The SaaS startup, which went head-to-head with Cardinality.ai, eventually ended up becoming the Bootstrap Champ due its financial heft and ability to inspire entrepreneurs to build global businesses from smaller cities and towns.
Kovai.co’s determination to build world-class software products out of a tier-II city like Coimbatore, rather than from Bengaluru or Chennai, sealed the deal for the members of the seventh ET Startup Awards jury.
The startup, which went head-to-head with fellow Chennai-born SaaS company Cardinality.ai, eventually ended up on the top of the jury’s list for the Bootstrap Champ category for its financial heft and ability to inspire entrepreneurs to build global businesses from smaller cities and towns.
“It’s very hard to build a bootstrapped company at scale,” said Anu Hariharan, a jury member and partner at Y Combinator Continuity Fund. “They’ve done it in a very interesting format which I’ve never seen before — of having a presence in both London and Coimbatore, but largely having their engineering team in Coimbatore which helps them on the cost and R&D.”
It is not just Kovai NSE 1.75 %’s business model, but also the fact that the company is unlocking talent and inspiring a lot of people in Coimbatore which helped it clinch the top spot, Hariharan said.
Kovai’s first product, BizTalk360, was a platform for operations and monitoring, and analytics for Microsoft’s BizTalk server, built by a team of six people. The company now has more than 250 people working on five enterprise-grade software products.
Its main offering, Document360, helps users instantly create a self-service knowledge base for customers and employees, which can be accessed publicly or privately.
“What Freshworks and Zoho have done in Chennai is exactly what we want to replicate in Coimbatore,” founder and chief executive Saravana Kumar said. “We are at the forefront of this opportunity and the entire company is passionate about Coimbatore.”
Kumar said, being in a tier-II city has made finding talent more complex, but it has solved this issue to some extent by getting people from Coimbatore who have migrated to other cities to come back to their hometown. It has also built a programme of partnering with universities to identify talent and train them.
The advantage of being in Coimbatore, according to Kumar, is the “enormous talent pool” that Kovai has access to. “We are channelling all that raw talent and then moulding it into what is required for the industry. We’ll do it in Coimbatore first and eventually, we will replicate that model across multiple cities,” he said.
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