February 16, 2014

The Real Litmus Test: The Litmus7 Story

Venu Gopalakrishnan was one of the first entrepreneurs and start-up founders I met after coming to Kochi. His journey to entrepreneurship left a lasting impression on me. Today, I would like to introduce you to Venu and his company, Litmus7, located in Infopark, Kerala, India. 

Jennifer: Good day, Venu. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us today.
Venu: Good day to you too, Jennifer.

Jennifer: I’d like to start off by asking, was entrepreneurship always your dream, or did you happen into it by accident? Please share with us how you became an entrepreneur!
Venu: Although I do not come from a business family, I always had this dream of doing something on my own. So after working for few companies (including Wipro) I felt it was time to start out on my own. I believed that I could provide clients with a more customized and exclusive service. If quality is ensured then there are always takers and that’s what pushed me into starting a company which would provide the best of services.

Jennifer: I am really fascinated by your company’s name, Litmus7. How did you choose this name?
Venu: Now, that's an interesting question. The name Litmus7 was coined to represent the meaning “unadulterated service”. As we all know, Litmus test is used to find the PH value of a liquid and if the value is 7 then it is pure water, which is unadulterated. Here, the industry we are into is flooded with millions of IT companies, but then I realized there is an opportunity to carve a niche in this very crowded space. As we speak, we have been able to make a difference and the name Litmus7 has definitely helped us to stand apart by creating an unique identity or brand if you may so call it.


Jennifer: I am very intrigued by your story. What is your company’s niche? How did you come into this niche?
Venu: I have been associated with the retail industry domain for quite some time. At one point in my career I started realizing that the new trends in the software industry primarily evolved based on customers’ demand to improve their productivity year on year that changed the concept of building solutions from ground up to bespoke software applications (for eg. ERP systems). This change in trend calls for highly skilled technical consultants to unbox it for clients. It came to my notice that such specialists are rare and scattered in this industry. This had me thinking about forming a consortium which would attract such talents and turn it into a technology powerhouse. Today, we house expert consultants (consulting geeks) who provide technical leadership for fortune 500 clients in enabling their smooth functioning of eCommerce systems. At Litmus7 we invite only the best professionals and give them complete freedom at work.

Jennifer: What is the main pain point or problem that you address with your clients or customers?
Venu: Even though the pain areas vary based on the customer profiles, most often I have seen it boiling down to primarily two aspects;

  1. Inability of vendors to see themselves as an extension of their client’s IT team is foremost. This needs a lot of explanation, as it is a large topic in itself. But, if I were to summarize it, then I would say, present day established vendors are busy keeping their sales dashboard ‘GREEN’ instead of sensibly sharing client’s business vision. They no longer put their heart and soul into their engagements to see if their clients are becoming successful. Rather, the leadership team responsible to ensure success of their clients is often seen playing around with how much more they can milk their customers and putting extra pressure on the delivery team in closing those projected numbers. We call this the ‘number game syndrome’, which is a known plague among the current vendors.
  2. The next critical thing is lack of expertise and inability to drive initiatives coupled with a complete absence of ownership. Whereas Litmus7 is concerned, we excel in all these aspects. In fact, we proudly claim that if Litmus7 cannot do it then it is almost impossible for anyone else either. That’s the kind of confidence we have in our abilities.
Jennifer: If you could sum up what your company does and who it serves in one or two sentences, what would you say?
Venu: We are a retail technology consulting company who work for world’s leading retailers.

Jennifer: Where do you see this niche growing or going into the future?
Venu: Technology can change tomorrow, but the experience we have gained as an organization and our technical excellence goes beyond a particular technology. In the future, Litmus7 will be known as a technology agnostic eCommerce consulting company.

Jennifer: What are the exciting technologies or platforms that your company uses to solve clients or customer’s problems?
Venu: We use eCommerce and related suite of products primarily from Oracle and IBM. To name some of them, ATG, Endeca, OMS, Omniture, IBM WCS etc.

Jennifer: Would you mind sharing a success story from one of your projects/clients? What made this one so memorable?
Venu: (Actually, to single out one success story is a bit difficult. That’s because so far, with every client base we have succeeded in making a mark and they respect us for our skills in solving their issues. Recently, we helped one of world’s leading retailer enhance their system performance considerably. Prior to taking us/Litmus7 on board, they had experimented with a few other vendors for a considerable time without making any headway. But once they approached us we were able to fine tune their eCommerce system architecture and process flows successfully in the shortest possible timeframe. And I must say, thanks to our innovative and specialized methods we could boost up their system performance so much so that their holiday sales turnaround shot up by three times. That was indeed highly satisfying to both the client and for us as well. )

We are normally invited by a client when their system performance is seriously affected or when they realize that their systems are not built in the right manner by their existing vendor(s). So we get to resolve many exciting challenges, considering the limited time given to us. It is the sheer joy of taking up such challenges and cracking it that each one of our team enjoys doing.

Jennifer: Many startups are always on the lookout for talent. What advice would you give other startups on identifying, hiring and retaining talent?
Venu: You are right. Finding the right talent and retaining them is critical to any organization. As far as I am concerned, from the day someone joins Litmus7, they become part of our family. In my view, if new startups can understand the meaning of “family” then they would know how to take care of their team members and so wouldn’t have to bother about retention. Just provide your team with ultimate freedom, give them a sense of belonging and believe them. They should feel happy not just with their work alone but should above all, take pride in the company they belong to. We all enjoy our freedom, which, I truly believe automatically attracts people who have been missing it for long. And that's exactly how we win over others into our family.

Jennifer: How does being a CEO of a startup allow you to be active in your community? What kind of partnerships or initiatives is Litmus7 a part of?
Venu: I’ve never considered myself as a CEO, so may be this question is not so relevant to me ☺. But yes, we have been associated with NASSCOM, Oracle, National Retail Federation, Forrester Research etc. I am not really too dependent on any of these associations, because for me, focusing on our vision and working towards it is more important than any of these associations.

We are starting three initiatives this year:

  1. L7 ‘Find the Geek’ program (This is to spot the best hands in the field and recognize their professional achievements)
  2. L7 Open world (Once in a year we will invite leaders in the industry to share their views on retail domain, technology etc, and this will also be a venue for the Geeks in the industry to be rewarded)
  3. L7 Retail Academy (A platform for engaging with students from their 1st semester onwards and giving them the required experience and exposure to become real consultants by the time they pass out)


Jennifer: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the Litmus7 story or anything at all that the readers may find interesting?
Venu: We are committed towards changing today’s conventional way in which IT service companies operate. Litmus7 is and will be known as a haven for people who are confident about their skills and wish to achieve great heights. We don't compete with others but we enable the rest of the world to become successful and competitive, ultimately driving value to our clients and the industry overall.

Jennifer: If anyone reading this today would like to contact you, how can they contact you?
Venu: Well, they may contact me by mail or call at +91.9539.171717

Jennifer: Thank you for your time today. Wishing you and all your team at Litmus7, your family and friends a prosperous and memorable 2014!
Venu: You are most welcome Jennifer! Wish you and your family too a prosperous New Year and all the very best to your new venture. [sic] 

Venu and Litmus7 is featured on Authentic Journeys as part of the Infopark Startup Series. Be on the look out for more interviews with Startup Companies here on Authentic Journeys.

More about Litmus7 on Authentic Journeys:
Managing Differences on Cross-Cultural Virutal Teams (Partnering with Authentic Journeys)
Celebrating Onam at Litmus7 

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