This IT Start-up's Focus is MENA Market, Not US
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These days very often we hear IT companies laying off and senior management resigning, making the sector very unattractive, however, then there companies like Octaware Technologies Limited which have entered capital markets to foster their growth.
Entrepreneur India got in touch with Aslam Khan, Founder and CEO of Octaware to learn about his journey and what makes his company grow in this slow economic environment.
Khan, a first-generation entrepreneur, learned his entrepreneurship skills from his father who was a scrap trader. Since his college days, he knew he would want to start his own company but for him the knowledge was more important.
So, soon after completing his education he moved to Japan to work for Citi Bank. From there, he moved to the US to work for giants like Microsoft and start-ups like AskMe.com. During his tenure in the US, he realized, India is good in talent at developer or coder level and engineering level.
“Getting software developers was easy but it wasn’t the same case with architects or product designers for building a product,” he says adding that “ this is a gap I wanted to bridge”. In his bid to do so, he started Octaware – a boutique firm offering services from not just developers but even designers and architects.
With time, the company balanced its portfolio and went on to market its in-house products like an employee relationship management (ERM) product, hospital management software, brokerage management software along with automated asset tracking and management system.
On asking him what is the USP of his company, he says, “If you basically start a company that is just like any other IT company, then, of course, you will face a challenge. The key is to stand-out and currently, we are doing that by only focusing products and solution for e-government, finance, and healthcare.”
Unlike, other IT firms, Octaware's main market is the Middle East and Africa along with countries like Singapore. But the case wasn’t the same before 2007 when the US and major markets around the globe faced an economic slowdown.
That was when Khan started looking for opportunities. “We decided to focus on the middle-eastern markets with countries like Saudi, UAE, Qatar as the competition was low and we knew their language - Arabic through which we could capitalize the market,” he shares.
Additionally, Octaware is a sharia-compliant company – one the key reasons why their Middle-East clients prefer them. Sharia compliance is an Islamic way of doing business which includes not giving or taking any interest, making Octaware a debt-free company.
Capital Market over Private Equity
Earlier this year, Octaware went public to raise about Rs 8.5 crore and was the first 100 percent sharia-compliant company to be listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange’ SME platform. The IPO size was 955,200 shares and was oversubscribed by 148%.
When we asked him why did he raise money from the capital market instead of private equity. He jokingly said, “Why to make money for someone who already has money”.
Talking about the changes in the company, post its listing, he says, “Once you list, you become very serious about compliance and delivering results," and added that "though we have been a profit-making organisation for the last ten years, people now have expectations from us and they are watching us.”
Additionally, before listing, Octaware was struggling to hire senior people in the company. However, this is now changing and the company is able to attract talent as people are more confident.
In terms of customer perspective, Khan adds that once a company gets listed it becomes transparent as their data is out there in the public domain this helps clients to trust them with their transactions.
While discussing the future plans for Octaware, the co-founder shares about its subsidiary - Transpect, which is working along with IIT Mumbai on a medical device – an automated chair that can be used to give therapies to kids suffering from cerebral palsy and related illness. The device is expected to launch in 2018.
“Along with the device, we are building a product which will use IoT, cloud, and mobility. We are building software that will pick up data from the automated therapy devices on the internet of a medical device.”
The big data then will be used for the treating other patients and for medical devices. The subsidiary has raised angel plus seed round and is now looking to raise another round of private investment.