What business qualities make a successful SME? We’ve been visiting various businesses to bring you insightful case studies. This month it is Invenio Business Solutions, No 102= in our SME 100 and a provider of innovative SAP solutions, services and support
Employment by large corporates usually provides job security, good training and sector awareness but not necessarily personal fulfilment. Arguably, to gain that you have to be brave and run your own business.
Between 2006 and 2008, Invenio’s current MD Partho Bhattacharya, CFO Manish Goyal and CTO Naveen Argarwal did just that by taking an entrepreneurial leap out of corporate comfort.
Wisely, they didn’t leap far from what they knew best – each of them having a wealth of industry knowledge and experience with major corporates in the IT world, and notably with SAP systems.
Invenio was formed as an independent consultancy to provide business solutions based on the SAP platform. It was competing for work against more than 60 established SAP partner companies, when the recession hit in 2008.
“Things were not easy, we went without salaries at times, but the recession actually helped us. People were looking for value propositions and we scored against competitors based on our better cost-effective solutions and proven technical abilities,” explained Bhattacharya.
Fortunately, Invenio was based in Reading (the founders’ homes were local) and the vibrant Thames Valley economy plus Invenio’s strong local business contacts helped the young company survive the worst ravages of the downturn.
Fledgling business or growing SMEs also need desire; usually a passion to control their own destiny and achieve success based on personal abilities and decision-making.
Invenio was founded on customer-focused decisions, including:
- Integrity. Transparent ‘no surprises’ business affairs with customers.
- Fee rates: Charge the same to all customers. No discounts.
- Reliability: Promise only what you can achieve. Deliver projects ‘on brief, on schedule, on budget.’
- Add value: Understand customer requirements and exceed their expectations.
- Accessibility: Be available to react to situations 24/7, whatever the time-zone.
- Talent: Maintain high levels of staff skill, knowledge and customer service.
These ‘foundation-stones’ remain in place today.
Invenio’s leadership team also adopted key strategies in its early years.
With SAP being the world leader in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems that underpin core business operations, and among the three largest companies in the world for software and programming, Invenio had a huge market to aim at.
Instead, Invenio concentrated on a few industry sectors – media, manufacturing, consumer products, and government – where it could provide the greatest specialist expertise and added value for clients.
Along with successful ERP solutions for businesses such as luxury yacht builders, music-makers, and electronics suppliers, Invenio has also helped simplify governmental tax and revenue management in the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Mauritius, and Barbados. (It’s a great frustration to Bhattacharya that HMRC has not yet given Invenio a chance to offer management solutions for the UK tax regime).
Invenio also decided to grow itself out of the recession.
Suffice to say that Invenio became SAP¹s fastest growing reseller in 2011, and jumped 27 places to rank No 24 in September 2013 and this year is No 20 among the top performing private technology companies in The Sunday Times TechTrack 100.
As Invenio gained customers, it recruited well. Ganesh Devle, today Invenio head of global delivery, joined in 2008, one of a core 60-plus ‘ex-colleagues’ who have since been recruited through links with SAP or companies for which the Invenio founders previously worked.
Along with astute recruitment, the company maintains its talent-base by ‘growing its own’ globally through internal training and apprenticeship schemes.
Invenio also grows its business globally. “We have never constrained ourselves to work in the UK. We simply work wherever our customers want to go,” explains Bhattacharya.
Today, Invenio has a 400-strong workforce in 11 offices (60 within its Reading headquarters) located predominantly across Europe, Asia-Pacific, USA and Africa.
In India, CTO Naveen Argarwal runs Invenio’s SAP HANA Lab, heart of the company’s innovation and real-time solutions creation. A high-calibre team proof-tests proposals for customers before implementation.
Invenio took three years to become an accredited SAP partner. Now it is a SAP certified Centre of Expertise and one of the few UK partners offering SAP Advanced Quality Management services. Despite its close working relationships with SAP, Invenio proudly maintains its independence.
This even extends to its finances. “We have grown organically, never taking a bank or venture capital loan. We earn our money and re-invest it into the business. We meet all our commitments; have never paid a tax bill or salary a day late.”
Invenio has a bright future, says Bhattacharya. Turnover has grown 25% per annum in recent years and should top £15 million this year. He anticipates Invenio growth in North American and African markets, and a fresh specialist work sector – sports clubs.
“It’s difficult to predict the future beyond 2-3 years in today’s fast-changing businessworld.”
One thing’s for sure though. This month, Invenio’s home will become a new purpose-designed open-plan head office at Winnersh, near Reading. “It is the natural choice; it’s near a lot of our customers.”
Invenio may operate worldwide, but its business head remains within the beating heart of the UK economy – the dynamic Thames Valley.