Churning for nectar

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Earlier this week, the leading Indian financial newspaper (The Economic Times) scooped a story about our most recent investment: Fidelity’s  India focused PE funds led Series B financing of Manthan Systems. The official press release is a more reliable  source; the  scoop is speculative on many counts as is almost always the case with deal related reporting and more so in India.

Manthan is a rare Indian IT/ITeS business (to borrow from investor taxonomy) .

  • It sells critical enterprise software to retailers, a product that addresses the business analytics needs to boost revenues, reduce costs and improve margins.  BI has been top-of-mind for CIOs across verticals for a few years now and especially in retail.
  • The ARC platform is sold worldwide and is in use on every continent by brand name companies. Only a handful of Indian companies have delivered enterprise software solutions to the global markets competing with the behemoths (Oracle, SAP, IBM, etc.)  at price points comparable to theirs.
  • The company develops enterprise software products driven by real innovation; the DNA of the Bangalore (and India) tech machine is well endowed with service delivery talent but limited product development skills.  Manthan breaks out of the mould.
  • The business is built on world-class  processes for product management, marketing, sales, channel development and customer support – and it does these better than most startups at scale in Silicon Valley or Boston.  It has to, to thrive as a global business!

Fueling this ship is the energy of Atul Jalan, who checks off all the boxes that investors would look for in an entrepreneur CEO.  More importantly, he is one of the most interesting humans I have met in a while.  It is not unusual for him to quote an obscure classical French poet, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and an original composition in flawless Hindi – all within a minute of each other.  His choice of name for the company is indicative of his depth and as he explains it (quoting from his website)

In Indian mythology, ‘manthan’ is a metaphor for the eternal quest for excellence. It derives from a mythical tale where the gods and the demons churn the oceans seeking nectar. While the nectar symbolizes excellence, what precedes it, is equally important. And that’s the quest, the churning – ‘manthan’.

We are  looking forward to watching Atul and the great team he has built around him shepherd the company through the next phase of growth.

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