The chips were down, market confidence was at an all-time low and institutional funding was not forthcoming. But that didn’t stop three young Calcuttans from chucking their jobs with an Indian IT major to pursue their dream. It was November 2001 and everyone warned Debasish Adhikari, Basudeb Roy and Aritra Basu Roychoudhury they couldn’t have picked a worse time to take the plunge.
It’s November 2002 and the three promoters of Synergic Softek Solutions aren’t doing too bad at all — they’ve taken the rural route with more than reasonable success. The firm has been busy developing customised software for cooperative banks and cooperative societies, their list of clients is growing, they have broken even quite comfortably and, what’s more, they are in expansion mode.
“From collection of deposits to loan disbursement and compliance with RBI accounting norms to investment in government securities — our software takes care of A to Z of cooperative banking. Besides, it also helps in imparting transparency in the functioning of cooperative banks and credit societies,” says Adhikari.
For the past year, Synergic Softek Solutions has been taking technology to the likes of Burdwan Central Cooperative Bank, United Cooperative Bank and the employees’ credit societies of Coal Mines Authority and Durgapur Sub-divisional Hospital.
“The first-year results are encouraging, as not only have we recovered our initial investment, we have also been able to register profits that we have ploughed back to create better infrastructure,” says Adhikari.
But the vast rural market — “with over 600 cooperative banks and over 2,000 credit societies” — was tough to break into. Adhikari recounts incidents where their team was given royal treatment in a number of villages in Burdwan just because they were carrying laptops.
“No one was interested in knowing about the benefits of computerised banking. They just wanted to know more about the strange object we were carrying. We had to pitch really hard for projects. To make people understand the benefits of a computerised banking system, we had to organise lecture-demonstrations and seminars. The after-sales servicing was also very crucial, as we had to educate people on running the system,” recounts Adhikari.
But now the results of the strategy and the sweat have started paying off. “Given the present state of computerisation in cooperative banks and credit societies in Bengal and the strict compliance norms laid down by the regulatory authorities, business generation shouldn’t be a problem in the immediate future,” says Adhikari.
With the road to rural Bengal opening up nicely, the three young entrepreneurs have started broadening their horizons and picking up small but meaningful projects in Assam and Meghalaya and have started giving some of the domestic majors a run for their money. A deal is close to being sealed with a Mauritius-based firm, says the trio, who are in the process of shifting their Raja Basanta Roy Road office to Saltlec.
“We want to retain our focus on the rural sector, where the scope is immense. Not only do we have the advantages of the first entrant, we also leverage our price competitiveness and round-the-clock after-sales service,” signs off Adhikari.