Expert Interview with Nikhil Daddikar, Founder of Celoxis



Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: June 30, 2018

Celoxis, founded in May 2001, is world’s leading online platform for project portfolio management and work collaboration. It is the first Indian SaaS company and first movers in several innovations related to project management and business efficiency. Currently, Celoxis has over 2,800+ customers globally, ranging from mid-sized enterprises to Fortune 100 companies.

Celoxis has been the project management platform of choice to brands like Bombardier, Deloitte, Rolex, LG, Singapore Post, Del Monte, The University of Queensland, Fuji Xerox, Jabil, Covidien, Whirlpool, and The Supreme Court of Ohio. SMBs and Enterprises have been using Celoxis to successfully manage their small teams and small projects to large multi-million dollar projects. The flexibility of the tool lies in the fact that it has been used to manage projects in Hollywood movies, world series hockey, the study of ocean currents, large mining sites and even in building the world’s fastest Camaro.

In conversation with Nikhil Daddikar,

How did you develop your interest in project management? What was the major inspiration that laid the foundation of Celoxis?

The journey has begun when Ravindra Wankar and I were working together in the U.S. This was in the late 90s, a time synonymous with the dot-com boom and bust and a time when project management was considered to be a traditional discipline. Working in small and large teams we realized that too much time was being wasted on status meetings. After the effort and time spent, nobody had a clear picture of what was going on. Project documentation was not available when required, resource management was not in place and our managers were facing difficulties in planning, tracking and communicating priorities and changes. The dynamism complicated things even further. Things would change every week. And important activities started slipping through the cracks. The printout taken from Microsoft Project on day 1 was no longer valid next week. Collaboration too was an issue. The client was never in the loop. Email and documents scattered across desktops and servers held important information. We’d never know if we had the correct version of the word document. Change requests remained buried in our emails and we never knew if we had sign-offs on them. That’s when we realized that Microsoft Project and Excel, the de-facto tools for project management of our time weren’t going to be enough. It was time for a revolution and we wanted to be the ones to start it. This was what laid the foundation for creating Celoxis.

The project management market has expanded substantially over the last 10 to 15 years. When was your first entry into the market and how you have been able to carve out a successful niche in Project Management?

When we launched Celoxis back in 2001, there was only one other online project management tool in Genius Project. I know AtTask (Workfront now) soon followed us in July 2001 and Basecamp in 2003. Basecamp as a company existed before us as 37signals, but it was a web designing company back then. So, you see that we are not only the first Indian SaaS company but also one of the pioneers of online project management software. Today, if you see there are more than 100 different tools that claim to do project management. But, you need to understand one thing – the term “project management” means different things to different buyers and project management software that is available today is scattered across a wide spectrum. Most buyers don’t know about this. That’s why I often feel sorry for prospects who come to us comparing Asana and LiquidPlanner. It’s not their fault. All tools out there in the market look the same. All their websites position themselves as a cure-all for project management challenges.

When it comes to Celoxis, we developed this tool keeping the customers’ challenges in mind. Every feature is aimed to solve the pain points they face. At Celoxis, we not only focus on the software capabilities but also on the how the end-user would actually be using it. There is no negotiation between requirements and user experience. These two are focal to our product strategy and vision, and that’s how we have been able to carve out our presence in this densely populated marketplace.

We also believe in bold innovations and will continue to do so! The key here is to believe in your gut, understand the possible risks and keep your mitigation plan handy. We have been pioneers not just in the tool and the platform, but also in many other facets of utility and experience. We are the first to offer SaaS and On-Premise. Our very first version of Celoxis had customizable dashboards. We predicted the paradigm shift of businesses gradually shifting focus from ‘best-in-class’ solutions to more comprehensive platforms and introduced Custom Apps back in 2004. We pioneered free client portals, so that project clients could get real-time visibility into project status and risk scenarios and not have to stand by the sidelines and be fed with stale status reports.

Today, Celoxis has been the project management platform of choice to brands like HBO, Bombardier, University of Washington, Rolex, Virgin, Samsung-Harman, The Supreme Court of Ohio, KPMG and Bank Mandiri, the largest Indonesian bank. These customers amplify our brand and our vision of helping companies deliver successful projects and results, every time!

Tell us how is Celoxis different from other Project Management Tools?

Celoxis is an ‘all-in-one’ web-based platform for project portfolio management and work collaboration. It provides a single online platform for all stakeholders. The fact that the tool has been used in Hollywood movie productions, planning of world series hockey, the study of ocean currents and large mining site projects and even in building the world’s fastest Camaro talks of its scalability, reliability, and flexibility.

The capabilities that distinguish us from other project management tools include:

  1. Real-world scheduling that accommodates all of the real world complexities of project scheduling like resource availabilities, time zones, vacations, task constraints, cross-project dependencies, user-defined dates, etc..
  2. Endless customization in the tool that gives you the flexibility to make the software work for you and not the other way around.
  3. Powerful reporting and charts that help you slice and dice your project data and turn them into actionable insights.
  4. Custom Apps that give you an integrated platform to not only manage your projects and tasks, but also track other related processes like bugs, issues, risks, change requests, to-dos, and other custom workflows.
  5. Speed and ease of use where 80% of your and your team’s typical actions can be done without ever leaving your dashboard. Teams are in and out of the tool within a couple of minutes, so that they can spend their time doing their work and not in the software.

So we are virtually a risk-free investment at an affordable price to any business seeking a solution to their project management challenges.

Given the changing dynamic of marketing technology landscape, where do you see Celoxis fitting into the stack?

Project Portfolio management continues to amaze me with each passing year. It has shifted gears from traditional command and control management to a more collaborative environment that is still rooted in the core project management principles. The rise of BYOD, Visual Project Management or Social Project Management is already making waves. As customer expectations change, accommodating them within the gamuts of an online platform is crucial and the most decisive factor in this market.

The main risk with a stable project management platform (such as ours) is keeping up with the latest trends and at the same time making sure that it does not affect the user experience in a negative way. The other risk we see is the constantly changing user expectations and experience from the interface. But, being a nimble organization our strengths lie in identifying fleeting trends and not blindly jumping onto the bandwagon and also staying informed and ahead of making improvements that deliver value to our customers.

Today, even after 17 years, Celoxis is rated among the top 3 best enterprise applications for project management. We have the highest team adoption in the marketplace, which is very crucial when marketing an enterprise product. Our users report an overall 40% improvement in efficiency and productivity.

So, if you ask me where we fit on the spectrum, I would say we are where there is most valuable in terms of capabilities, ongoing support, license costs and overall vendor relationship for the organizations we serve.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? How do you build your audience segments?

Our ideal customer is anybody who is interested at a minimum in planning and tracking projects with as few as 20 tasks to as many as 1000 tasks along with integrated resource management, time tracking, budget/cost management and executive reporting.

We then extend and build our other audience segments based on some of the advanced capabilities that Celoxis offers. For example, we are one of the very few tools out there that have an On-Premise deployment option. Our On-Premise has the lowest TCO in the market. So, organizations who do not want to host their data on our cloud and want something inside their firewalls to become a segment for us.

Our users who migrated from Microsoft Project tell us that we are the best replica of Microsoft Project with added improvements and superior capabilities. Companies who are looking to outgrow their Microsoft Project envelopes become another segment for us.

Organizations that have distributed teams that work across time zones is another category of audience. Our robust scheduling engines is one of the very few models that accommodate time zones into scheduling projects.

Finally, organizations who need an “all-in-one” tool for managing projects and associated processes like tracking bugs, issues, change requests, and other custom workflows without having to use multiple tools form another audience segment for us.

Which are the software Celoxis uses to streamline its business processes?

We use Celoxis for almost all of our business processes. We use Celoxis for product roadmapping and product sprints for new releases. We use the bug and issue tracking for tracking all bugs and issues reported during the development cycles. We also use this to report and track bugs and issues reported by our customers. We have also created our own Sales CRM tool using Custom Apps and track all of our leads and manage sales pipeline better. Our billing teams use Celoxis for all customer billing processes. Our marketing teams use Celoxis to track their marketing KPIs and campaign effectiveness. Even our new employee onboarding processes are mapped within Celoxis. The only other software we use apart from Celoxis in our day-to-day operations is Zendesk for managing our customer support.

If you have one piece of advice to someone just starting out what would it be?

If you can do things that others can’t easily duplicate or you see something that others don’t, then yes, go for it. But start simple. Be objective and fail fast. You need to know where YOU come in. Why YOU? If you can answer that, then there is a good chance you’ll succeed.

Something your company does better than its competitors- the secret ingredient behind the success of Celoxis.

We develop Celoxis, keeping the customers’ challenges in mind. Every feature is aimed to solve the pain points they face. Our aim is to reduce adoption issues and lessen administrative work in the software so that people spend more time doing their work and not in the software. By doing this, we are increasing our customer base. We are building an army of loyalists and champions. We focus on creating organizational champions or support groups within our growing customer base. For us, our users are our best and most reliable marketing channels.

Project management is in the DNA of our organization. Even after 17 years, Ravindra and I still code to create value for our customers and read each and every customer query or interaction that comes in. We are so attuned to our customers that if either of us sees a genuine pain point coming across in a customer interaction, we quickly implement it and release it within a week, outside of our regular and planned release cycles.

Our support is manned by engineers who deeply understand project management and the tool and customer queries are typically responded within an hour. That’s probably the fastest in any industry. We do not have any pre-canned or scripted responses for our support. Each of us is genuinely interested in solving the customer’s query.

What are some things you do to keep you interested, updated and inspired?

Project management continues to amaze me with each passing year. When I came into this field, in the early nineties, project management software was essentially about classroom-trained managers gaining control. Today, it’s more collaborative. Tomorrow, I don’t know what it will be. This challenge is what keeps me going. I like the recent developments in Artificial Intelligence and am actively researching on how we can embrace it in project management. The Google Assistant phone conversations are simply mind-blowing. It will be intriguing to have an AI-based assistant for project managers.

I am also a life hacker at heart and love to compose my haiku poems.

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