Data analysis is a largely untapped market in Bangladesh. Despite the growing interest in big data and its business potentials globally, Bangladesh remains a laggard not only in data-driven decision making and various other uses of data but also in availability of data itself. However, the good thing is a slow realization of the value of data and its power to shape our business and world is happening.
A new data analytics startup called Meghdut Analytics aims to tap into this opportunity and help companies to put their data into better use with less effort. The startup helps companies to export their existing data to its analytics platform and generate useable insights.
Founded by Wasik Mursalin and Mahmudur Rahman in December 2015, Megdhut Analytics is still in beta mode but has already worked with a couple of companies including GlaxoSmithKline Bangladesh and Arla Foods Limited among others.
We recently spoke to Wasik Mursalin, co-founder of Meghdut to dig deep into the story of the startup, their state of business, difficulties and challenges, investment and incomes and the future plan.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Future Startup: Briefly tell us about Meghdut.
Wasik Mursalin: We are basically a business data analytics startup. We provide a platform for data analysis for businesses in the country. Many companies find it difficult to assimilate all sorts of data and put it into use maybe because they don't have the proper technology or expertise. We are trying to provide a service which will do that for them.
We started and registered as a company in December 2015. Then, we attended to Founder Institute Dhaka and graduated in March 2016. We currently have some paid clients, such as–GlaxoSmithKline, Arla Foods LTD. We are beta testing with SureCash and in conversation with a top ecommerce company.
We worked with the first three companies earlier on a trial basis. Finally, at the end of this month, we are formally launching our public beta. Our website is already available in www.meghdut.io.
Future Startup: What does your company exactly do?
Wasik: We provide an online dashboard that seamlessly connects with company’s operational data like sales and purchase information, financial transactions etc. However large the data set is, one can easily accumulate insights from the dashboard in real time.
Moreover, it does not require any specialized knowledge and comes with very user-friendly visualization options. This dashboard is only accessible by pre-authorized company personnel.
FS: Could you please elaborate the entire process? Say, for example, Future Startup wants to be your client and seeks your assistance to analyze data so that they can make better business decisions in the future. What will they have to do?
Wasik: Initially, we will ask you to give us some operational data of your company as samples. You may provide that in the form of excel or CSV file. We will then import data to our system and get back to you with a demo of what type of insights can be generated according to the parameters of your operational data. If you think the demonstration satisfies your needs and you think that we will be able to add value to your company, we will ask you to subscribe.
We basically have“software as a service” (SaaS) revenue model. We don't sell our software itself; rather we sell service through our software. For instance you can purcahse microsoft outlook here. The service charge depends on the amount of data you are providing per month. If you want to analyze, say, a thousand excel records, you can just do that on a trial basis. We won't charge you anything for that. We have different price range for our service. It generally ranges from BDT 10,000 to 80,000 per month.
Moreover, if the systems from both ends work well together, we look for an integration of the two. Once integrated, the data can be transferred automatically without any human intervention. We have an API (Application Programming Interface) which can facilitate the automatic transfer from one system to another.
FS: How did you get the idea? When did you decide to move forward with the idea? Also, tell us a little bit about yourself and the co-founder of your company.
Wasik: Sure. Our company actually started from Mukto Software where I was working on a Smartphone / tablet-based data collection platform. While working on it, I realized that there is a market for this in Bangladesh.
Then, we thought of doing something to address this market. It was in August last year. We conducted some R&D, reached out to several top FMCG and pharmaceuticals companies, and eventually it became evident that we are targeting the right sector.
That’s when me and my co-founder Mahmudur Rahman, the CEO of Mukto Software, decided that the venture needs to work as a separate entity to unlock its full potential. I quit Mukto and took over Meghdut as its CEO.
FS: How did you manage your initial funding?
Wasik: At the initial stage, we pitched Shama-e Zaheer, the chairman of Mir Group, for funding. He told us that the market seemed promising to him as well and agreed to invest in our company. As a matter of fact, he became interested to get involved in the venture as well and joined Meghdut’s board. In future, we have plans to raise further rounds of funding once we fully launch our service.
FS: Tell us about your team.
Wasik: We are now a four-member team including me. We work full-time. Two other people also work part-time with us. Our team consists of people from both engineering and business background. Affan Mahmud, a serial entrepreneur and veteran businessman, is also part of our team as an advisor.
FS: I'm trying to understand your end product. Is there any human involvement in the process or is everything done automatically?
Wasik: There are some controls on our dashboard. Anyone can visualize and segment the data from different perspectives using those controls. We also help companies to understand what type of analysis they can do by using different parameters.
We have an internal R&D team that identifies what type of KPI is beneficial for a company. Actually, our vision is to enable the business owners to keep track of the entire business and make better decisions by using their data.
FS: So, you were talking about doing beta-testing with some companies.
Wasik: Yes, GSK Bangladesh and Arla Foods are in our paid-tier clients. We have been beta testing with SureCash and an ecommerce company. Hopefully, we will begin working with them very soon.
FS: If you pick one of your beta clients as a case study, can you describe what kind of service they avail from you? Take, for example, GSK. How do you work with them?
Wasik: We have actually built an additional component for GSK‐an iPad application. Everyone from GSK field force has got this application with them. They input whatever information they gather from the doctors they reach out to. Then, the data is automatically fed to the analytics and the authority can check on their field forces' performance from there.
FS: I see. That's quite interesting. What type of work are you doing with the ecommerce company you mentioned? Is the process a little complex for them given that they are an ecommerce company?
Wasik: Not really. We tried to build our platform as a generic data analytics tool which can work with time series and geographical data. That covers almost all operational data for an ecommerce, pharmaceutical or a retailer company. Like, for the ecommerce company, we demoed them how to find sales trend, retaining customers, popular products instantly using our platform.
FS: There are not many companies doing the same business as you are, so far we know. But, there are several companies that are dealing with data, such as Nielsen, Light Castle Partners to name a few. I personally think that there is room for new companies in this space, primarily because the market is quite big and it is untapped. It means there will more players in the coming days. How do you think about competition?
Wasik: The major difference between those companies and ours is that we work with operational data and how we do business is fundamentally different. We are in a different market segment.
We are providing a platform for real-time data management which is distinct from what Nielsen or LightCastle Partners offers. The market is same but our approaches to it are not. I think we are in different business and we suit more as collaborators than competitors.
As for competition, I think we have three types of competitors. Among them, enterprise-level ERP systems, who have already built a reputation in Bangladesh, is the most prominent one.
Many companies have their internal IT teams that do all the processing and analysis of data. The independent software vendors (ISV) are also, kind of, our competitor. We try to tap the market from a generic perspective. On the contrary, the ISVs develop customized solution for each company they work with. That creates some sort of competition for us in terms of customer acquisition.
Our competitive advantage, on the other hand, is that our system is lightweight, can work with time series and geographical data out of the box, focuses on specific segments, scales automatically with increasing amount of data and requires only a modest subscription fee to use.
FS: What future challenges do you anticipate?
Wasik: Our vision is to extend the platform to a predictive analytics which is quite challenging technically and requires market data mining as well. But, our company has been founded by engineers and we enjoy the technical challenges. Another challenge is the trust issues. As long as we are not an established brand, companies may find it difficult to trust with their internal data.
Although we promise to maintain confidentiality and get into legal contracts and NDA, some companies would not trust us with their organizational data. We hope this will go away as we grow.
FS: What are you future plans?
Wasik: After developing footholds in the local markets we wish to launch it internationally. As it is a cloud-based system and the "data market" exists almost everywhere in the world, going global should not be that difficult in my opinion.
A few challenges might come to our way, such as–high competition in the first world countries. But, other untapped markets, especially the African and South Asian nations, represent great potential. In fact, one of our customers has already expressed interest in expanding their operations to Nepal.
We are looking forward to establishing Meghdut as a one-stop platform for taking data-driven decisions. This vision involves quite a few technical and business challenges, of course. But as I have said before, we, at Meghdut, always love challenges.
Interview by Ruhul Kader | Transcription by Rahatil Rahat | Image by Meghdut