Axis Vice President Waqas Hussain
Axis Vice President Waqas Hussain

Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus and the resulting lockdowns, remote work has gone from a rare luxury to a mainstream phenomenon — at least for a significant number of white collar jobs. Along with it has come a surge in downloads of applications like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, Zoom etc.

But beyond these US-based giants, a local company is also eyeing a share of this market.

Meet Axis, a Karachi-based platform that works as an organisation’s internal communication and productivity channel, where you can chat with colleagues through instant messaging, conduct meetings via conference calls or check email - all in one place.

You can also integrate it with third-party apps like Google Calendar, Dropbox or with your company’s softwares for human resource, procurement etc. Plus, the portal shows the firm’s key performance indicators, the management information system, and even the relevant news or feed from concerned regulators.

But you probably would be thinking why do we need another portal for that when plenty exist already, and that too without hardly any extra effort? Slack has been in use by the more tech-savvy organisations for quite some time while Teams, Meet and the rest were quickly adopted after the pandemic. Plus, with activity now resuming, isn’t the window of opportunity closed by now?

“We are targeting the business-to-business space, where two things are quite important: security and customisation. So Teams, Meet etc might be pretty good for small and medium enterprises who don’t have many requirements and can choose from all these options, but their utility is limited to larger organisations where data compliance concerns and integration with other software is crucial,” says Axis Vice President Waqas Hussain.

And that’s exactly how he is differentiating the product, by allowing clients to host data on their local servers or integration with other software.

Forget Meet, Slack or any other US-based products for now. In the local market, Convo, a communication application, has been in business for quite a few years with similar features and customisation, as well as a sizable clientele boasting the likes of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, H&M etc. What sets Axis apart from them?

“They have a solid product with the required data compliance features but I feel their user experience is a little informal. For example, we have added a lot of information on top of the communication channel so the employee has an incentive to go and log on to the system every morning,” he explains.

Axis was borne out of Tresmark, a local financial data portal, where it was simply a chat feature. But after the Covid-19 crisis made remote working tools more mainstream, the company decided to spin it as a separate product with added features.

“We were already working with financial institutions and realised their communication is quite scattered over different channels plus there were security and compliance concerns so we added an instant messaging feature, Talk, on Tresmark where brokers could connect with dealers,” recalls Fasial Mamsa, the head of Tresmark.

It works on a subscription model with a flat $4,000 a month fee for up to first 500 users, and beyond that, a fixed $7,000. They provide five free integrations with the former and 10 with the latter, and if you want to go above that, there is an additional fee. As far as funds are concerned, Axis is entirely financed by Tresmark.

While customisable to any industry, they are eyeing the financial sector where Tresmark already has connections, in addition to the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector. Currently, Axis doesn’t have any clients but Hussain claims they are in talks with two companies and have gotten user acceptance test approval from them.

On a related note, like Tresmark, isn’t the total addressable market size a little too small for Axis too? After all, how many such large organisations (especially within FMCG and finance) are there to begin with?

“The overall market might not be that big but the value of each user, for example a chief financial officer or marketing director, is a lot more than you’d have in the business-to-consumer sector. Plus, anyone operating in this space is thinking not just locally but also about the broader region,” says Hussain.

The writer is member of staff:

m.mutaherkhan@gmail.com

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020