“The SaaS Edge”: ‘Turn On’ Your Business for Competitive Advantage

I have known people introducing themselves as the “Internet” person, “not-the-morning” person, “berry/droids or apple” person and if you there plan to flag this on your business card next then here is a default update:  a “SaaS” person.  Weird!!! (they say weird is a new cool)

I bet after reading this those in jobs are going to quit and play with rented softwares to set up their long unfulfilled wish of having an enterprise that demanded some six figure investment via servers and softwares years ago. And those enjoying the entrepreneurial journey can now find a synergy with this cost effective tool and call for a next meet-up with their Chartered accountants to discuss ways on investing the money saved from here.

You may know Sahil Parikh as a ‘tech-enthusiast’ or the face behind Synage Software Pvt. Ltd. which owns and operates DeskAway. But am glad to introduce him as a first Indian author to write about Software as a Service (SaaS) and here Sahil shares with us his experiences in his journey from a ‘Web Entrepreneur’, ‘SaaS guy’ to an ‘Author’ and “The SaaS Edge”.

1. Our best wishes to Sahil for being the first Indian author to write about the untapped potential of SaaS. What was your inspiration to write about SaaS particularly? What remains the key part of “The SaaS Edge”: case studies or concepts/approach. Pen down your favourite excerpt here?

Thank you. I starting reading up on SaaS back in 2006 and completely loved the model of how software was going to be delivered and how this would impact people and businesses. It made perfect sense not to buy and install software but to rent it out. I feel that there are so many entrepreneurs and business owners that have heard about Web 2.0, Social Media, SaaS, Cloud but really have no way of applying these concepts/technologies to their businesses. Hence, my inspiration is to help educate these people so that they can leverage online applications and media within their business, see what other companies have done and therefore attain competitive advantage. SaaS/Cloud is going to be a standard so ignoring this massive inflection point is not going to be an option for anyone.

One of the concepts from the Web 2.0 section of the book that I really like is…

“Today, you have the power. You are in control of what you want to publish, share, and say to the world. The tools and networks are there to use for free. Your audience is hanging out on social networks. You can personalize your content/message and build your authority, expertise and thought leadership. You can share, learn from others, and see what others find interesting. Like a magnet, you have the power to attract and connect with like-minded people, prospects and customers. You need to not only have fun but also to go where your customers are. What you take with you is an idea that is worth spreading.”

2. Authors are known for living with an idea for a long before they end up writing one. Share with us your story of this journey that started with a thought and ended up with a real product, thereby promoting your designation from an entrepreneur to an author now.

It was a chance meeting with my now publishers Tata McGraw-Hill at the CCI club in late 2008 that led to this nascent idea turning into something concrete… After a follow-up for next few months, the idea of having a non-technical book targeted towards business owners and taking them through a journey from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 clicked them.  It was an answer to the new generation needs of having software/tools similar to Facebook, not expecting them to install or configure it on their computers/machines but yet function for them.

And today as an author when I look back there are few things that I would like to share that helped me manage running a startup and writing a book better – these are lessons that will work for anyone juggling multiple projects…

a)    Block time
b)    Office is not a place to work ( how about a coffee shop or home?
c)    Set expectations (convey it your team loud and clear)
d)    Don’t try to do everything – get people to help you (research, getting facts/casestudies can be outsourced)
e)    Log-off from email (biggest distraction)
f)    Break it down (divide it into sub sections and then delivering a certain level can boost confidence)
g)    Make a simple plan (pen down a weekly plan for next few months on a paper)
h)    Use technology (Anything that can help automate is a time saver and should be leveraged!)
i)    Q&A onTwitter & Facebook
j)    Say no to unnessary meetings
k)    Listen to music
l)    Stress buster & sports

3. How easy or difficult it was for you to write about a SaaS service for a non-SaaS user?

Most of my ideas and concepts came from my experience starting and growing DeskAway – a SaaS application that helps people organize, manage and track their projects and work online. This app is used mostly by non-technical teams globally. Besides, I like taking a technical concept and simplifying it for the non-technical folks.

4. Tell us top 5/7reasons why it is impossible not to fall in love with SaaS?

Well, for one, it is cost effective – since you rent software (as opposed to buy software) you pay a small subscription fee every month. It is like paying for your mobile phone, newspapers etc. There is less lock-in since you have the chance to switch vendors at anytime. As I mentioned above, SaaS can be used by everyone. Even a non-tech employee can signup and try an online service or a tool. Earlier this was the job of the technical team. Lastly, SaaS Applications are web-based and are always available when you need them, even on your mobile phones. It is like carrying your business with you whereever you are.

5. What according to you are the common myths attached with the culture of SaaS based ecosystem and does your book help in doing away with them?

Obviously, with anything new you attract resistance. People don’t like to change very easily. With software we are used to buying, installing, configuring and paying one lump sum at the time of purchase. With SaaS, you enter a new way of consuming software and paying for it on a subscription basis. Section 3 of the book deals with SaaS Myths and Mindsets. The 3 most common ones are loss of control, security and that SaaS applications donot do everything that an on-premise application can do.

6. How can one scan the reliability of SaaS company/vendor in terms of data security and others?

Well, there are several ways to do that and I go into detail of how to assess a SaaS company/ product in Section 4 of the book. Besides emailing the company with your questions I find it extremely useful to do a quick search on the company and see what others on Twitter, Facebook etc. are talking about and if the company has goofed up in the past. In addition, going through company blogs is a good idea as most respectable SaaS companies blog about their pitfalls.

7. Who according to you are the few trustworthy SaaS vendors in India (across various industries) whose services you have personally experienced?
Unfortunately, I haven’t come across any exceptional SaaS players from India. Personally, most of the tools I use are from companies outside of India. Indian companies need to stress more on the user-experience/interface and marketing than just development and technicalities of the app.

8. SaaS first got a mention in February 2001 article called “Strategic Backgrounder: Software as a Service” by the Software & Information Industry’s (SIIA) eBusiness Division. With companies like Siteeasy.com, one of the first SaaS applications developed by Atlanta-based firm WebTransit (launched in 1998) and Loudcloud, founded in 1999 by Marc Andreessen, one of the first to attempt to commercialize Software as a Service computing with an Infrastructure as a Service model. Do you think India is late entrant in exploring the potential? And can we see it as a mere adaption of product suiting Indian customers with no novelty of its own?

India is not late. Good SaaS adoption requires customer mind-set changes, good bandwidth, realization of value amongst other things. I see things change quite a lot here, especially, in the adoption of our app, DeskAway. As people start using consumer technologies like Facebook, Twitter for their personal use they will realize their potential for the enterprises. The young generation that are in college today will only use online apps when they join the workforce. Indians by nature are cost-conscious making SaaS/Cloud a perfect fit. I am extremely bullish on the future of SaaS and Cloud in India.

10. In coming years, which industry sectors do you see implementing the SaaS platform?

Everyone will consume SaaS. Software has already moved online.

11. The publishing hands from Tata McGraw-Hill assure merit in your book. Was it a task for you to find right publishers for your script as it is the first of its kinds?

We ideated the topic before I got to writing it. I am happy that my publishing team were well aware of the potential of SaaS/Cloud and that since no book had been written about this topic from India we felt it as a good opportunity to take advantage of.

12. How would you like to be addressed as and why?
a) Author b) Web Entrepreneur c) tech-enthusiast  d) SaaS guy  e) Others

I am ‘tech-enthusiast’ through which I became a ‘Web Entrepreneur’, ‘SaaS guy’ and an ‘Author’

You can follow him @sahilparikh and participate in discussions on “The SaaS Edge” on its facebook page.