March 29, 2010 – Noted publisher Malcolm Forbes once said that diamonds are chunks of carbon that stuck to their job. Replicon, a Calgary-based software company, is that quote personified. The company, headed by Indian-born immigrants, Lakshmi and Raj Narayanaswamy, is that gem of success that rose from the ashes of initial failures.
It was 1996 when Raj and Lakshmi, both computer science and electrical engineers from top universities of India, decided to step into their field as entrepreneurs. “Web-based solutions were a happening thing at that time. We tried the launch of buying-tracking software and failed. Another attempt too fizzled. By the time the third attempt at the product flopped we were down by nearly $100,000.
“It was quite a painful process and we were paying one credit card through the other,” recalls Lakshmi. “We panicked. Both of us had three options in front of us — declare bankruptcy, pursue a dream with a vision or quit entrepreneurship and get a job. We chose the second.
They discussed and delved. “With the help of an external consultant, we were able to focus on our weakness. While both of us were good at engineering, we lacked in marketing and management with no business background,” Raj pinpoints. “We corrected that.”
Replicon is born
The couple stuck to their vision and at last were able to make their first sales to a Seattle-based firm. Replicon was born. Raj and Lakshmi became the co-CEOs of the company.
Fourteen years down the line, Replicon has become a leader in web-based timesheet and expense management software. It serves 6,700 clients (big ones like Ernst & Young, Sony, Schlumberger, Intel and Volvo) from 62 different countries and in January this year was ranked 17th on the Fast Growth 50 by Alberta Venture magazine. Lakshmi figures among Canada’s top women entrepreneurs, ranking sixth among Canada’s top female entrepreneurs by Profit magazine in 2009. And it wasn’t her first year making the list either.
What is the lady’s secret in being among the top entrepreneurs’ years in a row? “I just focus on the trends. My endeavour is to provide value and give the very best to the customers and employees. I introspect a lot,” she shares.
The company’s employee list looks like an international roster. Ninety workers in its Calgary downtown head office are drawn from different nationalities. “We value skills and try to imbibe the best from whatever country or culture they come from. Multiculturalism just comes by and [I am] proud of it,” says Raj.
“Focus on being open, authentic, professional and have fun in whatever you do. Be committed no matter what colour you are. As a human and a worker, you should gel,” says the co-CEO.
Raj chose Calgary as the head office because it was here that he first landed on a work permit. “I liked the place. A lot of tech-savvy and talented people around,” he says.
Offices in America, India and beyond
With offices already in the United States and India, the couple now plans to extend the footprints to countries in Europe and Asia. “Australia is being considered seriously,” Lakshmi divulged
Unlike other companies, which keep the India office just as a business process outsourcing hub, Replicon actually moves people between there and Canada. “As many as 40 per cent of our total set of employees is in India. We relocate them here for training. This way barriers are lowered and interaction gets better,” Lakshmi says.
On the roadmap that they have carved out for this year, Lakshmi gets a bit philosophical. Quoting Jim Collins, she says: “Not one of the good-to-great companies focused obsessively on growth. Growth is good, but also limit the goal. This year besides overseas expansion, we would like to enrich our relationships further with the clients.”