Praveen Karadiguddi (MBA 2009) is the Founder and CEO of Scrumconnect Consulting, which recently won a £14m bid from Ministry of Justice to help build a digital criminal justice. In this blog post he explains how the business has grown to 120 strong, with £13m revenue in the last two years and why ‘people over profit’ is key to his success.
What gave you the idea for your business?
My wife Shilpa Kaluti and Co-Founder of Scrumconnect Consulting gave me the idea of creating the firm when I was complaining about my boss and work culture.
We wanted to create a company where we had no boss and built around the values that are important to us: autonomy, humility, learning mentality i.e. the ‘I don’t know it all’ mentality.
We saw a gap in the market where clients needed outcomes to deliver at pace and quality, however building a high performing team was taking time. So our secret sauce is ready-made hyper-productive teams to help clients deliver projects quickly. We do the hard work in hiring talented individuals, creating an environment for them to thrive and delivering value to clients and our consultants.
We fill the gap by hand-picking the best individuals for a specific project with benefits of building high-performing teams quickly and effectively, quick ramp-up and delivering key roadmap projects at pace.
Profit to share: we are building a unique organisation where around 40-50% of the profit is on the table to be shared with our own people who are not directors. Making the pie big enough for everyone! #peopleoverprofit. Today Scrumconnect Consultancy has over 120 consultants working for us across the UK.
While I believe we still have a way to go before we become the kind of organisation we think it should be we are being recognised for our work already:
Scrumconnect is getting award this month in House of Commons for 'Emerging tech firm of the year in public services'
We are providing services to the DWP Child Maintenance Online Services team, which is nominated for Best Tech For Good Project & Inspirational Team of The Year at the Real IT Awards in July.
How did it feel when your business launched?
We were initially very nervous as it was just when our first child was born, Shilpa was on maternity leave, the market crashed and we had around £600 in the bank after paying for my MBA. With no money in the pocket I was still full of energy and feeling I could take on the world!
What was the greatest challenge you faced in starting out?
Chicken and egg situation. We needed good clients to attract good people to work for us.
Other challenges included financing, balancing expenditure with early revenue streams, increasing staff numbers and often bringing in a leadership team offering a new range of skills.
What have been the key lessons learned from the whole process? And what is your advice to budding entrepreneurs?
- Find your ‘why’? What and why is the purpose, cause or belief that drives you and your company. Your ‘why’ is the one constant that will guide you towards fulfillment in your work and life
- Cash is the oxygen of the business- oxygen is cash. Without cash, a business does not survive. Cash flow – the constant inflow and outgo of cash in a business operation – is the lifeblood of a business
- Be obsessed with the customer needs and solving their pain points
What have been the highlights so far?
- Growing the business from 5 people to 120 people in the last 2 years
- Achieving £13m in revenue
- We are proud of the work we have done helping our clients build some key national services at DWP, Department of International Trade, HMPPS, Ministry of Justice, Home Office, Defra etc. The services we co-created with our client are:
- positively impacting around 14m+ people so far
- working on Brexit projects for Defra Fisheries
- keeping borders safe via Digital Services at the Border programme
- digitising the criminal justice programme
- paying out around £4-5bn payments every year.
We’re proud to be a diverse workforce and support women in tech. Shilpa Kaluti our co-founder, is running the ship from finance and operations and we have women in other key leadership roles.
Our consultants are diverse, representing the UK, Finland, Canada, France, India, China, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Plus we work across the whole of the UK, with clients from London, Newcastle, Blackpool, Sheffield and Manchester. Yes we get asked about moving internationally, it's still early days! We are exploring with clients in Germany and New York.
How did your time at the Business School prepare you for setting up your own business?
The best thing about MBA is it helped me gain a holistic understanding of business and appreciate finance, marketing, strategy, change, negotiation etc. I graduated out of the Full-Time MBA at Imperial in 2009. It was over a decade ago, however there are so many things I learnt that are still relevant in my day operations. In particular the Organisational Behaviour and Negotiation course, a key takeaway from which was how to have culture that creates a safe environment for our people and company to thrive. I also took a lot from the Innovation Entrepreneurship & Design programme, as well as Strategy.
What are the current challenges in your sector that you are facing?
The current biggest challenges include IR35 (a piece of legislation from the HMRC relating to off-payroll working), Brexit and an uncertain market time due to Coronavirus. Businesses more than ever need to have stronger business models to grow in these uncertain times. We are growing at a rapid pace however we need to be aware of the market conditions as we see clients cut spending and gig economy changes happening in the UK market.
Great management thinker Clay Christensen talked about “Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption”. I think disruption is here already in terms of business models, new boutique companies shifting from integrated solution shops to modular providers, which specialise in supplying one specific link in the value chain.
Digital is bringing a big disruption where tech startups have swept across many markets and eroded the profits of many major enterprise companies.
Clients have become more demanding, in terms of solving user needs of the customers, pushing back against concepts such as big IT, billable hours, and requiring fixed fees and with greater transparency on costs. In an increasingly agile environment, intensified by rapid digital innovation, clients now expect more value, rapid concept to cash, design thinking, a higher quality of work and a faster delivery of solutions and services.
All that said, we are happy to take on these challenges and so our next Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to reach 300 people and grow in Europe.