Cooking, building tech for mammoth firms kept this engineer busy amid Covid 

Peerzada Abrar, 23 February, 2021

Cooking, building tech for mammoth firms kept this engineer busy amid Covid 

Peerzada Abrar, 23 February, 2021

Under Manav Garg's leadership, commodities and direct materials tech firm Eka Software grew 60% in the past 12 months and is on track to cross $100 million in revenue.

Manav Garg, 46, loves cooking and took up the activity to another level during the pandemic. He is proficient in various cuisines, including Thai, and has set-up a small kitchen garden at his home where he grows ingredients such as galangal, lemongrass, basil, rosemary and all the herbs for farm-to-fork dishes. He has even been making 5-course meals for his family. As chief executive officer and founder of Eka Software Solutions, Garg is also steering the technology company for commodities and direct materials to the next level of growth despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Under Garg’s leadership, 2020 was a transformational year for Eka, as enterprises across the world sought to speed up their digital journey with the company’s cloud platform as opposed to traditional legacy systems. As businesses adopted new digital capabilities to operate amid the pandemic, Eka revamped its technology platform to align to their priorities and added $70 million in total contract value (TCV). It grew by 60 per cent in the last 12 months. The company is on track to cross $ 100 million in revenue in the next two years. Eka has a well-thought-out growth plan in motion and is on track to grow by 50 per cent CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) in the next 4-5 years.

When the pandemic started, Eka’s strategy was ‘survival, sustainability and then growth’. The Bengaluru-based firm also reached to top executives of hundreds of its customers globally to understand the impact of Covid-19.

“There was a kind of uncertainty for the first two-three months of the pandemic. But then food suddenly became very important for everybody. With supply chain getting disrupted, people wanted to have more food security and food companies did extremely well. Suddenly the food industry shot through the roof.”

Manav Garg, CEO & Founder, Eka Software Solutions.

“With supply chain getting disrupted, people wanted to have more food security and food companies did extremely well. Suddenly the food industry shot through the roof.”

Eka, which means number one in Sanskrit, rapidly adapted to address the crisis. It quickly adopted a remote methodology to accelerate key projects. This led to 100 per cent remote and on-time delivery with increased collaboration, communication and seamless execution. It implemented a record number of 20 new projects remotely amidst the Covid-19 lockdown for customers such as Cargill, Alvean, Vale and Mex Gas International. Customers benefitted from the accelerated pace of projects go-lives as implementation time went down by at least 50 per cent.

“The last 15 months have been transformational for Eka, We have now signed large customers such as Rio Tinto and Vale and we are now digitizing the mines.”

Manav Garg, CEO & Founder, Eka Software Solutions.

US-based Cargill, one of the world’s largest and oldest agribusinesses, which produces and distributes products such as sugar, refined oil and chocolate, is using Eka’s platform to manage its supply chain in Asia. Alvean, a Brazilian company that specialises in originating, commercialising, and trading raw and white sugar, is using Eka’s platform to digitise its supply chain. Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer goods makers, is also using Eka’s technology for the digitisation of procurement risk management.

“There is a 100 per cent acceleration for the adoption of new technologies in the industry,” said Garg.

Under Garg, Eka has a continuous innovation philosophy where it invests 30 per cent of its annual revenues in the cloud platform. This ensures it is aligned with customers’ strategic priorities and future technologies.

For instance, Eka had built an app for the world’s first live use of a blockchain-enabled private marketplace for coffee trading. This project is still at a pilot stage. The Coffee Board of India was using Eka’s app to connect the producers to an efficient marketplace while providing ‘bean-to-cup’ transparency and traceability. With this app, the Coffee Board of India hopes to empower 350,000 coffee growers in India to access real-time pricing and trading.

Not only that after the outbreak of the pandemic, Eka released ‘Covid-19 risk monitoring’ a free app designed to help customers and prospects quickly gain visibility into supply chain risks to better assess and mitigate risk. The app provides specific insights into the impact of Covid-19 by showing a company’s contract position across countries with reported cases of the virus. Based on company data, the app instantly visualises contracts at risk and provides businesses with the ability to identify alternate suppliers to maintain business continuity.

A former agricultural commodity trader and a keen observer of technology trends, Garg established Eka in 2004. The vision was to modernise commodity management. He was among the first few who successfully built a global software product company from India in an era dominated by services. In the last four years, under Garg, the firm has been able to transform from being a client-server to becoming a cloud computing firm. Garg had observed the early trends of the power of cloud technology and its impact, especially in the older industries, where on-premise software and services consumed a large piece of software or distribution process.

“We bet very heavily on it and reinvested $25 million from our balance sheet to create a total cloud-native platform, focused on commodities and direct materials,” said Garg, who graduated as an engineer from NIT Jalandhar. “You can do all the work from buying, selling, trading, shipping to entire financial management and ensuring sustainability.”

Garg also takes an active role in supporting innovations in software products. Besides mentoring, he has invested in building a strong Indian SaaS (software-as-a-service) start-up community by helping fledgeling ventures build and scale.

For a long time, Eka itself remained bootstrapped. The firm later raised a total funding of about $56 million from investors such as Nexus Venture Partners and Silver Lake after the venture capital funding picked up in the country after 2009. For the last six years, Eka has not raised any new funding. Garg said Eka has been profitable and has a lot of capital on the balance sheet.

“I'm not a believer in raising capital before we actually need it, So we used the capital very efficiently from our balance sheet and then pivoted the platform to grow to the next level.”

Manav Garg, CEO & Founder, Eka Software Solutions.

This article was first published on Business Standard.