I am Harishanker Kannan, the CEO and Co-founder of ProMobi Technologies, the company behind the product Mobilock (now Scalefusion). I am based out of the lovely city of Pune with my wife and daughter. This is my second startup, my previous one was QuadNode (2011-13). Prior to founding QuadNode, I have worked with 6 other startups, some successful and some not so. The first startup I worked with was by chance called NetSavant in Vizag. With the kind of exposure, energy, the ups and downs and the entire “vibe” the startup world gave me, I have by choice, from then on, worked only with startups, which eventually gave me the confidence to go on and start my own.
Why start ProMobi?
The dream always has been to build a world-class product right here in India, which the world will love to use. To our founding team’s credit, we have been part of such products in our earlier jobs (some got acquired, some still going strong & some closed out). I guess it is about chasing the right idea at the right time and that time is probably now. As part of QuadNode too, we built 3 products with varying degrees of failure, but as fellow-entrepreneurs would say, you need to feel and know when it is not working to stop chasing that product. And with QuadNode, we did that thrice, a very good learning/humbling experience.
While starting out with ProMobi (now Scalefusion), we had a decent idea pool but were not sure which one we pick up and work on. The initial goal was to sustain the operations before really venturing into building a product. In my opinion, you need money, time and freedom on your side to chase product ideas. And to remain cash-flow positive from day one, out-sourced product development suited us the best, while we moon-light/work on weekends on our ideas.
Mobilock (Now Scalefusion) Product Idea
Since 2011, me and my team have worked on different products with different customers some of them involved the kiosk technology. What it means is that through software, you lock down a mobile device (phone/tablet) and let the admin of the tablet allow only certain applications that make sense to the business, to be used on that device. A simple example of the kiosk is an ATM, though it is a decent computer connected to the Internet, it allows us to do only as many things like withdrawing cash, check account balance, change pin etc, just, for the purpose it is supposed to be used.
With the growing use of mobile devices in businesses, new avenues to make a tablet or a phone a kiosk becomes more and more relevant and that is the space that we built our expertise on. Having worked on half a dozen of such projects, we saw a pattern emerge, where the kiosk’s base software like managing and controlling the device remained the same for all these apps and on top of it came the business requirements specific to each customer. We, as a small startup, were probably talking to a very small set of businesses who had such a requirement, but in reality this could well apply to all businesses that were buying up their own company devices to manage their business real-time and thus we imagined that the requirement for this kind of technology could possibly be huge! That was probably our Aha! moment. We thought that it would make sense to build this base kiosk solution and charge businesses on a SaaS model.
A bit of research to bite the bullet
I spent the next few weeks reading up whatever I could on the Internet about kiosk and mobile device management (MDM). We quickly realized that we were not alone in this space and that there were big players already. The market was pretty hot and there were some big acquisitions ($1b+) happening at that time, refer to Airwatch, Meraki and Maas360.
We started to think as to how we will fit into this market and what will be our play. After further research, we understood that the existing solutions in the space were pretty good, but equally complex and maybe pricey too. The valid questions that we raised in our internal discussions were: Do these solutions cater well to the small and medium businesses (SMB)? Is this SMB market currently under-served? Do these SMBs require such complex software to manage their devices? etc. We felt we should give it a shot by getting direct answers from this market itself.
The plan was to build a simple-to-use cloud-based Enterprise Mobility Management solution (refer to the change of language after the research phase from kiosk app to Mobility Management :)), but we wanted to make sure if there is indeed a validation to our thoughts. So after a bit of discussion, we quickly (in 10 days) put together Scalefusion standalone android app for free (this one does not have the cloud-based admin dashboard capabilities to manage the devices remotely) and waited to see how the market was responding. Without any kind of marketing, in 2 months our app crossed 1000 downloads. Customers from across 20+ countries were using it and by the end of the 4th month, we had over 5000 devices using Scalefusion across 35+ countries. We started to get some love from our customers using Scalefusion.
For us, this was good enough validation of the idea to bite the bullet. We began working on the admin dashboard to control all the devices remotely and started to call it Scalefusion. We just bought a decent theme from ThemeForest and being engineers we focussed on the integration between the Scalefusion app and the dashboard.
Once complete, we started our internal dry runs, though everything worked mostly as expected, we felt that the UX/UI was not falling in place. Remember, our basic principle was that we wanted to build a simple-to-use product, but what we built was not that easy to use. That’s when my Co-founder & CTO (Arnab, pretty solid engineer) took a stance and told me this is not going to go. The team got together, flushed out a plan to redesign and built the new UI/UX. Just a month later, in Jan 2015, we launched Scalefusion Pro (find here in Play Store) in Beta along with a 30-day free trial. The revamped UX did look and feel pretty good.
Ok, so what exactly is Scalefusion?
Scalefusion is a simple-to-use Mobility Management platform tailored for businesses to get up and running quickly. No complex on-boarding or complex policy driven flows, just plain and easy-to-use Mobility Management Platform for every business.
Out of Beta
The initial 3 months of Beta from Jan-Mar, we invited our Scalefusion free app customers onto the platform to try and use it. We closely monitored the usage, provided support and demos where necessary. By the end of March, about 10 of them converted and thats how the first $ started getting into the bank. Honestly, that was a great feeling, building a product that people wanted to use and pay… was indeed special! We got out of Beta in Apr and saw our daily signups pickup slowly and more customers getting converted, at the end of the 30 day free trial. We managed customer support ourselves and Abhishek, who was a Project Manager for client projects, showed a keen interest in providing great customer support along with us. These are exciting times, you want to wake up in the middle of the night, just to see if there are customers looking for help and we were glad to provide the necessary help at that time of night/early morning. It continues even to date! A happy customer with good words for the team is worth everything!
Journey so far
We have partnered with Samsung and LG so far to use their enterprise SDKs to provide better security to the devices. We are also trying to reach out to other vendors to provide their enterprise SDK’s, so that we can cover the eco-system. In the course of the last 6 months, some of our customers have become resellers now and thus we have added 2 resellers from Europe, 1 from US and 1 from APAC so far to help sell the product. It has been a good ride so far with lots of learnings, good amount of adrenaline and ofcourse some mistakes. We ended November 2015 with 120+ paying customers and the product being used in over 50 countries. To put that in perspective, there are over 50,000 devices that Scalefusion currently powers. We have planned for some cool features in the coming weeks, watch this space!
We would like to take a moment to thank our customers in having faith in Scalefusion.
Mobilock (now Scalefusion) will celebrate its FIRST Birthday in a month’s time. We have big plans for 2016 and the focus is growth, growth & growth, while ably scaling the customer success activity! We are committed to our goal with Scalefusion to remain a simple-to-use Mobility Management platform for all/any business and utmost focus towards customer success, will continue to remain at the core of the product. There are some fantastic India based SaaS companies whom we look upto to get inspiration on how to do things right. And we thank them for sharing their stories and wisdom.
We are boot-strapped as of now. The ProMobi team has grown from 5 members in the beginning of 2014 to 25 members now, out of which the Scalefusion team itself has gone on from 1-2 part-timers in Jan 2015 to a full-blown 8 member team now. And we will continue to scale it organically. Earlier our services/outsourced product development took care of our expenses. Now, Scalefusion too pays up a bit and that helps!
Phew! Thats a long one. Thanks for reading our story and if you know businesses that need to secure devices, you know whom to talk to now :). Help us spread the word! Thanks a lot and watch this space!