Cloud Computing Takes Shape Over Wall Street

Susan Wright| Investmentunderground

Cloud computing has made its way onto Wall Street. Firms on Wall Street are now adopting cloud computing practices. This new development follows the recent trends surrounding cloud computing as an increasing number of businesses, educational institutions and individuals are looking to the cloud for their data storage requirements. There are currently over 600 million cloud subscribers around the globe. The cloud computing market is expected to become a billion dollar industry within the next four years. Hundreds of new firms have entered the cloud computing marketplace, and the competition has led to innovative ideas for storing data.

One of these innovative new cloud computing firms is Navatar Group, which was founded in 2004 by Deloitte Consulting veterans, including Alok Misra. Navatar Group has geared its cloud solutions toward the financial sector. The company focuses on debt or equity capital markets, mutual funds, private equity, asset management and banking. Navatar Group works with leading financial institutions worldwide.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Alok Misra, founder of Navatar Group, to learn more about how the company was started and how it differentiates itself from the pack.

Tell us about yourself first. What is your management style? Where did you go to school and work in the past?

I think the only way any small company can compete with much larger firms is by offering a superior product and exceptional service. That requires motivating your team members to do extraordinary things and then empowering them to lead. That’s one of my main focus areas at Navatar – to groom the talent that will help us be the leader in our field.

I grew up in India, where I went to school and then worked in the IT industry for a short while. The bulk of my professional experience has been in management consulting, at Deloitte and PwC (along with Ketan Khandkar, the other Navatar cofounder) in New York, where we focused on the financial industry. During our consulting days, we learned the ins and outs of various segments of the industry as well as the related technology issues.

Tell us how your company started and when. Who was involved and what did each person do?

Back in 2004, we sensed the potential in software-as-a-service. That’s how Navatar was born.  We established a partnership with salesforce.com, a relatively unknown CRM provider back then. At that time, we focused on providing professional services to financial firms.

Things changed in 2007 when salesforce.com commissioned Navatar as an OEM partner to build and market vertical cloud products for the financial sector. We began the difficult transition from a systems integrator to a cloud product provider.

Now we have large and small financial firms in more than 30 countries using our off-the-shelf products for investment banking, private equity, corporate development, mutual funds, hedge funds and placement agents. The private marketplace that we launched, Navatar Deal Connect, is unique since is completely free for all participants and boasts of a 35,000 strong membership in its first year.

What is your role in the company now?

My main focus is on revenue generating activities such as marketing, sales, partnerships, etc. Building relationships with our customers is also a key part of my role.

In addition, grooming talent is also very high on the priority list, since if others take on more of what I am doing, I can go focus on bigger items.

What does your company sell and how does it make money?

We sell fully built, off-the-shelf cloud applications for various segments within the financial sector. These apps are built on the Salesforce platform, which means that the data is stored on the salesforce.com servers. We are an OEM partners of salesforce.com, which means that companies do not have to buy anything from Salesforce separately – our apps include everything.

Since this is a cloud model, you pay as you go – and, the apps are very cost-effective (daily cost is that of a cup of coffee). There are typically no other costs for implementation, training or support, so it makes it really easy and risk free for customers.

Which companies do you consider to be competitors?

Our competitors are mostly on premise software providers, who charge insane amounts of money for software from 2 generations ago. Their products were not created for today’s interactive internet and social media world – in fact, it is very hard to modify them. If a user wants a report, you cannot just quickly generate it – you have to pay the vendor $15000 to $20000 in services fees to develop a report for you. There are very high implementation and support fees involved.

The other set of competitors we have are consultants that convince financial firms that their problem is very unique and no off-the-shelf product will fit their needs. They make tons of money reinventing the wheel at the customer’s expense.

What makes your products and services better than competitors’ offerings?

Our customers love our products because they’re out-of-the-box, based on a pay-as-you-go model and are fully supported by industry experts. They are very flexible, reporting is easy, and the products can be used from mobile devices. And, they are built on Salesforce, the cloud computing leader, so the customer data doesn’t sit on the servers of some local provider. It is as secure as it gets.

Even more importantly, cloud computing and multitenancy enables continuous improvement of the products. Customers get free upgrades as the products improve.

Where do you see the company in five years in terms of revenue and profitability?

Five years is a very long time in the cloud world (the cloud isn’t even five years old). But we are growing very fast and we have aggressive plans for the next couple of years.

What forms of marketing do you use to attract clients?

We utilize the modern marketing channels, making full use of the internet and social media. Are clients are also very savvy and they respond well to content which is relevant to them.

How big is the company in terms of its workforce?

We have around 90 people between our two offices in New York and New Delhi.

What are the biggest growth catalysts for you right now?

We still have a lot of ground to cover, in terms of the US market. We are investing in broadening our offerings, through new products and partnerships. We are expanding internationally through partners and resellers, in various countries. In addition, we are investing in more products for markets we haven’t yet tapped.

Is there any announcement you’d like to make?

Our success so far has been based on great products and an innovative model which removes most of the risk for customers. We look forward to delivering more innovation in the near future. Stay tuned.

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