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DeskAway - darling of global workforces; bosses love it too!

Nov 09 2012, 17:06   |   By SME Mentor

Gargi Banerjee

In times where workforces are getting increasingly mobile and team members are scattered across geographies, even across continents, an online collaboration tool is the need of the hour. DeskAway, one of India's top online project collaboration tools, seems to be the answer to the new-age workplace.

With every member logged into this platform, the application tracks a project during its entire life cycle. It allows each team member, and even clients who are given access to the platform, the ability to view their own progress and that of their colleagues, track targets, share files, integrate and store files online and take back-up - all on one single virtual platform. This app even allows team members to communicate with each other without using e-mail. By integrating third-party apps, DeskAway eliminates the need to use for external applications or software, thus keeping everyone on the same page at all times.

And if you're wondering what's new, read on. DeskAway was launched by Sahil Parikh, who founded Synage Software as a web development company in 2005. Two years later, with revenues from his services start-up and personal savings amounting to Rs 15-25 lakh, Parikh developed DeskAway, India's first SaaS-based app (Service as a software). The upshot: DeskAway is still among the top online project collaboration tools in India, not to mention some pretty big-ticket overseas clients too. And that's no mean feat.

"At the time, there were collaboration apps such as Huddle, Zoho, Basecamp etc but none of them catered to the Indian market," explains Parikh. And how has DeskAway managed to stay on top? The App's USP is incredibly simple: it is feature-rich, easy to use and affordable. "Other similar applications are not only expensive, they are complicated and require users to be trained to use them. With DeskAway, you can get started right away," explains Parikh, who targeted his innovation at small and medium businesses.

Revenue Model
With a client base of 700, DeskAway uses the freemium model, where clients can avail a free, 30-day trial and then upgrade to the paid, subscription version of the app. The subscription model has been tweaked a little, with the $10 monthly plan being replaced by plans that range from $25-179. "Even though our subscriptions began at $10, we have been offering a whole host of features that made the app very popular and we were able to break even in just two years," reveals Parikh.

Parikh says he plans to integrate the app with mobile phones as well as third-party applications that will offer workforces even more mobility and improved features.

How did idea behind Deskaway germinate?
Parikh had worked in the US software development industry for eight years before he returned to Mumbai in 2005. "The entire focus in the world of technology was on outsourcing then, and I did not like the fact that India was perceived as a low-cost, service-providing nation. It was as if we were written off as incapable of building a good product," says Parikh. "This fuelled my dream of building a software business that would be product-based."

He first set up a web design and development company and discovered that it was difficult to assign tasks and keep track of projects because the work culture in India was very different from what he was used to in the US. He looked for project collaboration tools but couldn't find any.

It was only a matter of time before Parikh developed DeskAway. It worked like a dream internally. But when he began to sell it commercially, Parikh was dismayed.  "I went door to door trying to convince companies that an SaaS-based product was a cost-effective solution to their project collaboration needs. But they were simply not convinced."

The Turnaround
Parikh says, "America is at least five years ahead of India when it comes to software. While American businesses were quite used to buying SaaS-based products online, Indian companies did not really understand SaaS. They also had concerns about security issues while parting with data or information online, because they thought internet was free for all and thus their competitors might get access to sensitive information."

Parikh decided to change his strategy and started doing a round of promotion of his product via Internet marketing. Soon enough, he noticed traction from the US market which attracted a lot international clients. "People started subscribing to our products and renewing subscriptions online within a month or two. A major reason for the initial success was our subscription fee, which was a minimum $10 a month as against $15 to 25 charged by other players in the industry."

Cash Registers Start Ringing!
At the time, the winds of change were blowing in the Indian market and SaaS was becoming a necessity, thanks to the number of start-ups that began cropping up. An online project collaborator became a must for small businesses and DeskAway was the perfect fit.

Road Ahead
Still revelling in the success of DeskAway, Parikh is ready to launch his second SaaS-based product - Brightpod, a project collaboration tool designed for digital marketing companies and marketing teams.

Will Brightpod change project collaboration for marketing companies as DeskAway did for other verticals? With an uncanny knack for spotting an opportunity and getting right on top of it, Parikh is confident it will!

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