Ex-Infy CTO Sharad Hegde-Backed CRM Startup Eyes Up To $7M VC Money

21 December, 2010

Former Infosys chief technology officer and the IT bellwether’s first non-founder employee Sharad Hegde found his calling in Golf when he made a premature exit from Infy in 2003.

True to his passion for the game, Hegde found a way to live his dream of playing golf seven days a week. So, Hegde along with five other partners promoted Clovergreens, a 70-par, 6,000-yard golf course, on the Sarjapur-Attibele road, on Bangalore’s city fringes.

When he is not playing Golf, Hegde, a B.Tech from IIT Madras and M.Tech from NITIE, dabbles in angel investing and technology consulting. Infosys’ early tech guru and chief architect of Finacle (a leading comprehensive core banking software product), Hegde has, in his avatar as angel investor, placed bets on an IP-based CRM software product company, Customer XPs, founded by a team, who were, incidentally, part of the Infy Finacle product team. Hegde’s other investment is in Appnomic, an infrastructure management service company, founded by former Infy vice-president D. Padmanaban, also a promoter of Clovergreens.

Hegde has been involved with CustomerXPs Software Pvt Ltd, a Bangalore-based CRM software product startup, and plays an active role in advising the firm on product architecture, technology, scalability and strategy. He has been backing the firm for over three years both in terms of investments as well as in advisory capacity. Hegde, who was involved with the creation of a successful Indian software product (Finacle), feels it would be easier to scale a software product today than earlier. Will he recreate the magic of Finacle?

CustomerXPs, an IP-based firm, claims to be in the CRM (customer relationship management) Ver 2.0 space delivering real-time intelligence using a creative human-like “thinking, inferring, learning” approach. The firm is in the market to raise Series A round of funding in the region of $5-$7 million. The funds will be used by the CRM startup for creating more IP and building a bigger team. Ernst & Young is advising the firm on the fundraising exercise.

CustomerXPs founder & CEO Rivi Varghese says, “What Google does to searches, we do the same for customer information in a bank, by converting static pages to real-time data.”  Using collective intelligence about a customer, the software will enable banks to provide contextual information and cross-sell products that he would need. “This will significantly reduce the cost of customer acquisition and also reduce the brand dilution that happens when a company calls up 100 people to reach two customers,” he says.

Citing an example, he says, if you normally use 10 cheque leaves per quarter and order for 100 cheque leaves for the next quarter, the system will notice this change in pattern and prompt questions to customers real-time. In this case, it is possible that the customer is looking at buying a home and the bank can cross-sell its home loan offering almost real-time instead of capturing that data and using it much later (when perhaps the customer does not need it).

Will this product that promises freedom from pesky tele-marketeers for average consumers and higher productivity and lower client acquisition costs to banks, retail and telecom (sectors it is targeting) fly off the shelves?  For starters, it has signed on ICICI Bank as its first customer and is close to tying up with another bank to sell a fraud management suite.

Hegde says, the product is designed to be alliance-friendly and can be loaded on existing CRM platforms that are currently in use. So, it is possible that alliances with Finacle or Iflex for a bundled offering may be in the works.

Other founders of CustomerXPs are Aditya Lal (CTO), an Infosys hand who has worked with Amazon.com as well, and Balaji Suryanarayana (COO), formerly with Accenture. Rivi Varghese, the CEO, was head of product management at Infosys’ Finacle where he conceptualized and delivered 12 new-to-the-world products being used by leading banks globally. He has also had a stint at Microsoft.


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Ex-Infy CTO Sharad Hegde-Backed CRM Startup Eyes Up To $7M VC Money

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