Data meets design

Data meets design

FusionCharts wants to be at the forefront of the evolution seen in data visualisation by releasing additional products for the iOS platform 

POORNIMA KAVLEKAR

In 2002, what started as a quest for pocket money for then 16-year-old Pallav Nadhani turned into a full- fledged business proposition.  He recalls, “Back then, I was using a lot of MS Excel charting and found them dull and boring. The web was just coming of age in India. So I came up with an idea of building interactive and animated charts in Adobe Flash (Macromedia Flash back then) and combined them with Microsoft ASP.” He wrote an article about this concept in a website called ASPToday.com. The feedback he received from the readers who were mainly software developers helped him modify and enhance his idea and motivated him to convert it into a product. With the US $1,500 that he received for the article, he incorporated FusionCharts, a company that creates interactive charts, gauges and maps in web and enterprise applications, when he was a high school student in 2002.

While Nadhani managed the company with his team during the initial few years, when the business started growing, he needed additional hands to run different parts of business that were not his forte. That’s when his dad joined him. “My dad had the experience of building a couple of businesses, including a web design and development agency,” shares Nadhani, co-founder and CEO of Kolkata-based FusionCharts.

Owing to its lean operating philosophies, the company has been profitable from its very early days. “We have not raised any external funds so far and currently, we do not plan on raising any money,” shares Nadhani.

Visual appeal

FusionCharts provides a software component that helps companies visualise their data better. This can be used in any web or enterprise application across different industries or functions. Since 2002, its products have been enabling organisations make data in their dashboards, internal reporting systems and presentations look good and easy to understand. For instance, all the charts and maps on LinkedIn, the professional network, are powered using its products. Its products are used in areas like business intelligence where data visualisation plays a key role.

FusionCharts reached 10,000 customers without having a dedicated sales person.  What propelled the company to a global platform was the selection of its product by U.S. President Obama’s administration in 2010 to design digital dashboards for the federal administration.

“The first product was created by me based on my understanding of the market. Thereafter, each product idea was given by and validated by our customers,” shares Nadhani.  Currently, the company has about 14 products in the data visualisation space and over 90 chart types.

It charges a license fee for the product, based on where it will be used. For usage in a corporate website, Intranet applications or personal websites, there’s a fixed fee with an optional subscription. For usage as part of a commercial software product or SaaS offering, the company has a customised license fee.

Today, FusionCharts has 21,000 customers spread across all industries and 4,50,000 users in over 118 countries including a majority of Fortune 500 companies. Its team strength is 60 people across two offices – Bengaluru and Kolkata. In the first five years of operation, the company grew over 100 per cent each year. “Now we are growing at a conservative 20 per cent to 30 per cent annually,” says Nadhani. The company closed the 2011 – 12 financial year with a revenue of US$ 7 million and expects to reach US$ 10 million by end of next year.

Snap Shot

FusionCharts
Founder: Pallav Nadhani
Year: 2002
City: Kolkata
Revenue: US $7 million for 2011 – 12 financial year

Smart marketing

FusionCharts’ marketing fundamentals are based on two pillars. One, always give the customer reasons to remember it, apart from the product. “We do fun things like mascots, storytelling and infographics  that our customers love, “ says Nadhani. Two, convey the benefits of using its products, rather than just features. “We do this by looking at our product from a customers’ perspective and building applications and content that is pertinent to them,” he adds. The company has taken both online and offline marketing routes.  Online marketing includes pay per click (PPC), search engine optimisation (SEO), influencer marketing, thought leadership marketing and some social media interaction. Offline marketing includes participating in tradeshows and advertising through print magazines.

No small feat

FusionChart reached 10,000 customers without having a dedicated sales person.  But what propelled the company to a global platform was the selection of its product by U.S. President Obama’s administration in 2010 to design digital dashboards for the federal administration. “We have a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama using our products, as part of U.S. government websites,” says a proud Nadhani.  The company generates over a billion charts every month. In September 2009, FusionCharts was selected by NASSCOM as one of the top 10 emerging companies in India.

However, all this comes with its set of challenges. For Nadhani, finding good ActionScript developers during the early days was a problem for two reasons – first, it was a niche technology, and second, the company was based out of Kolkata where such talent was hard to come by. So the company started getting relatively inexperienced people and gave them a chance to learn the technologies it needed. “Finding good product talent in India has been a challenge, especially people who understand product delivery in 118 countries, without having an office there or even visiting those countries,” says Nadhani.

Fast forward

With an increasing amount of data being generated every day and an equal rise in the number of devices people consume the data on; the evolution of data visualisation is going to be interesting for FusionCharts. It wants to be at the forefront of this evolution. The company also wants to redefine how the common man thinks of data visualisation. “Right now, people just look at a chart and derive meaning from that. We want to convert that monologue into a dialogue,” says Nadhani. And for this to happen, it has made product centric developments. While FusionCharts Suite is a developer-centric product, in the last few years, it has added two more lines of products for non-developers. The company has a product for Microsoft PowerPoint called Oomfo that extends the data visualisation capabilities of Microsoft PowerPoint. Collabion is another product for Microsoft SharePoint that lets business users create interesting dashboards in SharePoint, without the need for any code. Going forward, it will be releasing additional data visualisation products for the iOS platform. “We want to be a company that is focused on everything related to data visualisation. Our goal is to power every chart using our products,” concludes Nadhani.


Concept in brief: 

FusionCharts provides a software component that helps companies visualise their data better. This can be used in any web or enterprise application across different industries or functions. Since 2002, its products have been enabling organisations to simplify their data in their dashboards, internal reporting systems and presentations all while making them look stunning. 

FusionCharts’ Suite XT allows companies to create interactive charts, gauges and maps in web and enterprise applications. Oomfo is a plug-in for Microsoft PowerPoint that brings all the features of FusionCharts Suite XT to PowerPoint. Collabion Charts provides a quick and easy way to create insightful dashboards in SharePoint, without the need for MOSS or Excel services. To quickly deploy and use FusionCharts within specific technologies, the FusionCharts product ecosystem also offers extensions for several technologies. 


 

Poornima Kavlekar has been associated with The Smart CEO since the time of launch and is the Consulting Editor of the magazine. She has been writing for almost 20 years on a cross section of topics including stocks and personal finance and now, on entrepreneurship and growth enterprises. She is a trained Yoga Teacher, an avid endurance Cyclist and a Veena player.