“Not having the right ERP can make or break a company”, said Nithushan – COO of Blue Lotus 360. He knows all too well how challenging it can be for businesses to find the right Enterprise Resource Planning system. This is the software packed with modules that manage every aspect of a business.
Larger ERP systems being priced in the millions can take months to be installed. Once installed, they can’t be replaced for years. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to get it right the first time. Blue Lotus 360 aims to make it easier and give them an ERP system that will adapt and fulfil their needs as they grow.
How it all began for Blue Lotus 360
The birth of Blue Lotus 360 didn’t just happen overnight. While doing his undergraduate in IT in the UK, Nithushan also worked with complex ERP systems of some of the biggest multinational companies. This experience made him recognize the importance of such systems for every company.
Meanwhile, Uthayakumar – CEO of Blue Lotus 360, who has 25 years of experience in implementing ERP systems in various industries, understood the demand for cloud-based (SaaS) ERP solutions in Sri Lanka and across the globe. Having worked with Uthayakumar in the past, Sachithra Udeshinie, an engineering graduate from the University of Peradeniya and an MBA holder, also joined the Blue Lotus 360 team as its CTO.
They had their first breakthrough when they implemented a web-based ERP system for one of the largest restaurant chains in Sri Lanka. The system Blue Lotus 360 had built helped them manage and streamline manufacturing, finances, inventories and procurements of the company throughout their factories and outlets.
Taking the advice of experts and with his experience in Civil Engineering, Uthayakumar suggested that they should add features to the system. These would cater to the needs of project-based niche industries such as Construction, NGO’s, and other job/batch-based industries. They jumped at the opportunity.
Building an ERP that is scalable
The goal was to make an ERP system that was flexible and scalable to various business verticals. Examples of these verticals would be manufacturing, construction, trading and services, which are interconnected since most of their processes are common in nature. Thus, they began planning for every possibility that could occur. The team combined their knowledge of technical and domain expertise.
Planning for these possibilities took approximately 1 ½ years and at the end of it, they had defined the architecture for their ERP. Thus, Blue Lotus 360 was born. Thereafter, work began to develop the software itself. Once the code was written, they first sold it to corporates. This gave them the revenue needed to maintain the system and to scale the business.
But then they spotted an opportunity to work with small and medium enterprises as well. For that, they came up with an express version. This featured an entry-level version of the platform with additional modules available upon request. All this was possible since the system would still be data-driven. And while it took almost months to customize and set up Blue Lotus 360 for corporates, it took only a few weeks for small and medium businesses.
The challenges of selling an ERP
Additionally, since Blue Lotus 360 was built in Sri Lanka, they are more affordable than many of the international ERP systems. Despite being more cost-effective, Blue Lotus 360 provides ERP systems whose standards and features are on par with the larger players on the market. Regardless, they still faced the challenge of selling it. This was because international ERP systems were perceived better than locally developed ones due to misconceptions.
To demonstrate that ERP systems based in Sri Lanka can match up to international products they began reaching out to leading companies in different industries. Although it took a lot of time and energy Blue Lotus 360 had soon signed agreements with some of the largest construction, solar installation, trailer truck manufacturers, real estate developers, as well as one of the largest quick-service restaurant chains in Sri Lanka. And this is where it shined.
Rather than just implementing an ERP software, Nithushan explained that companies are more interested in having a platform that can solve their companies’ own distinct business problems. “This is where Blue Lotus 360 has a unique advantage”, Nithushan stated. Their software can be easily catered to any size in their focus industry.
When asked how Blue Lotus 360 can cater to multiple industries, Uthayakumar credits their success to planning and keeping the platform lean while having an innovative approach towards the whole development process. As such, the ERP modules could operate together and as stand-alone ones as well. Now everyone was curious and no longer considered them to be a small fry.
But even then, Nithushan found that companies with older leaders weren’t always open to new technologies. In contrast, companies with millennial leaders were ecstatic. They even demanded that the technology they use should be available on their phones. Thus, Blue Lotus 360 had to be condensed to be accessible on mobile devices.
The challenges of implementing an ERP
Nonetheless, Nithushan said, “Implementation is the hardest part.” While the top management approves the decision to use the ERP, it is the employees that use it. As such, Nithushan and his team make it a point to emphasize that the management of the company has to be heavily involved during the implementation process. But even then, the implementation can get ugly.
Both Nithushan and Uthayakumar highlighted the fact that the ERP tracks everything that goes on within the business. They’ve learned that those that wish to use company funds for nefarious purposes and the people who are resistant to change are usually very vocal in their opposition.
And in other instances, they found that each department in a company operated as their own silo. This reduced overall communication and the agility of the business. Seeing this, they recognized another opportunity for Blue Lotus 360. So, while implementing the system they helped identify pain points in processes.
They then helped streamline and re-engineer these processes to be more efficient. But this process is not something that can be achieved overnight. There are certain best practices and procedures that are brought in and typically these take months to add to a traditional ERP. But Nithushan was proud to state that with Blue Lotus 360, any changes required to a module can be done with a click of a button.
The future is always changing
Going forward, Nithushan shared that when blockchain networks expand and mature, there will be more and more ERP processes that can be automated by the blockchain system. Thus, Blue Lotus 360 is currently researching on blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.
He believes these will be the key technologies they should invest in, to provide data-driven analysis. This, in turn, would allow their customers to make smarter decisions and allow Blue Lotus 360 to stay in line with the competition.
Nithushan also revealed that Blue Lotus 360 will be closing the first round of funding in the coming months. He explained that their goal was to be in as many markets as possible through channel partners. Currently, they’ve obtained channel partners in the UK, USA and in Bangladesh and they’ve also started a small operation in the UK.
But the future lies in South East Asia. Yet, he admitted that they would require a substantial amount of capital if they are going to enter this market. Even though there will be more challenges due to cultural and linguistic differences, they are hoping to enter the market by end of 2020 through partnerships such as flowaccount.com.
This is a very ambitious goal, but Nithushan believes it’s possible and with a smile, he says, “We believe we can build this into a truly global business.”