“Our systems are breaking down. There are things that are happening which should not be happening in the country,”
Pallav Nadhani is worried over the state of affairs at various levels in the country. The investor and serial entrepreneur who recently sold his successful data visualisation startup FusionCharts to a US company Idera at an undisclosed amount. His demand from the startup community and society at large is very basic — “Speak Up.”
“Speak up on the problems, against the atrocities happening in our society. This will help people understand the issue at large. If we won’t, then we are complicit, accepting it.”
Nadhani’s arguments must be seen in the context of recognising the problem, which for him, is like half the battle won. Take India’s fight against Covid-19, for instance. As the world today is grappling with the pandemic and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes up with a bold decision of the nationwide lockdown, it is admittedly one of the most effective and essential steps.
However, the lockdown alone can’t hide the discrepancies and the delay in various policy announcements and their implementation which, experts believe if not addressed in time will neutralise the very purpose of lockdown. For instance, India in February 2020, partially lifted the ban over the export of masks to supply millions of surgical masks and surgical gloves to China. A ban on ventilators was imposed only on March 19, despite WHO and various studies showing India needed around 200K ventilators, against the existing 8K, and 6.2 Mn PPEs against existing 800K.
Needless to say, the lockdown also caused tens of thousands of homeless daily wages workers to come out in groups and start roaming on the endless roads. Thanks to the media for continuously showing these reality checks that the government after 4-5 days of the lockdown is taking these realities into consideration.
While startups have now collaborated with the Indian government and state governments to extend their solutions, services to the needy in such a worrying scenario, Nadhani felt that many in the business world were still living in an echo chamber, discussing funding and exits.
“I am not talking just about Covid-19, but the other things also that are happening in the country and are certainly not good for the country, its image outside has taken a very bad beating. India has been an intellectual power as well and now what we want to be recognized for is cow urine?”
The brand image of India around the world is slowly getting weak, said Nadhani.
While that was Nadhani’s commentary over the unpleasant incidents that India has witnessed in recent years, we also delved into Nadhani’s entrepreneurial journey, his recent exit and why he shies away from social media platforms such as Facebook, or even WhatsApp.
Nadhani recently exited his bootstrapped and consistently profit-making startup FusionCharts. A data visualisation company founded way back in 2002, when the likes of Flipkart, Ola, OYO and others, most of the successful startup ideas were not even germinated.
Offering a slew of products like Suite XT, FusionTime, and FusionExport charting libraries, the startup supported developers in building user-friendly, visually appealing dashboards for web and mobile projects.
Among its 28K clients were tech giants such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Adobe, IBM, Intel as well as Caterpillar, Walmart, Vanguard and many others.
Now that FusionCharts has become a part of Idera, it will join Idera Inc’s developer tools business unit that includes software productivity brands Embarcadero, Froala, Lansa, Sencha and Whole Tomato.
After having an almost 18-years long association with FusionCharts, a company which he started from the scrap with no external funding, why did Nadhani decide to exit in 2020?
“There are a couple of reasons,” he said. “First, during the last 18 years, we have made some fabulous products and teams. All it needed was a large distribution channel which could take this product globally, everywhere. This is where Idera fills the gap.”
And, the second reason?
“In the last few years, I have also found a couple of other ventures which include Collabian, Charts.com. And I have not been able to focus on these products, due to FusionCharts.”
With FusionCharts continuing to be a profit-making company for many years, why didn’t Nadhani choose to raise external funding? To which, Nadhani responded that there was no concept of fundraising and VC money in India, back in 2002. “It was only after 2008 that I came in touch with many VCs and went through their term sheets. However, by the time our company was already profit-making, we didn’t need much money. As a result, I dropped the idea of raising money.”
Focussing On Collabian And Charts.com
Nadhani founded Collabian in 2011 and Charts.com in 2018 — both ventures are in business intelligence. While Collabian is a dashboard tool for SharePoint on-premise, Charts.com provides user-friendly visual analytics tools for prosumers.
Collabian has currently over 400 enterprise consumers and Nadhani wants to fully focus on these two ventures now. On the revenue model, is he going to follow a FusionCharts model or wouldn’t hesitate to raise some VC money as well?
Nadhani clarified, “Collabian is funded by customers and hence is technically bootstrapped. However, both the products are still in the development phase, and therefore I have not given much attention to their revenue model. However, the mantra is very simple if it requires funding, we raise funding. If not, we won’t.”
The Making Of FusionCharts
A techie at the core, Nadhani has authored and co-authored a couple of books “ASP.NET for Macromedia Flash MX” and “FusionCharts Beginner’s Guide”. Hailing from Bhagalpur district of Bihar, Nadhani was studying in a high school in Kolkata and was just a 16-year-old when he decided to launch FusionCharts in 2002.
He calls himself an accidental entrepreneur. In 2000-2001, he made some charts for web during his school project which were widely appreciated. Further, in order to make some pocket money, he wrote an article on the same for an international publisher ASP and earned $1500. Nadhani soon started getting queries to write such codes for other projects too. For each assignment, he was getting paid from $50-$100.
Nadhani made a website and later created a payments gateway as well.
“It was my dad’s PC and his URL. No money was invested, no money required.”
On October 22, 2002, the first license was sold. And FusionChart was born.
Staying Away From WhatsApp, Facebook
Nowadays, social media is seen as instrumental for many startups to generate organic demand and for brand marketing too. Founders and even VCs too are using social media platforms to not only promote their products and services, and help increase the brand value.
Nadhani, who is active on Twitter, GitHub and Linkedin for expressing his opinion, marketing and outreach, does not use any other platform such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram.
“I don’t use Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp because I don’t like conspicuous consumption of information.”