Kerala based, Foradian Technologies that began as a web development and services company, soon emerged to be one of the fastest growing firms in the field of school management software. What came as a small software requirement to store school records and procedures soon caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala, which deployed Fedena in all their schools under the Project Sampoorna. Founded in 2009, the company has a rapidly rising business and a global presence in 200+ countries that uses its solution.
In an interview with ProductNation, Arun Raveendran, Cofounder, and Director, Foradian Technologies, says, he is upbeat about the future of the company. Foradian has already recorded profits. Moreover, with fresh funding early this year, the company is ready to expand its operations to markets like USA, Canada and the UK.
Foradian was established in 2009, by 8 childhood friends who met at various points in their lives. Formed in a small town in Kasargod, Kerala, we wanted to do something different from our peers and decided to start a company. We had no concept plan for a product or which market to cater to, just a dream to be entrepreneurs.
What were the driving factors to build solutions for school education market?
Foradian was started as a web-development services company. During the course of the work we came across an educational institution that wanted to implement a school management system. In our search for an available school management solution, we realized that there was a huge gap in the market as the only available solutions in education software were from big players and they were costly. That is when the idea of developing Fedena School ERP software came into force.
What was the technology adoption scenario in schools before you entered this market?
It was very narrow as it still is. Schools, especially in India, were not very comfortable with the idea of having paperless records and procedures. It’s not the same now. Schools want to adopt technology as it is the right thing to do. But still there are managerial challenges in making the teachers use it.
How will specialized solutions change the education sector?
Specialized solutions can enable the education sector to deliver a lot more than what they are delivering now. A school with online ERP system can perform tasks like: collaborating with parents anywhere and anytime, go paperless, plan timetables and examinations months in advance, inventory management and a lot more. Technology in any sector is a tool for solving business problems as well as an enabler of progress, so is the case with education sector.
What is the potential of this market and who are the players who are leading in it?
Fedena being a flexible product can be customized to cater to all geographies, types and institutes, irrespective of size. Therefore our market is huge. There are millions of schools, colleges, universities, evening schools, learning centers, etc. worldwide, which makes it a very big market for us. Most of the big players in the market, who offer ERP solutions to education institutes, do not offer specialized products but only a modification of a general ERP product. Also, their solutions are expensive. This gives Fedena an edge over them as we provide a specialized education technology product at much lower cost.
Tell us about Project Fedena and Ruby on Rails (RoR)? How successful did it prove to be?
Project Fedena is the open-source version of Fedena Pro. It comes with only the core modules. In the initial deployment of Fedena, we realized that every school had different requirements and required extensive customization. For scaling up the product, we were required to offer one product that fits all. In 2010, Project Fedena – a free, basic version of the product was rolled out. The basic version of Fedena was free and whoever wanted a customized product had to pay a fee.
We decided to go with RoR because it is developer friendly. All our technical employees were beginners and it took them only 2 months to start coding in our system. Since RoR is widely used nowadays, we get fantastic support online. Also there are plenty of plug-ins and gems available for specific requirements.
What is the story behind creation of Fedena? How did you get the funding? What were the challenges faced in developing and marketing the product?
Foradian was started as a web development and services company. Fedena was developed after a school raised a requirement for school management software. Soon, Fedena caught the attention of the State Government of Kerala which deployed Fedena in all their schools across the state under the Project Sampoorna.
Foradian received a funding of $2 million earlier this year from William Bissel of Fab India who had a very keen interest in the education sector and saw the potential in us. The funding came at the right time as Foradian, which was already running into profits now wanted to expand its reach in countries like USA, Canada and UK.
Were you able to breakeven with Fedena? How early? What were the challenges faced in selling the software product? Do you sell direct or through channel partners?
It took us about 2 years to break even. The main challenges faced by us were need for customization and limited usage. Every institute is different from the other, so are their requirements from their ERP software. Therefore we started Fedena ecosystem which consisted of many resellers, IT professionals and developers. This ecosystem helped us provide customization and after sale services to all our institutes.
Most management information systems are difficult to learn and configure, so many schools don’t use them. Fedena was designed to be easy to use. It is so user friendly that anyone with a basic knowledge of computers and email should be able to use it within 10 minutes.
What is the company’s turnover today? What’s your next project? Have you explored the overseas market?
Last year we closed around $1 million. We are also under the process of launching Learning Management software called Uzity. It is a global university where you have the ultimate freedom to teach and learn anything you want in any pace you prefer. It is still in testing phase.
Fedena has a global presence. Currently Fedena is being used in 200+ countries.
How favourable is the eco-system for development of software products in India? What is needed to make it more conducive?
Software industry in India is booming. The eco-system for development of software products has gained momentum. There are new pro-active policies by government being introduced to enable the incubators and accelerators and also to impart skill development which will make the work force in this industry more employable.
As a product development company what learning would you like to share with others? What are the highs and lows of product development?
The high side is that you get to introduce innovations in the industry. Once you find a scalable model for your product you earn high profits, high margins. There is a chance of explosive growth with a disruptive product, like it happened in our case.
In contrast, product development can sometimes run into high development costs like R&D, human resources deployment etc. You can sometime run into dead ends where you spent a lot of time, effort and money on product development and the market doesn’t respond to your product.
A through market research is a must before you start developing a product. Best approach will be to find a gap in the market and develop a product that fills that gap.
Is the team still managed by the ‘eight childhood friends’ or has the equation changed?
We are 6 full time Directors now, handling various verticals of Foradian.
Tell us about how you started Tintumon.com and how it ended up being so popular?
Tintumon.com, a social networking website for Malayalees was launched as a leisure pursuit project and it went viral. The user base of Tintumon.com grew radically and was soon reported by all popular media in Malayalam. It was celebrated as a cult by the youth of Kerala.
You have received numerous awards and accolades. How would you describe the journey so far?
Even though Fedena is a simple yet powerful product, it got the right kind of attention from the tech world. Awards bring a sense of confidence that we are on a right track and that has greatly helped us in moving forward.
Our journey so far has been very rewarding and fulfilling. There is a new challenge everyday and it is this challenging nature of entrepreneurship which makes it so exciting and worthy. Fedena as a product has gone places and with the funding in the picture we are at a very exciting point in our journey and we wish to make the best of it.