Rohan Murty, son of Indian tech billionaire NR Narayana Murthy and brother-in-law of UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, is looking to create his own legacy with enterprise software firm Soroco.
When Rohan Murty started his software firm Soroco eight years ago, he began by writing code and building a platform for automating large chunks of a business online. Soon joined by cofounders Arjun Narayan and George Nychis, their fledgling company concentrated on improving the workflow of entire divisions, not just team tasks. “We’d built something where we could automate what 250 people could do,” says Murty. “We wanted to automate at scale.”
As it turned out, it wasn’t that simple. The problem, they realized, “was finding out what we needed to automate.” That led Murty to a eureka moment in 2017: there was more value in building a platform that captured and analyzed untapped data to immediately convey a bigger picture of how work gets done. “It wasn’t easy to change courses midstream when we had so many customers and an existing working proposition,” Murty, Soroco’s chief technology officer, recalls the decision to pivot. Today his company—which he runs out of Boston, Bangalore and London—is among industry leaders in the data-mining and process-mining technologies used by firms to gain insights to boost productivity and sales. “What Google did for the Web and Facebook did for social media, we are doing for office work,” he says.
Ambitious plans are underway to scale as Soroco comes off an explosive year of growth, in hopes of tapping an estimated $15 billion market that encompasses 500 million white-collar workers worldwide. So far Murty says he’s invested tens of millions of dollars in the venture. (His father NR Narayana Murthy is the billionaire cofounder of the $18 billion [revenue] software services giant Infosys.) “Soroco has laid out a very strong vision for what their technology can do and the value that businesses can derive from it,” says Amardeep Modi, a New York-based vice president at research firm Everest Group. “The challenge is to execute on this vision and road map.”
“I’d like to believe that we have seen the future a little ahead of the others. Now it’s a matter of who runs the hardest and the fastest.”
It all started one weekend in Boston. “I built a small prototype to find out if something was automatable or not,” says Murty, 40, at his residence in Bangalore late last year. That “germ of an idea” ultimately led to Soroco’s flagship platform Scout, which identifies employee work patterns across documents, spreadsheets and software systems. Real-time results are presented through a work graph that shows the sequence of steps that teams take to get tasks done to help clients understand what can be improved, from making changes to operational design to rebalancing workloads. Says Nychis, “This was a very difficult computer science problem that we had to solve at scale. There are hundreds of millions of data points within teams. You have to take this large dataset and bring out the business context that teams can actually use while building a seamless user experience.”
For example, at a large consumer goods company, Soroco found employees switched about 350 times between 22 apps and websites while executing one supply chain transaction, adding up to 3,600 toggles a day. At a UK firm struggling with payroll issues, the work graph showed 60% of the timesheet reporting was happening outside the company’s core systems. Customers use these insights to derive savings. It has “transformed the way we work,” Radovan Simic, EMEA digital lead for supply chain management at Bayer, says by phone. Soroco helped the pharma giant save nearly 20,000 hours of work by its Asia-Pacific supply chain team last year.
Soroco has over 40 patents, and Murty says its intellectual property is a big differentiator in an increasingly crowded market that includes deep-pocket competitors like IBM, SAP Signavio and New York-listed UiPath. Soroco gets the bulk of its revenue, which Murty says runs in the tens of millions of dollars, through annual subscription agreements. In the past year Soroco has struck strategic partnerships with more than 60 firms including Sydney-based IT consulting outfit BCS Technology International and Pune IT services firm Tech Mahindra, taking the total number of such tie-ups to over 70. Soroco also signed on more than 70 customers to bring the total count to more than 100.
On the agenda for 2023 is making inroads in Asia-Pacific—by bolstering its sales force and expanding in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Vietnam. Companies have “great visibility on how their systems like SAP and CRM operate, but 60% of the workday is outside of these systems and apps,” says Soroco’s CEO Samson David—formerly a chief delivery officer at both DXC Technology and HP Enterprise—who was hired in 2020 to ramp up expansion.
Soroco’s AI platform maps out how office tasks get done to find ways to improve workflow. This sample work graph shows the sequence of steps employees take to process a return order and issue a credit note.
He’s keen to drive growth through partnerships with large tech companies so they can pitch their products and services together to outside clients. “We sell to our partners and we also sell through them,” said David. “For example, our work graph gives partners like Tech Mahindra a differentiation when they pitch to their clients. And Tech Mahindra has more zeroes in their revenue than we have, so it gives us scale.” Tech Mahindra’s business process services head Birendra Sen describes it as a 360-degree partnership to bolster its customer experience strategy.
Murty’s own tech journey started when he was eight. He recalls how his father came home from work one day to find his son in front of the computer. “I think he was in a bad mood or something,” said Murty. “He just yelled at me saying you were wasting your time. You are better off going to a computer class.” So his mother, well-known Indian author Sudha Murty, enrolled Murty in a course for the programming language BASIC in the largely middle-class neighborhood of Jayanagar where he grew up. It was a class for adults, and Murty found himself learning alongside 20-somethings from several IT companies—including Infosys.
At first he didn’t understand a word of what was going on, he says. “I just stuck around listening,” and after about four months, it started to make sense. He followed it with a course in programming language C and by middle school he was writing thousands of lines of code. “I finally felt like I understood something very well,” said Murty. After my father saw what I was doing he just fed the beast,” Murty plying with books on computer science.
Murty, who used his mother’s spelling of their surname (without an H), didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur. He thought he would get into teaching like his uncle, a professor of astronomy at Caltech in the US. Murty got a bachelor’s degree in computer science at New York’s Cornell University, taking graduate-level courses his freshman year. He juggled his studies with part-time jobs—as a programmer, math grader, teaching assistant and dining hall worker—to earn extra money for books and to fund trips to tech conferences. Then came a Ph.D. in computer science from Harvard in 2011, a year as a postdoc at MIT, and three years as a junior fellow at Harvard’s Society of Fellows.
He returned briefly to Bangalore to work as an executive assistant to his dad at Infosys before moving to Boston to launch his own company with friends Nychis, now Soroco’s vice president of architecture, and Narayan, who’s the chief product officer. “I started Soroco because I really wanted to build something that people would use,” says Murty.
Analysts point out there are significant challenges ahead for Soroco, including broadening its client base and expanding marketing initiatives, as it moves into its next phase of growth. Murty says the work graph’s full potential has yet to be realized.
In January, Soroco rolled out a new offering that allows customers, partners and third parties to build their own products by tapping into data generated by Soroco’s platform. “The pull is from customers who are saying that they can do so many different things with the data,” says Murty, who intends to bootstrap expansion plans. “I’d like to believe that we have seen the future a little ahead of the others,” he adds. “Now it’s a matter of who runs the hardest and the fastest.”
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