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ET Startup Awards 2021: Kovai wins the Bootstrap Champ award

By on 27th September 2021 0 47 Views

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.

Other Contenders

Flexiple | Karthik Sridharan, Hrishikesh Pardeshi & Suvansh Bansal

Flexiple is an online marketplace that connects software developers and designers with companies. The startup has not needed to raise funds so far as its monetisation strategy is built into the business model, where clients are charged a commission based on the total value of the project.

Cardinality.ai | Thiag Loganathan, Ganesh RVR & Vijay Krishna V

Cardinality has a suite of cloud-based business solutions built with configurable modules. These solutions deliver a personalised user experience powered by a purpose-built AI engine. The company says its modular offering enables agencies to modernize existing systems up to 50% faster than low-code platforms and 200% faster than custom or unproven solutions.

Highway Delite | Rajesh Ghatanatti

Highway Delite aims to solve problems commuters face on Indian highways. It provides a verified and reviewed database of restaurants and other necessary services required during travel, including medical facilities, petrol stations, repair shops, toilets, and hotels, through a mobile app that provides real-time information.

SocialPilot | Jimit Bagadiya & Tejas M

SocialPilot is a marketing technology company focussed on increasing brands’ presence on social media. It offers automated solutions for professionals, teams, and businesses to manage their social media channels. The firm sells its services through marketing agencies, and counts Walmart, State of New York, United Nations, State of New Hampshire, Compass, Automatic and the US Army as clients.