Emerging Entrepreneurs

Connecting branch offices on the cloud

N Ramakrishnan | Updated on March 04, 2019

Shyamal Kumar, Founder & CEO, Lavelle Networks   -  N. Ramakrishnan

Lavelle offers software defined networking to help firms communicate seamlessly

“What I have learnt by being in the start-up ecosystem is that timing is what makes you grow. You either wait for it or you look back and say I missed it,” says Shyamal Kumar, Founder & CEO, Lavelle Networks, a venture that offers software defined networking (SDN) to help companies connect and communicate across their offices without any hassles.

“You put your passion in it and wait for the inflection point to lift you as a company. You drop everything and you do the company. The Lavelle story is about dropping everything and building to the opportunity that exists today,” he says.

The inflection point

In India, the inflection points are there, adds Shyamal. Internet is huge, companies are going digital in a big way, investment in cloud is increasing quarter-on-quarter, and if it is a company with a national presence, it will need to have branch offices in many locations. The market is going to be big for branch office networking, according to him. Companies right now communicate through private lines among its branches. There are issues over bandwidth availability, speed of communication and cost of leased lines. What Lavelle Networks has done is develop a product the software of which will direct the communication to the cloud and securely transmit it among the offices.

Earlier, points out Shyamal, networking was all about hardware, which was expensive and had complications because the nature of communication itself was changing. All networking devices have a control play – the brain – and a data play – the muscle. What if the control play could reside on a server, which means there will be only one brain controlling lots of muscle. It meant centralised decision making, which was made possible by cloud computing.

One of Lavelle’s customers, says Shyamal, without naming it, has offices in more than 800 locations in the country. Lavelle runs a controller for them in Microsoft Azure cloud and whatever networking decisions are to be taken, are taken in one place. This makes the network smart, he adds.

“Our system is so simple that you don’t have to know networking, but you have to know what you want from your network,” says Shyamal. Lavelle’s aim was to change the network experience for its customers. It buys the box from outside and has developed the software that goes into it. While large multinational companies are struggling to overcome networking challenges for their customers, Lavelle has managed to crack it by being a cloud networking company where hardware is an enabler. The start-up has also been able to drastically cut costs for its customers.

Lavelle, according to Shyamal, has 35 customers across the country and does about 4,000 locations in the field. The success of other start-ups such as Flipkart or Swiggy or Zomato or Ola means that customers are now open to doing business with start-ups in a big way. They also realise that a start-up, unlike a large company, will be focussed on their problem and not look to see if there are many others with the same issues that need to be solved.

 

 

Sets sights on SAARC

Shyamal says Lavelle will try to replicate its India business model in the SAARC region and then go to the ASEAN and GCC. It has learnt from independent studies that one out of every customers in India using SD-WAN (Software Defined Wide Area Network) is a Lavelle customer.

It means technology adoption in India is happening almost at the same time as it happens elsewhere in the world, unlike earlier when there used to be a time lag, says Shyamal.

He recollects the early days at Lavelle, when he would draw the product architecture on a board in his bare room and his team members would be sitting on the floor and taking down notes. “I used to bring a folding chair from home every day and take it back with me,” he recalls. Now, the floor in that room is carpeted, there is furniture. Shyamal does not want to move out of this office in Indira Nagar, even though Lavelle has taken a larger space nearby. From those early days, Shyamal reminisces, “we have one out of five using our solution... This room is a special place for us.”

Published on March 04, 2019

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