Interview with Chandra Sekhar Pulamarasetti
It is a tale of a company that has grown next door to India’s major software exporters. Much to their surprise, IBM acquired Sanovi Technologies, a cloud migration software entity. Chandra Sekhar Pulamarasetti, its founder and chief executive, talks to Ayan Pramanik.
Tell us your journey. What were the challenges?
The strength of Sanovi is that we had a strong technology and product background. We had worked in several companies that developed products in the whole of the 90s in the US. Particularly with large server manufacturing companies which were doing a lot of operating system work. With that background, when we started, we knew in the coming era there was a gap in data recovery (DR) management, especially when a company shifts its technology work from traditional infrastructure to cloud. It was definitely early and that is one of the reasons why we had to raise initial funds from investors in Boston. 2007-08 was a very tough period for any company to raise another round of funding, especially for enterprise software (firms). That is where we got caught in the whole credit-fuelled bubble. We could not raise the necessary funds and had to scale down.
Subsequently, 2010 onwards, as we had gotten private investors from home, we were able to secure adequate funding. We expanded the scope of offering. From that point, we have done very well. We always believed DR resiliency is a global market and every large enterprise requires it. Anyone having a serious IT infrastructure requires resiliency and the Sanovi product is a visionary one. Particularly during the past three-four years, there have been aggressive demands. Enterprises always use a lot of technologies. DR is something you do differently for each technology. Now, with the Hybrid cloud adoption, expectations are higher. Sanovi’s technology helped IBM meet the aggressive demand.
Are the investors exiting the company?
Yes, the individual and private investors. They will exit after this deal and IBM will own 100%. Software is our primary offering. We enable our partners to do the services and implementation.
Do you see many product companies emerging out of India?
What were the frustrating points in the 13-year journey?
Perseverance matters. Especially in an entrepreneurial journey, it is not necessarily everything is a grow-grow-grow situation. Cash flows are always going to be a very tight walk. It is important to believe in the story. One thing we understood is the market. Everytime we had a tougher situation, we looked at the market; is it going to be bigger or shrinking? For us, the market was only getting bigger. The second one is customer centricity. We have taken a very customer-centric approach. We always tried to build happy clients. Two things helped us — solid clients and offering better features and functionality in our product.
What is your take on IBM acquiring you from the backyard of Indian software firms talking about cloud transformation?
There is always interest for Sanovi-type solutions by various companies. Infosys recently invested in a cloud software company. Others are also investing. It is more of where is my biggest fit, where Sanovi can add significant value. IBM becomes a great match because it has a public cloud, DR clients and being the number one is resiliency services in the world.
Did you ever think that Sanovi could be acquired?
Our software is a component of any large infrastructure solution which is offered by IBM or any other big company. Unless we horizontally build a lot many products, we have to have a large partner who will take us to the globe.
Where do you think the market will evolve in the next couple of years?
A significant thing is hybrid cloud adoption. Many enterprises are already adopting to private cloud in several ways. According to AWS, 2016 is a year of inflection point for large enterprises to go on to public cloud. When this true hybrid cloud is formed by enterprises, the complexity to manage, particularly infrastructure like resiliency, only increases. They need to have their applications seamlessly running across physical, private cloud and public cloud infrastructures.
So, while it has significant cloud elasticity, the complexity is increasing. That is one big opportunity. Most of these typical traditional enterprise applications are being broken down. So many SAP/SAS players are coming up. And, the consolidation is happening now in the cloud. At the back-end, the opportunity is having infrastructure across multiple cloud platforms.