MSMEs don’t have IT talent on their side: Vishal

Synersoft is one of India’s leading companies focused on creating breakthrough and innovative technology solutions for small and medium-sized businesses. Synersoft technologies aim to reduce the cost of IT infrastructure for SMEs and increase their competitiveness through advanced IT standardization. Vishal Shah, Co-Founder and CEO, Synersoft Technologies Pvt. ltd.in an interaction with TimesTech, explains why MSMEs are increasingly adopting cybersecurity technology and why he chooses MSMEs as his target customer, as well as lots of industry insights.

TimesTech: Tell us about SynerSoft and how it started.

Vishal: We started Synersoft in 2008 and we had a vision that India has many MSMEs who play a very important role in the economy and who are either exporters or basically suppliers to big companies, and being that they have to adopt Information Technology, very quickly and aggressively.

When we looked at the products available to MSMEs, on how they can adopt information technology, these products were very complex and expensive at the time and we thought that MSMEs would not be able to embrace information technology because the computer industry produces products that are very complex and expensive. They are intended for large companies, essentially, who have a team of IT people, who have a complete strategy.

MSMEs do not have it. So we have identified a gap that there needs to be a very simple and affordable product for MSMEs. MSMEs will need IT adoption at the same time, they won’t have IT people on their side because IT talent doesn’t want to work with MSMEs. They want to work with bigger companies. Without the help of computer engineers, they cannot adopt complex products. So they need simple products that they can manage themselves. This is how we design the black box.

In 2008, we started to develop it. Our idea was to give them one service, one hardware and one software so they could manage it themselves. And that’s how we thought it would help them make cybersecurity more profitable.

So, for 4-5 years, we invested in Black Box and then we developed it in 2011. We got a gold medal from the Indian government for our work in developing the technology for MSMEs. This technology has been identified as a mass impact technology. We have won a Gold Medal in India Innovation Growth Program, organized by Department of Science and Technology, University of Texas, Austin, FICCI and Indo-US Science and Technology Forum.

After that, the Department of Science and Technology offered us a seed fund investment through the CIIE, which is the Center for Incubation, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, run by the Institute Indian management from Ahmedabad, then we started our scaling journey.

We sold our first Black Box hardware in 2014, we have now reached thousands of deployments and Black Box basically saves a lot of costs for small and medium businesses and helps them adopt the technology.

TimesTech: What products does SynerSoft offer to MSMEs?

Vishal: Yes, so our flagship product is Black Box. Thus, Black Box is offered in three different variants. The first variation is on-premises, you know, very small MSMEs that don’t have a remote user, they can add the product which is Black Box. We call it Black Box Turbo T. This particular product is used by MSMEs and is on-site.

Some MSMEs have very small file sizes and a large number of remote users. Another mode of Black Box adoption is in the cloud. So we call it a Black Box One Cloud where the whole product is installed on the cloud and remote MSME users can use the product on the cloud itself.

The third adoption is hybrid. Some MSMEs have very large files, like design engineering files and drawings etc., they need something on site, so the files are saved very quickly, and they also need something on the cloud. So that remote users can collaborate. Black Box Hybrid is therefore the product they need. So, in a way, there are three products, Black Box Turbo T (on premise), Black Box One Cloud (on cloud) and Black Box Hybrid (on premise and cloud).

TimesTech: Why did you choose MSMEs as your target customers?

Vishal: Any business basically needs to have a very large target segment, okay? So MSMEs, when we started there were 26 million MSMEs registered. Currently, this number is around 50 million MSMEs. So it’s a very large target segment so it has a very large market.

Second, these MSMEs don’t have IT talent on their side and they need to embrace IT as much as any big business would. So we thought there was a very big gap we can fill and so we chose the MSME segment.

TimesTech: There’s this data loss and prevention and fraud prevention that was previously limited to large enterprises. So why is it now important for MSMEs to adopt these things?

Vishal: MSMEs are essentially suppliers to businesses. So if you’re talking about any automotive ancillary product, Mercedes or Tata or Mahindra, they have their parts made by MSMEs. They are the supplier development program. So, before, this type of data loss, leakage and theft prevention was in high demand by large enterprises, but as they extended their supply and value chain, they had to involve MSMEs in this. So let’s say a very large automotive company shares a design with an MSME, and that design is stolen from their supplier, you know, everyone is affected. That’s why now they are setting compliance standards for their suppliers. This is how MSMEs are required to comply with data loss, leakage and theft compliance.

The second thing is that these MSMEs have their IPRs are their products, and they have to make sure that they are also protected. I would say that MSMEs contribute significantly to Indian exports. They contribute to our GDP. They are therefore part of the ecosystem and must protect themselves against loss, leakage and theft. And that’s why this market is emerging and growing at a very, very fast pace.

TimesTech: As you said, security products were very complex and expensive. So how does SynerSoft simplify these products for MSMEs?

Vishal: When these products were designed for a large company, they were designed for large scale use and it was assumed that the person who was going to manage these products would have a computer background. So, these products have hundreds of features. Today, MSMEs use IT products on a very small scale. And on a smaller scale, they don’t need as many features as a large-scale industry would need.

I’m going to give you an example. Firewall, each firewall comes with multiple bandwidth management. It is associated with load balancing. MSMEs hardly use any bandwidth. They don’t have inbound traffic and therefore don’t need all these features. Thus, we have identified 20% of the features that we believe would be desired and used very effectively by MSMEs.

So, by reducing the number of features, we have made it cost effective, and when there are fewer features, that product or software requires a leaner infrastructure to run. Thus, the cost of the material has also decreased. That’s how we made it cost effective and because there were fewer features, MSMEs could very well use it. So it became simple too.

TimesTech: Does SynerSoft offer the possibility to customize the product on the MSME side?

Vishal: Yes, we have about 36 models of the product. So it’s from 20 users, 40 users, 70 users, 100 users and 150 users like that. So there are such different models and within each model, MSMEs can customize the products. Like if MSME uses very large AutoCAD or SolidWorks files, you know, in that case they can customize the box with NVME caching or LAN network link aggregation. Likewise, they can also set the storage accordingly and so there are plenty of customization options hooked to the hardware as well as configuration.

TimesTech: What is SynerSoft’s current scale of operation?

Vishal: At present, we are a strong company of about 128 people. We are close to US$1 million in recurring revenue and we have a subscription renewal rate of 95% of all our customers. We’ve been cash positive since we almost started and we’re growing almost 40-45% year over year.

TimesTech: What are your future projections, moving forward, for the company?

Vishal: We are now migrating to the cloud. So basically whatever our on-premises offering would be available in the cloud. We are investing heavily in it. So basically over the next five years we would achieve at least 20x growth because when we go to the cloud, deployment and scalability is exceptionally easy and now MSMEs are Pro Cloud. Previously, they were cloud showers. So, it’s our plan to offer all of our services on the cloud.

TimesTech: My last question is, as you said, you are focusing more on the cloud, but the trend has started towards the endpoint. Endpoint is more secure in terms of data and offers various advantages over Cloud. So what do you think, we are the MSMEs will go?

Vishal: I agree with you. A terminal is the most secure. From the beginning, when we started, we always had an end point. So right now, too, the black box is unfolding in two parts. One is the endpoint and the other is the hardware part. This hardware will only be moved to the cloud and the endpoint will remain as is. We call it a single agent, a single service or a single cloud product. All our offer is with Endpoint. Customers get Endpoint as well as Cloud. Most of the time when they access public cloud systems, they don’t get endpoints. This is where we have a competitive advantage. So we provide an endpoint and we will stick to the endpoint strategy and that will make us more secure.