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Saturday October 1st, 2022

The meaning of innovation, according to Infomate CEO Jehan Perinpanayagam

Jehan Perinpanayagam Chief Executive at Infomate

Jehan Perinpanayagam takes a deep dive into innovation at Infomate, a pioneering BPM company and leading BPM export earner that is part of the John Keells Group. According to Perinpanayagam, the founding Chief Executive at Infomate, technology is just one aspect of innovation.

Innovation is central to your success. Can you briefly take us through Infomate’s journey thus far?

Infomate started as a shared services provider of the John Keells Group with around 60 people and no third-party revenue, but we were also the first shared services centre in Sri Lanka. We began to look at overseas case studies to grow the business, and it became clear that we had to continually improve efficiencies because shared services are all about being price competitive and passing on cost benefits to our customers.

Our innovation first focused on improving efficiencies, and then we moved to innovations around business models. For instance, long before remote working became popular, we started using technology for remote working 15 years ago. Infomate also launched this country’s first rural BPM and employed talented people from distant villages who began working on SAP solutions for us. Before long, we started innovations using modern technologies like robotic process automation, machine learning and AI and data analytics, and we have moved on to innovating around ESG.

Infomate is among the top six BPM exporters in the country today, with a staff of over 400. Nearly 80% of revenue comes from third-party clients outside the JKH group. Our clientele includes some of the biggest brands in Sri Lanka, Australia and Europe. We have built a solid reputation and have done some fantastic work in different spheres with groundbreaking innovations.

What is your approach to innovation and how has it helped you build a resilient and successful company?

Infomate is where it is today because we had to challenge ourselves to be price competitive from day one. With scarce resources and investments, we were compelled to do more with little and find innovative ways of developing and rolling out our services. One good example was how we solved the problem of transferring and sharing documents across the JKH group. That was around 17 years ago when the concept of digital documents was yet to become commonplace. We had to scan each document individually and transmit these through file transfer protocols. This was inefficient and consumed a lot of time and resources and lead to unnecessary complexities and errors. We considered investing in a document management system. However, because the costs were exceedingly high, we decided to use open-sourced technology to build an in-house document management system that we continue to use today. It is one of the best BPM-specific document management cum workflow solutions available in the market today, and it gave us the confidence to keep innovating.

Building the right culture to enable innovation was also important. We always encouraged our employees to think out of the box. We rewarded people who came up with ideas and soon had a free flow of ideas that helped us drive innovation. That also led to better collaborations among teams within the company and our business partners, suppliers and customers, enabling us to build solutions that matter to win global clients.

Can you give us examples of some of the best innovations at Infomate?

BPOMate, our workflow cum document management system, is one of the best IT solutions we developed, as mentioned earlier. Another would be the country’s first supplier portal called Supplier Mate. We were handling a complex Accounts Payable process, for a company in the leisure sector. The company had to deal with frustrated suppliers who were not receiving timely payments. We did some research and came up with the idea for a supplier portal where suppliers could log in, view their pending purchase orders, upload E-invoices, and then track the status of their payments on their mobile devices. If they had a dispute, they could check with the relevant operations person via a Facebook-type interface and chat that we created. We created total visibility and streamlined the entire supplier management process, and soon every hotel in the country started using SupplierMate.

We also rolled out the first working bot in the JKH Group. that handled bank records and related processes. That was a tremendous success and helped us seamlessly develop RPA solutions for other business verticals. We made leaps in data analytics, helping clients visualize their data with very innovative formats, and now we can share data-driven insights, forecasts and business intelligence that matters.

I am also pleased with the innovations to our business model, particularly the three rural BPM centres we set up. Today, around 50% of the JKH group’s accounting functions get processed by rural youth out of these three centres.

Now we are doing innovations around ESG in terms of employee well-being and giving back to the community by supporting orphans and underprivileged youth with soft skills and professional training so that we could potentially hire them. We also aim to be carbon neutral. So, these are all innovations, not necessarily technological, but these are game changers nonetheless.

What are your plans for expansion and growth? How will you enable that growth?

Despite the unfolding economic challenges, the tech industry remains poised for growth. Infomate is investing resources for global expansion, and we will not slow down. We will accelerate our efforts to secure new business, and although there will be some tough times ahead, we are confident that things will start to improve significantly. We are determined to go through this storm and then look at doubling revenue and clients by 2025.