In this interview series Richard Richie, Managing Partner of Alcon Maddox, gets some of London’s most forward-thinking tech leaders to spill the beans on what is making their companies so successful and what innovations the future has in store.
This week Jay Chandan, Chairman and CEO of Gorilla Technology, gives us an insight into the approach that allows Gorilla to compete with the likes of Accenture, IBM and Capgemini and win, big. He also discusses how being a niche player can give you a strategic advantage, and ways in which to restructure your product offering to create a more constant flow of revenue.
RR: Jay, tell us a bit about what Gorilla Technology is or does.
JC: We call ourselves Gorilla because it implies a degree of hunger, excitement, and an ability to move at a fast pace, if you will. Over the last twenty-two years, we've built several AI-powered products and solutions, and we've had a lot of success and recognition that we're very proud of. We started as a straightforward edge analytics business. However, after looking ahead into 2023 and 2024, we realised we needed to change our company's DNA and create disruptive solutions beyond what is currently available across the market.
For example, we saw how Zoom and others found major success during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. While the pandemic was impossible to predict in 2019, the lesson remains. We need to be forward-thinking. We need to be analysing trends. We need to be curious and bold. But most of all, we need to be hungry for innovation and not rely on what works today but think about what will work in the future. As the saying goes, by failing to plan, you are planning to fail. We’re planning to succeed in 2024 and beyond.
Intelligent technology is everywhere. It's now part of everyday life. Whether it's detecting consumer fraud, financial fraud, or whether it's autonomous vehicles, crop harvesting, prediction of consumer behaviour, and so on, enterprises and governments can't ignore it.
This has led to the evolution of the Smart City concept. The most important thing about a Smart City is how it utilises communications and information technology to capitalise on its operational efficiency. Remember, the central goal of a Smart City is to optimise urban living to provide the best possible life for citizens. That’s the end goal. That’s what keeps us awake at night and what keeps us passionate. With so much discourse about technology, we stand out because we talk about people. That’s the core tenant of our business. Don’t forget about the people, and don’t make them more complicated when solving problems.
The most important thing about a Smart City is how it utilises communications and information technology to capitalise on its operational efficiency.
We combine our experience and expertise in security convergence, where the internet of things meets operational and information technology. You see, today if there is a threat to a single environment, it's not just disrupting that single environment, it's breaching everything.
So, the question becomes, how do you secure your digital operational footprint? How do you increase your visibility into your network activity? How do you find and prevent ever-evolving cyber-attacks?
I'll give you an example. We just got back from a country I won't name for obvious reasons, where ATMs have an easily accessible router that's open to being hacked. It was a shocking revelation. Someone could easily access the ATM's network and cause some real damage to people and banks. It was an eye-opening experience, and we want to prevent similar security flaws.
So, with all our experiences and expertise, we created end-to-end Smart City and Safe City solutions for customers. That’s how we secure cities and enterprises across their massive digital operational footprint.
Our customers typically design and manage cities, and we work with many different agencies and departments within those cities.
For example, we’ve deployed solutions with criminal investigation bureaus, logistics departments, ports, and even airports, to name a few. Working with so many departments, we realised that it’s all about who is taking that first step and how we can build what we call a continuity process with everybody else. We understand that creating real efficiency requires the efforts and integration of all departments to work in unison like an orchestra and to deploy the technology that enables city managers to be effective conductors. That’s how cities can create an efficient system, and it’s all about designing and creating a unified city structure. Nothing should operate in isolation. Information can’t be buried. It all needs to be connected digitally.
RR: Apart from taking the company public, which was no mean feat, give us an insight into what success has looked like at Gorilla over the past few years.
JC: Our biggest challenge is that we're up against all the biggest behemoths. All these top players, who we both know the names of, have enormous amounts of capital and resources. That's a fact, and we are cognizant of it. So, our strategy was to become a niche player in very specific verticals and industries, but more importantly, it was to provide an end-to-end platform. We understood we had to go beyond one part of the city and solve problems holistically.
Our strategy was to become a niche player in very specific verticals and industries, but more importantly, it was to provide an end-to-end platform.
We call it an "end-to-end platform" because if you look at every single Smart City today, there are three essential visions that the platform can innovate.
It doesn't matter if it's Neom, London, or whatever city, the number one vision that matters is creating economic competitiveness and establishing cities as vital hubs for trade with innovative and ever-evolving economies that meet the needs of its citizens.
The second vision is improving the quality of life for citizens. City managers need to ask themselves if they are improving and enhancing the quality of life of every single individual. If the technology they adopt doesn't make life easier and more prosperous for people, what's the point, right? The third vision is sustainability. We aim to become good stewards of the environment, promoting sustainable solutions and focusing on using resources efficiently.
We work very closely with customers to bring these three visions to life. It's not about me coming and saying, "Hey, here is a solution. Goodbye!". For us, it's about creating a holistic platform. After all, we never sell a point solution, we sell Platform-as-a-Service. That's important for us. When we work with cities, we want to be their consultant. We want to be a trusted source. We don't want to sell siloed solutions and then ride off into the sunset saying, "Good luck!" That's not what Gorilla is about.
Today, if you look at some of the biggest wins we've had, whether with the government of Egypt or Taiwan, our flexibility and approach to consulting and being part of the customer’s journey differentiates us. It’s an approach I’m very proud of and is proving to be very successful.
Our flexibility and approach to consulting and being part of the customer’s journey differentiates us. It’s an approach I’m very proud of and is proving to be very successful.
When you look at the government of Egypt, despite being a medium-sized company, we won a three-year contract with them worth $270M+. Why? Because we sat down with them and had an honest discussion with them to understand what their journey should be, and we gave them a vision of the future. We showed them what would come through a proof of concept and the return on investment for even a tiny amount like $100,000. We then took it a step further and said, this is what your $270M+ investment will look like for you, and it will protect your data and secure your country's infrastructure, and we are there every step of the way.
RR: What's been the best advice you've been given over the years when it comes to breakthrough innovations?
JC: Someone once told me, “Jay, remember the customer is always, always right. Help them. The business does not need to be complicated.”
Today, everybody is struggling with innovation excellence. Everybody is trying to build strong productivity. Everybody is trying to build an innovation team to create digital success. What everyone should be doing is first understanding what the customer really wants.
That's it. Simple right? Yet so many enterprises need to recognise this.
The customer is king, or queen, if you will. The problem is that we've gone through this notion that "We're supporting the customer. We're a big deal, and you must listen to us." No, the customer may be a small country, but at the end of the day, they know how the wheels are running and operating. So, you need to tie yourself at the hip with customers. That's one important thing somebody told me, and I've kept it with me. I said, you know what? Business is never complicated. It's only as complicated as we make it.
Tie yourself at the hip with customers... Business is never complicated. It's only as complicated as we make it.
RR: And if we flip that question on its head, if someone were starting down this path, perhaps taking on a position like yours running such a tech company, what would be the advice you would give to them?
Be resilient and hungry. You will face many challenges and need to have some grit and empathy. Running a business isn't child's play. It's incredibly demanding but so rewarding at the same time. If someone asked me now if they should take their company public, I'd tell them to think about it a thousand times over. It's not a decision to be taken lightly. But our journey so far has been nothing short of fulfilling for me and the team.
It's a super complex system, and it can be painful at times because you spend more than 50% of your time trying to deal with just that. Also, customers nowadays are very smart. When I used to implement CRM solutions back in the 90's, customers would ask us what to do, and whatever we told them, they'd run with it. Nowadays, customers have consultants sitting there, telling them, “Hey, this is what we need to do, and this is how you should see success for yourself".
As a result, customers are more likely to throw more curveballs, especially in the smart city industry. You must be resilient in cybersecurity, big data, and video analytics. Otherwise, you will be running around in circles and getting nowhere fast.
RR: I'm curious, given everything you’ve achieved, what does the next level of success look like for Gorilla?
JC: Currently, we've built an impressive set of case studies for customers. These are big customers. We're talking $350M to $400M, but at the end of the day, it's still a case study. We need to replicate this so that it can become a constant. If you look at the pre-IPO Gorilla, it was more about whether we could go to a customer, sell them a solution, deploy it, and get out. We're 100% no longer doing that, and we've changed our company's DNA. We're coming to customers and saying, "I'll help you design, build, deploy, scale, and manage." It's called a build, operate, and manage relationship. This means we can effectively secure our revenue for the next five, 10, and 12 years, and our Operations-as-a-Service, which we have now created for the customer, are being very well received.
For example, if you look at the deal we've signed with this customer, it's a five-year month-on-month SaaS Platform-as-a-Service deal, plus a two-year extension. So that's a seven-year visibility I have with the customer. That is where Gorilla will achieve its long-term success and drive further growth and innovation.