The story of Indian enterprise software

by May 19, 2022 0 comments

Edited excerpts from an exhaustive video interview with Tejas Goenka, Managing Director, Tally Solutions

“Enterprise software probably played on two legs. Within India, a lot of our efforts were to use IP that was created elsewhere and then serves customers, some in India and some outside. I think that’s the bulk of what we are known for today. Then there were smatterings of companies like ours that were born where you would see individuals who came up programming almost in a sense in their garage, who thought that they could make Indianized versions of the products. In fact, my Dad (Co-Founder Bharat Goenka)before he started Tally had a small program he made for Lotus 1-2-3 (a spreadsheet) that instead of calculating the numbers in millions and billions, it would do so in lakhs and crores. It was easier for the Indian businessman. That’s how we got started.

Made for India and Made in India

If you look at it worldwide, and so it happened in India, there were several people who were interested in the application market. Makers were excited to create applications, especially for business users, because that’s where the PC was headed. That’s where the first set of use cases was. We ended up making a full stack of products: Made for India and Made in India. That is something that spread at that time: You cannot use a computer without software. A domain-specific software like ours: That’s been a large part of how the industry grew.

Catering to the unique SMBs

World over, the SMB is a unique entity. In India where we’ve had the most experience, we’ve found that SMBs want the service of an enterprise at the cost of the consumer. It isn’t easy to solve this commercially. This can be solved through technology only. A lot of insights we had in those days and the many of the demonstrations we used to do… Forget about those days, to date in my house I don’t have consistent power. UPSes were not a thing at all then.

So how do you now make a database-oriented product that would survive in environments which were filled with power fluctuations? How do you create a product-oriented towards those SMBs that could afford PCs but users that were not yet familiar? In those days there was DOS and no GUI. A lot of our innovation came at the ground level.

We made our own “power save” “power resistant” database. It was made such that, as my Granddad (Co-Founder Shyam Sunder Goenka) put it: Anybody in Tinsukia should be able to operate it without ever calling me. The way he would demonstrate the product: While the owner was entering something, he would go to the back of the desk and pull out the plug.

Enterprises can afford large multi-year contracts and so you can afford people to service those contracts. SMBs on the other hand want something like the bike ad catchline: Fill it, shut it, forget it. Creating software for that kind of customer takes a different intent, energy, and skill.

The LAN, Internet, and Mobility

Down the ages, there are two big factors that mattered to our business. First was the landscape of technology. When LAN was introduced into the country and when the Internet came in the mid-1990s, it prompted a big change at our end. After that we’ve been trying to get the mobility problem solved for businessmen. That’s our next big project. Connectivity. Mobility. Integration. How can we do that much better for businesses?

The second big angle that affected us was tax regime changes. Introduction of service tax. The changeover from sales tax to VAT. Unification of all of it to GST. They have caused inflection points in how we serve our customers.

The road ahead of us…

We’ve got to help companies stay in India and regulation needs to support that. The regulation also needs to support product companies, not just services companies. We need to see that these aren’t employment generation companies but immense wealth generation ones. We’ve learned so much over the last 30-35 years. If we share some of that, maybe younger kids can take that up and use those insights to develop a large-scale business environment.”

These are excerpts from a video chat with Editor Sunil Rajguru and part of our PCQuest 35 Years Series on the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow of Technology.

Check out the complete interview…

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