ProcureTechSTARS with Sudhir Bhojwani, Co-founder & CEO, and Lalitha Rajagopalan, Co-founder, Head of Strategy & GTM, of ORO
During the conversation, Sudhir and Lalitha discussed integrating workflows, customer co-creation, swiss-army knife teams, Amazon-like experiences, procurement objects and Gandhi.
1. What’s ORO’s mission?
ORO’s mission is to make procurement incredibly easy and efficient for employees.
People assume procurement is easy for procurement people but it’s not often the case. Our method is different: we believe that too many procurement workflows are manual, and our approach is to encourage smart procurement workflows.
“We believe procurement is not one workflow, but many.
Being smart means leveraging data in the right way so you don’t have to do the unnecessary stuff over and over again.”
The end result will be like an Amazon experience for the employee which is a safe, secure and compliant for finance to do business. It will enable suppliers to do business faster and better with all with the big customers. Method matters.
We think about workflows in the same way we think about data. I think one of the most complex objects in procurement is the supplier object. Most procurement software fails to understand the supplier object. We understand the supplier object intimately. We know why duplicate records exist and they will continue to exist. It’s a fool’s errand trying to remove duplicate records. Then you compound the workflow to automate a RACI matrix for company workflows which involve legal elements.
There are innovative tools out there which are very targeted and purpose built, but the SaaS explosion has led to increased technology complexity.
“While an individual tool might be good at an individual job, creating an experience that is consistent across the business has become harder. Paired with a need for speed and decentralisation, no business owner owns their mandate. That’s why integrating work flows is important.”
2. What have been the most significant decisions ORO journey so far?
One of our first milestones was working with 2 of the largest global companies almost straight away.
We have a clear vision on how we’re going to solve the workflow problem, so our main journey learning from these customers has been incredible. We’ve learned there are too many manual steps still involved in procurement and finance. The RACI matrix that drives these workflows is actually quite complex.
“Everybody talks about Amazon like experience in procurement, but they forget to mention that people use procurement to buy not just catalogue items, but complex services which behave very differently.”
We’ve also learned that it is no green field. Every company has a lot of different software technologies. If you cannot lay the groundwork to integrate with these technologies, then how can you expect to be successful?
I came to realise the thought process of procurement was very linear, with the approach of analysing your spend, source, contract, procure to pay. But the business user experience is not linear! The user needs to be able to engage at different points in the process whilst making sure there is compliance and consistency.
I also learned that customization is not a bad thing. The reality is that organisations need to fit technology to their unique reality. It’s a very IP view to say, ‘customization is a bad thing’ so we have built a completely bespoke system that is flexible with the platform that morphs to the size of the organisation. Best practices only go so far.
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?
I think that given how early we are and the fact that we are coming with a different point of view and a different hypothesis, we need customer DNA to be an early adopter DNA. That usually translates into a strong internal champion who has a vision, is able to secure a budget and actually do something about it.
“We also realised that it is a design partnership when we are co-creating with customers. There is active engagement with key stakeholders which is important, as it helps figure what is and isn’t working.”
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
Companies are a composition of people. If you just say you’re going to hire for a job description, you’re not going to get the best people. How do we get sigma n? (n to be more than n1 + n2 + n3 – that kind of thing!) We need Swiss Army Knife type people who are hands-on problem solvers. They’re not coming here to manage a team or just set up a process, which means that they are people who are ready to experiment and disrupt their own learning. Having a learning mindset is not just a static point of view, think, can you keep growing? Are they curious? Empathetic? And most importantly, customer obsessed. We need our customer to think that we have not just a ‘good’ enough solution, but an awesome solution. And that energy and motivation comes from our team.
We are the founders. We have to lead by example and we really preach that.
“Nobody wants a manager – they want a mentor. So we look for mentors, people that can mentor each other. If you just want to be manager, that’s not the right mindset at this stage of the company. We want people who want to do good for the community.”
We’re still a young company, but we hired someone knowing he had no experience in software and then trained him. And now he’s trying to do good. It’s not a one-way street.
5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently?
When we originally created a business plan, we budgeted for office space… Good news. We saved all that money! We haven’t spent a penny on office space so far. To be honest, I don’t think we will either as we want the best talent. COVID taught us that remote work is real and you can make it work. The whole notion that you always have to meet people in person to be effective isn’t completely true, in our case. We have people in our company who have never met each other, but seem like very good friends.
We have changed a little bit. We used to have sales kickoff meetings which brought everyone together and brought a little social spark and connection. But overall, we believe in the basic stuff, meaning people don’t have to drive half an hour to work.
6. What is the vision for ORO? What does great look like in five years?
“The vision is to have many happy users across many industries where ORO has helped make procurement easy for them. ORO made it possible for them to do the job better.”
Our goal is to have customers in industries like life sciences, financial services, manufacturing and so forth. They would be large enterprise customers and mid-market. We’re not going for SMBs to be honest, but the criteria is still the same. We make it more compliant, faster and easier.
I think there’s still a lot of friction. I feel that if you are a small supplier, are good at something and already have an employee in a large company who wants to work with you, the two parties know the value they can deliver to each other yet there’s so much friction in the middle. So I think that operating workflows or processes between companies are still very ‘digital paper’… ‘chuck an invoice over’, ‘shipping payments’. It’s not actually collaboration-oriented semantic workflows. But, we can reduce friction for a small supplier so they can work with a large company and operate quickly and more organically.
Technology plays a massive role in reaching our vision. I believe the smart part of the procurement workflow is actually quite important. You need something that is smart, fast and provide a rich experience.
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
We really believe that small suppliers should have access to opportunities and to remove friction. Human beings are all about drive and talent which we have to unleash in a more organic way.
We also want to be good citizens and be part of a community that helps others. We’d love to give back, whether it’s in the hiring process where we can promote our community members. I also believe in us being a company where people don’t have to travel half an hour to work – there is a carbon problem in the world!
1. What’s your favourite book?
Dreams from my father by Barack Obama. It’s a very inspirational story where he details growing up and experiencing different attitudes towards his colour, race and background, and how that plays into growth.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader?
Mahatma Gandhi. He said some pretty awesome things like ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. For me, it’s his sheer energy and drive to take on the British Empire that I find pretty ballsy. He was very strategic about it.
Me too – Gandhi! How do you inspire a nation and so many people to be non-violent? It’s pretty incredible.
3. What is your favourite cocktail?
I’m a happy drinker! I love a martini.
I prefer gin-based drinks or whiskey sours.
4. What is your favourite piece of technology?
I love Tesla. I have one and love it. I think the car has actually improved since the day I bought, because of the software downloads. I keep getting new features. It’s an amazing simple thing to do. And nobody else does it so effectively as Tesla.
Okay, so it’s not software, but it’s a cast iron pan! I think that there is something about its minimalism and efficiency, and just the property of how it keeps getting better and better. I own a family one that’s about 50 years old and for me, it’s like a beautiful piece of technology.
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
Hang out with friends and celebrate. I think for people who’ve been part of your journey, it’s a moment to pause, smile and cherish the memory.
We are social animals and I think we all crave that. I think hanging out with your friends and family is perfect. What can be better than making a martini at home with your friends and family? It’s perfect.
1. Don’t forget there’s always someone at the other end – make it easy for them!
2. Leverage your data
3. Method matters
4. Building tech is no green field. Every company’s software is different
5. The business user experience is not linear
6. Co-create. Integrate. Engage.
7. Creating an Amazon-like experience works
ORO makes procurement incredibly easy and efficient for employees. Guide employees through the maze of procurement and say goodbye to manual processes with ORO’s smart procurement workflows. Your employees can raise requests independently, and get automated status updates with ease. For your internal stakeholders, ORO orchestrates the information present across teams, systems, and processes in a contextual manner — leading to complete visibility in working with suppliers, and better spend decisions. Founded by former SAP Ariba Product Leaders, ORO is used by various Fortune 500 & fast growing global companies to automate processes, orchestrate cross-team collaboration, and scale procurement operations.
Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).