IRIS Business Services came together in 2004 in recognition of the importance of the emerging world of structured data. Over the last decade, the firm has built itself up into a leadership position globally in this area generally and around XBRL or eXtensible Business Reporting Language in particular. Leveraging Indian cost structures to create competitive products for the global market, the company now has one or more of its solutions working across some 16 countries spread across four continents.
Q: Tell us about the significance of IRIS Carbon that you have just launched in the US to address the market for SEC filing.
A: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first significant launch of a software product with global relevance after the PM's call to action for Indian industry to have a Make in India agenda. Our product is not just ‘Made in India’, it is also ‘Made by India’. As long standing members of NASSCOM, and corporate citizens, each of us have a shared responsibility to support the PM's vision. Indeed, IRIS Carbon is the first truly global Cloud-based XBRL authoring platform. We have recently launched IRIS Carbon in the US as we feel that the SEC market offers the highest potential for an immediate impact. We have plans to launch it in every market where there is an opportunity for an XBRL solution. Italy is next, followed by the UK and then India.
To come back to the US, we have been providing XBRL conversion services to the country since 2005, first through Edgar Online and since 2009, to more than 700 leading public companies through our client Merrill Corporation, a leading financial printer. Over the last 10 years, our adherence to the highest quality standards has earned IRIS Business Services recognition as a high quality service provider. We have poured all these learnings into our product development side as well, which we believe will clearly help IRIS Carbon stand out in the marketplace.
Q: What do you think will differentiate IRIS Carbon from other products and give it a competitive edge?
A:We believe IRIS Business Services is uniquely positioned in the global marketplace to offer a software product fully supported by professional services from under the same roof. With the SEC now taking companies to task for poor quality in their filings and with companies still facing quality issues, we feel that IRIS Carbon, supported by high quality professional services, will be quickly embraced by many SEC registrants. Our survey shows that while a certain section of the market is ready to move completely away from a full service conversion model to a self-service model, what many companies are really looking for is a technology solution wherein they can collaborate with their attorneys, auditors, and other professionals during their external reporting process. Unlike others, IRIS Carbon is a technology solution that enables company personnel in conjunction with their professional service providers, to efficiently and effectively produce the highest quality filings at a very attractive price.
Q: What is your market penetration strategy in the US?
“IRIS Carbon a truly global offering. It fits very well into the ‘Made in India’ program of the government”
A:At IRIS Business Services we will support our local partner in the US, P3 Data Systems, who has in place a cross section of smaller financial printers and independent filing agents as its current customers. IRIS Carbon will be co-branded for these value-added resellers to help them maintain and grow their respective market share in the US. By offering a white labelled IRIS Carbon, these value-added resellers can compete with and win business from the traditional financial printers who still suffer from legacy quality issues in their current offerings. Our value-added resellers can offer the IRIS Carbon solution to their clients as their own and at a very competitive price. They have more than a fighting chance against the big boys.
If that's not enough, IRIS Carbon is already designed to serve the filing agents’ clients once the SEC announces its intention to move from XBRL to iXBRL next year. Our filing agent customers will be well-positioned to gain further market share as IRIS Carbon competes favourably with any existing product offerings in the US. IRIS Carbon is best of breed. And by going with us, each of our customers will offer the same high quality level of technology and professional services.
Q: Do you expect that these agents will outsource the work to IRIS in India.
A: Not necessarily. The IRIS Carbon platform enables collaboration with all necessary support services. P3 has a solid team of CPAs in the US who can provide the professional services. Our service model is designed to meet the time pressures associated with the external reporting process. In order to provide 24/7 support, the IRIS team will play a vital role in serving our customers. In the US market, the professional services we offer in both software support and XBRL are process driven and fully supported through IRIS Carbon by resources around the clock. We are a global company and this service model is hosted in the US. The primary client engagement is with an American company, P3 Data Systems, run by a highly respected industry veteran.
Q: How big is the opportunity for IRIS Carbon?
A: The opportunity is huge! It runs into billions of dollars already. There are more than 6,000 public companies in the US whose annual spending is nothing less than USD10,000 dollars each, but probably north of USD 25,000 dollars each, 3 million companies in the UK spending annually at least 300 pounds each, a million will soon start filing in India alone, spending annually nothing less than Rs. 1,000 each, it goes on and on. The math is easy to do. The way we have designed IRIS Carbon, it can be configured with minimal effort to meet the needs of any market and within each market, any regulator. That's what makes IRIS Carbon a truly global offering. It fits very well into the ‘Made in India’ program of the government. What we now need to do is to get the marketing right in each market.
Q: What is happening with XBRL globally? What is happening in India?
A: XBRL has arrived. At last count, over 32 countries had something or the other going on in XBRL. It is good to be counted among the world leaders in this space, considering that one or more of our solutions is being used in some 16 countries. From banking, to capital markets, to company registries, to insurance, XBRL is ubiquitous! It is the accepted language for regulatory reporting. If that's not all, the latest move by the US with the recently introduced law called the DATA Act which requires recipients of federal funding to report the utilization of funds in a structured data format and all indications are this too will be XBRL. If we manage to do something like this in India, it can be a huge blow to corruption. Also, a small country like Macedonia has moved up from a lowly 60s to the top 3 in the world in terms of ease of doing business by simply implementing XBRL to unclog information bottlenecks within the government. A similar approach can be taken in India too, considering that RBI, SEBI and MCA have already adopted it with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Q: What is long term vision for IRIS?
A: The future of data is structured, and we are at the forefront of this huge change which is happening almost below the radar. Following the initial regulatory push, when companies adopted XBRL reluctantly, they are now embracing it willingly, seeing it as structured data that will change the face of computing like nothing the world has ever seen before. Structured data is changing not just the way the regulated deal with the regulators, it is also changing the way they deal with every stakeholder. Which, in the case of companies, includes bankers, shareholders, their own board of directors, their employees and so on. In the case of the governments, it will change the contours of democratic dialog, creating a new paradigm of governance, as the Data Act promises in the US. Succeeding in business is about being in the right place at the right time. With our global presence, we believe that IRIS is well positioned to grow on the back of this opportunity.
Q: Finally, how is it for a woman to be at the helm of a company?
A: Great. While two of my other co-founders are men, the senior leadership at IRIS is mostly women. More than 40 percent of our staff are women, which is a direct consequence of our promoting diversity. I should emphasize that our approach is to consciously create a diverse work force, diversity in terms of gender, caste, language, religion and differently-abled people.
But to come back to the issue of gender, at IRIS we believe that gender should not matter in the workplace and here it does not. Let me hasten to add that it is so, not because of me but my two male co-founders. My experience tells me that men must be central to the gender diversity dialog.
That is not to say that we are not sensitive to the need for specific policies that are needed to make a place woman friendly, like maternity leave and so on. But if a man and a woman do the same job equally well, there is no reason to bring gender into a discussion when discussing career growth.