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The idea occurred to him when he was consulting for a pharmaceutical company to help it streamline and monitor the working of its field force. That was when he realised there was no product readily available in the market.

He then developed a solution that was just what the pharma company required. The next step was why not develop it as a product and market it to other pharm companies that would need to monitor their field sales personnel. Thus was born SwaaS Systems Pvt Ltd.

Swaas in Sanskrit means breath or oxygen and, the 38-year-old Anand Natraj V, Managing Director, says that is what his start-up wants to be, especially for companies with field sales personnel.

Backed by Fulcrum

The company that Anand tried to help out was Curatio based in Chennai, one of the portfolio companies of Fulcrum Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm. Fulcrum has also entirely funded the Chennai-based SwaaS, to the extent of about ₹4.5 crore. Fulcrum came in as an angel investor and has been there right from the beginning, says Anand.

The first product that SwaaS developed was called Hi Doctor that helps sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies log in at the end of their day’s work and file a report on the doctors and pharmacists they met and products they talked about to the doctor. The representative logs in to the company’s website and files his or her report using the Hi Doctor facility. “We felt there was a strong need for a niche solution in the market, which is how we started SwaaS,” says Anand.

SwaaS initially focussed on pharmaceutical companies in Chennai and sold the Hi Doctor product to companies such as TTK, Tablets India and Shield Healthcare. Encouraged by the response, SwaaS then launched it in Mumbai followed by Ahmedabad. It now works with 75 pharma companies and over 30,000 sales representatives.

“We figured out that instead of giving them a product and installing it in their premises, we decided we will do it on our own. We will charge them on a per rep, per month basis,” he says.

Which means, instead of a pharmaceutical company buying the product, SwaaS will give it the right to use. It charges the company ₹150 a month per sales representative.

Thanks to this, the representatives now file their daily call report and it helps the pharma companies monitor their work more closely. Hi Doctor is web-based and the pharma companies buy it and give access to its representatives. Hi Doctor also helps the sales representatives get a complete report on how many others have met doctors and which medicines have been detailed and the samples that have been given.

When the representative visits the retail pharmacist, he or she will get an idea of the drugs prescribed by a particular doctor. A small module called retail chemist prescription audit helps the representatives keep track of doctors’ prescriptions. This, according to Anand, helps the representatives assess the doctor, both in terms of potential and his own performance. Anand, a B.Com graduate from Vivekananda College in Chennai and an MBA from IIM-Calcutta, worked in two IT companies – Ramco Systems and Satyam – before starting off on his own. He started SwaaS Systems in 2008 and launched the first product – Hi Doctor – in 2009.

Another product

Six months ago, SwaaS launched another product – Wide Angle – again targeted at the representatives. With this, through a tablet or a similar device, the representative can detail in colour the various brands of a pharmaceutical company, instead of carrying bulky brochures and displaying them to doctors.

The tablet will record how long the doctor has spent on each brand. SwaaS has signed up some big names in the pharma world for the Wide Angle.

“Hi Doctor is our staple product. We are growing Wide Angle. It has got good response. Big companies are interested in it,” says Anand.

For Wide Angle, SwaaS charges its customers ₹500 per rep per month. The company is now working on a training product for the representatives, which they can access when they are in doctors’ clinics waiting to be called in for a demonstration.

According to Anand, SwaaS has broken even, but is still investing on newer products.

The next step for SwaaS is to sell its products in the US, a huge market.

There are competing products in the US, but they are much more expensive than what SwaaS offers, he says.

For instance, Hi Doctor costs about $3 a rep a month and Wide Angle about $10, while competing products cost $80-100 per person per month. SwaaS will explore the US market shortly and after that post a sales team there. After the US, SwaaS is looking to enter other countries.

Both the products now on offer can be used by other sectors, especially field sales personnel. A few consumer goods and real estate companies have bought Hi Doctor.

WhatsApp-like product

SwaaS is in the process of creating a WhatsApp-like application only for enterprises, where employees can share organisational information in a more structured way. And, once an employee quits the company, he or she will be automatically deleted from the list. The product called Wire will be launched shortly.

Along with the planned entry into the US, SwaaS is looking to raise ₹8-10 crore.

The process has just started. Anand believes that this money will see SwaaS through for the next three or four years, after which the company can sustain on its own.