An Echelon Media Company
Thursday May 23rd, 2024

OMAK Technologies: The Pursuit of Constant Innovation

Chrishan Perera – Co-founder and Chief Executive  of OMAK Technologies

Co-founder and Chief Executive Chrishan Perera takes us through the transformative journey of OMAK Technologies, a trailblazer in restaurant and retail Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. From pioneering SaaS solutions to integrating cutting-edge AI technology, Chrishan explains how OMAK is pushing the boundaries of innovation in the industry and shaping the future of Point-of-Sale (POS) technology worldwide.

Can you take us through the journey of OMAK Technologies and what defines the company and its tech?

From the outset, our mission has been to pioneer innovation. Our journey began with introducing the first SaaS-based solution for restaurant POS systems in the market. Unlike traditional upfront software purchases, we offered a monthly rental model, revolutionizing the industry in our country.

Following this milestone, we further disrupted the norm by being the first to provide a cloud-hosted restaurant POS solution. While others relied on on-premise setups with associated server costs, we championed a fully cloud-based system, available on a monthly rental basis. Continuously pushing boundaries, we consistently led the way in innovation.

We proudly pioneered integrations with major platforms. We were the trailblazers in integrating Uber Eats delivery into any POS system in the country. Similarly, we were the first to seamlessly integrate PickMe, offering unparalleled convenience to our users.

Today, we’re thrilled to unveil our latest breakthrough: an AI-based POS system. This cutting-edge technology allows customers to place orders through natural conversation with the POS, eliminating human interaction. Whether through drive-thrus, kiosks, or traditional setups, our AI-powered solution ensures seamless operations, even enabling a 24-hour drive-thru service. This innovation addresses the challenges faced by staff during late hours, ensuring uninterrupted service around the clock.

Picture a drive-thru restaurant, where customers interact with a screen instead of a human attendant. Our interface displays the menu, captures spoken orders, and provides visual confirmation of selections and pricing. The challenge lies in ensuring accurate recognition, especially given the diverse accents and pronunciations encountered in real-world scenarios.

To address this, we’ve customized our system with a localization module for improved comprehension. This underscores the importance of fine-tuning and affordability in our approach. Despite the complexities, we aim to offer this solution at an accessible price point, maintaining our commitment to cost-effectiveness without compromising quality.

What does innovation mean to you, and what were the challenges you had to grapple with to fine-tune your purpose and vision for the company?

I believe that innovation means delivering commercially viable products, methods, or services. The key here is commercial viability; countless companies worldwide introduce innovative offerings, but if they fail to sustain profitability, they vanish from the market. We’ve encountered this firsthand, with a repository of obsolete applications lacking commercial viability, forcing us to shelve them—a challenge in itself.

To innovate successfully, we must develop solutions that not only address consumer needs but also prove economically sustainable. 

How do you cultivate an innovative culture, particularly in an environment resistant to change or besieged by fierce competition?

This was a significant hurdle for us as well. We faced difficulties in maintaining our products amidst rising costs, hindering continuous innovation. Our solution? We undertook a radical organizational overhaul, transitioning from a rigid hierarchical structure to a nimble, flat one. Embracing lean processes catalysed our innovation efforts.

Innovation isn’t just about ideation; it’s also about speed to market. Releasing an AI product ten years from now won’t garner interest. It needs to happen now, within months. Our organizational restructuring—adopting a flat structure and assembling a lean team—facilitated this.

What lessons do you think OMAK Technologies has to offer other enterprises and entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka?

In Sri Lanka, over the past year and a half, we’ve witnessed significant labour shifts within the IT sector, with many employees considering migration and overseas job opportunities. Additionally, the cost of development in Sri Lanka has skyrocketed, rendering many companies globally uncompetitive. European markets, in particular, are diverting their outsourcing efforts to countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines, bypassing Sri Lanka.

I propose a strategic pivot for companies in Sri Lanka away from being merely back-office development centres. Instead, focus on product development and bringing those products to market. Successful companies have adopted this approach, prioritizing recurring revenue over service-based operations.

Consider companies like WhatsApp, which achieved monumental success with small employee counts. Even today, they maintain a lean engineering team of around 50 employees. The key to success lies not in the size of your workforce, but in product innovation and customer growth. Therefore, I recommend shifting focus towards product development and exploring opportunities for in-house innovation.

What’s next for OMAK Technologies? Can you take us through the factors shaping the future of the company and the measures in place to contain challenges and unlock opportunities?

Our focus in 2024 is gathering momentum in the international markets and to that end have already partnered with firms in Qatar and Dubai. Our next objective is to accelerate international expansion, particularly in the B2B sector.

Similar to our project with Pizza Hut India, we’re determined to expand not only within Pizza Hut markets but also across Asia. Additionally, we aim to elevate the reputation of Sri Lankan engineering expertise on the global stage. While Sri Lanka is often seen as a back-office outsourcing hub, many groundbreaking products have been developed by Sri Lankan engineers. Our mission is to showcase this potential to the world and position Sri Lanka as a hub for innovation, alongside other companies with similar aspirations.