Ex Infosys top exec Subhash Dhar’s startup launches GudVille, a social network for giving [Interview]
Enterprise Nube, the “off the shelf” IT products startup founded by former Infosys top executive Subhash Dhar has launched its first product– Gudville, a social network for giving. On the outside, it looks like a simple social network where users can sign up and create causes, petitions, vote for them, donate or volunteer. But the clever part is where he bridges the social network with large corporations and their corporate social responsibility activities. The vision is to align sustainability and the laws of free market.
Gudville which was launched last month on Thanksgiving, is a place where people can sign up using Facebook, create and support causes. You could even donate (only in US for now) to your make your favorite cause a success. In an interview with NBW, Dhar shares his vision for the company and the future of enterprise software.
NBW: Why launch a site for giving and corporate social responsibility?
Dhar: We are moving to a more transparent world. What exists now was not built for transparency. It was built for a hierarchical world and we can’t stop all of that. The only way to be credible in this world is to be genuine. Unfortunately, the world we create relies on models that has become less than acceptable. For example companies have to mine, pollute the air, water and exploit natural resources. The world is in a boil. In this world or transparency, corporate social responsibility will always become a part of anyone who is big. Companies have become larger than countries in some cases so its natural that people will expect them to be socially responsible.
On the supply side, take the tax receipts of fortune 500 companies in the United States. About $20 bn- $25 bn is given away as tax benefits to them by the government on account of the social responsibility schemes the companies spend on. If you take all the companies together including individual contribution, it is much higher.
Usually, its seen as a tax saving measure and not as social responsibility. And even if companies are spending so much, it isn’t visible in peoples eye. Its probably time for that $25 billion to do the talking.
NBW: How does it work?
Dhar: We are not an ERP for giving. We look at what society values as giving and connect companies with what people care about. The network will capture causes of people and any individual can go and support a cause. Its enabled using a Facebook login and we can tell what people care about by looking at it. For the first time, we will have book keeping for causes. It will be a goodness database you can look at and say what good you did last year.
At the other end, we will look at what are the causes and direct companies to those causes. We believe that every individual has a cause and is willing to put their social equity on the line. We will have active citizenship. The person will feel better. The world will be a better place.
NBW: That’s the consumer story..How is it attractive for corporates?
Dhar: Its a wild vision but if you have to do something, it has to be something crazy. Lets say a company says that I don’t want to support a random cause. I want to support something that my employees care about. This will tell them what people care about. It will even tell companies what they should be building next.
There is something adversarial between the laws of free market and sustainability. But the sustainability idea can be in line with the laws of free market. Some kind of convergence between the two can be achieved if you get people to talk to the companies. Its kind of a long shot.
NBW: Whats the roadmap like?
Dhar: The next one year is all about focusing on the consumer. We will focus heavily on improving the product and adoption. Marketing will be a key aspect till we get a critical mass. The corporate side will begin in a small way. And then the next year, we will focus on the corporate side. This season it will be about pushing the numbers till virality sets in. Its been barely a week. We will begin with the US market to test. Main reason is that there are some legalities we need to deal with.
NBW: Whats happening to enterprise IT? What are the changes you see?
Dhar: There is a distinct shift from what enterprises used to value in IT and what enterprises value in IT now. That’s reflecting in budget allocation and the models they engage with. IT budgets are not centralised as they used to be. It affects the models that business will accept. The pay as you go model is very strong now. IT departments would like more a-la-carte services to pick and choose from. If you put it all together, the enterprise is really looking for ready to use solutions and pay ideally on usage basis. That is to shift cap-ex from the customer to the vendor.
From a technology standpoint, enterprises are more and more interfacing with the customer’s technology and less with the customer directly. The Automatic Teller Machine is a classic example. Enterprise solutions need to talk to those powerful IT tools in the users hands. This will have profound implications on what enterprise solutions will look like. You will need to build ready to use pay as you go technology that will interface with the platforms that the consumer is on. For instance, you will have to interface with the consumers phones, his social media pages etc. This is a very important trend which will determine how enterprise solutions will be made.