Writing about a company is never easy, especially if you’re not on their PR payroll. There is the inevitable urge to list all products and personnel, balanced against the need to be concise and critical.
So let us put this to you in the same way it was put to us – as a walkthrough of sorts.
Sometime back, we wrote about the inception of WSO2mobile, a startup helmed by the CEOs of WSO2 and the somewhat enigmatic Microimage. In this we hinted that Microimage was not as widely known to us as it could have been, given the top-dollar status in the international market. And voila: that earned us an invitation from Microimage founder and CEO Harsha Purasinghe to “experience our work firsthand.”
We jumped at the chance. Microimage happens to be a 100% Sri Lankan company, and even more special: it’s the only successful Sri Lankan college startup. And more importantly, we were interested in mStudio – a system which apparently is the heart of almost every major radio broadcast station in Sri Lanka, and quite a few overseas. Thus we found ourselves, one morning, pulling into MicroImage’s driveway. The board welcomes up to two companies: Microimage HCM and Microimage Mobilemedia. Harsha Purasinghe, the CEO and founder of both, meets us in his office with a grin from behind his Macbook. We peer at the rows of awards at one corner.
“Oh, these?” he says confidently. “That’s only half of what we’ve actually won. The rest are at other outlets.”
Impressed, we followed him, and our tour of mStudio began.
Firstly, mStudio isn’t consumer software. No, you cannot use it for DJ purposes. This is a set of services that integrate together to form a complete management plus broadcasting system for a radio station. At its highest level, it can effectively run the entire station by itself.
Here’s how it began: as a prototype for the ABC radio network in 2003. At the time, it was a very high-risk project for MicroImage – and something unheard of in Sri Lanka, where foreign software was the norm and nobody believed a local company could pull it off. ABC liked what they saw. After months of crunch, the very first version of mStudio was ready to launch. In 2004, Sun FM went live at midnight with the new mStudio software. “It was a nerve-wrecking moment for the Microimage staff standing by”, says Harsha.
The first success was done: now Microimage went into the difficult cycle of maintaining, updating, and keeping the axles greased.
And then Maharaja happened. The MBC network wanted mStudio, but they also wanted more. After a complex set of legal agreements with ABC, Microimage began work on the next version of mStudio. mStudio 2.0 went live on MBC channels, featuring real-time schedule management and broadcast from two geographically separate locations – a crucial aspect for MBC. Among the things packed into this new release were redesigned consoles for the MBC DJs, who wanted something snazzier.
“So this is how it works,” says Harsha, pointing out to us the different modules of mStudio: the console, sound editing system, music scheduler (i.e: the one that runs at MBC’s Beybrook place), the billing and client management system. There’s also news room operations, an on air transmission logger, services for streaming, mobile radio, reporting, analysis and business intel – the easiest way to say this is to state that from where we stand, it looks like a complete ERP for managing every aspect of a radio station. With the possible exception of the tea.
“Well, we in the industry don’t use the term ‘ERP’,” notes Harsha, demonstrating how the console can be set up to transmit an entire schedule automatically, without any human at the controls. The software cranked out music, advertisements, a couple of talkshow jingles, then went back to the music broadcast. Harsha stopped the schedule. “But yes, it’s everything.”
There’s more to this story. Sometime after Maharaja, SLBC signed on with Microimage to setup mStudio. But Microimage’s big break came when they took their presentation to Broadcast Asia. A couple of queries were made: was this software for real?
Dropping the beat
“At the time, nobody believed that an almost-unknown outfit in Sri Lanka was providing all of this,” says Harsha. “Our competition was established companies in the US, France, Italy – all legends and pioneers in their fields – and people simply thought we were bluffing.”
So MicroImage invited representatives from their sceptical, potential clients to come down to Sri Lanka and take a look for themselves.
“We gave them the complete tour of actual stations: they got to see the software in actual, live use – and I have to say this, our clients gave us glowing testimonials, personally talking to the reps and showing them how radically mStudio changed their operations. And just like that – it was done. The reps took everything in, said okay, we see what you got here – let’s do this. And that was how we set up mStudio at Radio Television Malaysia and Kristal FM in Brunei.”
And that’s how Microimage, this local startup, ended up taking on the world. Needless to say, they aren’t just content with one software suit – Microimage HCM creates powerful HR and management software, and they’ve got more products lined up. But that’s a story for another day. Here’s Microimage success story on Slideshare.
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