Sriram Subrahmanya a first generation entrepreneur and his wife Anuradha started Integra Software Services in 1994 with five employees. Even as a student while still in college, Sriram dreamt of a career in business and of being his own boss. On graduation he initially took up a job in an auto ancillary unit to gain experience. Over the course of the next few years, he was responsible for setting up two greenfield projects. This gave him good exposure on the teething troubles new units face as also the confidence to strike out on his own.
"After completing BE mechanical engineering from Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, and gaining the required exposure by working for nine years with three companies in Bangalore, Chennai and Puducherry, I initiated this company in 1994 with my wife Anu and a five-member team right from my home," says Sriram Subramanya.
Integra's story like so many successful ventures is a rags to riches story. Life for Integra began when Sriram set up a DTP business providing typesetting services. At that time the big ambition for youngsters in India was a job in the West, preferably in the US. The company's initial thrust was towards the local publishing market. The company also worked with universities for their distance education programs. "At first, we were involved in Pondicherry University's distance learning courses. We helped in typesetting for almost all of these courses," says Sriram.
By the turn of the century the company had become a fully export oriented unit. The company has seen a compound annual growth of 28% over the last four years. In 2009, Integra hit the number two spot in publishing outsourcing according to a global survey performed by Data Monitor and Black Book.
Integra has acquired two American firms to penetrate new market niches such as school and higher education in the USA. Integra is now one of the top five content providing companies in India, selling services to most of the top twenty publishers in the world. Integra has started its own subsidiary in the UK, while it has a presence in Spain. In 2001, the company started Integra Infoteach as a training arm for newly hired employees.
The main business offerings of Integra are new media services like e-learning, language polishing and editorial development. Since inception the company has handled about 1.25 million typeset pages. Since 2005, the company has actively worked on creative graphics, while taking up journal related work. In 2007, Integra bought Elm Street Publishing Services, an American company which provides high end services in specialized areas. Integra now works with nine out of the ten top international publishing companies.
Today the company offers a wide range of sophisticated services. The audio-visual department is capable of delivering preproduction services like scripting, ideation and storyboarding as also shooting in DV, HDV and HD formats. "We started with simple typesetting operations but have today grown to providing end-to-end solutions to publishers, across copy-editing, indexing, professional proof reading, project management, typesetting, illustration, design and media services, and electronic deliverables," says Sriram. "Our services range from simple editing to high-end 2-D and 3-D animation and composition, besides CD and DVD authoring, duplication, and streaming. We use Nuendo and Pro Tools for editing, mixing, encoding, and restoration [of audio], and we have talented voice-over artists and music and sound effect libraries," he adds.
Vision - the key differentiator
Sriram is credited with defining and guiding the vision for Integra. And, vision is what set Integra apart from lakhs of hole-in-the-wall DTP service providers across the country. Sriram's skill, commitment, his tremendous determination to succeed and wise leadership ably backed his vision, and helped him build a company that is today counted among the world's leaders in its space.
An important reason for the company's dazzling performance is the strategic focus, the business acumen and the maturity with which Sriram makes decisions. The company has invested in developing a sound customer oriented organization, capable of serving all customers in its chosen domain. Further, the company has focused on continuous improvement, via regular R&D activities in new technologies. According to Sriram, "Integra is a pioneer in the industry, in so far as being extremely process oriented. We have the wherewithal to leverage automation through technology for improving productivity and saving costs."
Sriram himself attributes his success to positive thinking. "It sounds very generic but we have been able to apply it, specific to our company. I repeatedly tell my employees - and that is what my spiritual mentor tells me too - that our thoughts and actions should be synchronized towards positive thinking. I consider this very important."
New business areas
Recently, the company has widened its horizons to new areas like financial content services, translation and localization. The company is presently supplying Total Project Management or E2E services to multinational publishing companies. This, "is a premium service for large customers, "which takes the whole project off the publisher so they can focus on their core competencies." Another new area is game based learning, wherein students can use competitive scenarios and situations to push themselves to the limit of their capability.
The dedicated focus of R&D and on being at the forefront of new technologies has won the company several accolades. The iHelp app, used in keyword searches won the Popular Choice Award, while taking the third place at Elsevier's Science Challenge contest. At the 22nd World HRD Congress, the company received the Best Talent Management Award. In addition, Anurdha Sriram, joint managing director, was declared one of the 'Business Wizards' of Tamil Nadu. For his contribution to the BPO/ITES industry, Sriram received the Pathfinders Award from the Times of India group.
The company employs more than 1,300 employees, with women making up more than sixty percent of the workforce. A major recognition came Integra's way when NASSCOM awarded the company excellence in gender inclusivity, as also the 'Best Employer for Women Development at the annual Women Leaders of India conference organized by iGroup.
Today Integra has annual sales of $15 million - that's Rs.100 crores. Integra is counted among the largest employers in Puducherry and now boasts of its own 70,000 square foot office building. Integra surely has come a long way from doing typesetting for Pondicherry University's distance education courses.
Take away for mutual fund distributors
You indeed can grow as large as your vision permits. Sriram started off with DTP services. But he saw his firm not as just a DTP provider, but a firm that enables digital publishing. When you define your proposition broader, it gives your mind a much bigger canvas to paint on, to dream with. And, if you are able to back your bigger dreams with upskilling yourself, building a quality team and driving process orientation, you are on your way to realize those BIG dreams.
Don't think of yourself as mutual fund distributors. Don't just broaden your thinking to encompass all investment and insurance products. Widen the canvas further. Think of yourself as someone who facilitates your customers' interactions with money. Interactions with money can include earning, spending, saving and investing. When you define who you are in these terms, you will suddenly find a world of opportunities available to you which you would never have thought of, if you considered yourself as only a mutual fund distributor. Think creatively on how you can enable your clients to spend smarter, to supplement their income streams, to save smarter and of course to invest smarter. Think of every interaction your clients have with money and the role you can play in making these interactions smarter. Let your mind paint on a much wider canvas. That's your starting point to thinking BIG!
Content is created by Wealth Forum and must not be construed as an opinion by Reliance Mutual Fund.
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