An attempt by three tech professionals to manage their personal subscriptions to multiple apps, platforms and channels quickly led them to discover the problem was much bigger for organisations signed up to a plethora of SaaS (software as a service) applications. This spurred Sethu Meenakshisundaram, Ritish Reddy and Chaithanya Yambari to launch Zluri.
Founded in October 2020, the Bengaluru-based startup is a comprehensive SaaS management platform for information technology (IT) teams that helps them discover, manage, secure and comply with such applications from an intelligent command centre. In short, Zluri puts the IT team back in control of their SaaS-ified landscape.
The startup has recently raised $2 million from Endiya Partners and Kalaari Capital. The funding will help expand sales, marketing and engineering functions and build integrations and no-code workflow automation for SaaS applications.
At the outset, when the three friends, who had worked together at software firm Knolskape for eight years, delved into the problem, they found that IT teams and chief information officers of companies had lost control of the mushrooming SaaS landscape. There were no processes and governance to the never-ending SaaS sprawl, leading to overspending, shadow IT, subpar utilisation, compliance issues, security threats and unauthorised usage, to name a few.
“Companies were managing hundreds of software subscriptions and the opportunity to help them manage their SaaS chaos is far greater, so we decided to build it for companies,” says Sethu.
“A fact that blew us away was that a 200-employee company today, on average, uses 150 SaaS applications without any process or governance over it. The average spend per employee on SaaS can be as high as $10,000 for companies in the US. The best they do to manage all things related to SaaS is a spreadsheet.”
How the product works
Zluri gives companies automated visibility to their SaaS apps. It helps IT teams understand all the applications used by an employee in the organisation and the money spent. They can manage vendors, contracts and renewals from a single intelligent dashboard by collating data from various sources through prebuilt application programming interface (API) integrations.
The SaaS management platform maps the data from these multiple sources using machine learning and data science to give a consolidated overview of the apps, usage, spending, licences and other aspects. It also helps keep track of departmental budget and spends and gives companies timely reminders for contract renewals and recurring payments.
“You can also identify redundant, unauthorised and duplicated apps and get detailed reports and insights to save costs while getting the maximum value out of your software stack,” says Sethu.
Finding the right fit
Zluri is entering the market at a time when enterprise software and SaaS businesses are growing fast, spurred by the shift to work from home and the need for remote communication and management infrastructure.
Barely three months old, the startup is already engaging with 50 companies to roll out the beta version of its product on a subscription-based pricing model. Sethu says the unit economics is a function of the number of full-time employees in a client company.
Given the scope for Zluri’s product, one would expect the startup found the right recruits quite quickly. But Sethu says that was a challenge, especially in building trust virtually and hiring people, who would be working remotely.
“Building the core team has been a challenge,” says the co-founder. “Hiring the right set of highly skilled and motivated candidates to work for a small startup is incredibly difficult. Luckily, our problem statement is unique and this comes with a wide range of exciting challenges. We were able to find a small set of candidates for the core team, who have the exact qualities we were looking for.”
Also, the fact that most of Zluri’s team members had exposure to entrepreneurship at some point in their careers gave them a clear understanding of how the startup ecosystem works, says Sethu.
This apart, the startup found it challenging to sort out compliance adherence requirements, especially for the US market.
A December 2020 Bain & Company report estimates Indian companies will double their share to seven to nine percent of the global SaaS market over the next two years, on the back of key strategic initiatives. The global market is expected to touch $230 billion in 2022 on a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent.
These projections could give a fillip to Zluri and other SaaS management companies catering to different segments such as Agile CRM, Chargebee, CleverTap, Freshworks and HackerRank.
Seized of the opportunity, Zluri’s founders have chalked out the next set of features to build on the platform. Sethu says as SaaS management is a complex problem that poses challenges in each domain, he and the other founders have drawn up a road map for the next few years with proper planning of teams across domains. “It needs a long-term vision with a clear focus on immediate tasks,” he adds.
Considering the SaaS market projections and Zluri’s scope in that landscape, investors have been quick to put their money in the startup.
“Given that we have reached the tipping point in the adoption of SaaS, managing and securing SaaS applications centrally with a high degree of automation is a big focus area for IT teams in large enterprises as well as mid-size companies, globally,” says Endiya Partners Managing Director Sateesh Andra. “With solid domain knowledge and necessary skills, we believe Zluri will be quick off the blocks. We are excited to partner with Sethu, Ritish and Chaithanya in Zluri’s journey to be a dominant force in the SaaS ops management space.”
Vani Kola, Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, echoes his view: “The founders of Zluri come together with complementary skills and deep experience in SaaS businesses. With global expenditure on SaaS applications exceeding $100 billion, we believe SaaS operations management will be a very large opportunity. We are excited to partner with Zluri to build a global SaaS business from India.”
Sethu lays out Zluri’s ambition: to become the single source of truth for IT teams in a server-less world and enable seamless real-time collaboration on the technology front with finance, procurement, operations and business teams.