Esprida Corporation has always looked for the next new innovation to further promote its remote-monitoring and remote-management solutions that were initially developed for the retail market. In 2002, Esprida was one of the first companies to recognize the growing wave of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. With the falling costs of hardware, wireless accessibility, and by foreseeing the 3G revolution, Esprida realized these future trends fit the monitoring and management systems that the firm already had in place. In fact, with relatively minor modifications, Esprida’s existing products were able to readily address the needs of this growing market and the new types of equipment that eventually came online.
with Asad Jobanputra
1. Is there a technology, trend, or idea that’s driving your company forward?
The big trend that really excites us is this idea of the Internet and machine-to-machine communications. For example, we recently worked in the financial industry to provide check-scanning solutions that would allow financial institutions to centrally manage equipment usage and transactions across potentially thousands of scanners simultaneously. What’s also really exciting about what we do is hitting commercial applications first before they hit the consumer market, while enabling new business models.
2. How has the notion of innovation changed in the past decade?
It continues to get faster and faster—especially with software and technology. Ten years ago, half of these commercial applications were still on dial-up—and now it’s 4G networks streaming all sorts of content. The underlying skill sets and knowledge base required to do this are increasing, but your time to implement new releases or products is getting faster and faster. Let me give you this example: about 10 years ago, we did a new release of our products maybe twice a year, and now we do one every month.
3. How do you cultivate innovation among your workforce?
I try to break down some of the bureaucracy or steps and approvals required to do things, and instead give more space for people to experiment and come up with new ideas.
4. What would you say defines an innovative company in the 21st century?
A company that’s able to come up with products faster—and one that also realizes and accepts that in this new and changing technical environment, some older and existing business models don’t necessarily make sense anymore.
5. How can a company encourage innovation without breaking the bank?
The best way to do it—although it’s not always feasible—is to share the risk with someone else. If you and a partner are developing a new product and you’re a piece of that new product line, then you’ll be innovating together rather than on your own. Plus, you’re pooling not just the resources involved in building things, but also the resources and experience involved in marketing, selling, and encouraging user acceptance for a new way of working or a new way of doing things.
Esprida has solidified itself as one of the top remote-management companies with its flagship product, Esprida LiveControl, which helps alleviate many remote-monitoring and remote-management-service needs. “One of our flagship product’s primary purpose is to connect equipment so problems can be diagnosed and fixed remotely rather than sending somebody on site,” says Asad Jobanputra, director of technology, “which in turn reduces operational costs and increases service uptime.”
He uses the example of digital billboards, which comprise one of Esprida’s markets. “It costs a lot of money to send a team to work on these highway billboard systems,” he says. “What we’re doing is installing wireless connectivity that allows repairs and software updates to be done remotely.”
In addition to digital billboards and signage, Esprida has given companies a significant benefit through its remote-support software for products like retail checkout registers, photo kiosks, self-service kiosks (like wedding registry and price-checking kiosks), e-government kiosks (Michigan’s Department of Motor Vehicles is a client), credit-card readers and check scanners for retailers, and healthcare information centres. Esprida LiveControl is also used to manage one of the largest self-service deployments, with about 100,000 endpoints worldwide.
Jobanputra believes that the market is still quite fragmented, and even within the expanding network of interconnected M2M communications, there are still an abundance of niche segments. “What makes us unique is that we have a platform solution—so rather than building something from scratch, our customers can come in and basically adopt our scalable, tested, and proven solutions.”
Innovation is a naturally ingrained and vital aspect of Esprida. “We’re a software development company,” Jobanputra says. “Our biggest asset is our combined brainpower to produce innovative solutions—that is the essence of Esprida and how we operate.” He also believes that Esprida’s innovation stems from developing its products and services, and building them in such a way that appeals to the needs of multiple markets and customers simultaneously.
When asked where his company finds the inspiration to be innovative and constantly come up with new ideas, Jobanputra says that much of it comes from being and working directly in the market with customers or partners and then bringing new ideas back to Esprida. For example, the firm has been instrumental in the evolution from PCs using dial-up modems to embedded applications using wireless or 3G connectivity within connected endpoints—all at a much lower cost. “Innovation comes where you are able to do things better, cheaper, and more cost effectively—and it opens doors to do new things you couldn’t do before,” Esprida says.
One of the ways in which Esprida has had to adapt to a continually changing business is adjusting to how it works with clients—especially as the firm began to expand its customer portfolio. Jobanputra explains that the challenge sometimes is to work within the operational and planning processes of larger companies and maintain the agile processes of a small, dynamic technology firm. “Process constraints slow down innovation,” Jobanputra says. “Innovation is all about going out there and trying new things and experimenting.”
In building Esprida’s team, Jobanputra has also learned how innovation can occasionally be unintentionally suppressed. “When we landed our first couple of big clients, we successfully adapted to a stricter and more rigid delivery model—and it actually made people hyper-focused on performing specific tasks with no means to voice new ideas about the solution as a whole,” he says. Jobanputra feels that, as a result, net contribution was diminished slightly. “So what I have found now is that we have an improved tolerance for new ideas and deviations from the plan,” he says. “If someone else has a new idea and it’s better than the original plan, we’ll try to incorporate it either immediately or in the next development release.”
This, he says, has really changed the way people work. “Team members are now more willing and able to contribute new ideas and approaches to things because it allows greater individual contribution to product releases—and ultimately results in better products.”