Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi there! My name is Raghuraman Ramamurthy, but most people just call me Raghu. I am a serial entrepreneur and I started Rapid Acceleration Partners (RAP) with co-founders Baskar Agneeswaran, who is a longtime friend and fellow serial entrepreneur, and Ramesh Kumar who is a veteran in Silicon Valley and Indian startups.
RAP is one of the latest breeds of Intelligent Automation solutions providers. Our Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) solutions comprise Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) components. They enable hyper-automation aka end-to-end process automation for businesses, providing game-changing benefits – automating and accelerating processes, eliminating manual effort, and maximizing operational efficiency.
While these advantages may seem purely operational, IPA solutions are driving a paradigm shift in how businesses work, enabling more intelligent operations and improved collaboration for better business outcomes. It’s the dawn of a new era and we’re proud to be a strong player in this space.
We provide democratized IPA solutions via RAPFlow – a next-gen, AI-powered content intelligence platform that can automate the processing of unstructured content. It also provides full lifecycle AI orchestration on a single platform. RAPBot is an RPA tool that mimics human actions, connects workflows and legacy systems, feeding the output of processes downstream, and automating rule-based processes.
When used in tandem, they provide end-to-end workflow automation capabilities that can be deployed in just weeks. The best part – no specialist knowledge is required! You can even build your own use case and the platform can easily integrate with your existing systems.
To date, we have served companies in 6 industries, processes 7 million+ pieces of content with 10 million+ process iterations, and saved 70% of manual effort.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
There was no particular lightbulb or Eureka moment, but in 2017, during conversations about the future, I realized the AI market was ripe for the picking and wide open for new entrants. Particularly entrants that tackled the challenge of automating the processing of unstructured content and overcoming the typical challenges that hinder most enterprises attempting intelligent automation.
Stay true to your core vision but remain agile and evolve as opportunities unfold.
Most often those projects falter and don’t get off the ground, despite the significant, tangible benefits successful automation provides. After a decade-long, successful career in Barry-Wehmiller, I decided to venture out with friends as a serial entrepreneur, and RAP was born.
Our unique practical approach has paved the way for our success along with a strong team and the ability to seize evolving opportunities widening the parameters of our solutions. RAP’s mission is to democratize Intelligent Automation making this innovative technology highly accessible and affordable to companies of all sizes, with minimal development efforts and seamless cloud deployment.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Right from the start, we knew that an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) driven platform was our end goal, but we were initially figuring out what the platform would solve and do. We spoke to customers and looked closely at the problems they needed to solve. Most of their problems centered around the challenge of processing unstructured content, and how to automate these highly-repetitive, data-intensive processes and other workflows for greater efficiency, scalability, and cost-effectiveness. Our initial vision for the RAPFlow platform was a narrow application platform – one built for highly specific applications and tasks such as email automation and check to process, to name a few.
Our initial R&D focus was on building industry-class algorithms that were the right ones for the job and putting them into a pipeline flow methodology. When we prototyped RAPFlow and used it for a couple of customers all went smoothly.
However, as we approached more customers, we realized that while they had the same problems and challenges, their processes varied and had different nuances. This meant we had to give up on the idea of a narrow platform. It sparked our new goal of a flexible, swift to deploy platform that democratized Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) for companies of all sizes. A no code to low code platform that didn’t need any in-depth, specialist knowledge to deploy and run.
We abandoned our earlier efforts and rewired the platform for a new incarnation that is flexible enough to handle varying processes. One where the same components could be applied in a highly flexible manner. This latest incarnation of RAPFlow is highly user-friendly and convenient with drag and drop functionality allowing the end-user to configure processes – all with no coding and swift deployment. It has 150+ components and our own proprietary algorithms that you can piece together in a visual interface, wiring it as you like for your own customized flow. It has been a tremendous success with clients worldwide, gaining industry-wide recognition.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I already had experience running large businesses with complex technological platforms. So launching the business was not a brand new area for me and my co-founders. We needed to focus on what markets to target and what business problems we would solve. This included challenges in processing unstructured content which is ubiquitous across myriad industries. It also included boosting operational efficiency and streamlining processes through intelligent automation.
Aside from operational efficiency, we focused on enabling smarter business operations for greater revenue and profits. Having identified these areas, we decided to bootstrap and started building out the product.
As we built it, we also ran services that helped us onboard our first few employees, pay for these resources, and sustain operations, until we reached a fundraising stage in October 2019.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since RAP’s launch in 2017, it has taken a great deal of hard work to make our mark in the industry. We have consistently landed customers that were unsuccessful in their previous automation attempts. Most notable is the fact that we have been chosen over the industry Big 3 and that speaks volumes about RAP’s abilities and reputation. Our clients work with us not just for our technical proficiency, but because we offer “fulfillment” of their business problem.
This entails streamlining and optimizing their processes for better outcomes. We have observed a gulf between available technology and how companies consume it. RAP has been able to bridge this chasm and ensure successful automation that serves our clients at the micro and macro level.
For instance, we worked with a major US-based car dealership providing an IPA solution to automate and expedite their quote process (micro-level). This solution ultimately increased the winnability of sales (macro-level), bringing in more revenue, allowing faster responses to customers and better internal collaboration. This unique perspective, cross-industrial scope, and our reputation have been the crux of attracting and retaining customers.
Our sales process entails direct marketing and outreach efforts as well as building a strong partner network to bring in new customers. As we are a deep tech product, we find that it is best served to a customer wrapped in a solution. Our partners usually have a deep understanding of a particular industry and its challenges.
We typically approach the operations or business process owners for the pilot project. The role varies depending on the use case, process and industry. For instance in hospitality, we approach business process owners for back-office processes, mainly accounting. In some organizations, this may be the controller, finance head, or a similar role.
While the product creates a lot of excitement and interest, on average it takes about 3-6 months to cross a pilot project and get into full-fledged production with clients. This time is necessary to thoroughly map and fine-tune the use case which sometimes requires restructuring the process. This involves a meticulous approach to mapping the parameters and exceptions involved in the process. Essentially, we need to box the scope of the use case, thoroughly defining the process so it can be automated. Once given a clear use case, it takes 2 to 4 weeks to roll it out to production.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are delighted that RAP is thriving despite the turbulence that has shaken business and economies globally due to the pandemic. We’re glad to see that our team’s hard work and long nights have paid off with recognition and awards by industry magazines such as Analytics Insight and CIOReview.
The future looks bright and we envision the rise of Bot-as-a-Service due to the convergence of AI, RPA, and the cloud. Our focus is on industries such as hospitality management, shared services, healthcare, real estate, and BFSI. Eventually, we plan to bundle RAPFlow and RAPBot into a seamless platform that caters to standard and custom use cases.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Starting a business and sustaining it through challenging times such as this year’s pandemic has been an adventure in the truest sense. Planning and contingency plans are a must, but no amount of planning covers all possibilities. Learning to handle curveballs and stay focused on goals has been part of the journey of starting and running RAP.
In the initial phase, it is imperative to stay lean and focused until you reach a point where you’re growing and can expand. Pay attention to what your customers need and adapt accordingly. We spent a lot of time with our customers defining what exactly they wanted to solve and what we wanted to build. Then we went about crafting our platform and its solutions.
Constantly listening to the customer, meant that we put significant effort into building the platform, although our team was small. The moment we realized this was not a one-size-fits-all platform, as different customers have different processes, we had the speed and agility to pivot and make it a completely flexible platform. This meant that most of the development effort on the first version of the platform had to be scrapped. We had to stay objective and ruthlessly cut our past efforts to work on a new incarnation of the RAPFlow platform that was flexible to meet our customer’s requirements and our vision.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
True to the startup spirit, we are a bootstrap operation and rely on typical, open-source tools for our teams to collaborate and work on projects. Slack, SharePoint, Microsoft Teams and Outlook are our workhorses. Our entire development stack is open source and we use standard development tools such as GitHub and GitLab.
We are strong believers in the power of marketing and social media. Our website and LinkedIn and other social media handles provide our insights and thought leadership in the Intelligent Automation space uncovering new perspectives and opportunities that we look forward to working on.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
It’s hard to pick just one. Over the years, I’ve read countless books and while they have been a tremendous source of learning, real-life experience has been an invaluable teacher. Every business and customer I have worked with has contributed significantly to my knowledge, mindset, and business success.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Getting started is important, but a strategic plan with targets in a promising space is necessary. For instance, RAP looked at typical operations that would improve drastically from intelligent automation in terms of efficiency, cost, accuracy, scalability, and so on.
Stay true to your core vision but remain agile and evolve as opportunities unfold. This is how RAP began as an AI solutions provider and grew into an IPA and Bot-As-A-Service provider with cross-industrial, global scope that drives a fundamental shift in working more intelligently for better business outcomes.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Yes, RAP is looking to expand and grow, taking on more projects to serve clients’ Intelligent Automation requirements. To this end, we are seeking candidates for the positions of Full Stack Lead, Python Developer, Technical Architect, and Product Marketer.
Where can we go to learn more?
Check out the RAP website where you can Book a Demo to get a taste of our IPA and RPA solutions and how they can serve you. You can also take a look at our social media and connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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