StartUp Circle: How SG Analytics grew into the market research and data analytics environment in India?

By : |August 3, 2020 0

Established in 2007, SG Analytics provides data-centric research and contextual analytics services to its clients across BFSI, Healthcare, Media and Entertainment, Technology etc sectors. CIOL took to talk to Mr Sushant Gupta– Founder & CEO of SG Analytics to know their journey and the future ahead.

1. How did you start SG Analytics?

I believe that most great things in life are rooted in serendipity, an intersection of good timing and opportunity. Post my return to India I dived headlong into entrepreneurial projects; a rainwater harvesting agriculture project, investing in Aavishkar, world’s first rural venture capital fund and starting my own ed-tech startup, right here in Pune. Around that time an interesting investment research-related outsourcing opportunity came up and I thought, why not?

Mind you, when we started SG Analytics, some of our competitors were already 1000+ people strong – and here we were, pocketing our first order valued at $150, focusing intently on quality, travelling incessantly to Europe and back and burning at least 20 hrs daily at work, for nearly 6 years. But the upside was we were growing; from 1 analyst to 11 to 17, acquiring one customer at a time and here we are, a nearly 800 people strong, innovation-focused, cash flow driven organization serving some of the biggest names in the world in the BFSI, Media & Entertainment, Technology, Healthcare, sectors.

2. Tell us about the journey and the team.

SGA was started in one of the rooms in my home in Pune. The founding story of SGA has been a testament to the persistence and focus it took to grow the company against several odds. Soon after the company started, the financial crisis hit, and the company’s survival was threatened. However, SG Analytics has managed to grow from humble beginnings to being a global brand owing to its relentless focus on providing differentiated services to its valuable clients. With no external investment and growth driven purely from its cash flow, we are now proud to have created a company that attracts the best of the talent as well as satisfies the requirements of its very discerning clients.

Some of the most enduring strengths of SG Analytics comprise its people, it’s culture and its commitment to society. From our founding days until today when the company is nearly 800 employees strong, it is our people who have shaped and driven our growth and success as a company. ‘Ownership’, ‘Spirit’, ‘Hard work’ and ‘Fun’ lie at the core of our work culture and it’s no surprise that some of our earliest employees are still with us, many of whom have been strong pillars for the company from the very beginning.

My partner and friend from my INSEAD days, Ahmed Hakki, Senior Partner, who heads our business lines in Europe, Simran Wadhwa, who joined SG Analytics as a fresher and is now the Vice President Sales, to name a few. In fact, many of our people who had been with SGA for over ten years exited the company only 3 years back to further grow in their own ventures! At SGA, our profits and successes are shared with our people, many of whom are co-owners of the company. Also, our annual parties are legendary and wild!

3. Who are the clients?

SG Analytics has a diverse portfolio of clients across sectors – BFSI, Media & Entertainment, Technology, Healthcare, etc. We provide research and analytics services globally to companies across the spectrum including Fortune 500 companies.

4. How do you compete with established market researchers?

The foremost aspect to consider here is that we ourselves have the best brains in the market research industry who come from established market research organizations. The DNA of the market research team at SG Analytics is made up of the same matter as that of these established firms. Contextual understanding of our clients’ business problems, excellent customer experience, innovation, agility, efficiency and creating niche areas differentiate our market research offerings vis a vis the “templatised” offerings of the more established market researchers. We have been able to attract, nurture and retain the best talent in the market research industry which allows us to excel across a wide variety of engagements globally.

Also, it’s important to understand that more often than not we are the “brand behind the brand”. While retaining confidentiality, I must address that our services are white labelled, and it is quite likely that market research work published by established firms have been conducted by us. On many occasions, we feel proud that the market research projects planned and executed by us are so well received by a wide array of people after they are published by our clients. In this way, we are a very important part of the overall ecosystem of the market research industry. The established players know and realise our differentiators, our acumen to excel and our ability to provide them with excellent insights. To that extent, we don’t necessarily compete with the established players but also become their partner in solving the business problems.

The value adds we offer comprise flexibility in our engagements, the nimbleness, the relentlessness and the pursuit of excellence; no matter what gives us the edge in not only competing with the Goliaths of the markets research industry but in also letting us carve our own name and brand in the process.

5. Please share your growth story so far.

While tangible growth is a great measure of success, and in that we have witnessed the company growing steadily over the years (now close to 18mn USD in revenue). I would also like to attribute SGA’s success to the way we have grown as a company in terms of identifying, sustaining and developing a strong set of values. Our values are modern and inclusive in nature with no differentiation between people, along with an emphasis on both commercial and ethical personal growth.

Continuous innovation and development of a related set of services:

As part of our growth story, despite facing some limitations and odds, SG Analytics has continuously innovated through the years – from being an investment research company to integrating research and analytics as part of our offering, we have moved up the value chain and are being recognized as a preferred partner of choice for our clients who comprise some of the industry’s biggest names.

At SGA, we believe that innovation is a mindset; it involves building a company that is meant to last. We continuously strive to convert people/resources into collaborators, clients into partners, and seek to integrate ourselves deeper with the society we are a part of. Our simple mantra of – from survival to thriving – drives us to continuously innovate and evolve. As part of this continuous effort, we have invested deeply in becoming a Technology-enabled company. We are in the process of identifying recurring patterns in our multiple services engagements and building reusable platforms or frameworks to accelerate our service delivery.

We are taking it one step further by productizing some of those platform capabilities – productization is a key innovation driver for us at SG Analytics. A product mindset is also helping us differentiate ourselves from other services companies in the way we engage and deliver our services to many of the global product technology companies. We are also strengthening our software product development capability and partner with data-oriented product platforms to become their software development partner across the spectrum of software development.

Also, we are investing heavily in automation capabilities: robotic process automation, DevOps automation and automation of complex business workflows across domains. Basically, we feel very strongly in “change is the only constant” and this helps us continuously evolve for the benefit of our clients and people.

Sharing our success with our people:

Our profits and successes are shared with our employees. In fact, the entire ownership of SG Analytics resides within the company, with many of the employees being co-owners including those who started as freshers and are now in senior positions, as well as dividend earners.

A high degree of social awareness and impact:

At the core of SGA are its people and our commitment to positively impact the society, and SGA leads from the front in creating a positive social impact that goes beyond just the company’s CSR mandate. Over the years, SGA has been proactively supporting several NGOs & Foundations and has been an ardent supporter of causes like Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, Isha Vidhya, Clean India initiative, etc.

More recently, in the ongoing Covid -19 crisis, SGA has been proactively involved in the Covid relief efforts by supporting initiatives by Isha Foundation, Sampark NGO, Panchshil Foundation and The PM Cares Fund. We have also partnered with Shri Kshetrapal Pratishthan and Pune Platform for Covid-19 Response for pandemic relief efforts. In fact, only recently, we launched the ‘Ek Nishchay’ Initiative wherein we will be directly impacting the lives of 8,000 – 10,000 affected families (nearly 35,000 individuals) by providing them ration-kits and medicines till they can get back on their feet.

6. What are your future plans?

To position SG Analytics as the preferred partner of choice in the research and analytics space in selected industries including BFSI, Technology, M&E and Healthcare by continuing to invest in building deeper capabilities as well as strengthening our market presence. We want to further strengthen our positioning as a global solutioning company which has the standards of a local partner. We are on an aggressive journey to rapidly move up the value chain via productization as well as by positioning ourselves as a business outcome-focused, end to end solutioning or consulting firm (vs just a pure-play research or analytics firm).

Productization will put us on a non-linear scale-up trajectory and will also fuel our services business. We plan to go deeper into the BFSI, M&E, Technology, Healthcare sectors. We plan to further expand our geographic presence in US, Europe and make inroads into the APAC region; part of that will be developing a talent pool that is global in nature. Finally, as we grow, we want to increase the scope of our societal impact by intensifying our CSR activities that align with our values and beliefs.

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