The Silicon Review
Founded in 2006 as QuantumID Technologies, the company is now known as SmartKargo. The company was set up with an initial idea to innovate in the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology space. However, the idea wasn’t successful, for many reasons, but during the efforts to identify a killer app for it technology, it explored the airline industry, and built a solution to operate cargo. SmartKargo quickly realized the real need was in the software space and pivoted its offering to deliver Software as a Service (SaaS) by leveraging public cloud infrastructure that was being built by Microsoft.
The company is located in Cambridge, MA and Dallas, TX, Miami, FL (USA), Pune, Maharashtra (India), Manila (Philippines), and Sao Paulo (Brazil). It is the first to be ‘born on the cloud’ and it continues to maintain that leadership.
In conversation with Milind Tavshikar, CEO
Q. What according to you are the top three skills needed to be a successful business/IT leader?
A successful IT leader must have:
Q. We know how important it is to have a well-defined mission and vision statement. Can you explain your M&V statements in brief?
Our mission is to enable the world’s passenger airlines to monetize excess belly capacity by selling commercial cargo.
Our vision is to do this by delivering a high-quality product that has the required breadth of functionality and is built upon the deep industry know-how needed by an airline to operate a door-to-door logistics. We do this by combining excellent skills in our people, by leveraging standards and industry best practices, and by building our product on the latest technology.
Q. What is the biggest challenge that you and your team has faced during these years?
SmartKargo SaaS is a mission-critical application. Every 1 minute, a flight takes off somewhere on the planet with cargo managed using our product. This is something that we are very proud of, but this scenario also puts a lot of pressure on us as a team: to be able to withstand the demands of our customers every day.
We mitigate this by adding redundancies and being flexible around the needs of teams who support this environment. We support each other and cover for each other as the navy seals do. When it’s a team effort like that, we all have a little less to worry about!
Q. Any successful organization faces few hurdles in the beginning. What were some initial hurdles in building your business and how did you overcome them?
For a technology company, finding that killer app was the biggest initial hurdle. A product company, to be successful, must have multiple customers with the same need. It seems simple but is not easy to identify. We could not know the answer by analyzing reports and browsing the internet. The only way to overcome the challenge was to evaluate many markets and by deploying solutions in those markets. This is very taxing and consuming but there is no easy way around it. We just kept trying till we found one!
Another challenge is to keep the company alive by ensuring we pay our bills and that employees are paid on time. It’s important that everyone who is working hard to make the company successful feels financially secured. We are focused on finding the right balance between fundraising efforts and customer acquisition efforts. We ensure that we have a positive net cash flow! If there was ever a problem, everyone knew the resolution would start at the top! We always put the company’s interest ahead of our own.
Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?
Winning Hawaiian Airlines, our first customer in North America was a memorable moment. It helped us get an entry point in the big league; it helped us create a lot of excitement within the team, and the location where we deployed our product was beautiful Honolulu. We all worked very hard to deliver a great solution and make our customer happy.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Just do it. Statistically, the odds that an honest, hardworking person will be successful at starting a venture are pretty high. Don’t wait for the perfect situation to occur before you start. There is no perfect hire or a perfect market or a perfect product needed to start. Start today!
Meet the dynamic leader
Milind Tavshikar, CEO: Milind started his professional career in consulting and had opportunities to solve complex challenges in the enterprise space very early. He graduated as a computer science engineer, worked in the software world for a few years, and went on to study business at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is curious about learning new things and is passionate about building products, which led him to create the company and work alongside some fantastic people since the formation. He grew up in a small hilly town in India, loved to trek in the mountains and spend time with a lot of friends when he was young. Now he lives in the suburbs of Boston with his family and spends time in building products, teams, and traveling the world to grow SmartKargo.