Robotic process automation (RPA) is an emerging business process automation technology which is powered by software robots or artificial intelligence (AI) workers. RPA technology allows employees to configure a “robot” to interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. In contrast to traditional IT solutions, RPA allows organizations to automate at a fraction of the cost and time previously encountered.
UiPath is a robotic process automation company founded in 2005 by the Romanian entrepreneurs, Daniel Dines. In a chat with People Matters, Daniel Dines talks about expansion plans, why they chose to venture into Southeast Asia market and the opportunity they see in the SEA market.
Tell us about the founding of UiPath, and the company’s growth to date.
UiPath was founded in 2005 in Bucharest, Romania. Back then, we were focused on developing automation components for software firms, and it took us eight years to build our first product. The company initially developed automation components for large software firms and the consumer market, as well as UI automation for other developers.
In 2013, UiPath developed its first automation product, RPA technology based on MS Workflow that also incorporated computer vision technology. In the same year, UiPath started working with an Indian BPO company, based in Chennai, which involved the automation of a supply chain project. In 2015, the company released its main enterprise automation platform which started automating hundreds of processes and began forming partnerships with major consultancies
The potential for RPA is eye-opening, and we have grown rapidly over the past few years. We have recently closed our series C funding raising $225 million at a valuation of $3 billion. We have over 1,800 global customers and are adding six new enterprise customers per day; we expect annual recurring revenue at the end of 2018 to increase by more than four times compared to the end of 2017.
Why did you choose to venture into Southeast Asia market and what opportunity do you see in the SEA market? Did you also expand your hiring strategy?
Following our recent funding round, we plan on growing further and in more regions. In India we will increase our headcount to 1,200 by the end of 2019, nearly five times our current strength, and expand our presence to eight cities in the country. We will be expanding further into Asia, building on our existing presence in Singapore and Hong Kong and further developing our client-base in Southeast Asian countries.
We have recently completed our Series C funding round and we expect to end 2018 with more than 1,700 employees, a three-fold increase in 12 months, with operations in 30 offices across 16 countries.
Southeast Asia will be a key growth market for us. We already have a regional HQ in Singapore which we plan on growing significantly before the end of the year. We already are working with major banks and companies in Malaysia (including AXA Malaysia, among others), Philippines and Thailand, and are looking further afield in Southeast Asia.
We see significant opportunity in many industries in the region. We are already working with some of the largest financial services industries here, and we also see big potential in telecoms, manufacturing and healthcare among others. Many countries in the region are growing fast and incomes are rising, hence we see more demand for automation that can enable firms to grow faster and at lower cost.
UiPath have experienced almost 1,700% growth in Southeast Asia in the past 12 months, helping countries such as Singapore tackle low productivity and power Smart City ambitions, and we work with Dairy Farm, MSIG and other regional firms. In order to power this expansion, though, we need talented employees in a number of fields, from sales and marketing to development and R&D, and so we will be actively looking to hire in Southeast Asia over the next 12 months.
How do you help organizations in their digital transformation journey?
UiPath works both through partners – such as KPMG or KDDI – or directly with the client. We have a large number of highly skilled, quality vendors who sell our software because they believe in it; they have seen the benefits that it brings to their clients. Our vendors are primarily RPA consulting firms and IT management consultants, and they are experts in what they do. While UiPath’s software is simple to implement, clients need to identify exactly which processes to automate first. This requires deep knowledge and expertise, which our vendors bring
We do sell directly to end users, assisting clients towards developing as part of their RPA journey an internal, self-sustaining and scalable RPA expertise to run and maintain robots. We see RPA as a journey, not a one-off project, and this ultimately brings in many other facets of an end user's business including different departments each of whom stands to benefit, directly or indirectly, from automation. Our management consultant partners have the broad business knowledge and expertise to guide their clients on this journey and help them adopt RPA within a broader and more strategic initiative (digitization of the company, reorganization, etc.)
What impact does automation have on talent and jobs?
I believe it will have a very positive effect on talent, and jobs in general. While no new technology comes without a certain level of disruption, RPA will allow employees to concentrate on their strengths – creativity, emotion, innovation – while handling the tasks that humans are not designed to do. We already have use cases of RPA improving productivity with little to no effect on jobs, for example, one of our clients in Japan, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), have saved over one million-man hours (without a single forced layoff), and projects cost reductions of ~US$450 million by 2020.
RPA will help talent on two main fronts. Firstly, as an industry, we still have massive room to grow and UiPath are in the midst of a hiring spree, looking for talent to help us grow. The RPA sector in general offers and creates a diverse genre of jobs and in many countries, especially those in developing nations, it will help build the middle class.
Secondly, our robots are really designed to complement humans, not replace them, and we see humans working alongside robots. Robots will take on the repetitive, rules-based work that humans are poor at doing, and free us up to do more valuable work. This will have untold benefits not just to productivity and competitiveness, but to general employee wellbeing and skills.