jan, “DM blends well with our busi­ness ap­pli­ca­tions port­fo­lio. We signed on five cus­tomers for DM last year, and ex­pect it to con­trib­ute 4 per­cent of our over­all turnover this fis­cal.”

Mukesh moved to hi-end prod­ucts in net­work­ing, stor­age and servers, and in­vested in re­sources, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and POCs. “We de­ployed many projects in the range of ` 60 lakh to ` 2 crore and above. Our new strate­gies im­proved our topline and bot­tom­line, and also the size of our fun­nel,” Ku­mar says.

The SI de­signed, ar­chi­tected and de­ployed a com­plex net­work­ing so­lu­tion for a large ho­tel for ` 2 crore. It also con­nected hun­dreds of users of a large health­care in­sti­tute across 100 lo­ca­tions for a project worth ` 1 crore. “The de­ploy­ment was part of new in­fra­struc­ture that the in­sti­tute cre­ated for the ERP de­ploy­ment project, and en­tailed con­nect­ing thin clients with the SAP ERP, servers and stor­age,” Vard­hara­jan ex­plains.

Cre­at­ing NESS

Mukundh wanted to ap­ply a for­mula which clearly de­fined the way the or­ga­ni­za­tion reshuf­fled its GTM strat­egy. There­fore, in a bid to pro­mote cross-plat­form sales, the SI started a spe­cial sales and mar­ket­ing arm, NESS, which fo­cuses on op­por­tu­ni­ties around net­work­ing, en­ter­prises, soft­ware and ser­vices. Over the years NESS has helped Mukesh to ad­dress cus­tomer pain­points with spe­cific so­lu­tions which not only in­creased its ser­vices rev­enue but also re­sulted in cus­tomer stick­i­ness.

Adds Ku­mar, “We en­sured that the cross-pol­li­na­tion did not im­pact our sales teams in­ter­nally, and there­fore cred­ited the sales ex­ec­u­tive who locked the op­por­tu­nity and in­cen­tivized him with 25 per­cent of the deal value.”

Fu­ture busi­ness

De­spite slow mar­ket con­di­tions, Mukesh In­fos­erve is con­fi­dent of clos­ing FY2013-14 with a flat turnover with

The core of Mukesh’s SMB strat­egy has been around SAP B1. It has built deep com­pe­ten­cies and de­ployed the ERP among 70 cus­tomers in the last four years

stream­lined mar­ket­ing and a cross­func­tional sales team. “We want our soft­ware and ser­vices rev­enue to con­trib­ute at least ` 20 crore. We will grad­u­ally move to a stage where the con­tri­bu­tion from ser­vices and prod­uct sell­ing is at a 50:50 ra­tio,” Ku­mar says.

The com­pany is now ey­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to sell bun­dled so­lu­tions to ex­ist­ing cus­tomers, and has signed multi-year ser­vice con­tracts with pres­ti­gious clients. Dis­closes Ku­mar, “Most of these projects aver­age ` 1 crore, with SAP con­tribut­ing the lion’s share of ` 30 lakh to ` 40 lakh. The rest is for servers, stor­age and VMware.”

The largest con­tract this year, worth ` 2.6 crore, came from a global lo­gis­tics com­pany which wanted to con­nect its sites in In­dia us­ing Red Hat, VMware and Mi­crosoft.

The SI is ag­gres­sive with cus­tom­ized prod­ucts. In 2013, it de­vel­oped cus­tom­ized ERPs— Au­rum for jew­elry and MI POS for re­tail—with SAP as the back­end.

One of the largest cus­tomers for MI POS is a chain of wine shops in Ben­galuru. “We in­te­grated 20 of their out­lets with SAP ERP and im­ple­mented MI POS for the billing front-end,” in­forms Mukundh.

The SI is im­ple­ment­ing sim­i­lar so­lu­tions for health­care sec­tor. For in­stance, it has in­te­grated all the ap­pli­ca­tions of a ma­jor health­care cus­tomer on HIMS with SAP at the back­end. Says Ku­mar, “These are small deals, but pro­vide us ac­cess to CIOs and CFOs in the ver­ti­cal.” The com­pany is run­ning POCs with some large re­tail­ers in south, and with jewel­ers in south, west and north In­dia.

Says Ku­mar, “We have pro­duc­tized our ERP, and are ac­tively look­ing for part­ners across In­dia who can sell the ERP to their lo­cal re­tail­ers and jewel­ers.”

Also on the agenda is mo­bile en­able­ment. Re­veals Vard­hara­jan, “We have de­vel­oped mo­bile apps for sales force au­to­ma­tion. Based on the con­cept of busi­ness in­tel­li­gence, the ap­pli­ca­tion—which will be tied to the SAP server at the back­end—will pro­vide sales and mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tives with real-time data from the CRM for SPCs and other de­tails. This is a green­field de­vel­op­ment, but we are re­ally ex­cited.”

On a per­sonal note

The three friends are fond of north and south In­dian and Ital­ian veg­e­tar­ian food. They also love ex­plor­ing new tourist des­ti­na­tions. On the book front, while Vard­hara­jan reads stuff on tech­nol­ogy, Ku­mar reads up on fi­nance. Mukundh is cur­rently read­ing Many Lives And Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss.

L-R: Senthil Ku­mar, B Mukundh, Vard­hara­jan VS

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