Building software solutions that truly work is a challenge at the best of times. We talk with Dennison Daley and Manish Valechha of software development firm, Rovika, which is in Montserrat, where the population is less than 5,500. The duo seem to be punching above their weight, as they have been developing software applications that are being used by the Montserrat and British Virgin Islands Governments, but potentially could have wider take-up across the Caribbean region and in other developing countries.
For Caribbean countries, all of which are considered Small Island Development States (SIDS), they experience a broad range of constraints, risks and vulnerabilities. Although vulnerabilities, such as with respect to global warming and natural disasters readily come to mind, we also suffer from high costs of living, which to a considerable degree, can be attributed to our small population size. It therefore means, from a tech business process perspective, that many of the off-the-shelf solutions tend not to be value for money here in the region. Typically, the price is too high, and more importantly, the unit cost per team member – who will use the solution – also tends to be too high to justify the initial price, plus the ongoing maintenance charges that would be payable.
Although the case is frequently made that we should not “reinvent the wheel” – thus justifying those off-the-shelf purchases – getting solutions that are not only more cost-effective, but also better aligned to our unique situations, should be compelling arguments. However, having local software development teams provide needed solutions tends to be the exception, rather than the norm, because, among other things, organisations:
- are prepared to trust foreign made products, although using them may require considerable changes to be made to their own systems and processes
- believe that it might be too problematic to have solutions developed from scratch
- are not prepared to think through their requirements
- do not possess the skills or expertise to oversee third party solution providers, or to develop such products in house.
It is thus gratifying to find Caribbean-based software developers that are making products for large organisations. Rovika Inc., a software development firm based in Montserrat, is one of them. In this episode, we interview the two co-founders:
- Dennison Daley a former public servant in Montserrat, who at one time was the Technical Systems Administrator for the implementation and management of the Customs border and enforcement commodities solution ASYCUDA World. Dennison has been involved in software development since 2005, has developed applications such as ExcoTrack, E-votes and a web-based mail registry application.
- Manish Valechha has been involved in software development since 2005 and started as a freelance WordPress developer. He has founded two software development companies, which have been responsible for the development of the Montserrat Online Visa Application website, Montserrat’s Ferry Booking system, the Companies, Trademarks and Patents Digital Registries. Manish has also developed quite a few web and iOS applications for various international companies over the years as a freelance contractor.
Rovika has recently has been gaining some prominence due to ExcoTrack, a document management software application designed for Cabinet officials, and currently, is being used by the Montserrat and British Virgin Islands Governments. The company has also made other applications for the Montserrat Government, but similar to ExcoTrack they may be useful in other developing countries and SIDS, which may have common needs, and share similar constraints and vulnerabilities.
In our discussion with Dennison and Manish, we sought to pull the curtain back on Revika, and the duo’s entrepreneurial journey in Montserrat, a country with a population of around 5,200.
- What is ExcoTrack, and what makes it unique from other document management solutions on the market?
- What is the status of some of the earlier software applications they had been developed?
- What is Rovika?
- How has Rovika evolved over the years?
- What is it like to be an entrepreneur in Montserrat?
- Is there a reason why there is virtually no online presence for Rovika, ExcoTrack, and even for Dennison and Manish?
- What are some of the challenges of having Government as a client, and some of the lessons that have been learnt along the way?
- What is the size of the Rovika team Dennison and Manish are leading?
- Why Dennison and Manish work together well, and what might be some of their pet peeves in working with each other?
- What do Dennison and Manish want to Rovika, and themselves individually to achieve in the next 2 to 3 years?
We would love to hear your thoughts!
Below are links to some of the organisations and resources that either were mentioned during the episode, or otherwise, might be useful:
- Dennison Daley
- Manish Valechha
- Talypso | Montserrat ( Voting Software)
- Young Startup Wins Government of Montserrat ICT Grant
- Rovika Signs Agreement to License ExcoTrack to BVI Government
- Cabinet documents being converted to web format, gov’t inks deal
- 14 ICT Projects Approved In Phase 1 Of Montserrat’s National ICT Policy Plan Implementation
Image credits: StockSnap (Pixabay); Rovika
Music credit: Ray Holman