Pallav Nadhani is glad he was only 17 when he decided to start his own company. “My parents and family let me do what I wanted, because they felt I was at an age where everyone experiments,” he reminisces. But he was sure that his product would hit bull’s eye. “I realized that my forte was in the area of information technology,” says Nadhani. After all, he had designed his first
numeric-based game when he was just nine years old and spent most of his free time on the computer.
Then came the turning point. Nadhani wrote a paper on the use of Flash in business applications, which was published in the online tech journal ASP Today when he was in the 11th standard. He then got to work on designing just such a product himself. His first version of FusionCharts made charts
more understandable, interactive and easier to work with.
Today, Nadhani’s company, InfoSoft Global, caters to the market for visual web applications, specializing in making data visualization components
like charts, gauges and maps. Since its inception in 2002, the company has had 13,000 customers and nearly 250,000 users in over 110 countries; it acquires an average of 350 customers a month. Its clients? NASA, Infosys, Wipro, the U.S. White House, U.S. state governments, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Citigroup, and nearly 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.
InfoSoft Global, located in a swanky office in the Sector V area of Kolkata, is fast moving toward a turnover of Rs. 20 crore for this financial year. The company was listed among Deloitte’s 2009 Technology Fast 50 India. Conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Asia Pacific, the ranking lists the 50 fastestgrowing technology companies in India. The study is based on looking at the companies’ percentage revenue growth over the past three years. The company has also been awarded the NASSCOM Top 10 Emerging Companies in India Award in October 2009.
For Nadhani, it was not about tapping into a market as much as it was about creating one. “Flash applications were not really being used in the field of data visualization. We are the pioneers in Flash charting components, globally. We convert boring data into interesting [presentations],” says Nadhani. His instincts about the scope of reinventing data visualization aren’t off the mark. After all, data churning is one of the most vital—albeit boring and tedious—components of a business, be it a small mom-and-pop store, a multinational company, or even a scientific lab.
It is this boring and tedious part that Nadhani addresses. With the $1,500 he received for his article, Nadhani listed his company in a directory, registered the domain name, got a server, and spent the rest on online marketing. He worked alone from home for the first three years before recruiting his first employee. Today, the company’s employee strength is 30, and the average employee age is 26. The company’s criteria for having someone on board are the person’s IQ and integrity. “Since we work in a technology innovator company, we not only want people trained in technology, but also those who are technology enthusiasts.”
The company has been completely bootstrapping since its inception. Nadhani never used any funding, loans or investments of any sort. In fact, he has now formed an angel investor fund called Seeders. The company got its first sales person in the U.S. only a couple of months ago. Until now, it was about making the best possible use of online channels, such as banners, search engine optimization, pay-per-click initiatives, link building, case studies and the social media. Offline marketing means print, trade shows, evaluation kits and so on.
So far, InfoSoft’s products have catered to the B2B segment—but that is about to change. Nadhani is readying himself to address the B2C segment with a new range of products. “Let’s just say that using Windows PowerPoint will become far more interesting than it presently is,” reveals Nadhani. The move will put the company on a fast-moving wagon and help it look at a much wider market base for its products, which are priced between $69 and $1,500. Nadhani is also planning to have more sales offices and another office in either Bengaluru or Delhi in 2010; by the end of the year, the company aims to have 25,000 paid customers.
But how does he protect his software from piracy? “Piracy doesn’t bother me,” smiles Nadhani, “Our first two versions of FusionCharts have been open source. And I know that all those who are using pirated versions of our software will soon be so hooked to our products, they will purchase them— sooner rather than later.”
But like so many other entrepreneurs, Nadhani has been through some frustrating times. “It’s not like we get it right each time,” confesses Nadhani, whose FusionCharts and FusionMaps might be a rage, but he has missed the mark, too. “We launched a suite of products for a file maker in 2007, but the package still hasn’t taken off—we have only 197 clients [for this suite] to date.”
Nevertheless, Nadhani feels that unlike the services category in information technology, the products category is insatiable. A products business is not capital intensive and doesn’t require a large team. Besides, you can use the internet to talk about your products. “With no tele-calls and no feet on the street, you can still get a considerable amount of business if your product is good. So take the plunge,” says Nadhani, encouragingly. Are you listening?