ProcureTechSTARS with Viswa Kuppuswami

ProcureTechSTARS with Viswa Kuppuswami, Founder & CEO of Zumen

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ProcureTechSTARS with Viswa Kuppuswami, Founder and CEO of Zumen, a cloud-based source-to-contract software, designed for product manufacturing companies.

This platform gives companies in the direct materials space the power to digitalize their direct sourcing and procurement processes, managing every detail through a transparent, collaborative approach. During the conversation, Viswa discussed the shop floor, Excel, sleep, being grounded and … scotch.

1. What’s Zumen’s mission?

I actually come from a manufacturing and industrial background, so one of the things that I’ve seen over the years – and I continue to see now – is that the people who are in the profession of procurement, particularly in the direct materials space, are the busiest.

So, our mission at Zumen is to make their lives better, by bringing in a tool that eases their pressure on a day-to-day basis, bringing down the time and effort it takes to bring all the data that they can look at and to make decisions. In one of the calculations we saw, about 80% of their time actually goes into gathering the data. So, in order to actually make the decisions, they have to put so much of their time and effort into making sure that they’re actually looking at the right set of information.

“So, our mission at Zumen is to make their lives better, by bringing in a tool that eases their pressure on a day-to-day basis.”

Our mission is to make the lives of the people that are involved in direct material procurement and supply chain better. Give them a few hours back every day, so they can be more productive, innovative and can go back to their homes sooner and spend more time with the kids and families.

2. What differentiates Zumen from its competitors?

One of the key things, is the fact that we have actually ‘been there, done that’. We’ve got the industrial background, literally having walked through the shop floors, handling materials, making those supplier calls, being there in the supplier shops, and getting those things done over the years. So – we are a small team, but as a core team – we have actually lived through many of these challenges. That’s the kind of real-life experience that we bring.

I think that’s one of the great differences and advantages that we have at Zumen, compared to some of our competitors. I very strongly believe in that. And then, there’s the fact that some of us have actually been in product management roles for several years; a few decades or more. So bringing that product background and that deep domain experience together is a very, very strong combination, in terms of experience, skill sets and knowledge.

Again, as we continue to work on our services, we see how that combination has become such a strong USP, and determines how we are able to react to what the market needs, understanding what our customers are looking for, I think, is a very strong difference.

3. What have been the most significant milestones in the Zumen journey so far?

That’s a tough question. Actually, as a startup, personally, I think there are so many milestones we have to achieve . But, one of the most significant things that we did was stick to the fact that we wanted to build a full direct material, source to pay solution, and I think that that’s already very significant for a young company. And in the time to come, that’s going to be a very strong differentiator.

“One of the most significant things that we did was stick to the fact that we wanted to build a full, direct material, source-to-pay solution, and I think that that’s already very significant for a young company.”

When you look at how the direct material source to pay process works – the smaller, nitty gritty details that we need to consider, the quality expectations when it comes to the direct materials, and so on – how we actually brought all of that together in the full suite, direct materials, source to pay, then sticking to that and making sure that we cover that entire process. To me, I think it’s going to be a very strong, very key decision for us.

4. What do you look for in the perfect customer?

Again, being a very young startup, we actually focus on things that are very close to our experience as well. So, we stick to companies that are in direct manufacturing, where there is a certain complexity, or when it comes to the bill of materials, where they bring together all the components in the bill of materials to put together the product, so they can send it out of the factories.

So, the ideal customer for us would be someone in the direct manufacturing space, working in fields like automotive, EV, industrial equipment manufacturing, industrial automation, robotics and medical devices. In fact, these are similar products – although from different verticals, they actually are very similar, when it comes to when or how the bill of materials works.

5. What are the foundations of a great team?

It’s always difficult to bring that industrial experience and the software experience together. Maybe in the future generations, we’ll see more and more of that experience come together.

“When it comes to putting a team together, fundamentally, integrity is something that we can’t compromise on.”

Beyond that, we’re focusing on how grounded they are (with respect to the overall mission of the company), how committed they are to what the company wants to achieve, and how quickly they can throw themselves into that mission and align with the rest of the organisation. I think that’s very important; for the team to come together. And, I think we have been so blessed to have the kind of team that we have.

6. What is Zumen doing for the planet?

Firstly, we’re working to help make this a completely paperless process. So, that’s the beginning.

Traditionally, most manufacturing companies follow a paper-based approach. I’ve seen people literally carry reams of paper, where – for whatever reason, because of compliance, governance requirements, because they are a listed company, and so on and so forth – they have to have records of the decision-making somewhere on file. So, for many, it won’t happen today; old habits die hard.

But yes, within those companies, we can save several tonnes of paper in a year. Now, you can think about that multiplied across all of our customers, but that’s just one operational aspect of it. As a sourcing platform, what companies are also able to leverage is how to compare their suppliers on sustainability ratings. Do they have a method to evaluate their suppliers? Do we provide any frameworks to evaluate suppliers on those aspects?

Depending on the company’s requirements, we work with our customers to make sure that all of these requirements are evaluated objectively and that that is taken into the decision-making process when they select suppliers. When they work with them for a very long period of time, that really adds up.

7. How is Zumen keeping its products innovative?

We have already incorporated a few AI models, and then I think, there are some things that we take significant pride in, in terms of what we have achieved. Particularly regarding, for example, when it comes to the direct materials space, the quotations that the suppliers send across to the buyer organisations. It’s an Excel spreadsheet, or maybe a PDF.

Another example is how an engineering drawing can be understood. Again, we’ve already incorporated some of these models that enable users to read those and then have that information passed along to the rest of the processes. So, we continue to add new models (including AI models) when needed. And, again, this is just the start. I think, as time progresses, it’s going to get more exciting.

8. What can we expect from Zumen in the next few years?

We are already recognised as a pioneer, thanks to the efforts we have taken to build a platform dedicated to the direct materials space. Our objective is to continue to build that out, and continue to become more widely recognised, and stand on par with some of the other best platforms that are out there.


1. What is your favourite book or blog?

One particular book that has really stuck with me is Robin Sharma’s The Leader Who Had No Title.

2. Who is your favourite inspirational business leader?

Barack Obama.

3. What is your favourite piece of technology (other than your own)?

I would say Microsoft Excel. I mean, there’s nothing that Excel cannot do. It’s absolutely one of the best products ever built.

4. What is your favourite cocktail?

I’m not a cocktail guy, so I’d say a scotch or beer.

5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate success?

If it’s been a long day, I give myself an extra couple of hours at bedtime, to sleep longer. And maybe take the family out for lunch or dinner.

Key Takeaways

1. People who are in the procurement profession, particularly the direct materials space, are usually the busiest in the company.

2. Adopting solutions that ease the data management requirements of procurement teams, you can reduce their workload by up to 80%.

3. The direct materials source to pay process is made up of a wide range of smaller, nitty gritty details. There is considerable value to be gained by understanding and streamlining this, and bringing it all together into a single platform experience.

4. It is normal for a startup to not know the entire road ahead.

5. One of the most valuable things that a new entrant to the market can do is assert its USP, and make it a significant one.

6. Consider the paper you are using within your processes – do you need it for compliance purposes, or is it more of a case of, ‘old habits die hard’?

7. When growing a team, don’t compromise on integrity. Choose talent that wants to work towards the overall mission of the company, and who throw themselves into it.

About Zumen

Zumen is a Cloud-based Source-to-Contract software for product manufacturing companies. Zumen enables product manufacturing companies to digitize their direct sourcing and procurement, and manage every detail of the process in a transparent, collaborative platform. With Zumen’s part life cycle management, BOM interface, supplier base visibility and product cost management, companies can build an agile, resilient supply chain and get their products to market faster.

About ProcureTechSTARS

Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions, and 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, 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).

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