Flood fury teaches Fusion Charts a few lessons

fusion chartsIt was 2007. Fusion Charts (part of Infosoft Global Private Limited) was five years into its operation when its founder Pallav Nadhani was surprised with a setback from which he emerged triumphant.

Pallav was 16 years old when he launched a hobby project for data visualization after being dissatisfied with Microsoft Excel’s charting capabilities. Fast forward 11 years, FusionCharts Suite XT now uses JavaScript to provide data visualization to over 21,000 customers and 450,000 developers in 118 countries, earning close to Rs. 100 crore in revenue.

The US government became Fusion Charts’ customer in 2010 when they deployed FusionCharts Suite for creating a digital dashboard of federal administration, the Federal IT Dashboard, which is used by President Barack Obama to understand federal spending.

Location is everything

Founding a company in his teens left Pallav with little time for studies. It didn’t even dawn on this talented youngster from Bihar that Kolkata was not in the thick of IT action. But for Pallav, Kolkata was his city. Happy to hack and sell the product, Pallav was on a song. In 2005, he bought an office space in Bagur Avenue, where he lived, at a throwaway price.

Measuring 1100 sq. ft, the office was on the ground floor of a four-storeyed building that was leaning against the adjacent building for support and hence was sold cheap. It was nicknamed ‘The Leaning Tower of Bagur Avenue.’ “I was recruiting people and I could not use my bedroom as my office because I shared it with my brother,” elaborates Pallav on the need for an office after three years of starting up.

Rude awakening

All worked out well and FusionCharts continued doing good work. Meanwhile, Pallav thought of going abroad to complete his masters so that he could qualify to marry his girlfriend. “I had to convince my prospective in-laws that I was qualified enough to marry their daughter,” says Pallav with a chuckle. In early 2007, Pallav flew to UK to enrol for Masters in Information Technology from Edinburgh University. He continued running his company from there. By now, his team had grown to 20 people.

Pallav Nadhani

Pallav Nadhani at TechSparks 2013 Grand Finale

Pallav was chilling at a London pub with his friends that eventful day when he received a phone call around noon London time. He was informed that his office was flooded after a heavy downpour.

Bagur Avenue is notorious for floods when it rains. However, since the great flooding of 1996, Bagur Avenue had never been submerged in rain water. Pallav was told over the phone that water levels had started rising the previous night and by morning the first floor was practically submerged under water. His father managed to save only a few hard disks. Computer monitors and other office material were washed away.

Luckily for Pallav, all his data and the software were on Cloud and thus were saved. “Those days Cloud was different. You could put your software on Cloud,” he says. Pallav received another rude shock when he heard that his custom-made Skoda was also deep in waters. He had refurbished the interiors with great care for over two and half years, and was heartbroken to see it in a bad shape. After several repairs, the Skoda was never its old self and had to be sacrificed too.

Carry on

After the floods, a couple of employees quit because of the menace of mosquitoes. None of the new recruits were willing to bet on the Leaning Tower of Bagur Avenue after this episode, leaving Pallav no choice but to move out.

As resilient as he is, Pallav did not appear to be shaken by this episode in his entrepreneurial journey. He simply moved on.

Here are two lessons for entrepreneurs: hold on to your data in a remote location and carry on with the journey. These things are bound to happen. As a car ad says, stop @ nothing.


Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy

Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy

Chief Evangelist of YourStory.com and Founder of VirtualPaper. Editor-turned-author. Believes entrepreneurship is a slightly convoluted state of mind daring to dream the impossible. While not editing books, finds joy in talking [to people], writing, and thinking about what makes entrepreneurs what they are. Has a special attraction towards product tech