SoftSolvers comes full circle

February 22, 2010 |

(The Edge, Monday, 22 February 2010 – Supplements – Page, 5 )

Sometimes, innovation is not about that sexy headline grabbing invention. It can be as simple as adding value. “You don’t have to invent new algorithms. Innovation can he about adapting software to answer customer needs,” says Mohandeep Singh, CEO of SoftSolvers Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd.

Mohandeep, who founded the company in 2002, would be the first to say he learnt this lesson the hard way. SoftSolvers started as a service-based IT company which then embarked on product development and now has come full circle, back to offering services. “We’ve been through some dark times, hut can now expect positive growth,” said Mohandeep on Feb 9 at SoftSolvers’ tiny office at the SME Technopreneur Centre in Cyberjaya.

Mohandeep: Innovation can be about adapting software to answer customer needs

Born in India, Mohandeep worked with HCL one of India’s largest IT companies as a software consultant. In 2000, he was posted to Malaysia to help Commerce Dot M Coin, an e-commerce service provider, an set up e-Perolehan the Malaysian government’s electronic procurement system. He decided to stay on.

“I liked Malaysia, the environment and the encouragement provided by MDeC (Multimedia Development Corporation) for technopreneurs,” he says.
Initially, SoftSolvers was funded by project work from Commerce Dot Corn.

But by 2004, work had begun to dry up and the company needed alternative revenue streams. “We were encouraged by MDeC to move from services into project work.” Based on an idea from an employee with a background in hioinformatics, SoftSolvers turned its attention to creating Biolead, software designed to manage clinical trials. “We invested all we had almost RM200,000 and the RM4O,000 we received from the Cradle Investment Programme. It was my biggest mistake,” says Mohandeep ruefully.

With the wisdom of hindsight, he observes that Biolead’s main problem was that no pharmaceutical firm investing some US$1 billion in drug development would choose an untested and untried software over the offerings of more established firms. “It didn’t matter that we were more affordable they were prepared to pay millions,” he says.

By October 2006, SoftSolvers had run out of money and slashed its headcount from 20 to two. “It was just my wife, Sarah, and me. She’s still a manager at SoftSolvers – she never left me!” he says with a self-deprecating laugh. It was at this low point that Mohandeep walked away from Biolead to return to the company’s roots in service.

SoftSolvers struggled for the next two years, until its first major project for listed company Scicom Bhd in February 2008. “Viji Rajasundram, CTO at Scicom, remenihered us from his time with Commerce Dot Com. So he approached us to create a software programme for a new client they had,” explains Mohandeep.

The project threw them a lifeline by bringing in RM100,000 but Mohandeep realised that SoftSolvers could not survive entirely on projects, especially during the global financial crisis that was then unfolding. Through a survey it conducted at end-2008, SoftSolvers learnt that many SMEs (small and medium enterprises) needed customer relationship management (CRM) software, but could not afford to pay for available software solutions or invest heavily in hardware. “Most were using Microsoft Excel and 80% had no IT staff at all,” says Mohandeep.

In response, SoftSolvers created Second CRM, a web-based CRM software based on open source programme vtiger. “There was no need to invent the software, it was there. But it was also inaccessible to most SMEs. Our solution makes CRM as easy to access as Gmail!” he enthuses. “And it can be scaled up or down to suit anything from to small to large enterprises. They only need to pay a subscription for what they need.” Second CRM was well received, garnering clients that include MYOB and Cyberview Sdn Bhd, the main developer of Cyberjaya. Last year, SoftSolvers posted a revenue increase of 20%. Its headcount today is 11. In truth, last year was tough and the revenue was small. But we have partnership deals with Telekom and the Malaysian Institute of Accountants in the works,” says Mohandeep who has set an ambitious target of RM500,000 in profits by year end.

At present, SoftSolvers is working on expanding Second CRM and developing other online office solutions such as Driven Office, a web-based system to help HR departments move their documents online. “It will also provide an internal social network platform to allow employees to collaborate and interact,” he adds. “To me, innovation has evolved to be about creating solutions that provide as much value as possible for me, but more importantly, for the client.”

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