How a teenager's quest for pocket money ended up in building a multi-million dollar venture

18 Oct, 2013

I am here to tell you the story of how a quest for pocket money became a multi-million dollar venture. The story of how a company grew from a shared bedroom to the one that has 20,000 customers and 4.5 lakh users in 118 countries today, powers more than a billion charts per month and does $7M in annual revenues.

It was 2001, when I was a 16-year old high school kid. Like any other teenager, I wanted to go bowling and sip cold coffee in cafés. When it came to after-school jobs for teenagers, our society sported a stiff nose to pretty much everything. Nobody gave teenagers a job. Teenagers went to school, studied hard and attended a good college to become an engineer or a doctor. But, I wasn't exactly ready for that. In the world of IT, the landscape was changing. The world was coming out of the dotcom hangover and was ready to experiment with new technologies. And users were ready to pay money for things that solved an actual problem.

The birth of FusionCharts

I had been helping with the web development arm of my dad's firm for a couple of years now, which developed websites for local businesses. However, I wanted to create a product on my own and that's how fXraph took birth. In August 2002, I started work on FusionCharts and in October the product was launched. By the end of that month, we had 35 customers. In March 2003, we launched FusionCharts version2. A couple of thousand dollars were coming in every month by now, and the 40 per cent month-on-month increase made for a pretty picture on the line chart.

In FY2005, FusionCharts had clocked $1.4 million in revenues and was growing 100 per cent year-on-year. In that year, we hit the 2,000 customer mark. With an increasing customer base, feature requests were coming in thick and fast. A lot of users asked us for more features, but I had some other ideas.

Then we wanted to hire a team and set up an office. FusionCharts hit the 5,000 customer mark in October 2006. The customer list now included not just small developer-driven companies, but even Fortune 500 companies who used FusionCharts in their products and projects. In November 2006, two more products were added to our portfolio - FusionMaps and PowerCharts. Put together with the new version of FusionCharts and FusionWidgets, the complete set of products was called the FusionCharts Suite. For a business, when you hit the 10,000 customer mark, you know you have arrived. In 2007-08, FusionCharts had done $2.8 million in revenue.

In March 2010, I took over as CEO. FusionCharts clocked $5 million in revenue in the fiscal year ending March 2011. We hit its next milestone, and everyone was delighted. But to get to the next milestone, the same strategy that the company had used all these years wasn't going to work.

The happy ending?

If you were expecting the story to end with the company getting acquired for a nine-digit figure and everyone living happily ever after, sorry to disappoint you. FusionCharts has been an independent bootstrapped profitable company, and it continues to remain that way. Acquisition offers have come our way, but we have all the time in the world to wait for a good parent. Right now, I am enjoying the journey and do not really have an end goal in mind. FusionCharts has never raised any money, so there is no investor pressure either. We can chart our own destiny, and that is exactly what we will do.

(Pallav Nadhani is the co-founder and CEO of FusionCharts, a provider of data visualisation products. As told to our Bangalore correspondent Sainul K Abudheen)