It’s time we embrace the new reality around us and move forward. As organisations and their employees start to stare at a gloomy next few months, it’s quite evident that the traditional workplace will never be the same anymore. But remote work has come a long way just in the past two months, and it’s here to stay.
Many industry experts and business leaders also said that a majority of companies will continue to support remote work even after this crisis is over. In the past couple of months, Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify all announced indefinite work from home for their employees. But without the right technology or applications in place, it becomes difficult for companies to maintain business continuity. So it’s not only good for enterprises to have the right digital tools in place, but essential to survival, particularly during crises such as a pandemic.
Ahmedabad-based enterprise tech startup Aavenir is looking to solve one of the biggest challenges for traditional businesses that rely on the traditional procurement chain. It is looking to solve the workflow challenges that businesses face in procuring vendors or goods, contract management as well as invoice management and payments.
Citing the example of Amazon in simplifying the procurement or buying process for consumers, Jesal Mehta, founder and CEO of Aavenir, told Inc42 that it is not the case with enterprises. He believes that employees are using outdated enterprise applications and tools that don’t appeal to modern users. This is especially true for companies in traditional businesses.
Mehta said Aavenir focusses on three areas — automating the procurement process for enterprises by leveraging technology like AI, use of cloud computing tools for storage of data, and simplified user experience, particularly in the source-to-pay procurement process, including Procureflow for procurement activities, RFPflow to manage and review multiple request sent by the vendors in one place, contract lifecycle management (CLM) (Contractflow) and Invoiceflow for accounts payable automation solutions among others.
For instance, Aavenir’s Contractflow enables employees to manage contracts under the watchful eyes of legal, thereby reducing the risks and improving contract performance. Invoiceflow, on the other hand, solves multi-vendor invoice data extraction and processing problems by leveraging technology like AI and ML, thereby improving cash flow and minimizing payment errors.
A veteran and a techie from Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, Mehta has over three decades of experience in enterprise SaaS, procure-to-pay (P2P), and contract lifecycle management (CLM) domains among others. Along the way, he has worked in various senior management roles across companies, including iMANY, Apttus & Revitas (presently called Model N) and others.
At Apttus, Mehta was instrumental in scaling the business to new heights, seeing it grow from under 50 employees in 2011 to 1400 employees, with 800 in India and revenue of about $200 Mn. This success drove Mehta to launch Aavenir. “Since I was building applications on a hybrid cloud platform, I decided to replicate a similar model in some other context, particularly in source-to-pay because of wider reach and domain expertise, and that is when I stumbled upon ServiceNow,” he added.
In May 2019, Aavenir partnered with ServiceNow which offers an app store for enterprise tools. It has a client base of approximately 5.4K enterprises globally, including Fortune 500 companies such as Deloitte, Moody’s, Mphasis, Malaysia Airlines, Novartis, Redhat, Vodafone among others. This greatly expanded the reach of Aavenir’s products, which helped it tap the massive market for procure-to-pay market
According to an analysis by Reports and Data, the global procure-to-pay software market is expected to reach $9.2 Bn by 2026, from $5 Bn in 2018, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.6%. The growth of the industry is said to be fuelled by streamlining business operations, strategic partnerships and automating workflow among others.
Aavenir claimed that it does not have a direct competitor in the space as it works in a horizontal marketplace (ServiceNow) where it covers the entire gamut of procure-to-pay solutions across departments. This allows it to reach more customers. However, in terms of procurement enterprise software, it competes against the likes of Apttus, Zykus, TradeShift, Ariba, Basware, Xeeva, ProcurePack among others.
Gaining Momentum In The Covid Times
Since the whole Covid-19 situation unravelled in March 2020, startups in India have gone through some really rough patches, with no business, pause on funding, zero revenue and cost-cutting, layoffs, discretionary spending by customers etc. Amid these harsh realities, enterprise tech startups emerged as saviours for businesses allowing them to continue their operations digitally.
Aavenir not only continued to support customers that came its way, but also managed to raise $2 Mn in seed funding from VC firm Accel Partners during the lockdown. The funding would be used to boost product development and strengthen sales and marketing operations, the company had said in April.
“Except highly impacted sectors like hospitality and airlines, the rest of the economy has been chugging along pretty well, particularly the IT industry, where the customers have continued to buy our services,” Mehta said.
At the time, Aavenir had also offered few of its services for free to help businesses during the entire work from home transition. For instance, it had provided free access to Contractflow, its contract lifecycle management product for 120 days.
In the last few months, the company said that it has witnessed an uptick in its activities, and now the company is slowly gaining momentum in the market. It said that last month, it has even started hiring activity. “In the absence of workflow tools, enterprises currently are relying on email for communication, invoicing and procurement activities, and a lot of information gets lost in the process. Enterprises, today, are realising the importance of our products, and it is only growing. Therefore, we are also increasing our spend” said Mehta.
Going forward, Aavenir said that it is working towards automating its contract management, invoice extraction and RFP activities, alongside continuing to do a lot of research in the areas of AI, where it is focusing heavily on converting unstructured data, be it text, images, PDFs, Word documents, which are part of the contract, invoice process to convert into a structured data, thereby providing enterprises with actionable insights to make informed choices.
As the world is moving towards the new reality, enterprises are working remotely. In these times, it is also equally important for them to work smartly by automating redundant processes. With the mantra of “do more with less”, Aavenir’s founder said that enterprises need to treat their employees like their customers, provide them with the right tool, technology and user experience. “In other words, if you are trying to offer the best possible product, technology, user experience to your customers, why not to your employees?”