Spy lock for software

Corporate espionage has been around for the longest time. At the beginning of the millennium, Procter & Gamble admitted to a spying operation on its competitor Unilever. In January 2010, Google said it had detected a sophisticated cyber attack that resulted in theft of its intellectual property.

Closer home, the Delhi Police last year arrested Oil Ministry officials, corporate executives and even a journalist for allegedly leaking classified government documents to energy companies for money.

The threat is real, and the stalkers could be competitors and even employees. In such a scenario, can companies keep their strategies and innovations secret? Vishal Gupta and Abhijit Tannu have made it their business to ensure they do.

In 2009, the two started Seclore, a security software company which builds products to secure companies’ internal data from being compromised. It provides security solutions in areas of information usage control, digital rights management and data outsourcing.

Over the years, the company has travelled a good distance. What began as a project in IIT Bombay in 2008 is now spread across 30 countries. “When we started, nobody was talking about the issues in cyber and digital security that we wanted to address. The challenge then was to convince people that what we were talking about was important. Almost nine years later, everyone is talking about it,” says Mr. Gupta.

The idea saw the light of day after the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an information technology business incubator at IIT Bombay, adopted the project and helped make it a company. “Our challenge now is to differentiate ourselves from the rest,” says Mr. Gupta.

For the first few years, the Seclore office was inside the IIT campus. Seclore was a two-member team and the focus was entirely on Indian companies. Today, the company has offices in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Singapore, Dubai, Riyadh, Amsterdam, New York and San Francisco, and employs about 230 people around the world.

When the company started its operations in 2009, they were the only ones interested in digital security, and in that sense, Seclore was the pioneer its field in India. And now, Mr. Gupta adds, they differentiate themselves from their competitors by making the most automated security products using artificial intelligence and analytics. “We are also the only company in the field which touches the end users,” says Mr. Tannu.

While explaining their product to an audience in May last year, Mr. Gupta had said, “What is happening to information that needs to go outside of an enterprise, like contracts to lawyers, term sheets to potential investors, customer data to service providers and financial statements to auditors?” This kind of data, he added, “is only covered by non-disclosure agreements and faith in God.”

So what Seclore does is protect the information going out of the enterprise. The way itdoes it is by making the information aware of who is supposed to access it, what are each of these people supposed to do, when and from where. “Now because the information itself is aware of its own security, the security of the information becomes independent of the securities of networks, devices, applications and so on,” says Mr. Gupta.

New clients

The journey, he says, has been “difficult but steady.”

“We have had to consistently innovate both in terms of technology and product placement. One thing that has helped us massively is that we have always worked very closely with our customers.” Unlike most other companies, their customers already know what Seclore’s next product will be like, as the products are designed using inputs from customers, says Mr. Gupta.

While their client profile — companies in insurance, financial services, legal, telecom and manufacturing — has stayed the same over the years, government enterprises have now shown interest and invested in their products.

Seclore received an investment of $13 million in March this year. Only last week, Indian business group TechnoBind announced a tie-up with Seclore, and said it will offer support to its strategic and business expansion plans in India.

Starting out and evolving in Mumbai has given them unique circumstances to grow in, while throwing multiple challenges at them. “Well, Mumbai isn’t the hub for tech talent in the country. It wasn’t much of a problem when we started out, but as we expand and start recruiting in bigger numbers, we realise Mumbai isn’t the ideal place,” says Mr. Tannu. The high cost of living in the city has increased the cost of employing a person for the company, adding to their worries.

But being in Mumbai has also allowed them to grow in a certain trajectory and speed. “Mumbai offers a very unique package for a company like ours, and I don’t think any other Indian city offers that. The city has the research institute where our project incubated, it has the financial companies which have been our customers, and also has the sources of investment for our company — you cannot ask for more,” says Mr. Gupta.

More challenges

When the company went global, it had to make the product quality suitable for demanding international markets.

“Maintaining a global presence for a relatively small company which is still in its adolescence is never easy; usually a 230-people-strong company hardly even moves out of one office,” says Mr. Tannu. “But the ultimate vision for the company is to take it from a stage where it was a college project, and make it a market leader in the information and market security space.”

With a little under 500 direct customers and over four million direct users of their technology, they say there is enough to keep them going to achieve their target before too long. “Fights over security are more than a thousand years old. It’s just that the weapons have changed, from bows and arrows then to information now.”

What keeps them going, he says, is the belief that they are helping the right side. “That is what has made us get up at 4 in the morning, catch a flight to our customers at 5 and work through the day, year after year,” says Mr. Gupta.

Future plans

Seclore recorded a 83 per cent year-on-year growth in the last financial year but Mr. Gupta says they still have a long way to go. “For now, we want to expand both in terms of employee strength and revenue. By the end of 2017, we plan to have about 350 people in the group, and as always, aim for a 100 per cent year-over-year growth ever year.”

To budding entrepreneurs, Mr. Tannu has a word of advice: Have a clear focus on customers and revenue. “Your technology will only be successful if you have paying customers.”

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 1:52:48 pm |