By Guest Author Shailesh Otari
Deal Radar heads back to India for the rest of this week, first to a young company created by a young entrepreneur in Calcutta. Straight out of high school, Pallav Nadhani started InfoSoft Global, a software product company, in 2002. Under an umbrella brand called FusionCharts, the company provides data visualization software that helps customers make interactive charts and graphs for their Web and desktop applications. FusionCharts is basically a pluggable library, components of which can be used in other applications to build visually exciting graphs.
“Back in 2002, most charts were image-based and not interactive. I was learning flash and wondered if it could be used to make interactive graphs,” Pallav recalls. Wanting to take the data visualization concept to a whole different level, Pallav thought about using his flash skills to develop a useful business application. He discussed these thoughts in an article in an IT developer’s forum called ASPToday. The article was widely read, and feedback from most developers was positive – some even suggested going ahead with such a product. Still in college, with no work experience and domain knowledge to back him, Pallav plunged into forming InfoSoft Global. By constantly learning from customers and keeping himself updated about latest trends in the industry, Pallav had single-handedly built InfoSoft into a $4 million revenue company by 2009.
The venture was completely bootstrapped and started with no formal market survey. Competitors were numerous, but no one offered flash-based graphs, and it was this pioneering of flash based-charting that enabled the company to differentiate itself. Today, the industry is crowded with open source and other similar commercially available products, but InfoSoft still enjoys the first-mover advantage. “It was [after the] dot-com bust and people were willing to experiment with new things. We were partly lucky there, as people adopted the technology and it became a platform for web development applications,” said Pallav. Following Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” approach, the company initially targeted IT developers and won their trust. Once these early adopters started spreading the word about these tools, the company gradually gained traction among big companies. Pull marketing tactics were employed, rather than a sales push strategy. After establishing credibility, the company approached Fortune 500 clients. Today, InfoSoft Global deals with who’s who of technology giants such as Apple, IBM, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Cisco, NASA, and the U.S. government. OEMs also use InfoSoft Global’s charting tools to build their graphics. Prominent clients in this segment include Nokia, EMC, Sungard, Tibco, Cisco, HP, and many more. The total customer base is 15,000, with 50% of revenues coming from the United States.
The company has a lean operating model, and for the first three years Pallav was its sole employee. “Back then, all that mattered was the product itself,” recalls Pallav. Because there were no overhead costs, the company was profitable from year one. Focusing most on the product, Pallav continuously innovated and brought in new features. FusionCharts v2.3, which came out in March 2005, was particularly successful and in fact acted as the tipping point for the company. Realizing need for a formal management team, InfoSoft Global expanded to include heads of marketing and finance. But the company is still small, at just over 30 employees, which helps keep costs low.
With the goal of becoming a $25 million revenue company in next four years, InfoSoft Global is currently focused on broadening its product portfolio by adding new products and upgrading existing ones. They are also moving in the direction of providing solutions for non-IT personnel.
Pallav is excited about India’s innovation potential and is part of entrepreneur organizations such as The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) and the Headstart network. He has also founded an angel fund called Seeders with another entrepreneur friend. Pallav said that “[the] recession has had an effect. People are coming out of a job mentality.” He is hopeful about the maturing ecosystem in India and optimistic about the next 20 years. “The next Firefox could be from India,” the entrepreneur quips.
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This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2009