I met Rakesh three years ago. He represented a small company of which he was also the proprietor. He had come to show the presentation of his ERP solution for the hospitals. Many companies, big and small, wanted to grab this tender. My uncle is the director of a premium mid-sized hospital. The board of directors held a meeting and decided to call upon companies specializing in ERP solution for the hospitals.
The hospital has grown from a very small hospital to a big hospital with multi-speciality facilities. The hospital was using a small solution that was once developed by a freelancer when the hospital was small. The modules were not integrated and the program often ran into problems.
It used an MS Access database with corrupted rows in few tables. Few of the hospital employees, who had been working since the program development started, somehow kept the program running with little tweaks and tricks. There was no support team because one bright sunny day, the freelancer, who developed the program and was the only dedicated support guy, had run away because of intense pressure from the board.
The hospital has grown rapidly and with the multi-speciality facilities started, the board decided to take this issue seriously. The hospital has long term plans and therefore the board emphasized on the following points in the meeting:
- The software must be scalable to meet future requirements.
- The software must be customizable to accommodate custom requirements of the hospital.
- The vendor must provide dedicated support team.
- The solution must be equipped with sound backup strategies.
- The solution must be affordable.
- The solution must support health care norms of the Indian government.
The representatives of big companies were well dressed up with ego filled up to the brim. The board rejected them because they came with the slide show and not with the actual software. The board wanted a running demo of the actual application. The demo sessions were hectic and we were able to view only two presentations in a day. With so many companies coming every day, the hospital management decided to schedule the presentations of each company.
When Rakesh’s turn came, we were surprised to see him alone. Where big companies sent two to five people to give the demo, Rakesh was the only person who was the proprietor of his company. His company specializes only in the health care domain. He showed his list of clients and we were surprised again when he told us that his company doesn’t believe in big advertising. Since it is a start-up, the company can’t afford to waste money on advertising that doesn’t work. The only advertising Rakesh believed that works is Word of Mouth.
Rakesh was the only person who came with the actual application with sample data. When Rakesh started showing the demo of his application, I noticed that he possessed extensive domain knowledge. Not only he confidently dealt with the cross questions of the board, he was able to satisfy them with the alternative approaches that could simplify management overhead. Apps of big vendors were tightly integrated with very little or no space left for customization. Whereas, Rakesh’s product was designed with loose coupling in mind. It followed a plug and play architecture. Features could be plugged in or else ignored.
After a rigorous Q+A session, Rakesh bagged the order after one year. In these three years, Rakesh has bagged more orders. His company reminds me the race of the turtle and the rabbit. Rakesh started with a turtle speed but his efforts were consistent and focused. Most start-ups loose their focus in the race to offer a wide range of products and services. Start-ups also waste a lot on fake advertising and glamor.
Amid the demo sessions, I realized that size doesn’t matter. You need focus, consistency and a winning solution.