Making money out of something that is free is not child’s play. But companies like Taashee Linux Services are encouraging examples of organisations that can make money out of open source technology. The business strategy, however, has to be really strong. Diksha P Gupta from Open Source For You magazine spoke to Manoj Kummar Garg, co-founder and COO of Taashee Linux Services, to learn more about the firm’s entrepreneurial journey. Read on…
Linux is not only an increasingly popular technology, but is also a business proposition for many. Despite being ‘free’software, it is a source of moolah for many companies across the globe. Taashee Linux Services is one such firm making it big in the world of Linux.
Speaking to Open Source For You, Manoj Kummar Garg, co-founder and COO, Taashee Linux Services, revealed the company’s strategy for promoting open source technology in the Indian market, particularly among enterprises and SMEs. He said, “The Indian market is customer driven, and I think most customers want to save money without compromising on the quality of the product. Our firm started out with Linux services initially because Linux was more popular among enterprises as a cost effective alternate to proprietary and expensive software. Now, even though we offer solutions around the entire infrastructure, the cloud and middleware stack, we still retain ‘Linux Services’ as a part of our company’s name because Linux is still the underlying technology for most of the open source software. Besides, we got lot of appreciation from our customers, partners and peers, and hence have been encouraged to continue in the same way. In a nutshell, our only strategy is to foresee the importance of upcoming technologies and keep ourselves ready with some of the next big things (if not all), so that we are well prepared to offer our customers the relevant services when there is a demand for those technologies.”
Companies like Taashee have the scope to grow today primarily because of the revamped image of open source technology, which is gradually becoming the sole choice for many functions in enterprises and SMBs. Garg throws more light on the company’s growth. He says, “There are a lot of factors that actually helped us to reach where we are currently. First and foremost, the message that, Open source is enterprise ready, which the print media (including magazines like OSFY) and other channels are taking to its readers has actually helped us with our customers. Also, a lot of myths about open source not being a commercially viable model have been proven wrong by the success of organisations like Red Hat, EnterpriseDB and others in India. The commitment of the community towards the code is increasing day by day because of reasons like a better collaborating infrastructure with better Internet connectivity across the major cities in the country.”
In addition, there have been major OSS-based success stories in some government initiatives in the field of public services (the UID), education and defence. This has attracted the attention of those in the enterprise domain who never thought open source was really capable of managing the massive production workloads that they require.
Things have changed to the extent that companies like Taashee do not find it difficult to reach out to customers with their solutions. But, reaching out to a customer is one thing and selling a solution to that customer is another. Garg says, “Yes, reaching out to the customer is not much of a problem as you build the brand. But selling and re-selling is still difficult because of many reasons. The first important reason is the complex locking-in policies of proprietary vendors. For example, if you run any Oracle database in a virtual machine other than Oracle VM, it is not supported. Another important disadvantage is that certain open source software is so stable that it has been running well for years at various production locations. So even though there is OSS for enterprises available on an annual subscription model that customers need to renew, some do not feel the need to renew the software YoY because it is so stable.”
But all that doesn’t dampen the company’s spirit to take open source technology to the next level. Taashee uses a different approach to penetrate the market. Garg informs, “We keep learning new and upcoming technologies, and that helps us in growing our business. Also, we do not discourage our customers from using proprietary software. Instead, we encourage them to use the best in class software from both the closed and open source domains and help them in ensuring interoperability. Also, we believe that most customers have done enough research to understand what is good, bad or not relevant for their business. But, as an open source solutions company, it is very important to deliver more than the expectations of a customer every time we get involved in a project, because the reputation of open source software rests in the hands of the implementation partner during the live project.”
A majority of Taashee’s business comes from the domestic market and the company sees a huge potential in the government and SME segments. However, the firm also works with large SIs in India to provide services that are really niche and unique in nature. Garg asserts, “In the last few years we have seen huge growth in the middleware space since a lot of customers decided to choose the 3-tier application architecture instead of the client-server architecture. We have seen a lot of such implementations in transaction intensive sectors like banking, insurance, e-commerce, stock brokering, etc.”
Due to this open source, fool-proof strategy, the company has witnessed over 100 per cent growth, year on year. Garg confesses, “In the initial few years, achieving that pace was easier because our base figures were low. But as our turnover increased, even if we achieved a higher turnover, the percentage of growth would go down. In our case, I think we are lucky to have achieved a decent percentage of growth, YoY, and we expect the same to continue over the next couple of years with the help of our new offerings in cloud, application and middleware services. These include cloud infrastructure using OpenStack, Alfresco, JBoss Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), BRMS and Portal Platform.”
Advantages and challenges
Taashee is one success story that shows how open source can lead to a win-win situation. Besides believing in the philosophy of open source technology, those at Taashee believe that FOSS comes with several other advantages too. Garg lists both the advantages that a customer usually gets while using open source as well as the challenges involved in the process.
- There is no vendor lock-in involved
- The quality of code is good
- Faster time to market for any new feature
- Strategic advantage with respect to the flexibility of customisation and integration with third party tools.
Open software is now divided into two layers — one is free-to-use open source software, and the other is enterprise open source software.
OSS that is being backed by OEMs like Red Hat, EnterpriseDB, Alfresco, etc, for SLA-driven support is highly tested and certified on various hardware, and is known as enterprise OSS, which has annual subscription costs attached to it.
There are free-to-use OSS, like CentOS, etc, which are only supported by the community and forums, for which there is no SLA driven guarantee to the customer with respect to support or bug fixes.
One big challenge with respect to enterprise OSS implementation is the customer’s inability to differentiate between the above two categories.