Like many global technology companies, 3i Infotech is trying to convince businesses to invest in its cloud-computing products that move data on to the web. Ashish Dass, the company's senior vice president and head of its Middle East and North Africa operations, talks about the firm's marketing strategy for growing its business.
q How did your company try to build the business when it first pushed into this region more than a decade ago?
a We invested a lot in marketing … to help us from the branding perspective. I wish TV commercials helped but they don't. We did a lot of e-mailers and seminars to smaller groups because the market was very small at that point. Then, of course, the challenge was to get the initial customers on board. Over time that happened.
How does your company try to grow its business today?
We hardly do [advertising-based] marketing because we've established good word-of-mouth. In all honesty, marketing is not the integral factor. But I think the customer comes first, and if you have established a good customer base and they're pretty happy using what you've got, they become your marketing arm.
Besides word-of-mouth marketing, how else have you tapped into that customer base?
The small business industry is very close-knit in this part of the world, and they meet often and have their own associations and industry forums. For food and beverage companies, there'll be small groups they've made. Chartered accountants will have their own. We get speakers to these forums. We have a lot of events.
There has been a lot of buzz about cloud computing lately. What do you think is the biggest benefit for companies that buy products or services that move their business data online?
Once you start using a virtual environment, there is simply low maintenance costs. It is not zero, but it goes down a considerable amount.
How do you market your cloud-computing products and services to new customers?
It's a challenge, to be honest. It has been in the news and all over the place for about a year or two now, but it's got its own challenges about people [wondering] whether their data - specifically business data - will be secure on the Internet. I personally feel it's a mindset more than anything else, and that mindset is a challenge.
How do companies like yours change that mindset?
I remember in the mid-1990s in the region, people weren't ready to buy computer applications. They were ready to develop them from scratch, and it took almost a decade before that changed. I believe we're in the same curve of maturing now, where cloud computing is in the nascent stage in this part of the world. Give or take five or six years, and I'm sure there will be a time when people will be wanting to use this more.