Editor’s note: MAIA Intelligence, launched in 2006, was the first business intelligence software product company in India. Its product, 1KEY Agile BI Suite, is designed with the vision of serving the analytics and reporting needs of an entire organization from the operational end users to the top executives. In this interview, CEO and founder Sanjay Mehta discusses the product benefits and the importance of customer feedback in developing a market-leading product. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.
SandHill.com: What is your company’s mission and what was your original vision?
Sanjay Mehta: MAIA Intelligence is a young and innovative company committed to developing powerful BI reporting and analysis products. MAIA’s mission is to democratize BI and take it from a few expert users to the operational managers, and from frontline executives to the back-office team.
While at my former company (Udyog), we realized that for ERP software there are too many challenges in creating reports as and when required. The Udyog customers wanted a reporting tool to the business software as a plug-in. These customers then started asking for enhanced reporting capabilities and features in other business applications such as CRM, HR Management, etc.
Business intelligence is a domain which traditionally is aimed for the top decision maker. But what we have observed is that with adequate information at hand, operational-level decision making also improves drastically — improving productivity, increasing revenue and market share. We now have more than 45,000 users across India and are the largest BI software product company in India.
SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?
Sanjay Mehta: MAIA is a female given name of Greek origin. MAIA also means the eldest of the Pleiades in Greek mythology, also identified with an Ancient Italic goddess of spring and the most beautiful. Similar to Laxmiji, goddess of prosperity.
SandHill.com: Please describe your product suite and your market.
Sanjay Mehta: Our flagship product is 1KEY Agile BI Suite, which is a comprehensive business intelligence software application catering to strategic, tactical and operational data analysis and reporting needs of multiple vertical industries. An integrated offering with a choice to pick and choose modules (business user interfaces), it enables organizations to deploy the BI framework with minimal investments and have a secure, enterprise-wide, dynamic reporting platform in six weeks, irrespective of existing applications.
We also have other products such as 1KEY Touch (an advanced interactive dashboard and reporting software), 1KEY FCM (a financial consolidation management solution) and postXBRL software (an XBRL reporting tool). Our upcoming product is 1KEY HPC (high-performance computing analytics software).
Our 1KEY BI application is suitable for small businesses as well as enterprises. We have been making good inroads in almost all the industry verticals, especially BFSI, Manufacturing, Pharmaceuticals, FMCG, Consumer Durables & Retail. As of now we have customers largely in India and the Middle East, but we are looking to expand soon in the other global markets through strategic alliances.
SandHill.com: Please describe your product’s differentiation and how it provides business value for your customers.
Sanjay Mehta: The major factors on which 1KEY differs from other BI tools are user friendliness, easy-to-deploy architecture and a bouquet of business user interfaces to meet the varied reporting and analytical needs of employees at all levels. With 1KEY users can start making reports with just a few hours of training. The easy-to-use self-service features enable higher user adoption and hence a fantastic ROI for our customers.
SandHill.com: Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and where it occurred in the time line of your product development.
Sanjay Mehta: One of our large customers had been using various of our business user interfaces or modules. Once over a cup of coffee with the CIO he expressed, “Why can’t enterprise data be published on a user’s desktop in a continuous mode — the way the stock information ticker provides instant information to investors?” We took up that challenge and our product development team was able to develop, test and make that feature available in just three months. 1KEY Ticker is a highly appreciated feature in our product since then!
SandHill.com: How did you determine the right pricing for your product?
Sanjay Mehta: When we launched 1KEY, we knew the existing market very well. Organizations were a little skeptical on large investments in BI and the complexity involved in BI roll-outs. We decided to take a different approach by using these skeptical points to our advantage. Since we started with the vision of democratizing BI, our 1KEY product was built using the same vision and we were able to prove our vision to a lot of prospective customers through an on-premises proof of concept. These initial customers helped us in arriving at the right price for our product. Our pricing strategy since then has been in line with the business value we expect to deliver to our customers.
SandHill.com: What are some of the expectations you had at the outset that you’ve subsequently had to change?
Sanjay Mehta: Taking our BI products on a cloud platform when CIOs were not ready to invest in a cloud-based solution for an enterprise because they are required to share business-sensitive information out of the organization.
SandHill.com: Please describe a pitfall you were able to avoid because of a mentor or other advisor’s advice.
Sanjay Mehta: Restructuring the business plan and overall approach when the entire IT industry was going through recession. We managed to pass through without losing a single employee and retain customer confidence at the highest level during hard times.
SandHill.com: Please describe the most interesting meeting you recently attended or recently led.
Sanjay Mehta: At the CIO Choice 2013 Red Carpet event here in Mumbai I, as a vendor, had an opportunity to interview Mr. Arun Gupta, CIO of CIPLA Ltd. This was an interesting session to know how and what a CIO checks while associating with an IT vendor, how he negotiates and finalizes a deal for a win-win situation for customer and vendor.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and do it all over again, from the time you first began your position with your company, what would you do differently the second time around?
Sanjay Mehta: Establish a customer base and brand equity in our domestic market first. I would also have created a better product development road map not having separate client server and Web application as different applications.
SandHill.com: Who is your personal software company or software executive role model?
Sanjay Mehta: Bill Gates and Microsoft, one of the most admired and successful software product companies, having started from scratch and reaching out globally. Its strong product brands and a network partners ecosystem help software product companies like us to reach across the nation and globally. As a startup company, MAIA followed this approach and has been successful in serving its customers and partners at large scale.
SandHill.com: What non-software business or social leader has most influenced your approach to your personal life or your career?
Sanjay Mehta: Mahatma Gandhi for his self-belief, resistance and persistence, and learning from mistakes.
SandHill.com: How did you get your first customer?
Sanjay Mehta: It took almost six months’ time to get our first customer to believe in us, our products and solutions, as our flagship product 1KEY was very new and had only the client server module with limited BI features. We had to showcase and prove that this newly born BI product is going to become a large enterprise class BI application and will become a market leader in the BI space.
SandHill.com: What do the next 12 months hold for your company?
Sanjay Mehta: With the rise of Big Data, the BI and analytics space is changing. More and more organizations are realizing the power of high-performance analytics. As a leading Indian BI company, our efforts are focused on addressing these challenges. We hit the market with 1KEY HPC — next-generation business intelligence – in January, 2013. 1KEY HPC is a high-performance computing solution which, unlike other such solutions, works on standard hardware.
Apart from products, MAIA is focusing on overall growth. We are also looking to increase our team. Mr. Vikram Kole recently joined us as COO and will be responsible for smoother and more efficient business operations.
SandHill.com: What is the most recent success that your company / employees achieved that caused you to celebrate it together?
Sanjay Mehta: When our product and delivery team showcased millions of data being processed in a fraction of seconds and showcasing the result in our 1KEY BI application.
SandHill.com: Who are the advisors behind your company?
Sanjay Mehta: The most important people behind us are our customers — the CIO community who advise, criticize, and appreciate, which helps us plan our product road map.
C. N. Ram, ex-CIO of HDFC Bank and currently Group CIO at Essar Group, shared his knowledge and experience with us on how he and his team built a technology back-end support system for HDFC Bank and challenges they came across and mistakes they made and overcame.
Sebastian Joseph, CIO at Mudra Communication, shared his way of managing multiple in-house applications that he and his team have built over a period of time. He also shared his strategy for hiring and grooming people with a different approach, which helped him to reduce costs and retain quality people.
Vinay Nigudkar, CIO at Reliance Capital, helps us to perform beta testing of our application and gives us valuable feedback on improvising the performance and fixing bugs.
Vikas Gadre, ex-CIO and currently VP of New Business Initiatives at Tata Chemicals, shared his expectation for MAIA’s 1KEY BI Product, which helped us to plan our product road map for our 1KEY 2.0.3 release.
SandHill.com: Imagine that next week you have a full day with an empty calendar. What would you do that day?
Sanjay Mehta: Meet my existing customer and partners accounts, which are usually managed by my colleagues; spend time with my employees and educate myself.
SandHill.com: Who is the person you’d most like to meet?
Sanjay Mehta: Mr. Narayan Murthy of Infosys.
SandHill.com: What’s your top advice for first-time entrepreneurs or startup CEOs?
Sanjay Mehta: Starting your own venture is very exciting yet challenging. It is one of the best experiences one can have. But entrepreneurship is not just doing your own thing. You have to do what you are passionate about, but with the required skills and experience. Make sure that you have a business plan that will provide big revenue opportunities. Guidance from veterans of the field can help you make wonders happen. It is also important to have a good management team who can walk that extra mile with you.
SandHill.com: What is your favorite sport?
Sanjay Mehta: Cricketer Sachin. I enjoy it for its humbleness even during times where expectations are very high and results are taking their own sweet time to show. I also enjoy the passion.
Sanjay Mehta has been CEO since 2006 and founder of MAIA Intelligence, whose mission is to democratize enterprise BI software. His experience of 18+ years includes creating several successful startups and software brands. He is also secretary for the Indian School of Business, a member of the IT Committee at Indian Merchant Chambers, a member of the Indian Angel Network and also a charter angel with Venture Nursery Incubator. Visit his blog at http://blog.maia-intelligence.com.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.