BY VICTOR ADAR
Compulynx Limited, a systems integrator and software product company specializing in point of sale and complete ERP for retail as well as biometric and digital identity solutions is a great example of few brands shining.
Started almost 25 years back by one Sailesh Savani, the firm is riding on a wide range of solutions targeted at enterprise, mid-sized as well as micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in retail, manufacturing, Banking Insurance and Financial Services (popular as BSFI), Government, non-Governmental organizations, education verticals, among others.
“People are the most important link in our business. I have learnt to hire people who are smarter than me. If I’m the smartest person in the business, there’s something wrong. It is important that each person in the business is well aligned to the core values of the enterprise. Even if someone is a great performer but not aligned to our core values, he doesn’t belong.”
There are times when the brave entrepreneur had to admit that he did not know what to do. As a leader, he accepted that fact and reached out for help and that has kept him and the business improving and growing in leaps and bounds. The company is currently serving more than 400 customers in over 37 countries in Africa, Europe, Middle East and South East Asia. In Kenya, it has employed 112 individuals. On revenue, Mr Savani talks of a slow year-on-year growth of about 12% over the past 2 years which he attributes primarily to the economic conditions in East Africa.
“We are targeting to grow about 20% this year. We haven’t done a company valuation, but our most valuable assets are our people and the software products – CORE and Nexx. in other words our retail software suite and COMPAS for digital identity and fraud prevention – for which we own the Intellectual Property Rights,” he says.
It can sometimes seem impossible to thrive on the power of niche market but Mr Savani has seen it work, and his firm has an advantage. To penetrate the markets, it has meant that they play strategically by focusing on software, Point of Sale and biometrics. He points out that whenever a business is looking for, say, retail software and hardware or Digital Identity Solutions, customers would first think of CompuLynx. “That gives us the edge of depth of knowledge and expertise in both retail and biometric (Digital Identity) technology space,” he says.
It doesn’t mean we don’t face challenges in project delivery and execution, but our ability to respond to problems and fix them with minimal disruption to our customers’ business is what makes all the difference
A vibrant brand is one that you preach about and hang on to even as market cycles and trends around you keep changing. This is true to Compulynx. Savani says that some of the investments have failed and some have been successful in terms of customer acceptance and uptake, but they have developed a track record of successful projects delivery.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t face challenges in project delivery and execution, but our ability to respond to problems and fix them with minimal disruption to our customers’ business is what makes all the difference,” Savani says, adding that what makes them stand out in a competitive market is continued investment in innovative technology. To him, this highly technical field is worth venturing into. It is a geat market to operate in, but a player must be ready to be in it for the long haul. There is nothing like “overnight success”.
Even the most successful companies have been at it for many years before they touched the sky. Compulynx, 25 years on, has been developing a lot of innovative solutions and in many occassions has been feted. Some of the accolades that Savani and his team are proud of include the Top 100 awards thrice, the E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Kenya Vision 2030 Innovation Award, Computer Society of Kenya Best Solution Awards on multiple occasions among others.
But amidst the high moments are low moments. As much as people are the most important in his business, getting the right ones is generally a big challenge. The next big challenge is retention. “We are continually improving our hiring process which enables us to successfully get people who will fit in our culture and are qualified for the job. We have made mistakes in the past but our rate of success is improving,” he says.
From a retention stand point, Mr Savani says that they continually thrive to be the “best place to work” thanks to the fact that they have been enhancing what he calls “people practices” to make the employee experience wholesome, focusing on personal, professional and financial wellbeing of workers.
It is dificult to imagine what it means to be a software and technology supplier for Point-of-Sale and biometrics, begging the question; Is it a good business? Is it sustainable?
Kenyans by DNA are generally tech savvy and quick to adopt to new technology. That makes it easy for a tech solution provider to sell. At the same time, the Kenyan business owner is as demanding as his or her counterpart in any part of the world. As a technology solution provider, Savani explains, one cannot get away with sub-standard product or service delivery. “One’s got to be on top of the game,” he says. “The only difference with the Kenyan business owner is, he wants to get world class product and service but is not willing to pay world class price.”
That keeps the service provider challenged in terms of juggling cost and quality and cutting an acceptable balance between those two aspects of solution and service delivery. Over a period of time, says Savani, the customer appreciates quality service and comes to agree to pay a higher price for better product and service quality. “That makes it sustainable for the service provider, in the long run.”