Bit by Bit
While growing his business and keeping his employees busy at all times is Jitu Changela’s primary goal, his mission in business is to keep his clients’ employees busy and help those companies grow.
He and his team at the IT solutions company Azaya believe this is one of the best ways to measure success in this highly competitive, still-evolving field. Indeed, companies can’t grow and prosper, and their employees can’t be highly productive, if their IT systems are down. Or if the equipment is old and obsolete. Or if a business isn’t making the most of its investments in IT.
Azaya, a 25-year-old managed-service provider based in Palmer and founded by Changela, helps clients maximize their IT systems and ensure they are reliable and sustainable, thus enabling employees to work better and smarter. It does this through a philosophy of putting the client first and continually learning from each customer experience.
“You can never know everything; we’re always learning,” said Changela, leader of this six-person tech company that provides essential technology components and service to many different types of businesses. “The best way we keep up with what’s happening in this industry is by having a variety of different clients. They’re all from different industries, so working with each one of those clients in a different industry forces us to look at all the different hardware and software solutions that are out there.”
The company’s overarching goal is to become what a provider must be in this changing industry — a one-stop shop. And it is well on its way to becoming just that.
The company offers something it calls eZ Virtual IT, which creates a team of IT professionals available at a client’s disposal and capable of handling a variety of services, including customized systems, security, website hosting, data protection, and server system setup and maintenance.
It also provides eZ Voice, a complete solution to business phone-line needs, and eZ Projects, help with specific IT projects, which, as Changela puts it, enables the company to “audition” for the client for future partnerships.
“With our model of one fixed cost, we’re there as many times as we need to be without it being any extra expense to them. Being able to be preventive solves a lot of their problems before they become problems.”
But the company’s ongoing success and continued growth is due not only to what it provides clients, but also how — specifically a fixed-cost model that is somewhat unique in the industry and provides a number of benefits for clients.
“That’s our core focus today, providing fixed-cost services,” Changela said, adding that most companies still charge hourly rates. “What we do is very unique; it’s a win-win partnership. Clients pay us a fixed cost, and our goal is to make sure we maintain their infrastructure at a very high level.”
Overall, the company preaches to its clients to be proactive, or preventive, and not reactive, when it comes to technology, investing in it and ultimately making the most of it, said Marc Solomon, Azaya’s Director of Operations, and the fixed-cost system helps them do just that.
For this issue and its focus on technology, BusinessWest talked with the team at Azaya — that word means ‘shelter, refuge, and support’ in Sanskrit — as it celebrates 25 years in business and looks ahead to what the future can bring for this forward-looking company.
Before looking forward, though, Changela first flashed back a quarter-century or so to when the internet was young and he was looking for work.
With a strong background in electrical engineering, he knew he wanted to do something computer- or electronics-related but was unemployed and couldn’t find a job. That’s when he decided to make his own luck.
“I just decided that I had some experience in purchasing high-level computer equipment, and I found clients that needed stuff like that,” he told BusinessWest. “At that time, the internet was very new, so they had to go through some channel to get the high-level computer equipment, and I had the source.”
So, he provided that equipment to them. Then, the fledgling venture grew from what is called “reselling” to the next phase, which focused on providing a variety of needed services to local clients.
“We then became internet service providers in town here in Palmer,” Changela said, adding that the company continued evolving into a multi-layered IT solutions provider.
Solomon joined the team after an internship while he was attending Southern New Hampshire University. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and has been with the company for three years.
“I’ve always been interested in technology,” he said. “After I graduated, Jitu brought me on board and has really shown me the ropes of the managed-service-provider industry.”
More recently, Azaya added Patrick Fortunato as its Business Development Manager to lead the sales of IT managed-services support, digital and VoIP business telephone systems, and cutting-edge security surveillance technologies, and he has plenty of experience in the technology industry.
“I used to replace telex machines with fax machines,” he said with a laugh, adding that technology has certainly evolved even more since then, and all three men emphasized the importance of keeping up with the changing times.
This means finding ways to stand out within a deep and talented pool of competitors, bringing more services to a wider array of customers.
Indeed, Changela said he realized years ago that Comcast was going to take over some of Azaya’s internet business, so the company knew it had to change something up. That’s when it evolved from being an Internet service provider to a managed-service provider,
And one that features what it calls a guaranteed network uptime policy — essentially a promise to keep clients up and running all the time.
“It’s all about being preventive over being reactive,” Solomon said. “A lot of times, with billable hours, which is the other side of the coin of fixed cost, it’s difficult to be preventive when you’re working on a limited source of hours. With our model of one fixed cost, we’re there as many times as we need to be without it being any extra expense to them. Being able to be preventive solves a lot of their problems before they become problems.”
“Downtime is obviously not cost-effective. It costs a lot of money when employees cannot work. We want to work smart, not hard, and they want to see their network up and running all the time. Everybody is winning at that point.”
This policy, said Changela said, puts pressure on Azaya as a vendor and partner, but ensures that each party involved is happy.
“Downtime is obviously not cost-effective. It costs a lot of money when employees cannot work,” he said. “We want to work smart, not hard, and they want to see their network up and running all the time. Everybody is winning at that point.”
Overall, Azaya focuses on efficiency and security, bringing the technological support a business needs for greater effectiveness to internal business processes. Changela also says they customize services based on what the business needs, and guides companies through the process.
This is what the team’s leaders mean when they say the company works in partnership with its clients, another key to its success.
“We’re constantly talking to our clients and trying to figure out what technology they can utilize to best serve their needs,” he said. “We have to do some research and figure out what’s out there that can help them.”
For Adaptas Solutions, for example, a phone system that could handle all its needs throughout multiple offices was something it lacked. Azaya installed the Cisco BE6000 in five of its locations, giving Adaptas the ability to connect all its locations seamlessly, providing the phones, servers, and phone lines all throughout the entire operation, creating a one-stop solution.
While this model seems to be working well for the tech company, Changela says the team has big plans for where they want to be in the future.
“Our biggest goal is to become that one-stop-shop,” he told BusinessWest. “Anything that is connected to the network, whether it’s printers, cameras, security cameras, or phone systems … we should be involved in it.”
Fortunato said the future of technology is related to security and speed, and Solomon added that becoming a specialty leader in multiple industries is also at the top of Azaya’s list.
“We have clients from architects to veterinarians, so our range is quite large,” he said. “To be able to pick a vertical and become the dominant leader in that vertical is something that is on the business plan. We want to be viewed as equals in the industry, against the companies that have a little more exposure.”
Changela added that one main thing that separates Azaya from competitors is the culture of the company, with a focus on honesty and integrity.
“It’s not always about making money, it’s about helping our clients become successful,” he said. “And at the end of the day, if they’re successful, we’ll make money anyways.”
Kayla Ebner can be reached at [email protected]