Expert Interview with Vijay Yalamanchili – CEO of Keka



Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 1, 2021

Keka is a self funded organization which was born because of the frustration of using HR software that weren’t up to the mark. So, they begin to make their own. A Hyderabad based company believes that Indian employees need a better HR assistance, and they are continuously achieving that goal. Keka provides software assistance in Payroll, talent management and Human Resources.

Read the interview to know what Mr. Vijay – CEO of Keka has to say about the Keka’s journey.

Looking for HR Software? Check out SoftwareSuggest’s list of the HR Software solutions.

Q1) How did you hit upon the idea for your Company?

We were a 100 people technology services company and we needed an HR software for our own needs. We explored and tried all the major HR products that were available in the market, and were pretty disappointed with the way they were built. The software’s were very antiquated and clunky to use. When we studied the market, the market was very fragmented especially for Small Medium Enterprises and there was no one market leader with any significant share. We felt we could make an impact in the market and that’s how Keka was born.

Q2) How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

  • User experience at the core
    The primary differentiating factor why our customers choose us is for the user experience. Today an HR system is no longer limited to select an HR Manager in an enterprise. All employees are part of the system and hence it is important not to frustrate employees with poor interfaces. Poor user experience leads to poor employee experience which ultimately affects employer brand.
  • Focus on solving fundamental pain points
    We spent enormous amount of time in solving some of the fundamental pain points of companies. Attendance & Leave Tracking are considered most basic features in any HRMS system and yet these are the most tedious operations for HR managers and no one attempted to really solve them. Most HR systems forced employees to manually clock their attendance in a web browser. This is pretty ugly from an employee experience perspective and is a significant time waste. We felt the only way to seamlessly track employee attendance for companies is to leverage their existing biometric devices and sync automatically in the background. Syncing attendance logs from biometric devices and getting it working smoothly is quite challenging and HR vendors haven’t been able to crack it. There are hundreds of devices in the market with their own proprietary drivers and the device vendors wouldn’t help connecting to these devices with fear of losing ground on their own time attendance software. We took the pain of integrating every possible Biometric device available in India market as that was the only way we could integrate every customer. We painstakingly tried to reverse engineer the drivers and write our integrations and it took us almost 1.5 years to get where we are today. The support requests from customers due to attendance are also significantly high because of network or device disruptions, so this was another deterrent for other vendors. As for us, we are automating and building proactive mechanisms in place to reduce support burden.
  • Quality over quantity
    A lot of our competitors focused on building a laundry list of features so they could sell the bullet list of features on a PPT. We instead focused on few things and we built them well. We lost a lot of customers since we didn’t have Performance Management Software but that didn’t deter us from focusing on fundamental pain points.
  • Security & Privacy
    Most recently one of our customer’s complained that a Keka Customer Success representative logged into their account, and he wasn’t happy. But we were happy. Since, we are the only product in the market that alerts our customer for any activity on their account from our own employees. The customer had to just toggle a button and the system locks down Keka customer agents from accessing customer account.
  • Customer Retention vs Customer Growth
    The first thing every product does once they start selling in the market is to scale sales. We instead focused on retention rather than sales. We patiently spent time with existing customers understanding their problems and refining our product, so we could build a product that really solves pain points of customers. We lost many new customers because we prioritized improvements needed by existing customers over the new customers. In the long run, we believe this is going to help us create a strong foundation for scaling.

Q3) How has sales evolved since you first got into the business? What hasn’t changed?

We launched our product in mid-2016. In the less than a year from the launch, today we are in the top 2 or top 3 position in terms of new customer acquisitions with much smaller sales team compared to competitors. All through this period our story for our customer hasn’t changed and we talk the same

Q4) Would you rather be respected or feared?


Q5) Think of something you’ve done in the past; what would you have done differently?

We lost good amount of time while nailing down our focus in the initial days. We were vacillating between US and India markets and we spent significant amount of development time building functionality that wasn’t going to be useful for Indian market. By the time we realized India badly needed the product, it was a good 5 months of time lost.

Q6) How do you approach a decision where people disagree with you?

Over the years I’ve learnt to respect and see the other side of perspective when someone disagrees. I believe a team that can work together while disagreeing with each other will be able to solve problems better than a team where everyone agrees with each other.

Q7) What do you expect to see over the next 5 to 10 years in the Industry?

Almost 90% of HR software systems that we see in the market are dated. These products have been in the market for over a decade. Except a few of them most haven’t kept up with times and these are all going to die. Especially the products selling for the SME businesses.

Indian HR market is catching up on the cloud trend in the Payroll market space and in next 5 years, most desktop based Payroll products are going to vanish or relegated to lower segments.

As the new generation HR products are…

I believe modern HR systems like Keka should’ve been in the market about a decade ago. The future of HR products.

Q8) What are your experiences with highs and lows at Keka?

My team is my strength through thick and thin. Keka has become quite emotionally attached to all of our employees involved and we all had our share of highs and lows. The camaraderie and team spirit always kept us on high spirits.

Lastly, we would be glad to have your valuable suggestion for the new age Entrepreneurs coming up in the industry today.

I have always believed that if one can create value first, there will always be rewards waiting to be reaped.

SoftwareSuggest empowers businesses to discover top business software and service partners. Our software experts list, review, compare and offer a free consultation to help businesses find the right software and service solutions as per their requirement. We have helped 500,000+ businesses get the right software and services globally. Get a free consultation today!

Recent Posts

No posts found.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Captcha loading...