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PopcornApps Founder On Tapping The 'Entire Microsoft Stack' And Driving Business Through AppSource

Girish Avantsa, founder and COO at PopcornApps, says that a growing percentage of the system integrator's revenue is coming through Microsoft's AppSource marketplace.

When it comes to driving solutions for customers through Microsoft's business apps marketplace, AppSource, systems integrator PopcornApps has been finding some big wins.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company says its focus on Microsoft is paying off with revenue for its solutions set to grow as much as 20 percent for 2020, even with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

[Related: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's 4 Biggest Statements At Build 2020]

"With Microsoft, we're a co-sell ready partner, and we leverage the platform in its entirety," said Girish Avantsa, founder and COO at PopcornApps, which employs 300. "So starting from Power Apps to Azure to data services to insights. So the entire Microsoft stack--which is one of the most comprehensive stacks for any enterprise--we build solutions on top of it."

AppSource in particular is serving as a key source of business growth, Avantsa said, with the company able to provide solutions in AppSource that are typically 70-percent ready for customers. PopcornApps is expecting major demand for a CRM solution that it has developed for the healthcare sector, he said.

"We feel that this has a huge market, everywhere in the world, not just in the U.S.," Avantsa said.

What follows is an edited portion of CRN's interview with Avantsa.

You would describe yourself as a systems integrator and consulting firm, is that correct?

From a business model standpoint, yes we are a systems integrator. But for the most part, we always lead with a solution. We come across as a consulting and services integration partner. But we come to the party mostly with a lot of understanding of a customer's business or their processes. And more often than not, we already have some sort of a solution or an accelerator which will build on top of a platform and go-to-market. Nowadays, everything is on the cloud so we do have applications which we've built for target industries, and we put them on AppSource. So a lot of pre-discovery happens even before customers engage with us. So that's a big differentiating factor.

How do you feel you're working with Microsoft in a differentiated way?

With Microsoft, we're a co-sell ready partner, and we leverage the platform in its entirety. So starting from Power Apps to Azure to data services to insights. So the entire Microsoft stack--which is one of the most comprehensive stacks for any enterprise--we build solutions on top of it.

We pre-build the entire data model, we integrate the workflows. Then we provide insights and then any predictive modeling which can go on top of it, for using AI and Azure services. So we do all this, and then put the solution out there on the AppSource for it to be co-sell ready with the partners. That's the big differentiation. So we lead with solutions. We already understand the business process. And we have done this for airlines, we've done this for railways. Now we are doing it for the healthcare and life sciences industries. So we go after vertical business processes and then implement it on a stack, and more or less have a 20-30 percent consulting arrangement but for the rest 70 percent is already ready to deploy. For most part, our solutions are 70-percent ready to be used with minor changes that are specific to a customer's internal processes.

Now, that's not the only business we have. We also do traditional consulting. We do a sort of traditional SI--so some portion of our business is also people who come and say, "hey can you implement Microsoft Dynamics for us? Can you do Power BI analytics on our framework?" So we do get projects like this. But our go-to-market, if we go to a customer, is also along with pre-built solutions.

So Microsoft is your biggest partner at PopcornApps?

Microsoft is the biggest portion of our business practice. We use their entire ecosystem--the four pillars, which are apps and infrastructure, they have data and artificial intelligence, and modern workplace with Teams and collaboration. We play in most of those areas, but business applications are definitely our core strength. We try and pick up the business apps and build accelerators and solutions, and verticalize them as much as possible [and use] the co-selling arrangement for partners in the Microsoft ecosystem. We deploy those solutions in AppSource and co-sell along with Microsoft for accelerating the services.

You'd previously mentioned that 70 percent of revenue comes through traditional consulting and 30 percent through AppSource--is that still the case?

That has been thus far. But in 2020, we are seeing that it might go from 70-30 to maybe about 60-40. We think we will see a jump of 10-15 percent in the [AppSource] solution that sells. We are building quite a bit in healthcare solutions. Obviously there's a lot of opportunity there. So we're going to launch that pretty soon on the Microsoft AppSource. We are building the end-to-end, healthcare CRM. It's what we call a complete application--where you have a mobile app for patients to talk to, which is all built on Azure platforms and Azure APIs and Power Apps. So the mobile app has all the features for picking up an appointment, doing virtual consultation, telemedicine. And then the backend is completely built on Microsoft Dynamics plus Power Apps, to look at the 360-degree view of the patient, the provider, and the payer. So we're building everything within Dynamics. You have transactional ability, you have a reporting ability, and you have one view of your entire business in one place. It's a very unique offering. We are testing it out--we are doing trials right now. As a Microsoft platform, we have invested heavily on all the different layers--embedding AI alongside all our business applications, looking at the top layer to build custom Power Apps and Power BI and Flow at that layer, and then using business applications as the fundamental foundation platform. So, we have a stack which is completely configured across various services within the ecosystem.

Were you already planning to launch this healthcare solution, or was that a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

We've added a few areas as part of the pandemic--for example, tele-consultation and creating this whole platform. That was something which we accelerated. We realized that a lot of people might use that platform for consultations. Originally we also had a huge solution which we built for travel and transportation Now, it's anybody's guess when that might turn around, but the solution is ready. But then we said, OK, let's accelerate the healthcare solution. Because we are a great success with working with medical devices providers and healthcare providers. Just from our consulting experience, we knew that something has to change in that segment. These are the new areas where people might want to explore, especially remote consultation.

Traditionally, we have seen a lot of people having hospital management systems and hospital information systems that are very specific compliance-related applications. They have functional aspects of hospital services, but there's no traditional CRM that unifies the data for ease of management, ease of reporting, ease of transaction. So we are building that layer, which is a huge whitespace we have seen. And the platform is so extensive in Microsoft.

We have consolidated everything and created a "healthcare CRM in a box" sort of concept. It could be for clinics, it could be for small medical consortiums, hospitals, healthcare providers. It could scale the way you want it to be, and it's all modularized. Hopefully it should be live by sometime around July. We feel that this has a huge market, everywhere in the world, not just in the U.S.

So that's sort of a template for a healthcare provider to use, and then you end up doing some customization yourself?

Yes. There are multiple modules. There's a base foundation framework which you get. And then there are modules which can be plugged in. Not all regions need everything. Some of the countries don't need payer or insurance information integrated, like what we need here in the U.S. Depending on where the customer is and the regulations needed for that particular country, we have an option to customize them. So that's the 20-30 percent of configuration changes or customization which might be needed.

You mentioned you have developed a transportation solution, but you were unable to launch it prior to the pandemic? Is that basically ready?

That is also complete. We have worked quite extensively to bring in the travel-transportation CRM. That is another vertical which does not have an integrated play. It is mostly specialized in terms of the players at the backend, who manage the entire service. It could be cancellations, it could be loyalty management, it could be disruption management, fraud, all of these areas. There are specific modules and services that companies provide. But there's no unified way of looking at it and transacting as a CRM. So we have pre-integrated this with some of those service providers, had the data model created in Dynamics, and integrated with the front-end applications--that could be a bot or it could be a website. We have defined all those business processes, the data model, the entire CRM functionality.

We were just about to deploy [the transportation solution]. I think we will still do it in a month or two. We are just optimizing and looking at new ways of doing things. Obviously all of these businesses, outside of healthcare, are also reacting to the new norms. So there could be some new regulations which might come up, there could be some new processes which might have to be implemented. So we're waiting to see how things might change, whenever life opens back up, especially for the airline industry. This would be mostly for airlines.

Overall, how much have you had to adjust what you're doing since March?

As a business, I think we were lucky. I think a lot of businesses had to accelerate the pace of their digital transformation programs. And, obviously, they had to change on their customer journey or customer experience. But people had to fast-track a lot of their projects, to digitize. So now there's no foot traffic in the retail stores, or anywhere. Everything is digital. In that way, we've been very busy. We've accelerated the time to market quite a bit, because people want the solution tomorrow. They can't wait for six months to launch anything. So from a business standpoint, I think it has been very aggressive and we've been working long hours to meet the demands.

People who have already taken the path and who have the vision are thriving, and they are actually doing really well--not just in retail, in other industries too. We have a lot of healthcare clients that are accelerating their transformation. The business models with our customers are evolving at a rapid pace. So we've been really busy.

What is your growth outlook for 2020, and how does that compare to what you were expecting prior to the pandemic?

So far, we are thinking that we will grow somewhere around 15-20 percent over where we were last year. And I think that was the projection we had given even before the pandemic. Nobody can gauge what the next quarter is going to be. I think we have visibility until the end of this quarter, and Q3 we should be fine. We don't know how Q4 is going to look.

We just want to make sure that we are sensitive to everything else happening, and try and make sure that we are helping our customers. That's our primary focus. In that process, if there's more business and more work we need to do, then that's a byproduct of us trying to help our customers.

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