Continuous Innovation And Making a Bootstrap Technology Software Company Profitable
Suparna Systems is a self-financed technology company launched with no venture capital, angel or debt financing. The company has an enviable track record of delivering many successful e-governance projects, i.e. projects that deploy information technology solutions to help government agencies collect data from and provide services to the public in an efficient and transparent manner, as well as m-governance, a subset denoting delivery of public services via mobile applications. Resounding successes to date include COVID-19 contact tracing and quarantine watch applications, ERP software development and implementation and online service delivery.
Suparna Systems was founded by CEO Satish Kumar in 2008. The main reason the company has been able to survive competition from major multinational corporations in India and become profitable is due to Kumar’s relentless focus on innovations in software applications delivery to government customers.
Being a bootstrapped software company and given the high remuneration cost of software engineers, core pieces of Suparna Systems’ technology stack were written by Kumar himself. Kumar has a passion for introducing new technologies in software service delivery ahead of the competition.
The Quarantine Watch mobile application conceptualized, architected, and developed by Satish Kumar in a record 10 days was covered by The New York Times due to its exceptional efficiency in tracking and monitoring rates and locales of disease transmission, and due to the speed with which he developed and delivered it. Kumar has also received recognition from the Chief Minister of Karnataka for his exceptional work on Contact Tracing and Quarantine Watch mobile applications. Contact tracing mobile and web applications which was also conceptualized, architected, and developed by him were recommended by the government of India’s Ministry of Health for adoption across all states in India. Many states, cities, and organizations have since adopted the core concepts to improve their existing contract tracing systems.
Innovative use of technology enabled the contact tracing mobile application to locate the primary and secondary contact of a COVID patient within 24 hours, anywhere in the state of Karnataka. Once contacts were located, the quarantine watch application created a virtual geographical fence to monitor the exposed persons’ quarantine compliance for fourteen days. These apps toggle easily between online and offline use, making them exceptionally effective even in rural areas where cellular coverage is unreliable. This work has drawn the attention of the World Health Organisation, which termed them “Technological innovation”.
The app created a real difference in transmission rates for Karnataka. Tracing 47 persons on average per each COVID infected patient, compared to the national average of 20, per the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Just before the COVID-19 crisis, Satish Kumar had developed and implemented Enterprise Resource Planning software at Hubli Electricity Supply Company Limited, one of the major electricity distribution companies in India. His implementation idea of Robotic Process Implementation (RPA) technologies, Rule Based Decision Systems and work of building an integrated project execution and field staff communication plan has been adopted since by many different public sector agencies beyond electricity distribution companies both at state and central level. The change management process followed by Satish Kumar has been quite admired by senior government IT officials, and CIO Review India magazine published an interview with him about it. Satish Kumar built the entire solution using open-source technologies, including modules using Robotic Process Implementation (RPA) technologies, Rule Based Decision Systems and NLP-based chatbots (neuro-linguistic programming) to build capacity for addressing various business processes with different software modules. His work has shown a path to other large organizations to take up such large complex IT transformation projects in the public sector, using artificial intelligence to create tailored modules for narrow, focused tasks.
Mr. Kumar has done commendable work expanding government delivery of online services. His work for the Noida city government was appreciated from the moment of its launch by the city, and was one of the first implementations of city online services on such a comprehensive scale, delivering almost all municipal services, and empowering citizens to communicate their needs directly to local government effectively, in real-time. It brought many firsts for the city, including mobile applications. Prominent newspapers like “Navbharat Times” wrote about it and ranked municipal online services in Noida above the well-known IT hubs of Bangalore, Pune, Hyderabad, etc.
Like every entrepreneur, Satish Kumar has also faced many ups and downs. ERP implementations generally have a failure rate of 75%, hence government officials were reluctant to give such implementation to a new product developed by a small company. The government agreed to award his company the project and approve the work order on the condition that payment would only happen when the completed software was delivered, configured, customized, and tested in real working conditions. These deferred payment terms led to a cash flow crunch and an existential financial crisis for Suparna Systems in 2016 and 2017. This made Satish Kumar pivot toward software coding work. This strategy succeeded, and Suparna Systems returned to profitability.
One of the things that differentiated Suparna Systems from other software companies working in the e-governance space was that it always opted for selling its own products developed directly to customer specifications, and customized services when seeking government contracts, taking the competition head-on. The company has never relied on third-party vendors, taking outsourcing work from big domestic or multi-national IT organizations. This has helped build a strong technological core.
Delivering such large and successful projects to public sector customers and building a profitable software company without external funding has given Satish Kumar a rare and rich combination of technological, innovation, and entrepreneurship skills. Working with government organizations and state and local agencies has also helped him to acquire detailed knowledge about a wide array of regulations related to accountability and privacy under which the public sector functions.
Satish Kumar is currently focused on building the next generation of artificial intelligence-based data platforms. The entrepreneur is moving upward in value chains from services-based software to cloud-based AI software products, harnessing the power of existing open datasets.