Talking cloud with Sumeet Vaid

Sumeet Vaid, founder and CEO of Freedom Financial Planners.


You can dissect and analyse a technology down to the tiniest detail, but unless you actually get your hands dirty you will never truly understand the software space. Which is why Cloudtopia had a chat with Sumeet Vaid, founder and CEO of Ffreedom Financial Partners in India — to find out how cloud computing is making a difference to daily business life.

Nathan Statz

What cloud computing technology does your business utilise?

Sumeet Vaid:

In india it is almost negligible in terms of the presence itself, it doesn’t happen the way it does in New Zealand, Australia and some of the other developed markets.

For this kind of a process, for what we are trying to do, we needed a strong technology platform which will do complete customer lifecycle management. This is not about CRM, rather its about customer life cycle management.

(What we have is) equivalent to hosting the complete business on the cloud. The cloud solution that we are using today is a combination of Force.com from Salesforce.com and (we also use) Google.

Nathan:

What difference has the adoption of that technology made in terms of cost savings and productivity for your business?

Sumeet:

A huge difference, we chartered over a year back and today we have close to 24 members. For us, what cloud did is it has converted our capital expenditure into operational expenditure. It’s great you know — from a startup point of view — as i am not investing up front. I’m not trying to go and invest huge into technology. What we have done is we have created a 3 member technology team which is trained on cloud both with Force.com and Google itself. What we are realising about cloud is it is not about coding, its about clicks. And that is very empowering.

Nathan:

Were there any challenges you had to overcome when you first made the jump into cloud services?

Sumeet:

No nothing — no challenges. In fact every day we are experiencing a bliss in terms of the cloud because our time-to-market is so much less. I’ll tell you the reason why we delayed this phone call for 30 minutes is that we were launching a new reward system for our team members and we called it Morale. This is based on the process that we are following in the organisation and at every step of the process we give a certain number of points.

This is because of our belief that we should not remunerate the outcome but we should remunerate the process — because the outcome is always a part of a process and we have developed a hosted on-our-cloud computing (option) with the Salesforce.com platform that we are using currently. Each employee will be able to see a dashboard of their points on their screen. We did a flat one (this) week. In effect we could of gone to any other technology vendor and they would of asked us for 2 months of specifying and a larger amount of money with a minimum 6 months of time-to-market and we did it in a weekend.

We always say why does nobody else uses this.

Nathan:

What about when you first started using cloud services, was there any reluctance in your organisation to switch across to cloud technology.

Sumeet:

No, nothing, being a start-up and as a MD/CEO my conviction was very clear since day zero. What we did is put the cloud application in the centre and created a business around it. Our current application is being housed on Force.com platform. And we have branded it our own name and its an IT which we are branding ourselves and our products as part of using the cloud application. We live out of the cloud and we don’t see any challenges and we are even realising that the new features that Force.com are lodging are very exciting. For instance Chatter is almost like Facebook — we don’t internally use mail.

Nathan:

So you have everyone in your organisation using Chatter?

Sumeet:

Yes.

Nathan:

And how long have they been using Chatter for?

Sumeet:

We were involved in the beta for Chatter, so you can say that almost the day it was launched within the Salesforce.com environment, for even commercially we had been using and we had been experiencing it so we are eagerly awaiting Chatter 2.

It’s like an internal Facebook.

Nathan:

What difference has that made having the internal Facebook — having Chatter — available to all of your employees?

Sumeet:

We are a young team. Now the way we are seeing the environment — you know walking around — and more so in India, myself along with 2 more colleagues of mine have a total experience of 16 years plus, but otherwise everyone else is young. Now they are young and living in a Facebook environment, as soon as you give them an application like Chatter that is a Facebook-like application, they pick it up immediately. The second benefit is that its real-time, unlike email where you send mail and if you receive it you open, read and stuff like this — its real time. And it’s funky, so all these things get adaptability very quick, and the beauty of Chatter is that because it is based on the same platform as what we are working on, so it has all the data and everything, so we can use it on anything.

We are currently chatting on fan mail, we are currently chatting on leads, opportunities or entities and stuff like this, we are eagerly awaiting when we can implement chatter into the dashboard. We are tracking where our dashboard in terms of clients and in terms of hey, how’s it going, how many more clients this month will come.

It’s fun!

Nathan:

Just looking on the other side of it though, do you think there any aspects of cloud technology that could use a little improvement? Are there any features you would like to see expanded?

Sumeet:

Yes, i think we need to continue to evolve this much more. For example cloud technology should become more portable. Currently we are building an application on Force.com platform which should have an ability to port-ably move this to another platform. Lets say tomorrow there is something else, lets say Google, comes up with a much better platform and we want to move from Force.com to Google, so the portability should be very good and take care of the concerns that we might have with the specific platforms. The second point would be trying to integrate a lot of people much better on cloud. What we feel currently is the lack of understanding of cloud as a technology, especially in India, and then in terms of global.

If you go to somebody and say you are working on a cloud, you get concerned with that. Whereas our feeling is cloud — from a technology point of view — is so advanced that up untill now a small business could never have afforded it. (For instance) 99.99% uptime would of been impossible for me to offer on a server that you have installed and put an Oracle database on our servers. Or for that matter ISO 27001 from a data security point of view. For a small operator, in this aspect, ISO 27001 would be just impossible. We feel that because we are in cloud its much more advantageous, where as a lot of markets that do not understand cloud and its not active, so its much faster to do it on our own.

Nathan:

Just speaking generally do you feel that your experiences with cloud computing have lived up to the hype surrounding the technology before you got involved with it?

Sumeet:

In fact its improving with every day. We never thought all these things are possible in the cloud when we started off, but with every passing day it has just opened up. It’s very very different to what we expected beyond what we expected actually.

Nathan:

Anything else you would like to add about cloud in general?

Sumeet:

Yes, we are also using the same platform on our mobile smartphones, blackberries etc. I think that is kind of evolutionary especially in India where internet and mobile penetration are improving at a rapid pace. I think 2-3 years down the line we will see these things that we are doing right now to be a huge advantage. It will help us go and beat the big daddies like Citibank, Bank of America etc, because they are using the same technology.

It’s almost like democratisation of technology, its no longer a differentiating factor. The technology platform we are using may be used by the largest of the large, the differences then lies in how quick you can think, how good you can think and how you can implement it. It’s a great time.

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