The Emerging Giant : Story of Cloud ERP provider Blue Lotus 360
Updated: Mar 26
Sri Lanka aims to have a national digital strategy in the near future to be a vital player in the global digital economy. Among a plethora of companies with brave aspirations to take part in the endeavor, we talk with Blue Lotus 360, a Lankan cloud ERP solutions provider challenging the dominance of foreign software systems present in Sri Lanka and going beyond the borders to take the challenge to them.
A lot of IT firms in the country how did you set apart making Blue Lotus different?
Even though there are a lot of IT companies in Sri Lanka I would say there are only a handful of companies who are in the ERP Domain, especially the ones developed in Sri Lanka. If you think more niche, we have this mental business model where we sell the products as a subscription-based solution and so far there are only around 4 or 5 in the local market.
Cloud-based technology. How is the perception in the market then and now?
A. A few years ago there was a lot of resistance for cloud-based solutions, Most IT managers feared that they might go redundant that if cloud-based solutions were adapted. Some larger companies felt insecure having their solutions hosted somewhere that they didn't know or couldn't see which made a bit resistant to the change. Fortunately right now since fortune 500 companies and other bigger companies have been adapting solutions, I feel there has been a build-up of trust and also they understand that by going for a cloud-based solution there is better security and there are better features that can be enabled, which wouldn't have been available if they hadn't adapted to a cloud-based solution.
Challenges you faced when launching an entrepreneurship venture?
I would say there are 3 main challenges. The first - Access to capital because traditional banks prefer not to invest in tech-based products because they simply don't understand how tech-based products work and fear it as a higher risk. The second - the issue that I faced was hiring the right people. If you take the local software industry as a whole, there is a lot of demand for software engineers and technical people and a lot of outsourcing companies have opened their operations in Sri Lanka with very high demand. So when it comes to startups, it's very hard to get the right domain set full time as they are quite expensive.
Even for us before we were able to afford them, we were hiring them as part-time consultants. The third - partnerships and decision making. Partnerships are the assets of success to any company, the logic holds especially true for startups.
I feel sometimes larger companies can take away deals from startups because they are just a startup, so there are a lot of trust issue related things.
We have companies that can cater to global firms. What do you think about the local projects that are given to foreign firms?
I have a bit of a mixed view on that even though I agree there are a lot of local companies that are catering to fortune 500 companies. Sri Lanka is a small market and we don't have too many resources, rather Sri Lanka is well known as a software outsourcing location. More than product development, if you actually look at the number of companies that have product ties and have sold internationally, it's quite a few. So when it comes to local development, if we are going to develop something that we are only going to sell to one local entity and if we can't sell it internationally, I don't think we should be investing in that kind of product unless we have enough contacts to sell that product internationally. So I think we shouldn't focus on building every single thing in Sri Lanka.
We should focus on building products that can be sold locally and internationally.
For any student's advice entering ERP business. What should they know and should they teach in Uni?
Unlike other tech products, I think ERP business is not an easy business to start up with because the entry barrier is very high. You not only have to be technically savvy, but you should also know the processes that are involved in an internal company. This comes with a lot of experience.
In Sri Lanka, there is another perception where a lot of University graduates develop an inventory controlling system and they call it an ERP, that is not an ERP, an ERP is a combination of a lot of modules, at least 5 or 6 modules including accounting and finance, inventory procurement, project management.
If you are going to start something you should have the right co-founder or should know the domain inside out before you start working on it.
Let's talk about global ambitions. Where to from here?
So currently we have a direct presence in Sri Lanka as well as the united kingdom, even though we have only 2 physical offices. We have customers from another 6 countries stretching from NA to SA and the Southeast Asian markets.
For us, the next big move I would say is into the southeast Asian market, especially in their emerging markets. By the end of this year and early next year with the funds we are trying to raise, we plan to open a office in Singapore as well to further expand our operations in that market.
What is the impact of Covid-19 in your ERP Solutions domain?
Like the CEO of Microsoft said, 2 years of digital transformation has happened in 2 months purely because of COVID, with more organizations realizing the importance of investing in an IT infrastructure. Most of the companies have now realized the necessity of having solutions like this for the continuation of businesses during times like COVID. Having solutions like this can streamline and enable them to work from home.
Editor : Tharindu Ameresekere
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