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Analytics startup’s move from India turbocharged growth

Feb 12, 2015


Published By : San Francisco Business Times

“It took about four to five years for us to move to the U.S. In hindsight, I would have done that two to three years earlier,” says Agrawal.

Pranay Agrawal

Co-founder and executive vice president, Fractal Analytics

What it does: Provides analytics services to companies with more than $10 billion in revenue
HQ: San Mateo
2015 revenue: $50 million
Employees: 800
Founded: 2000
Source of startup capital: Early investors

First job: Worked at an accountancy firm after undergraduate studies
“It took about four to five years for us to move to the U.S. In hindsight, I would have done that two to three years earlier,” says Agrawal.

How's business: Business has been good. Everyone wants to do something in the big data space. We've been positioned well in that sense. We've been in this space for about 14 years, so we have trust and brand recognition.

Biggest challenge for your business at the moment: On the demand side, it can be hard helping clients actually adopt new processes based on the data and analytics information. On the supply side, it's challenging to figure out the best way to tailor the delivery of information for each customer, whether through traditional consulting or more IT-based tools. There's also a shortage of trained analytics professionals.

What's going to change at your company in the next year: We've more than doubled the number of people we have in the U.S. in the last year and expect that to double again over the next 12 months. So we'll be increasing our global imprint. There will also be an increase in the amount of IP and products we offer.

Important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur: I think the most important skill is the ability to persist through the highs and the lows.

Biggest business high: When we first started this business, we didn't have any experience in analytics. We were able to raise money and convince someone else to believe in our vision, based only on a paper business plan. That's a proud moment. Winning our first client, which was a Fortune 500 global company, was also proud.

How did you celebrate: I don't remember. I do remember asking "How are we going to deliver this?"

Biggest business low: With the 2007-08 financial crisis, everything slowed down. At that time we had to shrink our company a bit to survive. We had to let go of people you knew were good and knew were hardworking. That was a low.

Biggest business strength: I'm able to take any problem and not be overwhelmed by it and break it down into its components. I'm also able to help the people around me.

Biggest business weakness: I could do better in terms of understanding people.

Smartest move: The fact that we zoned in on the analytics area in the first place. We were doing this stuff way before the term "big data" was coined. That's something we can be proud of.

Do you feel like starting your business in India helped: There were definitely benefits of doing that. Today, as it turns out, the biggest location for this kind of talent is India. We were able to build a firm base and brand name, and that's a fantastic strength for the company. The one thing I might do differently is that it took about four to five years for us to move to the U.S. In hindsight, I would have done that two to three years earlier.

Biggest worry: All industries go through this cycle of a lot of hype and then reality sets in. There's a lot of hype right now, people believe big data can change the whole world. It can, but the fear is that we're overhyping the expectations. One of the fears is that through the hype, there will be disappointment for a lot of companies and they'll back off from the space for some time.

What do you wish you had known from Day 1: I'm glad I didn't know how hard this is going to be. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

Favorite task: I really enjoy all discussions around our clients, problem solving for our clients, thinking through client strategies.

Source of support in a business crisis: Obviously Srikanth, my co-founder, and I work closely on all issues. We also have a very strong management team.

Most-admired entrepreneur or role model: Bill Gates and Sunil Mittal, who founded Airtel.

Favorite pastimes: Spending time with family is a big priority. Other than that, I have a great passion for music. I used to play in a band. I sing and play the guitar. My wife and I are big movie buffs.

Favorite song to perform: I would be hard pressed to name a favorite. I like "Black Magic Woman" by Santana, "Sunshine of Your Love," by Eric Clapton, and "Wish You Were Here," by Pink Floyd.

Favorite films:"Pulp Fiction" and the "Lord of the Rings" series.