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Outsourcing: Sanjay Dhawan, CEO of Symphony Services (Part 1)

Posted on Wednesday, Oct 19th 2011

In the early days of software, using it was as simple as buying a licensing agreement, and then uploading the software to each employee’s desktop. The evolution of computers is moving at such a rapid pace that in order to keep up, companies have to refurbish existing software to accommodate employees who are no longer chained to their desks from nine to five. Instead, telecommuting or making the most of long commutes on public transportation by using their laptops or smart phones to get their work done. That’s where companies like Palo Alto, California-based Symphony Services come in. Symphony has a presence throughout the United States and India and in Surrey, United Kingdom, and has a client list with names like Oracle, Yahoo, Motorola, Google, and Hitachi.

Sramana Mitra: Hi, Sanjay. I’d like to start with some context about Symphony, both the genesis of the company and how you built the company so far. What businesses are you in? What kind of customers are you working with? By the way, we’ve had both of your top competitors in the series. I know Anand [Deshpande] and Peter [Harrison], from Persistent and GlobalLogic, respectively, very well. It’s an industry that we’re well conversant with.

Sanjay Dhawan: That’s great. Our company is getting close to ten years old. The company was started in 2002. The company was founded specifically to help clients develop, deploy, and manage software and software-enabled products for a connected space. We saw the opportunity around working with software ISVs, product OEM, to provide them with middleware solutions and R&D services to help them with the complete life cycle of product development. So, unlike many other IT services companies that are focused on IT life cycles, of managing desktop computers, applications, all that stuff, we’re not that. We’re a company focused on product development, more specifically, in the software space.

About eight of the top 10 largest software companies are our clients. We have the front-row seat when it comes to seeing what’s happening in the software industry. We’re not working with just a client. We’re working with the larger of the largest and also the smallest startups, helping them to build their software products. That’s what we do. We look at development; we look at testing; we look at QA; we look at deploying and managing software as well for our customers.

SM: Okay. And what is the current size of the company? What would be your 2010 numbers?

SD: The current size of the company – I’m giving you more of a 2011 number – we’re getting close to about 4,000 employees worldwide.

SM: What’s the revenue?

SD: Revenue would be getting in the order of $200 million or so.

SM: Are you public?

SD: No, we’re a private company.

SM: Let’s dig down into both what you are seeing in your business as well as some of the industry trends. You said eight out of the top 10 ISVs are your customers. What does a large ISV outsource to you? What are the dynamics of that relationship?

SD: Let me answer the first question first, around the trends that we are seeing, and then come to our typical engagement model with some of our customers.  There is a major trend that’s happening in our industry right now. That trend has to do with the way the software is deployed and used. [It’s] changing in a big way. I believe it’s a trend that has many years in the making, but it’s just at the very start. Conventionally, software was built with a perpetual model where you licensed the software, you deployed locally in your enterprise and then you used it. Now the model is changing to software being available to you in the cloud. So, you’re not perpetually buying the software. You are using the software from the cloud. You are using it as a SaaS model, which is a pay-as-you-go model . . .  software as a service. The other major trend is conventionally, you would use the software on your fixed, desktop kind of machines, but now a kind of mobility is coming in, where you use the software on mobile devices, on your smart phones, on your tablets and iPads, whatever. It’s a major combination of how the software is licensed and used is moving to SaaS. It gets used, [but] instead of on fixed computers, on mobile devices.

What this means is it opens up a huge opportunity for companies like us, because you have to re-architect the software in order to support this trend. You can’t just take your existing software and just make some minor changes to enable this trend. So, as an R&D services company, this, obviously, opens up a huge opportunity: to help engage with our customers and enable this trend for them.

A typical engagement model for us would be that we will engage with our customers and get the requirements of what their software applications are supposed to do and so on. Then we’ll help them architect the software and build it, test it and then deploy it in a managed services model. As I said earlier, we support the full life cycle of software development.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Outsourcing: Sanjay Dhawan, CEO of Symphony Services
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