The Value of Pie

The Value of Pie

In less than seven years, FusionCharts has established itself as the world’s leading producer of Flash-Charting applications. Its CEO talks to us about what’s driven this extraordinary growth and what lies ahead.

When FusionCharts turned 7 this year, its employees cut a cake that read "We give to ourselves what we have given to this world. A delicious pie." Only in their case, the pie isn't a dessert. It is the chart we add to our PowerPoints and websites to slicken up our data.

Co-founded in 2002 by Pallav Nadhani, a 24-year-old Masters of Computer Science graduate, FusionCharts offers a suite of data-visualization applications to convert dull data into interactive charts, maps and widgets. Its products reach over 150,000 users and 14,000 customers across 110 countries, ringing in revenue worth $4 million.

The idea of FusionCharts originated in 2001 when Pallav, who was only 17, wrote an article for a technology publication, proposing the concept of fusing Flash and ASP technologies to create business applications. The article won rave reviews, indicating to him the market potential of Flash-based applications. Using money he had pocketed from writing as starting capital, Pallav set off to single-handedly build the first commercial version of FusionCharts. When released in October 2002, FusionCharts V1 became the world's first Flash-Charting component.

"Convincing people to use the product was tough," recalls Pallav. "Few knew how to integrate Flash-based applications into websites." To overcome this challenge, he did a lot of coding for free. He also ensured solid customer support, addressing queries quickly and diligently. Over the next 3 years, Pallav worked by himself, improving his products and acquiring customers. It was only in the fourth year that he hired his first employee. Today, in its third version, FusionCharts counts a little over 30 employees, and the US Government, Citibank, and Infosys amongst its customers.

Pallav believes FusionCharts' growth has been greatly enabled by its range in pricing. While packages for individual developers and managers range from $69 to $1,000, enterprise packages for project leads and CXOs range from $1,000 to $5,000. But Pallav admits to have erred in pricing at times. "We have realized one has to experiment with pricing. Each market or product is influenced by its own dynamics. Our rule is if just 5% of our customers complain about pricing, we are adequately priced."

Interestingly, the company also offers some of its products for free and as open source. Explaining this model, which he calls Freemium, Pallav says "As a growing company, we need the maximum number of users. It helps us build pervasiveness. Locking our products up with license keys does exactly the opposite."

But the big challenge for FusionCharts now, Pallav believes, is figuring how to achieve the next leap of growth. "We have built ourselves into a 20 Cr business. But how do we transform ourselves into a 100 Cr business? This will demand a complete rethink of our startup strategy," he says.

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