MEET OFFICE BEACON’S FOUNDER AND CDO PRANAV DALAL
WHO TRANSFORMED A $2,000 INVESTMENT INTO A MULTIMILLION DOLLAR COMPANY
Software entrepreneur, Pranav Dalai is well on his way to leaving a legacy of disruption in the business arena. Just six months ago, Dalai and his Office Beacon team beta launched the world’s most cutting edge “Business Management Software (BMA) and a service” platform. The demand has been astounding. Dalai says ” We knew there was gap that needed to be filled but we didn’t realise the insatiable appetite that our clients would have for this type of platform. It’s phenomenal to see our goal to help businesses run seamlessly and grow their bottom lines, come to fruition.”
Not one to follow the crowd or shy away from innovation, Dalai recently changed his title to Chief Disruption Officer of Office Beacon. Dalai’s journey into business and entrepreneurship has been an unusual and eventful road punctuated by many twists and turns.
Dalai was bom in Stone, England. However, soon after his first birthday, Dalai’s parents permanently moved to Toronto, Canada after his father was offered a government job there. While growing up in Toronto, Dalai’s passion for business was bom. Resilience and hard work are rooted in Dalai’s DNA. Nothing was ever handed on a silver platter to this entrepreneur. At fourteen years old, Dalai interviewed for his first job. The teen was hired by a pizza restaurant located at the Canadian National Exhibition Centre in Toronto, Canada. “I knew earlier on I was never going to depend on anyone. Financial independence was always integral to me on every level.” It was this tenacity that compelled the teenager to travel three hours via public transportation to his pizza job at the CNE. Once he realized the autonomy that came with his first paycheck, Dalai never stopped working. Throughout high school, the budding entrepreneur picked up gigs at burger joints, warehouses and shoe stores among others. Dalai squirreled away his hard earned cash to pay for his college tuition. Even while pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University Of Toronto, the twenty two year old landed a full time job at Canadian Telecommunications company, Cantel. Dalai worked there during the day and attended classes at night. Nothing changed when Dalai went on to pursue his Masters in Business Administration. Not once did Dalai borrow money from family or any other channels to pay for his education.
INTRODUCTION TO TECHNOLOGY
At Cantel, Dalai was hired to work as an executive in the office of Canadian telecommunications giant, Ted Rogers. “Working directly with Ted Rogers was quite an experience, it gave me a phenomenal insight into the marriage of technology and business. Rogers-Cantel owned by Ted was the first telecommunications company to introduce cell phones to Canada,” says Dalai.
While at Cantel, Dalai quickly gravitated towards sales, marketing and technology. At only twenty-two, Dalai pioneered “mobile messaging”, now known as visual voicemail. The implementation of Dalai’s strategic campaigns led to unprecedented success for Cantel. Therefore it was no surprise when Cantel’s founder, Ted Rogers wrote glowing letters of recommendation on behalf of Dalai to the Schulich School of Business, York University to which the young protege was immediately granted admission to pursue a Masters in Business Administration. Dalai’s many successes at Cantel were a sure sign of things to come: A disruptor was bom.
FROM $2,000 TO MILLIONS
Fast forward to present day, Dalai has successfully transformed a $2,000 dollar investment into a multimillion dollar company. Office Beacon now employs over 1,500 full-time employees in offices based out of Vadodara – India, Los Angeles – California, Toronto – Canada, Cambridge – UK, Sydney – Australia and Manila – Philippines.
However, growth did not come easy. There were multiple hurdles and challenges along this journey. There was the challenge of infrastructure. Real estate in India was booming and Dalai decided to buy his first office around 2005. This space appreciated considerably allowing the company to borrow against value to fuel growth and expansion. Next was addressing the very high cost of software licensing. Dalai From Microsoft to Adobe, Dalai had to negotiate terms with every software vendor to ensure that cash flow would not be impacted. Fortunately, the software companies agreed to the requested terms.
OFFICE BEACON IS BORN
Office Beacon was conceived when Dalai decided to explore opportunities abroad in India. Inspired by the success of the many companies he initiated, Dalai’s desire to control his own destiny was now more indomitable than ever. That meant focusing on establishing a company that could withstand the test of time. And so the brainchild of Dalai, Office Beacon, was bom. The fundamental premise for Office Beacon was to provide companies of any size and vertical with back office support.
In 2001, armed with the conviction of success, Dalai boarded a plane and headed to Vadodara, India. In hindsight, there was no other city under consideration for the intrepid entrepreneur. Vadodara was the only city Dalai was accustomed to, as his family hailed from that city. However, prior experience taught Dalai one rule and that was not to have family involved with his business. That posed an interesting decision, how was Office Beacon to start operations in India without familiar management. Never one to be held back by obstacles, Dalai hired five individuals, all of whom are still employed by Office Beacon today. After renting an office for the new team, Dalai returned to Los Angeles to gamer business.
The original plan was to offer data entry services. With no outside funding and only an initial investment of only $2,000, Dalai had no choice but to do the cold calling himself. He was remarkably effective in selling. Initial contracts included the State of California and Smart and Final, a large west coast brick and mortar retailer. After a year of growth from five overseas staff to seventy-five, a friend, Craig Morantz, who owned a promotional products supplier company in Toronto, contacted Dalai. Morantz was looking for a way to improve his bottom line and he approached Dalai to help him achieve that goal. Together, they enabled India to handle artwork, order entry and other tasks that would support the promotional product industry. In just under a year, Craig sold his company to the world’s largest supplier now known as PCNA. This milestone now positioned Dalai’s company in the big leagues.
SOFTWARE AND A SERVICE
Office Beacon is now doubling its growth every couple of years, but never one to rest on his laurels, Dalai wants to leave much more of a legacy. Dalai’s aspiration is to redefine the interaction of software and service by introducing “Software and A Service.” According to Dalai, “Traditionally business software is the service and clients have to figure out how to operate these systems without any prior knowledge. Additional investment to hire experts can rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars. While this may be feasible for multi-million dollar companies, it leaves small to mid size businesses without highly efficient operating systems that are integral to grow their businesses and this is where Office Beacon can bridge the gap. We offer software and a service. You get to licence our software and hire a minimum of two experts who will ensure implementation aid ongoing maintenance of your operating systems for a fraction of the cost of what you would traditionally pay for”
In order attain Dalai’s vision, Office Beacon has made significant investments in technology to develop proprietary software products it now licenses to clients. As part of the plan to become the “go to” company for small to medium sized businesses, Office Beacon sells its clients ‘Business In A Box” software offerings, an all in one solution including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and lead automation software tools.
Renowned for positive disruption in the software industry, Office Beacon offers these tools at a premium and so far the response has been exceptional. Instead of offering “Software As A Service” based tools at less than a few hundred dollars per month, the company is able to gamer subscriptions of more than a few thousand per month. With over 150 developers and an army of production staff, Office Beacon’s business plan is clearly headed for much greater success with its 5-year goal to put the company at $100 million in annual revenues.
For CEO of National Pen, David Thompson, Office Beacon has been lead automation technologies, conversion rates of over 8% have been achieved on a consistent basis and 10% year after year growth. As a result of this on-going unrivaled success, National Pen was able to exit with a $ 150 million sale of the company to Lincolnshire Private Equity. David says, “Since we’ve known Office Beacon we’ve grown our revenues by ten percent every year on a global basis. We’ve grown our earnings more than ten percent every year and frankly our business is exploding.”
engaged in a revolutionary lead generation program targeting over 10,000 companies daily. Using Office Beacon’s services and and drive solutions. Hence, Dalai has focused the Office Beacon team on delivering a unified offering of software mid a service.
This strategy has translated into hyper-growth for Office Beacon. Albeit, more challenging, the long term competitive advantage is tremendous because there are few, if any competitors, who can compete on both levels.
For Dalai, a major component of success is attributed to the accumulation of knowl- edge.The CDO has been selected to attend the Owner/President Management Program offered by Harvard Business School at Harvard University.
Dalai’s daily routine revolves around growing Office Beacon and spending time with his family. Dalai lives with his three children and wife, in Los Angeles, California. Over 20 years ago, Dalai decided to move to LA in search of phenomenal business opportunities and great weather! Both dreams have materialized for this entrepreneur, “The weather forecasts here in Los Angeles are quite predictable, it is great to have perpetual sunshine. I love it!” And so as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow in LA Dalai’s day begins at 4.30 am Pacific Standard Time with calls to Office Beacon’s global offices. At 7.00 am he joins his family for breakfast which is usually a “veggie egg white omelette” and a cup of tea, prepared with much love by his wife, Caroline Dalai. Then it is back to work. Three times a week Dalai makes time to go to the gym for personal training sessions. Spending time with his three children is always a priority, ‘Time with my children is tantamount to breathing, they are my inspiration and the reason for what I do everyday. My children and my wife are my life.”
When it comes to his Office Beacon family, Dalai says the strategic collabora- Along the way, core principles have guided tion between key personnel and their teams Dalai in how he has developed the business, is paramount to customer satisfaction. Dalai says he fully understands what is Dalai says his motto is empowerment, crucial for business owners to implement “Empowering leaders and their teams to growth without compromising their integrity, make key decisions is one of the most Not only do they require resolutions for their significant contributing factors to our day to day business issues, but they also success.” want help, by way of services, to implement
DALAL’S BUSINESS PRINCIPLES ON HOW TO SUSTAIN A BUSINESS
As Dalai says, “Every entrepreneur is looking for his or her holy grail – the type of business that can grow exponentially and withstand the test of time and competitors”. Since venturing into the worlds of software and entrepreneurship, Dalai has believed and strictly adhered to core principles that have a track record for success. Dalai says regardless of how your competitive landscape changes, how much money you invest, or how good your idea may or may not be, following these basic guidelines should help ensure your path to success.
PRINCIPLE #1: FOCUS ON A UNIQUE BUSINESS MODEL
According to Dalai, being a ‘me too’ is extremely hard. Being a ‘me too’ only ensures that you will be competing solely on price. So if your model is flawed, you won’t achieve the level of success for which you hope. Even worse, you will be stuck with a business that you will not be happy with and will want out of sooner rather than later. But how can you assess your model? Dalai advocates that first, take time to understand how your offering is different from competitors. Understand whether customers value the differentiation and will they see you as the ‘only’alternative. When they do, pricing and growth become much easier. One way Dalai likes to look at things is to put his feet in the shoes of his competitors. He often assesses that if he offered something to his clients, how would his competitors react? Could they offer the same thing, could they match his delivery, could they offer something better? In all the businesses Dalai started, the answer was “no” each time… and this was how he knew he was off to a good start.
PRINCIPLE #2: PRICE YOUR OFFERING COMPETITIVELY.
Dalai believes that regardless whether you are the innovator or not, pricing your product competitively will ensure a few things. First, it enables you to get a true picture of your on-going cash flow. If you price high, only to have to reduce prices later on, the foundation upon which you built your business could be jeopardized. This happened when Office Beacon took on a massive competitor.. Office Beacon entered the promotional products industry offering software and services as a differentiated service. At the time, the competitor was the major player. When Office Beacon entered, uninot only were they offering something que but at a price point that company could not match. They lowered prices, but over time bowed out of the industry and has become a marginal player in the industry.
PRINCIPLE #3: WHO IS GOING TO SELL?
This is the biggest dilemma entrepreneurs have. You’ve got a great product but don’t know how to sell it. According to Dalai “Sure, it’s great to use social media and email marketing, but nine times out of ten, it does not help you gamer the sales you need to even survive. Before launching your business, think about the sales and distribution model. “
In a nutshell Dalai says his journey to revolutionize business software is only beginning and hinges on the personal, “This dream would have no meaning without the inspiration of my three phenomenal children, my wife, my Office Beacon family and of course the unending support of my clients.”