Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram, founder of Smitiv Mobiles Technologies tells us about technology solutions for SMEs.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: I have been away from my family for almost one year now. Due to Covid, I did not have the ability to fly back and be with them. At the same time, the business growth intensified due to companies pushing to go digital. I do miss them a lot and definitely have to thank technology for keeping us connected via WhatsApp video calls and zoom. We make it a point to talk at least daily.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Smitiv Mobiles Technologies.
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: I am the founder, CEO, and principal consultant of Smitiv Mobiles Technologies Pte Ltd (SMITIV). I graduated from PSG College of Technology, which is ranked as one of the best institutions in India.
From a young age, I had a strong fascination for technology and how it evolved our daily life. That fascination turned into a passion that saw me devote most of my waking hours to mastering coding. I also understood at an early age that technology alone will not be enough to build a dream. It also needs a strong business sense. So I started to study how successful people built their businesses and turning them into empires.
By the time I was 20, I was running my own tech company with 27 employees. Currently, I am running SMITIV, a company headquartered in Singapore, with offices in Malaysia and India. SMITIV is a technology services startup with 58 employees and is considered as one of the fastest-growing technology solution providers for SMEs in South East Asia over the last 3 years.
We operate in the core verticals of Remote Team Hiring and Building Bespoke Solutions. Some of our NOTABLE customers include:
• SISTIC (Singapore)
• University of Melbourne (Australia)
• Aircel (India)
• Toyota (Singapore), to name a few.
We have also developed and currently maintaining for seed-stage and venture-backed startups like:
• Plano- more than 1 million official downloads (venture-backed by billionaire philanthropist Peter Lim)
• Have Halal Will travel- more than 1.5 million unique user base and 1 million MAUs
How does Smitiv Mobiles Technologies innovate?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: Instead of innovating, I understood and realized the practicality of business. Not every successful company needed to innovate. CEOs and founders of startup businesses face many challenges. Especially in the technology field. Building products or platforms in countries like Singapore, Australia, or even the USA could end up burning money faster than you can ever imagine. And the biggest contributor to this would be human resource costings. As I was formulating the right business model to pair up with my tech foundations, I realized that the price factor was key. And by building development houses in growing economies like India and Vietnam, I could offer good and quality solutions with a competitive-price edge. That laid the foundations for building SMITIV.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: It was an interesting pendulum effect as, on one end of the swing, companies were rushing to go digital, with government grants to boot. On the other end of the swing, Covid handicapped most of the companies cash flow. That affected our business as due to the surge in business, we had to hire but since companies took longer than usual to pay, we had to face some challenges to our monthly cash flow.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: I always believed that every hire in the company was a necessary decision based on the hire’s skillsets and where they could or would be placed. So instead of letting them go, I pivoted to running highly targeted lead campaigns to increase sales efforts and also paid more attention to the collection of payments to be more regular. So the lesson for me was simple. Not all roads need to go downhill. There are solutions and you just have to roll up your sleeves and put it into motion.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: We deployed a Happiness Index to all our customers. We created a matrix that calculated how happy a client was and could be based on the client’s journey and processes with us. Due to Covid, most clients were going through stressful times and we wanted to help alleviate that. With this Index, we had built stronger relationships with the customers and that turned into a big boost for us with referrals from them. Validation and verification are very key in “word of mouth” situations.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: Yes. It did help as some of our staff salaries were offset. The Singapore government has done quite well in understanding the problems that businesses could face and come up with good and effective schemes to help support the companies.
Your final thoughts?
Govindaraj Kalyanasundaram: I believe technology is the key to unlocking future human potential and ability. Because it has helped me become who I am today. Hence I want to ensure that our future generations have the ability to learn, understand and appreciate technology by building tech schools in growing economies. Places where people don’t have the means to afford proper tech education or even own equipment like laptops or smartphones. Our future depends on technology and that will be, in my opinion, a big issue that needs consistent oversight.
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