Icertis is the world’s leading contract intelligence management company and India’s second most valued SaaS unicorn. Their AI-powered Icertis Contract Intelligence platform manages global contracts for big firms. Analytics India Magazine learnt more about the start-up and their contract solutions from Monish Darda, CTO and Co-Founder. Darda’s entrepreneurial journey started in 2005, leading up to the creation of Icertis in 2009, with his co-founder Samir Bodas. Icertis is his seventh start-up. His experience includes going through a couple of acquisitions and working in start-up environments for distributed computing for enterprise customers. In addition, he manages AI/blockchain and the technological choices of Icertis.
AIM: Tell us about Icertis’ journey.
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Icertis is a contract lifecycle management platform. Our AI-powered, analyst-validated Icertis Contract Intelligence (ICI) platform turns contracts from static documents into strategic advantage by structuring and connecting the critical contract information that defines how an organisation runs.
When Samir and I started Icertis, we had no pain points to work with. Both our companies had been recently acquired, and we wanted to take our learnings to build a consequential company. We discussed the value and culture of the organisation we wanted to create, and that was our starting point. In 2019, the cloud was just coming up; AWS and Salesforce were starting. Azure did not exist yet. So we decided to build our Applied Cloud Framework, a platform that allows us to build apps on top of it and top of the cloud.
AIM: What problem does Icertis solve?
Samir used to work in Microsoft, and his ex-colleague once mentioned having a problem with their contract management system. We started with a pain point of a particular customer, essentially. We also realised there were several CLM companies in the market, but none had a cloud strategy. So we are the first in API and cloud service.
People have the notion of CLM as creating a contract and storing it, but it is just 20-30% of the journey. What happens after your journey is important because it determines whether the contract is playing out in real life. We could see the power of the cloud here. And that was a pain point no customer had articulated, but we identified in the market. No processing in the business can happen without a contract, be it transactions between employers-employee, company-client or even with vendors. Our definition of contract management here was ensuring there is a sync between every rupee that goes out of the company; it reduces risks.
AIM: Tell us about your AI-powered CLM solutions. How do you customise them according to different use cases? Can you illustrate through use-case examples?
Google, Microsoft, Accenture, Wipro, Johnson and Johnson, Cognizant, Boeing, Daimler and more companies use Icertis to run their business, not just mind their contracts. These are across various sectors. 2000 was the CLM revolution where companies started looking at contracts as important as customers or manufacturing.
When it comes to customising solutions, every customer and business is different. Customisations are complex, but we have not built a product; we have built a platform. So our answer is not customisation because that stops the upgrade path and is not beneficial to our customers; we instead build solutions on top of our platform. We don’t specialise; we generalise every new requirement. It is anathema in the company to say customisation; we use the word technical configuration instead. The effect for the customer is the same, but internally, it is different. It helps us build configurations that are generalisable.
For instance, one of our largest retail customers had the problem of short contracts. Illustrating the problem, supposedly, during the Christmas sale, they pair up with Samsung with a complex rate and discount structure, showing 50 ads a day for 50,000 impressions, and Samsung will pay x money for 10,000 sales through these ads. This rate structure increases with more sales. These are 15-day contracts that end once Christmas is done; they don’t last long but are $100 million worth. So we built a rebates and discounts application on top of our platform for them. And once we built it, we realised this application can be used well in pharma. I remember the project sponsor actually sending us a note saying this was the first Christmas he was sleeping on the 26th. Applications like these are very heartening.
AIM: Could you elaborate on the tech stack powering your platform?
Our tech stack is pretty straightforward. We use Azure across the board. Additionally, we use SQL servers, SQL servers on VM, elastic pools, cloud-scale and more. For code, we use React and Python. Our code is written on top of Java. We use Azure Kubernetes for docker containerisation.
AIM: How is the Metaverse architecting the future of the Indian SaaS market?
Virtual and physical worlds are already colliding. There are so many business opportunities that are already arising because of the metaverse. For instance, Wendy’s has this event where people go there virtually and get tokens that can be used to buy real burgers. There are three fundamental building blocks; game players, hardware/ software providing graphic powers and integrators. Even here, every dollar in and out of the virtual world has a contract behind it. Currency changes between the physical and virtual worlds are important. Every commerce is going to be driven by contracts. In fact, one of the fundamental building blocks of blockchain is smart contracts. Metaverse will change the world as we know it; the pandemic has fastened it and shaved off eight years of transformation. When it comes to CLM solutions for metaverse, I guess that it’s still commerce, so we want to transform its foundation. It is probably going to be the same. However, the experience of signing, integration and negotiation will be different.
AIM: How do you plan to use your recent investment Series F funding of $80 million?
We’ve been entrepreneurs for quite some time and going through funding rounds. For us, we take the companies we respect and identify their growth rates at our size and revenue. We aim to be in that band, not above or below; we try not to break that and grow too fast. Most of the money goes into sales, marketing, and research and development. These are the major areas for any fast-growing enterprise SaaS company. The other part is our aim to grow geographically. We are already strong in the US, Europe and APAC, but we don’t have investments in Japan or China. That is the third bucket where some money will be going. Our main focus is on creating solutions and selling them.