#56 Prabhu Ramachandran: CEO of Facilio

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Episode Summary

Prabhu Ramachandran, Founder and CEO of Facilio, joins the podcast. 5 years ago, Prabhu and his Co-Founders started the journey of providing Facilities Managers a software solution to connect people, systems, and equipment across their portfolio.  

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Episode Transcription

Intro 00:10

Welcome to another episode of the modern facilities management podcast brought to you by FlowPath. I'm your host Griffin Hamilton. This is the show where I interview industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights into modern-day facilities management, from hospitality to commercial real estate, and everything in between. We'll learn what it really takes to succeed as a facilities manager. 

Griffin Hamilton 

Welcome to another episode of The Modern Facilities Management podcast. Today, I am pleased to have Prabhu from Facilio join us as the guest. Prabhu How are you doing?

Prabhu Ramachandran 00:50

Thank you Griffin for having me on this podcast. I'm doing good. I hope you're doing good, too. 

Griffin Hamilton 01:00

Yeah, I know we've gone back and forth a bit trying to coordinate you're coming on and the time change because of the difference there because you're over in India, correct?

Prabhu Ramachandran 01:08

Yes, I'm now in India. 

Griffin Hamilton 01:11

Got you. Well, again, thank you for taking the time to come on. I'm excited to talk to you today and we're going to be diving into technology. It's something that's near and dear to my heart, specific to real estate operations there, but before we dive into that, why don't you give the audience some context on who exactly you are and what you do?

Prabhu Ramachandran 01:29

My name is Prabhu Ramachandran and based out of Chennai city in southern part of India. I, along with my three other friends started Facilio five years back and before starting Facilio, all of us worked in a company named Zoho for around 17 years together, and then we started Facilio. We are headquartered in us, with operations and offices in Dubai, Chennai, India, London, Singapore, and Australia.

Griffin Hamilton 02:09

So true global operations there. Just curious, how did the three of you guys get together and like, what spurred the idea to start Facilio? 

Prabhu Ramachandran 02:19

Yeah, so among four of us, two of us were like college mates and then we all join the company together, right after college. We were working in the same company for 17 years in different teams, but we were friends and all of our backgrounds are building large-scale enterprise SaaS applications for the global market, specifically myself and two other co-founders we are working on a product where the product was used by large telecom companies across the globe to remotely monitor their network infrastructure. So this is a very similar problem we are solving in real estate today, where Facilio is helping large distributor real estate owners to monitor, manage and operate their real estate in a very highly efficient way.

Griffin Hamilton 03:21

Yeah, and I was going to ask you, it's a good segue there, like how that transition occurred and so let's take a step back real quick and cover the market in general and how you view the market and specifically related to technology and the adoption of technology here with real estate operations?

Prabhu Ramachandran 03:40

Yeah, so Facilio is a place broadly in place in the Prop tech market and we are an enterprise vertical SaaS player in the Prop tech market, the property technology itself, I would bucket that into three buckets. The one is the construction tech, where there is a lot of technology around the construction phase of real estate and the next one is the sales side of real estate there is a bunch of technologies to how do you sell once building properties are getting constructed, how do you sell them, rent them, lease them, get paid from customers? So there is a group of tech there and then the third part is once the buildings are constructed and getting occupied, how do you operate random day to day for a period of say 50 to 100 years? So that is where Facilio comes and plays on the operations and maintenance side of real estate which broadly encompasses your maintenance management, sustainability management, occupant experience, and health wellness of occupants. So all of that, combined together is what like the operations and maintenance side of real estate and that is where we play in, we go and sell customers like large office real estate owners, large retail owners, like retail stores, malls, large group of hospitals, education institutions, airports, data centers, government buildings, these our target customers where we help them to move to a modern tech stack to efficiently operate, maintain their properties.

Griffin Hamilton 05:32

So key word there is modern and so that's something that we've had a lot of guests on the show that talks to the importance of technology, but this isn't something new people have been using technology, sometimes, and maybe not the best way, but they have the technology to help them out, but you're referring to modernizing this process and the tools that are in place. So how has that changed over the last few years?

Prabhu Ramachandran 06:00

Yeah. So traditionally, if you look at tech stack within the operation side of real estate, there are two layers, these layers are not connected to each other. One is the automation layer, the building automation layer, which is predominantly like physical devices, sensors, controllers, and all of that with very little software into it. So you have your elevators that are automated, Arkadin systems that are centrally monitored control, and these are deployed at a par building level. That is the one layer of technology then the next layer is there is a bunch of software that are being used like software for attendance, management, energy monitoring, separate software, managing the workforce that is that is going and doing facilities management, and then different apps for the occupants building. So, there is a bunch of tools that customers acquired separately, and that is the software layer and these two layers are not connected traditionally, the hardware layer and the software layer, but what has happened in the last five, 10 years in parallel markets like telecom or banking or logistic is that because of technologies like IoT, mobility and AI, there is a huge level of connection between different layers, where you get data about equipment data about locations, data about usage, customer behaviors, that is being used by multiple applications, but that has not happened in real estate where these two layers are working as silos. 

So that is where we are bringing in modern tech live, we use IOT to go and integrate with existing sensors, and existing automation systems without disturbing them, they don't complement that and by doing that, we are getting access to real-time data and we are using that data in the software applications that are building to go and do maintenance management, energy management, as well as management of occupants, buildings, remote monitoring, all of that. The software's actually using the data coming out of these systems and we also build technology that can help customers to go and control these systems like elevator air conditioning systems, and lighting systems from the cloud in a more real-time and intelligent way. So that is a modern part that a lot, not only Facilio, but a lot of vendors are bringing into the market, where how do you use technologies like Cloud IoT, artificial intelligence, mobility, and process automation into day to day operations and maintenance part of real estate, so that customers are able to realize multiple values from this technology in terms of both time and resources like energy, water, and all of that, and then also elevate the experience of the occupants, occupants are people who go and occupy these buildings, health, wellness, thermal comfort of occupants, air quality within properties, all of these elevates the health, wellness, and experience of the occupants.

Griffin Hamilton 09:23

Yeah, I think that's a key point to make there. Its tools and adopting these techniques to help your customer, right, as a property manager, you want to make sure that you are at as close to 100% occupancy there. That's how you're paying the bills, right? You want to make sure that you have a space and you're offering a space that is encouraging and enabling them to perform at their highest capabilities, having that safe, healthy environment and to your point, just it's one thing to have all these independent pieces of technology collecting data, but it's what do you do with that data is the key piece.

Prabhu Ramachandran 10:01

Yes, as you rightly said, and this is like the real estate market is not used to this. So, they have been used to one way of procuring and using technology, the automation typically comes as part of the construction budget, and then the properties are handed over to the operations team and they go and procure separate software, they are not integrated. So, that it is going on, but last five years there has been a lot of movement towards customers really looking at ways to improve their operational efficiency ways to improve their customer experience, and actually COVID, in fact, came and fast-tracked it because of all the lockdowns and other things, customers were forced to run buildings in a much more efficient way and they were looking at ways to remotely operate properties. So, this whole category of connected data-driven property operations got accelerated, the adoption of that category is getting accelerated now after COVID and the way we are looking at solving this problem is simple. How do we connect three things? How do we connect people, processes, and systems? When we say people, the real estate operations here is like very layered, you have facilities teams, some of them are inward, some of them are outsourced and then you have third-party vendors, like elevator vendors or condition vendors and then you have your sustainability team, your finance team. 

So several teams within an outside orgs have to be contextually connected, they have to collaborate, and they should have the right set of data in real-time for them to work efficiently. That is a people problem that they are facing now and then the process is because there are so many siloed systems, you need integrations, you need digitization of process, like risk management and compliance approvals, ticket resolutions, and all of that, and then there are a lot of manual processes that are being carried away in terms of emails, phone calls, Excel sheets, those process has to be automated and integrated across the arc. So that is a process plot. The third-party systems in a building, there are like dozens of systems, automation systems, ERP systems, HR systems, and then some legacy tools that are already there. How do you integrate with these systems, and leverage data from them? So if we have a technology platform that is able to connect people, processes, and systems, that is when you are able to deliver a high-value impact on real estate operation in terms of how you improve the sustainability of buildings. How do you improve the efficiency of the workforce that is maintaining the building and finally, how do you improve the health, wellness, and comfort of the occupants? So that is a model we are following where our technology is focused on connecting people connecting processes and connecting systems.

Griffin Hamilton 13:15

Yeah, it certainly makes sense there and I was going to ask you already, you touched on it a bit as far as what's changed over the last few years on adopting this and this being front of mind, for a lot of organizations, but I think as we look ahead, there's still a lot of room for improvement there and I think we've touched on it quite a bit here on this podcast on the turnover in facilities management, right and so I think that there's not only going to be this is a need or a nice to have necessarily, but it is a need and imperative part of your operations there and so, as people are looking ahead and they are trying to make take that step into connecting all these different systems in place and the people and the processes as you just covered, what are steps that people would take as they are getting into this next step and that maturation process of their facilities organization.

Prabhu Ramachandran 14:13

Yeah. So as you rightly said, now, the property operations part is becoming a strategic part of the real estate and it is also becoming a strategic part of the businesses that are occupying the real estate in case of saying a hotel, operating the hotel is more critical now, your air quality and your cleanliness, all of that are becoming more critical and then the resources required is not available as easily due to all these restrictions. In case if you're a hospital, again, the same problem, was running the hospital, the facility side of the hospital is becoming very, very critical, same with offices. So there is a lot of board through level attention to this problem, that is all, and CIOs are now focusing on how they can become operationally efficient, both in terms of capabilities and in terms of cost. So this is opening up the market, and where the way customers are looking at us because it's an early stage, it's a new category. Customers need a proof point and they are looking at their roadmap for the next few years, how can we move from existing legacy siloed systems to a modern tech stack given the way real estate is operated at scale, it's not easy to go, and just rip and replace what they have because many of them are like a high-value investment. So the better part even we are providing to the market is how can customers leverage what they have today, and then have step-by-step progress to the modern way of operating buildings from Cloud using IoT using AI mobility. So that is already given the markets are looking at how or take stock of what they have, then look at what are the technology options available, and then create a path for the next three to five years on how they can start leveraging what they already have and then bring in systems that will help them to move to more efficient model. So that is where the way we are delivering our system as our solution is. It's more about the platform. It's not a pointed tool. It's a platform for operations and maintenance, with several applications that play nicely with existing legacy systems. So that customers can start with say, 20% of what we deliver and then you reuse and integrate with a legacy and then they create a roadmap for three to five years to sunset what they have gradually and then move to a platform model.

Griffin Hamilton 16:58

Yeah, and I think that just the casual listener here might take a step back, and we're talking AI, IOT, all these different acronyms, SaaS, has been brought up and it could just be eyes wide open, just potentially overwhelming to someone that may not have taken that first step, but a key point here is that this is the way of the future. This is how we're becoming more efficient. It's all about data and having to make the most of the different data points that we are collecting and to your point, connecting all those different data points to not only help you out as a facilities manager operate more efficiently, but at the end of the day, your role is to really improve the occupants and making sure that the organization has a steady stream of revenue coming in and so I think that is something that is important to know is this is the way and you really do have to be at least open to the idea of technology and automation to make it as a professional facilities manager moving forward.

Prabhu Ramachandran 18:03

Yes, definitely right.

Griffin Hamilton 18:06

Well, Prabhu I certainly appreciate you coming on here. I do have one last question I asked everybody, but who or what has had the biggest impact on you and your career?

Prabhu Ramachandran 18:19

More than individuals, in my role early and my previous organization where I was working with Zoho, we had this product that we are selling to large global telecom companies’ similar problem where it goes and helps customers to go and do remote monitoring, predictive maintenance. We were bringing in like latest technologies like IoT and machine learning, again, that's a very traditional market and a lot of things that we are doing in Facilio. I learned I got inspired, I got the motivation to do this from my earlier product, and the product name was like web enemas and even at Facilio, I have a lot of my ex-colleagues who works in the product part of Facilio and I am seeing the whole Facilio as my next to [inaudible 19:11] version of the earlier product. I worked and built and led for the last 17 years. So that is my great inspiration. 

Griffin Hamilton 19:21

I love that and it's all you know, your career leads up to a certain point and you always have to take something away from what you're doing and obviously, that had a huge impact. So that's great to hear, but again, certainly appreciate you coming on. It's been a pleasure talking to you talking tech. Like I said earlier, something near and dear to my heart. So until next time. You have a good one and so long.

Prabhu Ramachandran 19:43

Yeah, thank you, Griffin.

Outro 19:44

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of the Modern Facilities Management podcast. Make sure to subscribe for future episodes and follow us on LinkedIn for more facilities management content.

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