New Delhi: For small businesses the world over, the costs of buying and installing software can often be prohibitive. Many simply do without it. Kantanu Kundu, founder and chief executive of a2Zapps.com, says he’s seen companies in India managing their accounts on complicated excel sheets that can number as many as 50 pages.
Kundu believes they’d be willing to invest in software if it comes at the right price. Small businesses find it easier to pay a subscription-based fee, under a model called software as a service, or SAAS, rather than a hefty purchase price.
One-stop shop: Kantanu Kundu, founder and CEO of a2zapps.com
Kundu spent nearly half a decade working at Salesforce.com, a US firm that pioneered SAAS model. While at Salesforce.com, he saw the business grow from a 100-employee start-up to 2,500-people market leader, and believes this model could work in India.
Salesforce.com provides a so-called customer relationship management, or CRM, platform for small businesses.
Kundu returned to India in 2006 and by early 2007 a2zapps.com was up and running. Unlike his peers overseas, Kundu decided to broaden the base of his offerings. “We started from the ground up thinking what modules the companies could do online,” he says. Ergo, the name a2Zapps.com.
Sales, accounts, marketing, human resources, vendor management were some of the functions he decided to focus on.
Programs were prepared for each that can then be tweaked depending on the requirement of each customer. This helps the company become a one-stop shop for small businesses seeking to rent software.
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Its model went a long way in meeting the needs of Delhi Business School. Founded in 2003, it now has about 500 students in each class. Its quick expansion created the need for some automation of key functions such as admissions, scheduling classes, placements, corporate relationships and so on.
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A2zapps.com software allowed the school to do just this.
A demonstration was made in the morning and the deal sealed the same evening.
In addition to the broad range of services it provides, a2zapps.com has also priced its services competitively.
It offers four plans—start-up, powerpack, professional and enterprise—each differentiated according to the number of users and security requirements.
A start-up plan costs Rs700-800 per user. This rises to Rs2,000-2,500 per user for the enterprise plan.
Kundu says he plans to scale up by targeting six industries: education, health care, non-profit organizations, real estate, small manufacturing companies, and professional services such as chartered accountants and travel agents.
Some investors have reservations on this approach. Tripat Preet Singh, a senior associate at NEA-IndoUS Ventures, a venture capital firm, has doubts on whether a company can spread itself thin (by offering a wide array of software) and succeed. “Creating a platform with multiple verticals hasn’t been tried successfully so far,” he says.
Singh points to three challenges the company could face. First, small businesses in India haven’t taken to business software yet in a big way. Second, there is a better chance of the company succeeding, if it focuses on just one industry. And, finally, execution remains a challenge as the company’s technology is largely untested so far.