The Silicon Review
Soffront was established with six thousand dollars personal money with a goal to create a software to manage product quality, customer service, customer feedback and customer purchase history. Today, the company founded by entrepreneur Manu Das offers a full suite of sales, marketing, service and project automation with two CRM offerings – on-premise CRM for the larger enterprises who wish to deploy on their own cloud or on Soffront’s Amazon AWS cloud as a separate server and an online (SaaS) CRM for SMB hosted in Amazon AWS.
The advent of the cloud and associated technologies opened up new avenues for entrepreneurs waiting to make it big in the business and technology circuit. But only few had the passion and perseverance to pursue their set goals and struggle for survival amidst severe competition in the market. Meet Manu Das, an entrepreneur with years of experience, who set foot in the industry way back in 1992 by founding Soffront and ever since, there has been no looking back.
Manu led Soffront’s team comprising of young talents and experienced officials to deliver one of the first cloud CRM solutions in the industry. Among the few companies that provide a powerful CRM with full marketing automation as a part of the same solution, Soffront has been steadily making its way up the success ladder with its focus on automation, ever since.
Ground breaking CRM solutions
One of the few CRM companies that provide implementation services for its customers, Soffront’s agenda is clear, to keep striding towards success, no matter what may come. And with innovation as its key USP, Soffront has been taking steady strides towards success since inception. “We face some amount of competition from organizations such as Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM and Infusionsoft. But we continue to grow by providing a better value to our customers in the area of automation, customization and ease of use”, said Manu.
For example in 1993, Soffront launched its first offering, a one of a kind customer service software, an innovation at a time when CRM was not known. And during the early 2000s when the cloud was becoming popular, it introduced yet again, one of the first cloud CRM solutions in the market and has developed a fully automated CRM solution for sales, marketing, and customer service, help desk, and project management that has won several industry awards, ever since. Such is the popularity of Soffront’s offerings that today its CRM is used by small to mid-size as well as departments of many Fortune 500 companies and government organizations such as Boeing, Siemens, SAIC, Masshousing, Tangoe, General Electric, The American Red Cross, and Minnesota Secretary of State, to name a few.
The beginning of a great journey
Having gained immense popularity for his persistence to make a difference in the global marketplace, Das often talks about how the digital age is affecting solution providers and their capacities to innovate. Here are his thoughts on a couple of those issues:
Q. What was the motivation to start the company and how did it all come together?
A. During the late 80’s and early 1990’s I was in charge of developing a software to manage distributed product development for Olivetti advanced technology center, my employer at that time, on top of Lotus Notes since there were none available commercially at that time. Soon after completion of that project, I realized there is an opportunity to create a commercial software to track the product development issues as well as customer calls and customer purchases in the same system. And I thought there is a market for such software. So, I decided to leave my good paying job for a no paying job and started developing the system. After 15 hour days of coding for about 3 months I was able to demo the software at the San Jose conference. It was discouraging at the conference, since the engineers and the technical support reps had little interest with a software that produces report of product defects and customer calls and feedbacks. Needless to say, I was not able to sell a single copy at the conference, but there were some bright spots. Customer Service and Product managers thought it’s a good idea to be able to see a report of outstanding bugs and customer calls. So many managers signed up for beta sites!
Selling software was outside my core expertize at that time. So, I asked for help at the bay area microsoft windows users group. I partnered with Mike, a successful entrepreneur, who was selling memory management software and had many customers! We jointly sent a direct mail to all his customers and got only 3 businesses to buy it. After splitting 50/50 revenue, it was not exactly a super success!
I reached out to the beta sites who signed up at the conference and were able to improve the product and actually sell to a few. Those are the fun and exciting times when I was developing at night and selling, supporting and shipping (yes we did ship those days!) during the day, all from my spare bedroom. Fortunately, I never ran out the lucky six thousand dollars I started with and never had to look for another job. I was able to grow organically, using a 2×2 black and white text advertisement (there were no internets or facebook), making a lot of phone calls and knocking doors of companies in the bay area and showing demos. My happiest moments were when the fax machine rang. I would run to it in the living room to see if it is a new PO and most of the time it was! At that time companies would fax the order since email was not exactly a way to send a PO during early 90’s.
1994 was a great year with lots of new customers and lots of work. So, I leased an office space and hired 3 employees, then 4 and then 5! New phase started and business was good during the second half of the nineties.
Q. What are the pain points of the industry addressed by Soffront?
A. Soffront CRM suite addresses three main pain points a) poor user adoption b) lack of tools to automate business processes c) prevalence of siloed data and lack of visibility between different departments. This is often due to poor usability and lack of automation capabilities in the most CRM solutions. The third pain point is due to the usage of multiple point solutions that are not well integrated to obtain the ideal flow of information and ROI.
In olden days, the marketing department used a marketing automation system whereas sales and service used a separate CRM system preventing easy and real time bi-directional flow of information from the marketing to the sales department. Overcoming this challenge, Soffront ensured better visibility and cooperation between various departments, which was otherwise not possible. Proving to be what would be today’s turnaround solutions, the company’s offerings make deeper automation between marketing, sales and support, and scoring of marketing leads, coupled with the support of multiple channels for marketing and service, and a better mobile experience, possible.
Q. How has your journey been so far? How is Soffront positioned to be a leader in the current market scenario?
A. The CRM market is growing rapidly and predicted to be a $36 billion market by 2017. Unlike when Soffront started in the 90’s, CRM is now widely adopted in almost all industries. CRM sold as a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution as well as an on-premise solution for companies who are concerned about a) the data security, b) integration with legacy systems and c) saving money in the long run.
The Marketing Automation market, a related market of CRM, is growing even faster and predicted to be a $5.5 billion market by 2019. We are offering sales, marketing and service – all combined into a single solution. We are uniquely positioned by our focus on Automation. Without automation, most CRM end up being a data repository with a calendar and email client. We offer automation that replaces manual tasks and helps businesses automate all customer-related activities with real-time flow of information between marketing, sales, and customer service departments – without losing important information. In addition, we are one of the few select solutions that provide a powerful CRM with full marketing automation as a part of the same solution.
With its core functionalities being powerful marketing, sales, and service automation, Soffront’s specialities include:
Meet the Mastermind
Born in West Bengal, India, Founder & CEO Manu Das completed his masters in EE from IIT Madras and completed two years of Masters and PhD in Computer Science at SUNY, Buffalo. He then joined FMC corporation in their Artificial Intelligence Lab division and worked in the DARPA “Autonomous Vehicle” project and also worked with Stanford University on Obstacle Detection and Avoidance project. Then, he served as an AI and Vision Engineer for the “humanless factory floor” project at National Semiconductor, Santa Clara.
Manu then led many commercial AI products on Expert Systems, Natural Language processing, and Neural networks at Olivetti Advanced Technology Center, Cupertino. During his tenure at Olivetti during the late 80’s and early 90’s, he was responsible for developing a database project based on Lotus Notes technology to manage product development on a global scale. And while working with this project, he realized the market need of a commercial product for product and customer management, which led to leaving Olivetti and starting Soffront in 1992.