Weekly Startup Profiles > Amdale Software Technologies
|Five years ago, could you use your phone to do your banking? Book a movie ticket? Today, telephone services are a $25 billion market today, and growing fast. Amdale helps make it all possible.|
Telecom application software product, enabling graphic user interface development.
In 1995 "There was this huge bid for an 80,000 crore telecom privatization tender by the Telecom Minister Sukram. That was when I decided that the time for the product business had come," Amit Agarwala, founder of Amdale, declares.
Around the same time, wireless telecom was taking hold, and the number of people with telephone connections skyrocketed. "I heard there were about 100 million connections in the country in the period 1994 to 2004, a huge jump from the paltry 8 to 9 million in 1994," explains Amit.
Clearly the telecom industry was on the verge of enormous and exciting change: a flood of newly connected individuals, established standards, and massive investment in equipment. "What was lacking though, were tools to create applications and services to help us ordinary people." By applications Amit describes services like caller ring tones, or accessing information like airline enquiries or exam scores, through the phone.
"I decided to create products that would allow computers to interact the human way: products that speak, hear and show." Armed with this very broad idea, he moved into a garage with a computer and two fresh graduates from NIIT and started to work on a business plan.
When we started our business, it was a long shot. But today, expecting people to spend an average of $1 (Rs. 40) per month on telecom services isn't outrageous at all. The application services market is about $25 billion today and will probably exceed $40 billion by the end of the decade, outlines Amit.
With so much money starting to be spent on services and the potential for much more, corporations and telecom carriers were looking to build additional applications and services. Amit decided that these companies would be his target customers
Anyone who wanted to provide these services faced a problem: "Converting existing technologies into 'usable' products is a big headache." What the telecom industry needed was a liberating tool or language. Something that would play the role that Visual Basic programming language played in the PC-Windows environment. Amit explains: "It would have required writing 300 lines of complex C-language software to create a window and write "hello world" on it. Today, that would take one solitary line of code in Visual Basic."
Amdale's current product PowerConnect It provides the basic framework that allows complex computer telephony applications to be created quickly by anyone. Amdale's customer base includes small, medium and large corporations, and carriers or telecom operators. "We were quick to figure out that our skills lay in telecom technology, not business operations," says Amit. Amdale quickly formed partnerships with HCL Infosystems, TCS, BPL Telecom, National Panasonic & NIC.
Amdale started with funds from an 'in-house" angel: "Unlike most other businesses, we chose to grow organically, from my wife's saving of one lakh as seed capital," smiles Amit.
In 2001, they signed their first big partner, BPL Telecom. "We sought funding soon after, and Amdale received $300,000 from Tenet, Venture East in 2004," explains Amit.
Amit was on the fast track at Microsoft in the US. But he always had a yearning to go back to India and do something on his own. "Entrepreneurship had intrigued me from an early age, but I followed the conventional route of getting an engineering degree and then an M.S. in the U.S," admits Amit.
Amit founded the business in 1998; his wife joined soon after. Amdale grew to about 14 people in three years. "We stayed at that number for a long time. Today we are a 45-person company," says Amit.
While building their team, they minimized costs by staying away from brand-name colleges and universities. "We've always preferred to hire fresh graduates from Tier 2 and Tier 3 schools. Originally the low startup salaries attracted us," declares Amit, but they found that with just a little bit of training, these graduates, "went on to become Amdale's key technology and sales team."
We started with the magic number of zero customers. Every single one of our 1,200 customers has been painstakingly won and retained, Amit says.
"Our product engineering teams have delivered to us completely failsafe software, which enabled us to expand from selling only in India, to deployments in 22 countries across four continents," Amit describes Amdale's current reach.
As for tomorrow? Amit feels that Amdale is positioned well:
both consumer demand and industry pressures are driving telecom application development. "It is increasingly becoming clear that call completion will not provide the revenue growth that operators look for. Also, from being voice-only devices, cell phones have evolved into something much more - devices that store and deliver email, internet, music, video, games and more coming."
One of my biggest fears is that by missing important strategies, I may unintentionally limit Amdale's growth potential. I train, solicit collaborations and advice much as I can, but even then, the nagging fear remains, says Amit. Rising competition is also a constant worry. He adds that he loses sleep over "those small and incredibly nimble companies hidden somewhere in a garage out there."
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