The company was founded by Aditya Shivkumar and Joe Al-Khayat in London, the business Resolve Disputes Online (RDO) helps disputing parties settle their disputes electronically through mediation, negotiation and arbitration, without ever having to step into the courtroom.
It is possible to purchase food items on the internet. You can even purchase an apartment online and make virtually all transactions through the internet. What if we told you that you could also resolve legal disputes on the internet?
Welcome to the world that is electronic dispute resolution (ODR) and meeting Resolve Dispute Online (RDO) founded in London, a legal tech platform which helps resolve disputes online through the use of mediation, negotiation, and arbitration without having to go to an actual courtroom.
The beginning of Resolving Disputes Online
Like many startup foundation stories like this one, it also began with a relationship. Students of law Aditya Shivkumar, and Joe Al-Khayat met at Cardiff University. Their passion for representing students’ interests in law school and their enthusiasm for mediation has made them great friends. They were among the earliest candidates to become accredited as mediators in their time in England.
In the 2010-11 timeframe, Aditya and Joe set an online business called “Mediate It Online” offering mediation services online to people living in the United Kingdom.
“It was a disaster that failed spectacularly. The word “spectacularly” comes to mind because we learned much from the experience. It failed because we were way ahead of time,” says lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Aditya.
The two kept in touch even though they practiced privately in different locations: Aditya was mediator and lawyer at Chennai while Joe as solicitor, barrister and mediator from London.
Aditya claims that both were deeply concerned and passionate over “access the justice system”. Although it is recognized as a fundamental human right under international standards, around “57 percent of the population of the world lives without protection from the law” According to LexisNexis Legal & Professional, the world’s leading supplier of legal, regulatory, and business-related information and analytics.
The right to access justice and fairness for everyone is a worldwide goal that is part of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16. Aditya and Joe were looking to change the fact that a majority of people are not connected to the legal system.
In the years 2015-16, the two began to work on a technological platform that could help bridge the gap. They registered RDO, a SaaS (software-as-a-service) B2B (business-to-business) startup, in 2017.
Understanding the business model of RDO
Aditya states that RDO is the sole online dispute resolution company which was developed and constructed in India to provide services to the B2B market globally.
The tech platform of the startup is sector-neutral and is able to be customized to resolve all sorts of disputes.
Presently, RDO offers B2B online dispute resolution solutions by partnering with tribunals, courts government, companies, and experts in alternative dispute resolution in the US and Australia, the UK, Australia and Southeast Asia.
The services of RDO can be applied to any kind of case which includes civil litigation parking and traffic disputes bankruptcy, and criminal and misdemeanour matters.
Within B2B, or the B2B method, RDO integrates its software with the technology platform utilized by the customer (such as companies, courts and government agencies) to provide an added component or provides the option of setting up an individual ODR platform for these clients. The enterprise customer white-labels RDO’s software and uses it internally to resolve disputes.
The customers are charged RDO annually on a basis.
RDO is a client of seven, which includes Thailand’s Government of Thailand, and one of the biggest dispute handling companies in North as well as central America. In total, the company has completed more than 10 projects (including several pilots) over the past seven years.
For example, RDO has conducted pilot programs for Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower to help resolve employment disputes through their technology platform as well as the Vietnamese government to settle smalland medium-sized enterprises (SME) dispute.
It also works in conjunction with its Thailand Arbitration Center (THAC) supported by the government of Thailand who wanted to shift into online arbitration because of an increase in the number of cases. THAC attempted to achieve this through a variety of tools, including email and information storage systems. But, it caused duplication of work between arbitrators, administrators, mediators, and case workers.
To address this problem, THAC partnered with RDO to make use of its technology platform to settle some the disputes it has with RDO online.
“With RDO, THAC’s efficiency has been boosted. It’s an excellent alternative to courts and can help give a lot of relief for customers. It’s the 3rd year in our collaboration with THAC. This clearly indicates that things are working,” Aditya says. Aditya.
Some examples of the RDO platform
Online dispute resolution gives parties with the choice of either video or text or the combination of both. It means that people are able to access the proceedings from any location around the globe. The users don’t have to interrupt their normal life or move to a different area to settle an issue that is legal.
The platform functions in similar ways to netbanking or tax filing online. For example, in relation to parking and traffic case, the plaintiff could opt to request an online trial on ODR, the courts ODR platform. Once the request is accepted, the individual will be sent the link to their dashboard by an email message, text or SMS.
The dashboard contains the case details and the defendants can add information including images, video and justifications/counter-arguments to defend themselves.
This case will be assigned the judge, who will look at the same facts in the same way as the plaintiff. Judges can make use of the award-builder feature to issue the verdict. The judge will usually provide a reason for the judgment and fines to be paid over a specific duration of. The judge could e-sign an order and then share it with all the parties involved, as well as the accused.
Another instance is divorce. It is a delicate matter where there are a variety of emotions involved. In divorce situations, things can become complicated, especially when kids are involved. There are some who do not want to share the space with the other. With ODR both parties are able to discuss and come to an agreement or get the assistance by a mediator arbitrator to divorce online, ditya says. Aditya.
People seeking divorce may utilize ODR to register their divorce. ODR platform to file the case and then invite their lawyer as well as a mediator, an arbitrator along with the respondent’s attorneys and the attorney.
Each stakeholder is able to manage a section of their own case via the dashboard. It will display the tasks that are due, the timeline and the documentation for the particular case forthcoming appointments, payments pending and settlements that have been made. According to the stakeholder they will receive notifications for forthcoming tasks, appointments and deadlines that are near.
Arbitrators and mediators can control and effortlessly change between different instances on the platform. The software also has chat rooms in which one can interact with any or all of the participants via text messages or video, as well as voice calls.
RDO’s growth strategies
The B2B SaaS company raised an undetermined amount of seed capital at the end of 2020 by a pair of investors. One is a Canadian-based media conglomerate and the other is a major legal tech company for courts within the US.
RDO is currently in discussions with investors about raising its pre-Series-A fund, that it hopes to close at the end of the year.
Aditya says that the legal tech company has relied solely on word-of-mouth recommendations conference calls, cold calls and other methods to gain customers.
We’ve developed organically up to now. The next stage of growth will involve us interacting with stakeholders in the ecosystem to increase awareness of RDO and the services it offers. We’ve spent approximately 0.5 percent of our total capital raised for marketing, Aditya says. Aditya.
Apart from one of the founders (Joe) as well as a handful of employees, the majority of the RDO team of 25 is located in the southern part of India. The group was previously working out of an office located in Chennai however, like the majority of companies, RDO is now working remotely and is planning to transition to a hybrid model in the near future.
“Though RDO is not headquartered in India however, it was built exclusively in India. We’ve attempted to be different with regards to our approach to people and recruitment,” says Aditya.
Aditya claims that RDO is the sole non-US company to be named as one of ODR vendor list of services from the National Center for State Courts which is an independent, non-profit company that is focused on improving the efficiency and justice system in the US as well as courts across the world.
The company is also among the ODR platform providers that are an official Microsoft partner. Depending on the decision of Microsoft it could advertise it as an ODR suppliers to its clients.
“By this time next year we’d like to be “the minor partner” for Microsoft’s legal technology services and anticipate it to be a major revenue-generating machine,” says Aditya.
The legal tech startup now generating revenues between 6to 7 figures according to Aditya. RDO will likely need three more years before becoming profitable due to its expansion plans.
RDO is now looking to launch its solutions for the B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer) market in England (one of the hubs for mediation and arbitration) by the end of the current calendar year. “With an established presence within that B2B segment, it’s only natural that we expand our reach into the B2B2C market,” says Aditya.
In the B2B2C model, RDO will tie up with businesses that would ask its customers and its users to use its platform to settle and resolve any disagreements. RDO will be listed as an ODR services provider within agreements between customers and businesses. Any dispute that arises would be resolved by mediators and arbitrators enlisted by the list of legal tech startups.
RDO would earn by way of a revenue-sharing arrangement between the startup, the businesses, users and mediators/arbitrators.
There are some B2B2C players like Presolv360 and Sama that can resolve a certain portion of companies disputes through these platforms.
However, the present ODR platforms operating in India come with their own sets of regulations (under the Indian law on arbitration and mediation) which their clients have to adhere to, whereas RDO declares that it does not have its own set of rules in the primary laws , and will only offer the mediator/arbitrator service and the platform.
My faith of the system adamant. We want to only complement the system, and don’t wish to assume the shoulders that the systems. We’re very clear on the necessity of our users to not be a part of an unwritten set of rules that are not subordinate to the law of the land,” says Aditya.
The co-founder states We don’t want to take the traditional path. This will reduce any friction for users who are the final ones. Why should a person be subjected to a different list of regulations? I am convinced that the Indian method of resolving the issue of access to justice one of the most effective around the globe.
Although there isn’t any single law that supports ODR There are a variety of supporting legislations, such as for instance the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, and the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 that form the basis for ODR’s alternative dispute resolution aspect of ODR and they also provide support for the technology aspect of ODR. Indian Evidence Act, 1972 and the Information and Technology Act, 2000, support the technology component of ODR.
Furthermore, India has also enforced the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements that result from Mediation from the year 2018 since the beginning of last year.
All arbitrations fall within the authority under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. In the case of mediations we have The Mediation Bill, 2021 which has not yet a law in India. The total legal market for online dispute resolution in size stood at $57.3 million in 2020 , and is expected to reach $210.53 million by 2028, as per Emergen Research.
Speaking about RDO in particular, and on the ODR sector generally, Mark Beer, Co-founder of the Seven Pillars Law, a international law firm with its headquarters in Kazakhstan and Chairman of the Advisory Board for RDO, stated, Is it that we believe that if the courts are staffed with more judges then the system will become better? No. If the system of justice receives more money does the system become better? No. The answer lies in the private sector. The answer is to find an organization that has a lot of experience solving disputes, utilizes technology and provides people with what they require to get the most out of their mobile devices and solves what I call the justice gap’.
Can I call an arbitrator/ mediator?
If RDO is gaining traction in the B2B2C space, the company has plans to expand into the B2C space in various countries, such as India although these plans are purely speculation currently as per Aditya.
Both Joe and I are deeply committed to the right to justice. We would like to make justice more accessible to all people through the whole process of obtaining justice. states Aditya. “Justice must be available to every person.”
Like how you would make reservations for an Uber or Ola ride, RDO’s big plans are to provide the right to justice to every person with just the click of a button. Can I settle my dispute in the palm of my hand? Do I have access to justice from the convenience of my smartphone? We’ll focus on democratisation when we get some momentum in the B2B2C area, says Aditya.
The model would see arbitrators and mediators are enlisted on the RDO platform. Based on the matter or case filed, it will get assigned to a specific mediator or arbitrator based on a variety of factors.
The primary goal is to ease the process of accessing justice. If anyone can find justice or an answer to the issues they encounter on a regular basis, it’s an ideal system for the entire world, says RDO’s co-founder.
All parties involved must work together for ODR an success across India. The country has 4.2 crore civil and criminal cases that are pending (as as of July 15) across India of which close to 75% of them are more than a year old according to the National Judicial Data Grid.