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BW Businessworld

Guardian Angels Of Data

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Over tea one evening in Pune, Jaspreet Singh and six of his colleagues at Symantec began talking about starting a new company. Four of them backed out soon after though, not wanting to risk losing their well-paying jobs. But two colleagues— Milind Borate and Ramani Kothandaraman — were convinced about Singh’s enthusiasm to start a new venture.

The trio then began brainstorming to come up with a product idea and looking for an angel investor to fund them. Singh says the experience gained in working with a big name stood them in good stead in the early stages. “Once, we were demonstrating a disaster recovery product to Mahindra Steel officials. After a long presentation, the chief information officer told us politely to get out,” says Singh, adding, “that taught us an important lesson — it is not just about the product but the perception the customer has about a company.”

“We approached many angel investors before we managed to get initial funding from IAN (Indian Angel Network). At that time, we were essentially pitching a storage replicator kind of product for the Indian market,” says Borate. With funding in the bag, actual customers were approached to gauge their interest in products. What came out of the meetings was a product which would help customers back-up data on their laptops.

Thus was born Druva in 2008. It has come a long way since then. It is now a leading provider of laptop back-up, data protection and disaster recovery products. No mean feat in a country that is yet to come up with a single product that is even half as successful as several available in the market from Microsoft, Oracle and Google. Though India is referred to as a technology hub and where information technology contributes about 7.2 per cent to the gross domestic product, information technology products remain neglected. Recently, however, many of the established Indian IT players are trying to develop IT products themselves. Some small IT companies are also jumping into the product-development fray.

Sector: Information technology
Founders: Jaspreet Singh, Milind Borate and Ramani Kothandaraman
Year of Inception: 2008
Base: Pune
Capital Invested: Rs 75 crore
Investors: IAN, Sequoia Capital and Nexus Venture Partners
Emoloyees: 150
Key Customers:
PwC, Deloitte, Emerson, Nasa, GE Energy, Louis Vuitton
The initial years were tough for the founders as anyone they approached had only one question to ask: Does Druva have a foreign client? The answer being ‘no’ meant a rejection as they were unwilling to risk giving an opportunity to a new company. “This is the biggest difference between American and European companies on the one hand and Indian companies on the other. Companies here make up their minds about a product’s quality based on who else is using it, especially if a foreign player is doing so,” says Kothandaraman.

Druva quickly realised that American and European clients were not averse to trying a new IT product if they thought it would benefit their business. The company currently gets a majority of its business from the European and American markets.

With the definition of the ‘workstation’ becoming more amorphous. — the laptop, tablet and smartphone are now as important as the ‘fixed’ PC — the thought of losing one’s laptop or phone poses a nightmare to many. This is where Druva comes in with its products.

The company’s offerings cater to four different needs of customers. One offers data back-up  — data sitting on one’s laptop can be stored on the company’s server or on the cloud service that Druva offers. Such data, once stored, can be accessed from various workstations, laptops, smartphones or tablets by a user. “Suppose a laptop is lost, you want to ensure that the data it carried does not fall into the wrong hands. This is where we come in. Our IT administrator encrypts the data remotely. This encryption also makes it possible to erase data remotely and guard against its loss — this, basically, is our second product,”explains Borate.

Then, the company has an analytical product to offer, one where its customers will be able to analyse the data that they have stored on their servers or the cloud. “Apart from this, we also have a product where the customer will be able to share data with his customers, colleagues and others. With emails you run the risk of data being replicated and, again, emails have a limit on the size of the attachments,” points out Borate. Druva offers a simple solution — the receiver will only be able to see the data and not download or take printouts without the sender’s authorisation.
“Now, the sky is the limit for Druva. They are highly scalable as a company, with great solutions”
Druva managed to raise $5 million in series-A funding from Sequoia Capital India and IAN in March 2010, and a further $12 million from Sequoia and Nexus Venture Partners in August 2011.

The company has already broken even, in fact, it has been making profits for the past two years, mainly on the strength of its US and European operations. This has entailed Singh shifting base to the US while Borate and Kothandaraman take care of the India office in Pune. “Our total revenues will be close to $80 million (about Rs 400 crore) by 2015-16,based on our growth and the plans that we have in place. Also, we are looking to raise fresh capital in 2013,” says Singh. The company did not share its current sales and profit figures, citing an impact on fund-raising.

Druva is planning to ramp up operations in the coming years. The company currently employs 150 people and is looking to hire more but faces the challenge of finding and retaining quality talent. “As a company, we have brand recognition but what we are now working on is ‘persona management’, which most Indian companies, including ours, lack,” says Singh.

Druva’s founders dared to dream big and then risked all to make it come true. A valuable lesson for future entrepreneurs?

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 22-04-2013)