When Track'em founder Kashif Saleem came to Perth as an international student from Pakistan, he could never have envisioned where that journey would take him. Now a Western Australian innovator of the year and the owner of a successful tech start-up, Saleem's success was born from humble origins.
A quick study, Saleem took bridging courses and English classes alongside his software development coursework, working jobs as a dishwasher, selling flowers and newspapers, and helping clean the building that would one day house his company. From his early years as a student, Saleem worked with Microsoft products. "I started working with Microsoft products when I was still in school, working with Visual Basic and then SQL as I worked on my background in software platform development" said Saleem.
Learning English, alongside Visual Basic and SQL, provided Saleem with the skill set he would use to build his solutions and his business in Australia. Saleem graduated at the top of his class and parlayed his experience with the Microsoft platform into a job with the Australian Government. Shortly after, he was involved in a project with a major mining company in Australia.
Identifying the customer problem
The project manager at the site had a problem. Costly, custom-made materials were being fabricated and shipped to the site from a supplier, but with no system in place to monitor and track the materials from the supplier to the site, the team had little to no visibility into the status of vital components to the project.
Compounding the issue is the possibility of theft, a real problem for larger construction sites when managers lack insight into what supplies and materials have and haven't been delivered.
"At one point," said Saleem, "there was a situation at the site where five employees and two cranes were waiting for a component in order to begin construction. Each of the cranes cost $6,000 a day, and the guys onsite were getting paid $150 an hour. For 10 days, they went back and forth with the supplier and eventually ordered a new part. At the end of the project, they found they had the missing equipment all along."
Where many would see this as merely an everyday challenge or cost of doing business, Saleem sought to reduce waste and create efficiency by building a solution.
On his own time, Saleem developed a tracking solution, the first iteration of Track'em's flagship software, and brought it to the project manager. Saleem built the application with the project manager's needs in mind, building a single solution that encompassed all of the project's tracking with an intuitive UI.
At first, the project manager was skeptical. Saleem said, "He looked at me like "Who is this guy?" and tasked me with finding a proven ERP solution." Saleem listened and came back with options. The only existing ERP solution that solved their issues was prohibitively expensive, costing upwards of $1,000,000 to purchase and implement. Balking at the price, the project manager implemented a system using spreadsheets that quickly became out of hand before finally coming back to Saleem.
"Eventually, I met with the project manager and said, "Look, you can have my software free of charge for two years, but I retain exclusive rights to the IP," explains Saleem. This gave him a significant customer to test and improve the solution.
Saleem had hands-on experience working alongside project managers in the field. Using that experience, he tailored the solution to meet their needs, building a single solution that could track using barcode, RFID, and GPS from a single platform's putting his product in a different class than his competitors who offered fragments of the solution that paired poorly with one another.
Everyone involved in the project loved the solution - and not a single item was misplaced or reordered for the remainder of the engagement.
Moving to Microsoft Azure
Saleem says, "We are in this journey because of Microsoft; the products and support we receive from Microsoft are unbelievable. We receive great support from the Azure team when we have questions about technology and have had a great experience working with the local Microsoft team in Perth."
After seeing initial success, and with a group of individuals willing to reference and vouch for his product, Saleem was ready to work on his solution, turn it into a product, and turn that product into a successful company.
Saleem moved his initial solution to Microsoft Azure, taking advantage of the flexibility afforded to developers working in the Azure environment.