Automation of Anything is one of the Megatrends and it’s at the top of CIOs’ Roadmap (next to Cloudification, Cyber Security and some more). The degree of achievable automation is high: for instance, it is estimated, that far more than 80 percent of Finance processes will be automated in 5 to 10 years through new technologies such as RPA (Robotic Process Automation).
In the following interview I’m talking to Mindful Automation CEO and Founder Manzoor Ahmed (Here: Manzoor’s LinkedIn Profile) on his vision for Mindful Automation and on the Indian Start-Up ecosystem. Mindful Automation is a fairly young Start-Up (started in August 2021), however, it has already some customer projects running and achieves impressive results in automating workflows.
The Start-Up is headquartered in Bangalore, India’s “Silicon Valley”, where I had lived for quite a while. So I’m familiar with the dynamics of that city, where an estimated 500.000 IT professionals make Bangalore the hottest and most productive Start-Up hotspot.
Sebastian: Hi Manzoor, thank you for taking the time to have this conversation. With our WebCon the distance Berlin-Bangalore shrinks to a mere milliseconds, it’s always amazing again. So, let’s dive right into our topic. Given that there’s already a couple of widely used RPA solutions available, what business needs did you want to solve with the Mindful Automation solution? Manzoor: We should always ask ourselves – with regard to the players you mentioned – why the automation is not yet being widely adopted? And why do we see a stop in the automation journey at those companies, who adapted automation from known players? I am referring to a study by Ernst&Young that states the following: Despite widespread global adoption of RPA 30% to 50% of initial RPA projects fail.
That’s where mindful automation comes into the picture. We believe that every organization can benefit hugely from automation. And we believe that our offering will ensure that organizations stay on that journey on a long term. That’s only possible with a quicker implementation cycle and early ROI. That’s our promise.
Sebastian: So, how would you sum up the USPs of the Mindful Automation solution compared against the bots from UIPath or BluePrism? Put differently: What’s your elevator pitch for your company? Manzoor: In a nutshell, we have shaped our offering in such way that the pitfalls will be avoided that cause such a high share of RPA projects to fail. That means in detail:
First, one reason for failed RPA projects is brittle scripts. Mindful Automation avoids such scripts, it’s a no-code application. Second, there have been issues with coding inefficiencies, that is: inefficiency of developers. It should be clear from my previous statement, that a no-code application won’t have such dependencies from developers. Third, failure in RPA projects also stems from long-term technical debt. Our answer to that: We promise an early ROI; and actually, this is not just an empty promise or marketing slogan, but that’s an actual achievement in our projects that we’ve done so far.
Sebastian: Is Mindful Automation a company that provides only the tools, or do you support clients from Consulting to the actual Roll-Out of the software? Manzoor: It provides only a tool, actual roll-out will be carried out by partners. Having said that there will be a fully-fledged team support available for our partners to ensure the success of each case.
Sebastian: Software companies as of today do benefit from the availability of quite a few Open Source libraries, that holds also for machine learning: Tensorflow, Kreas, PyTorch and so on. How would you describe your architectural approach in order to achieve fast feature output, sustainability of the technology stack and robust performance? Manzoor: We benefit from some of the libraries you mentioned that have been used as a base foundation in our architectural design; however, we’ve done some modifications and enhancements in terms of logic. For example, in order to achieve the best performance we have created our own design and used some mathematical formulas along with computer vision to improve the accuracy. If we talk about image optimization and accuracy I have followed some concepts from the photoshop tool and its approach towards image processing.
Sebastian: What were the biggest challenges in coming up with the software design for your no-code application? Manzoor: I will give two challenges as an example: First, image cleaning, rotation and optimization. You need to follow this before you apply OCR, but most of us follow available libraries which are not accurate enough to serve the purpose. And that’s where we invested much time in building our own cleaning tools with our inbuilt mathematical techniques.
Second, in terms of computer vision we have spent a good amount of time and effort solving image template matching at higher levels of speed where robots have to map approximately 30 images in a single shot and perform the actions immediately.
Sebastian: What’s the roadmap for your company in the next 5 years? And: Do you plan any funding rounds in the near future? Manzoor: We have defined both a long-term 6-year plan and a short term 3-year plan. Within 3 years we intend to have a global presence with a known brand. After 6 years we want to be IPO-ready. Actually, we’re about to start a Funding Round soon in order to achieve our 3 year targets.
Sebastian: Do you have a sweet spot in terms of the target customers? Manzoor: For us Retail has been a sweet spot. As the P2P processes are very much manual and there is a big space for automation with multiple departments of retail.
Sebastian: If you go by Gartner reports and articles in CIO magazins, automation is on top of IT managers agenda. However, seen through the eyes of a salesperson, things sometimes turn out to be different. What’s your take on that point, how much time do you still spend convincing business owners about the need for automation and digital transformation? Manzoor: Yes you’re right. managers are still reluctant for adopting automation. Their worries are typically the following: First, what will I do with x% of accuracy or automation when no one is promising 100% automation. I still have to rely on humans for work. – Our answer: We give a calculated estimate of time reduction, efforts reduction, and increased efficiency.
Their next worry is about Cost: That’s where we won by point out our No Code – No developer approach. And another objection is about Scalability cost. Our answer to that is a processed based pricing model.
Having said that still some customers will opt-out for a matter of time and then come back after some more research. Some customers call even just to learn about automation and benefits. Speaking of time: We follow an influencer model where the time taken for each deal will be between 1 to 2 months.
Sebastian: In what regard is the Indian market different from, say, the Western European market? When John Doe thinks of India, he might assume that there’s so much cheap labuor, why bother about automation, for example? Manzoor: I agree to some extent. But it’s not about labour overall, the Indian business ecosystem has changed drastically. Every organization today thinks of scalability and they believe in automation is the only way to scale effortlessly. For example, you realize a problem of transaction dispute and it’s recurring every time. Earlier people used to think let’s buy software/include one person to monitor this, then the root cause is still not solved; and as you grow you cannot keep doing this. For all this automation will be the only answer.
Sebastian: Can you give us a bit of a feel for the Bangalorian Start-Up ecosystem? In the past years, India has seen a huge growth of Start-Ups and the emergence of quite a few unicorns. With a total number of around 70 unicorns, India is only behind the USA and China, which each have several hundred of them. By comparison, market researcher CB Insights comes to just 19 German unicorns. What’s your personal take on the Start-Up scene in India? Does Mindful Automation benefit from that? Manzoor: It’s a proud moment for us in India here and gives us a sense of confidence in doing business. Definitely, we are getting benefits from this. I will explain this with an example: before enterprise customers used to give deals only for big players who are known in the market for quite a long time. but now they have started believing that startups can get an innovative solution for them
Sebastian: Thanks, Manzoor. All the best for you, your family and continued success with Mindful Automation! Manzoor: Thanks, Sebastian for giving us the opportunity to put across our thoughts. It was a pleasure.