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How do I get the Timing of my Product Launch right?

By Ashok Suppiah, Blogs

The biographies of every successful entrepreneur will throw up one recurring theme, and that’s timing. From Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to Jeff Bezos, all will mention their immaculate timing when bringing their products to the marketplace. But for every successful business, there are those who fail to capture the zeitgeist, with innovative, revolutionary products and services that don’t appeal to the public at that precise moment in time. Sometimes they are behind the curve but often they are visionaries, seeing something others just can’t see, yet.

In the late ‘90s, I worked with an exciting American start-up called Decorwala. Their concept was to provide an interior design service for those undertaking home renovations, but in a virtual marketplace. By supplying your room dimensions, you could choose your furniture, wall and floor coverings, and lighting, all from multiple suppliers, and try them out together, in your own virtual environment. The items could then be ordered in one place and delivered directly to you from the individual manufacturers.

The concept was revolutionary, bringing multiple products and vendors together in one marketplace made so much sense, and I loved the idea, becoming a seed investor in the business. I also advised on the design of the product helping them launch the pilot. If this method of shopping sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Sadly, Decorwala didn’t capture the imagination of the consumer, and it wasn’t until Amazon launched its online marketplace after 2000 that this powerful method of selling really took off. Decorwala were ahead of the curve in concept and execution.

History is littered with near misses. As the leading phone manufacturer at the time, Nokia famously brought the first smartphone to the market in 2006 with modest sales. However, when Apple launched the iPhone is 2007, it captured the imagination of the public, revolutionising the market. Back in 1973, Xerox built the first Graphical User Interface (GUI) for their desktop, but it was only in 1979 after they shared their vision with a young Steve Jobs that the concept was embraced by Apple to create the Macintosh operating system.

Getting the timing right is not just about luck. One way of gauging whether your innovative product is likely to hit the timing sweet spot, is by reviewing the Gartner Technology Hype Cycle. For the digital market, Gartner produce an annual report ranking the progress of technologies on their patented Hype Curve. This gives a clue as to the perceived market readiness for your product or service.

It’s also worth mentioning that if at first you don’t succeed, don’t bin your product. Being ahead of the curve doesn’t mean you can’t retry the market at a later stage.

Bringing innovation to the market needs:

  • An understanding of your market and a knowledge of competitors products and services
  • Insight gained from research and advisory organisations like Gartner and McKinsey
  • Patience, perseverance and belief in your product, to re-try the market at a later stage
  • A little good fortune!

About the Author

Ashok Suppiah is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group, a global technology provider specialising in digital transformation, product incubation and integration services.  He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 20 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$115Million in 2004.

Low Code & No Code: A Powerful New Tool For Entrepreneurs

By Webinars
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM BST
September 30, 2021

About this event

Creating demonstrators, prototypes and MVP’s is always a tricky challenge for new entrepreneurs and early stage startups. It can take significant time and money and is often a challenge to find suitably skilled developers who can bring your vision to life. The rise of Low Code and No Code technologies represents a dramatic shift in the way software is created. LowCode allows you to significantly accelerate the time to create a demo, prototype or MVP while radically reducing the costs. What’s more iteration cycle time and agility are also significantly improved. In this event we will explore how LowCode technology can transform the journey for entrepreneurs – getting you to market faster and requiring significantly less investment.

Introduction

Mitra Innovation is a global technology provider that has a team of 250 experts working across four continents that enables smart entrepreneurs, enterprises and public service organisations to accelerate innovative ideas into amazing global businesses or solutions, through product incubation, digital transformation, integration services and Cloud-to-Cloud integration, with expert skills in AWS, Azure and Creatio low-code technologies.

Agenda:

Welcome and house keeping

Brief overview of the concept of Low Code and No Code

Introduction to the panel and questions

Fireside chat with Oli Littlejohn

Panel discussion to include questions from viewers

Close

We are joined by:

Dr Ashok Suppiah – Co-Founder and CEO of Mitra Innovation

Ashok is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group. He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 25 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2 Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$114 Million in 2004. With recent successes in Conversational AI, experienz and LowCodify, Ashok sustains his passion for pioneering and disruptive technology, with Mitra providing transformative solutions to clients and partners globally.

Matt Lawton, Solutions Consultant at Mitra Ventures

Matt has 21 years of extensive experience in both the corporate innovation world and working with innovative new start-ups. In his previous role Matt was Director of Applied Innovation at BT where he led a companywide programme of innovation projects, engaging with start-ups, delivering new products and services as well as efficiencies and customer experience improvements across all of BT’s lines of business. He was also responsible for BT’s Customer Centre and Innovation Showcases at Adastral Park, it’s Hothouse capability for rapid innovation implementation and the Innovation Martlesham technology cluster of 100+ companies.

He is a qualified leadership coach and loves mentoring and coaching entrepreneurial individuals and teams. Matt now leads his own innovation consulting business (Downstream Innovation Ltd) helping other companies implement effective innovation strategies, tools and techniques as well as helping start-ups engage successfully with large corporates.

Matt is also Solution Consultant as Mitra Ventures where he leads innovation, marketing and business development activities as well as providing mentoring and coaching to Entrepreneurs.

Oli Litteljohn, Head of Community at CodeBase and Founder of Sets

Oli is Head of Community at CodeBase, a technology cluster headquartered in Edinburgh. His day job involves working with the community of startups at CodeBase to make sure they get the support they need. He also runs the No Code Scotland community, and has a keen interest in how No Code can help founders build products, especially those without technical skills. He’s also the founder of Sets, a community portal that is built on slack – which is entirely built in No Code.

Nadini Sahabandu, Regional Head and Senior Manager of Mitra Innovation

Nadini is an ICT Product Manager and Business Consultant with over 11 years of multi-disciplinary experience in IT. She has an experience evaluating varied Low Code, No Code platforms for viability depending on the business need and also has hands-on practical experience using such platforms for product designing and creating MVPs, particularly on health and wellbeing related applications.

Harshan Senadhira – Head of Product Implementation at Mitra Ventures

Harshan brings more than 21 years of industry experience in which, 11 years are in software project management and solution delivery. He has experience in Software Quality Assurance, Software Engineering, solution Implementation, the configuration of ERP solutions with specialization on Oracle financials, Software Project management, handling solutions pre-sales and managing overall solution delivery function.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Manchester Metropolitan University of United Kingdom in the field of information systems and a post graduate diploma in Business Administration, specialized in Information Technology, from university of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. He is also a certified project management professional (PMP®) (credential #1378629) from Project Management institute, U.S.A

Having worked for Informatics group of companies, LOLC group of companies (which was affiliated with Orix Japan) and London Stock Exchange, he is currently operating as Head of product implementations at Mitra Ventures

How do I compete with more established brands? Ashok talks to Sahil Verma about The Cookaway.

By Ashok Suppiah, Blogs

Perception can make or break a business, and in a year where reaching your potential client base has never been harder, the impression you create online with your website and across social media platforms is critical to the success of your product or business. You may start small, but there is no reason to think small, and embracing high production values with your marketing material and web content shows care, attention to detail, and importantly, demonstrates the credentials of an established and successful brand that customers want to buy from.

A business that has done this so successfully is The Cookaway.  After running a successful cookery school for over 10 years, my dear friends, Sahil and Nidhi Verma decided to launch a recipe-in-a-box business with a twist. Rather than following in the footsteps of Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef or Gousto, they created a chef-based, global cuisine recipe box offering with YouTube instruction videos. They concentrated on quality ingredients, eco friendly packaging and highly curated instructions that turned a recipe box into an engaging, shared experience. 

As Sahil Verma says “Our focus from the beginning has been to offer our customers an elevated experience across each and every touchpoint including the overall website experience, engagement on digital channels, no-subscription offering, product quality and range and customer service, to name a few. It’s a tall order to achieve all this for a young start up but we believe this is the only way one can build a sustainable brand with a loyal following that doesn’t need to be tied into a subscription.” 

To support their young enterprise, my wife and I decided to invest in their friends & family round of funding. In the early days, I advised them on choosing the right technology platform, ensuring their systems provided the functionality they required, at a price they could afford, and could be easily scaled as the business grew. In addition to offering business and entrepreneurial insight, it was a delight to try their prototype cook at home boxes. From advice on packaging, quality of ingredients to critiquing the boxes used for delivery, my wife and I worked closely with Nidhi and Sahil who proved to be inspirational entrepreneurs. Sahil was kind enough to say, “Ashok has been pivotal in helping us with our digital strategy both in terms of setting up an agile infrastructure as well as the softer design and UX elements. His experience working with start-ups is invaluable and he’s a great mentor, friend and sounding board to have on the team.”

By recruiting professional, high profile chefs for each of the global cuisines they offer, and using their cookery school knowhow, they opened their market to online cook-alongs. During the pandemic, they saw an opportunity for businesses to reach out to employees with corporate, remote cook-along events, adding yet another USP to this brand as it pivoted to B2B. This entirely new spin on corporate hospitality, offers groups of colleagues cook at home boxes with chef-led virtual gatherings. 

Recruiting chefs from different world cuisines immediately elevated The Cookaway, with the virtual gatherings providing the social aspect missing from other recipe boxes, something which resonated with customers during the last year. The social aspect and the global nature of the cuisine brought depth and breadth to the brand while disrupting the existing recipe box market. A decision not to use the subscription model also set The Cookaway apart from their competitors.

The Cookaway ticks many of the boxes required for success. In emulating their model try to:

  • Use association with other successful brands to hitch a ride on their wave of success
  • Ensure an excellent product – high quality, ethically sourced and packaged
  • Gain support from friendly investors, building collaborative relationships
  • Build a sound technology infrastructure providing flexibility and scalability
  • Be creative about the ways to market your product
  • Respond to changes in your market with agility and speed

The Cookaway is a small business with big ideas, and it’s leaving the established brands behind.

About the Author

Ashok Suppiah is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group, a global technology provider specialising in digital transformation, product incubation and integration services.  He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 20 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$115Million in 2004.

What does it take to scale up your start-up to a US$2Billion company?

By Ashok Suppiah, Blogs

I’ve talked in previous posts about the importance of thinking big when starting your business but visualising what big looks like from day one, envisaging your dream and developing a strategy to get there, is key to achieving the growth required to turn your start-up into a billion-dollar company. In my experience businesses that grow from small businesses into global corporations excel in four main areas: Culture, Innovation, People and Ambition. I’m going to use my time at Virtusa to demonstrate why these characteristics are important, and how, when brought together, they shape the future success of any business.

Founded in 1995, our strategy at Virtusa was to provide technology services to US companies to accelerate innovation at an affordable level of investment. During our first 5 years we successfully built products for many Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and software companies, but as the company grew, we wanted to attract corporate clients, so capital was required to build a bigger enterprise team. In 2000 after a $13.5m Series A investment from Sigma Partners, we won our first enterprise client, Bank One. Citigroup and Bank of America followed, along with expansion to the UK and Europe. From 2005 we added BT, P&O, Deutsche Bank and AIG to our client list, with IPO (NASDAQ: VRTU) following in 2007. Having weathered the 2008 banking crisis, Virtusa grew from strength to strength expanding into various industries and markets and following the acquisition of Polaris in 2016, became one of the largest Technology Services companies in the world. 2020 saw revenue in excess of US$1.3 billion and net income at US$43 million. Virtusa was acquired for US$2 billion in February 2021 by Baring Private Equity Asia.

1. Culture

As employee number one with Virtusa, I was in a unique position to participate in the building of a strong, creative and open culture that put the customer first. This was extremely important to the founders, who while ensuring the financial metrics were sound, encouraged creativity amongst staff, to increase the variety and breadth of the services we offered. The organisation had a flat structure, engendering the values of a true meritocracy where endeavour and ideas were recognised and rewarded, building strong relationships between leaders and staff. The strong culture at Virtusa provided the foundation for growth needed to achieve the dreams of the founders.

2. Innovation

Or as I call it, the ‘Innovative Mindset’, the ability to apply cutting edge technology to everyday business problems. Kris Canekeratne, one of the founders, was an ambassador for bringing new technological capability to large enterprises, making this a key selling point for Virtusa, and critical to the rapid growth of the business. As Sanjeev Palihawadana, a former Vice President at Virtusa remembers “What stood out for me was the ability to consistently stay ahead of industry and tech trends. We were always talking about where the puck would be 2 to 3 years ahead and almost all the bets placed turned out to be spot on.”

We were an ideas factory, specialising in re-platforming, providing integration that could be used at scale, across multiple businesses. ‘Productication’ was a framework we invented to educate enterprises to replace duplicate systems with a single platform.

3. People

Investing in great people, training them, recognising their worth and making the success of the business their success, made a huge contribution to realising the dreams of the Virtusa founders. With only a small pool of skilled engineers in Sri Lanka at the time, I remember running weekend bootcamps, training between 30 and 40 graduate recruits from the local universities in object-oriented coding, then from Monday – Friday reverting to coding for the customers. That culture of training and support evolved and became endemic throughout every part of the business from sales to people management, to finance. With the focus always on expansion, hiring top talent was crucial, as was training and engagement to keep your best people within the organisation.

4. Ambition

Sustaining the ambition to grow your business can be a challenge after early successes. But if you had that dream from day 1 and developed your strategy accordingly, ambition will keep you going. With Culture, Innovation and People providing the basis of your success, keep a close eye on your financial indicators, using every metric available to you, mapping these onto your 3–5 year scale up plan to gauge progress. At Virtusa the Board had a vision with an ambitious plan, no corners were cut, and a program to re-invest profits paid off. Dammika Ganegama, a former Director says, “At Virtusa we were encouraged to think big and look at different business models, financial models and partnerships that would make all parties succeed.” Clayton Locke concurs, “As Managing Director for Virtusa UK, a key objective was expansion into EMEA. We opened our first office in Amsterdam and invested in a few key hires but success in the new geography was not a given.The decision to invest in regional expansion is one of ambition, confidence, timing and market analysis. Our timing was right, and the EMEA business proved to be an engine for growth and diversification within Virtusa.” This was great for staff who worked with high profile corporate clients, launching new services and businesses in a variety of sectors including financial and telecoms. Fulfilling that ambition through large but calculated risks with a series of funding rounds and mergers and acquisitions, and never giving up in the face of adversity, Virtusa grew to the US$2 billion business that was bought in February 2021.

Virtusa succeeded by focussing on:

  • Culture
  • Innovation
  • People
  • Ambition

And never letting go of the dream. It was my privilege to be a part of this fast-growing organisation and to learn from their inspirational leaders.

About the Author

Ashok Suppiah is co-founder and CEO of the Mitra Innovation Group, a global technology provider specialising in digital transformation, product incubation and integration services.  He has been a leading light in the tech industry for over 20 years. A serial entrepreneur, Ashok has started more than 10 technology companies in the USA and UK, notably as a member of Virtusa Corp which sold for US$2Billion in 2021 and as Chief Architect for eDocs which sold to Oracle for US$115Million in 2004.

Low-Code Marathon

By Events

About

While embracing the “everyone a developer” concept, we gathered thought leaders, leading tech minds, and low-code experts to showcase how to successfully adapt businesses, from any industry, to continuously changing circumstances.

Session hosts will also demonstrate low-code use cases, while customers will discuss their real-life experiences that highlight the full potential of low-code technology. Explore why low-code/no-code should be your #1 choice to accelerate business success, and more!

Join the 10-day low-code marathon to discover in just 2 hours a day why low-code is meant for you and why the future of low-code is now

Speakers

ASHOK SUPPIAH, GROUP CEO & CO-FOUNDER MITRA GROUP

CEO and Co-Founder of Mitra Innovation, Ashok is a gifted entrepreneur with a passion for helping clients. He takes brilliant ideas and converts them to successful products and services, using pioneering and disruptive technology to drive transformative solutions. Ashok’s astute leadership, and his vision of digital enablement and product incubation are the cornerstones on which Mitra’s commercial success is built.

DAMMIKA GANEGAMA, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT – MITRA GROUP AT MITRA VENTURES

Entrepreneur and technology consultant with over 20 years’ tech industry experience, Dammika is our Business Development guru. He consults for global clients on programme management, business strategy, operations and joint ventures, specialising in consumer and enterprise product design. He delivers operational and support services to SME’s, builds large scale enterprise solutions and provides targeted consulting services across sectors.

CHINTHI WEERASINGHE, CEO DIGITAL SERVICES, MITRA INNOVATION

Career technologist focused on accelerating business outcomes for client organization. Deep expertise in developing and leading global business consulting organizations by creating flexible, resilient IT and business solutions that bring value to both the organization and its clients.
Dynamic industry and consulting practice leader with in-depth hands-on experience directing teams of talented practitioners and consultants engaged in both IT and business consulting projects within the insurance, healthcare, investment, wealth management, and software product development industries.

CLAYTON LOCKE, HEAD OF CLIENT SERVICES

Clayton Locke brings over 30 years’ experience in the software industry, with hands on capability in developing and operating robust software-as-a-service solutions for customers. His career in technology spans many roles across the industry, from systems engineer to CTO and IT strategy consultant to Managing Director.  He is a senior sales and marketing leader at Mitra Innovation, with the skills and experience to understand market needs.   

BIVENDRA NARANGODA, COO AT MITRA VENTURES

As the COO of Mitra Ventures, Bivendra’s role is to design and implement successful programs to incubate new business and product ideas to take it to market. He heads operations at Mitra Ventures, the holding company for new startups and joint ventures.

How do I find my First Paying Customer in Year 1?

By Ashok Suppiah, Blogs

In the first instance, most start-ups concentrate on their product design or service and leave the thorny task of finding customers further down the line, almost as an afterthought. But keeping a keen eye on your market from the outset can put you well ahead of the game. 

Remember, everyone you come across on your journey is a potential customer, as is everyone in your personal network, and these will be the people you approach for their help in testing your concept and validating your product design. Using rapid prototyping and launching quickly, provides you with customer feedback that will hone your product more quickly and efficiently than you could ever achieve with costly, time consuming iterations. 

My golden rule is to get customer validation as early in the product life cycle as possible, using customer feedback to achieve faster error correction and adapt to your market. People will also pay for a product that has other customers’ endorsement, this can be everything from likes and comments on your website to large enterprise endorsement for your corporate offering. Obtaining a paid pilot, with a friends & family customer, within six to nine months of starting your business is an ideal way to validate that customers are willing to pay for something you are building.

Working with Kevin Laracey at eDocs, a Boston-based start-up we launched back in the late ‘90s, we pioneered an electronic bill presentment solution for consumers. Until then all credit card statements were printed by bespoke fast printers, such as Xerox, churning out 2000 pages per minute. We reverse engineered the raw print file and extracted the statement data. Our model was to take this harvested data, create the credit card statements and email them to customers. Early prototypes and customer feedback demonstrated we could not ensure adequate data security via email delivery. So, we pivoted, developing a web portal where customers could login securely and view their statements online. We developed a model that is still being used by several financial institutions today, on the back of early customer validation. Kevin suggests, “The key to early customer validation is to listen to your prospects and adapt your solution if you see a trend of multiple prospects making the same sensible request. But also keep in mind that sometimes customers don’t know what they want, and sometimes their requests can send you down the wrong path. Liberally apply your judgment to discern what feedback from prospects has merit.”

With the second prototype, we demonstrated the product to American Express in Year 1 by simulating their statement data with their own brands. The stakeholders fell in love with the innovative concept and AMEX became a pilot customer. As we all know, winning an enterprise customer early in the start-up journey can make a big, in fact a huge difference to its success.

The rest is history, as they say, with AMEX, Toyota Cards, Telstra and BT on board as clients, we raised US$20M in venture capital and completely rebuilt and scaled the platform. eDocs was acquired by Siebel for US$115M in 2004 and remains part of the Oracle Financial Suite, and the lessons learnt have guided my path with subsequent projects. 

So, the key to finding your first paying customer is early customer validation. Customers typically buy on the basis of recommendation. The ability to engage customers from the beginning, listen to their early feedback and win their approval and buy-in, results in a growing network of referrals and early adopters. 

Ask Ashok: If you have any questions or comments about eDocs, customer validation or on any of the topics covered in my blogs, I’d love to hear from you.

Dr Ashok Suppiah
Founder & CEO Mitra Group

Listen to Dr Ashok Suppiah's podcast

Adopting ROI driven digital experiences for the Healthcare industry, powered by Conversational AI

By Webinars
11AM to 12 PM EDT
12th  of May, 2021

Description

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants have the potential to transform the online healthcare experience whether for insured members or healthcare providers. They promise a frictionless and always available channel for people to complete tasks and have queries answered via automated services. This results in huge operational efficiencies and great customer experiences that increase Net Promoter Scores.

However, current chatbot solutions are frustrating because they do not understand users when they communicate naturally. This leads to low engagement levels, a poor return on your investment in this technology, and possibly damages your brand.

 This webinar is for you if you want to explore how Conversational AI can create a new generation of chatbots and virtual assistants that can deliver effective, personalised services to your members, transforming their digital experience and unlocking large returns on your investment.

The webinar will answer the following key questions:

  • How does Conversational AI deliver an outstanding customer experience through much smarter virtual assistants?
  • What are the key use cases for the Healthcare sector using Conversational AI?
  • How to maximise the value from an investment in a Conversational AI solution?
  • A framework and next steps for implementing Conversational AI.
Chinthi Weerasinghe – CEO, Digital Services, Mitra Innovation.
Dr John Taylor – CEO and Co-Founder, action.ai

COVID-19 Digital Transformation Trendsetters: lessons learned from the past year and how to apply them going forward

By Webinars
11 AM EDT | 4 PM CET
23rd of April, 2021

Description

A year after the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the world, many organizations have found new ways to reshape their operational models using technology in order to survive.  

We’ve invited industry-leading experts to discuss the best strategies organizations have defined after 1 year of the pandemic and what you need to do now in order to get ready for the post-pandemic normal. 

Join us on April 23rd to hear front-rank thoughts on the future of business.  

David Lashar – Partner, Keen 360
Harshan SenadhiraHead of Product Implementation, Mitra Ventures
Tolga ArtanChairman, LuckyEye
Alex PetrunenkoProduct Evangelist, Creatio