Manav Garg – CEO of Eka Software Solutions

Eka is the global leader in providing Smart Commodity Management software solutions which enable commodities companies to efficiently and profitably meet the challenges of complex and volatile markets. The firm’s best-of-breed solutions manage commodity trading, enterprise risk, compliance, procurement, supply chain, operations, logistics, bulk handling, processing, and decision support. Eka partners with customers to accelerate growth, increase profitability, improve operational control, and manage risks and exposures. The company is made up of 315 staff with offices in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and EMEA, serving a rapidly growing global client base across multiple commodity segments. Manav Garg is the CEO and Founder of Eka Software Solutions. He manages strategic areas such as product direction, growth strategy, and talent acquisition. In his interview with Finance Monthly he talks about his career path, triumphs and Eka’s major accomplishments.

You founded Eka Software Solutions in 2004 – how did your career path lead you to establishing your own company in the commodity trading sector?
Following my degrees in instrumentation and control engineering from the Regional Engineering College, Jalandhar, and an MBA from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade, Delhi, I joined a commodity trading firm in Singapore. Trading provided me with an in-depth knowledge of the commodity markets and I found that firms faced difficulty in measuring their profits and losses due to high price volatility, problems in tracking cargo, and complexity in managing foreign exchange positions. I realised that one of the best ways of increasing efficiency in the highly volatile commodity markets was through technology and that a carefully designed software product could fill the existing gaps.

As a commodities trader with a large global commodity trading house, I witnessed first-hand the deficiencies in traditional trading and risk management software. Realising the market opportunity, and combining this with my passion for technology, I decided to quit my job in preparation of starting a software company.

Once I decided to quit my job, I spent two years on research. Living on my savings, I spent each week travelling to meet with company representatives to understand the risk management problems they were facing. After interviewing representatives at 50 different companies, I had a solid understanding of the problems faced by various commodityrelated business, such as trading, mining, and food processing. I then founded Eka in 2004.

Our first product provided holistic operations and risk management solutions to physical and financial firms that trade green coffee, and it took us nearly 12 months to develop it. We landed our first customer and soon we had many more. Over time, Eka’s range of solutions has expanded to include the management of commodity trading, enterprise risk, compliance, procurement, supply chain, operations, logistics, bulk handling, processing, and decision support.

What were the difficulties in relation to setting up a company in India?
At the time I started Eka, the Indian software economy was very services driven. We were one of the first companies to recognise the potential of using Indian talent to develop world-class software solutions. This shift of mindset required significant effort in Eka’s early days towards developing the right corporate culture to create a software product ecosystem.

Your company is the leading global provider of Smart Commodity Management software solutions – how do you manage to stay ahead of other companies operating within the industry
Eka has always strove for continuous technology innovation. When I founded the company more than 10 years ago, we redefined the market by understanding the challenges traders faced and delivering a web-based commodity management software solution. We first focused on physical commodities, and made our mark in an industry that was replete with old technology. We started small by focusing on the coffee industry; then, over time, broadened further into agriculture, metals, and energy. By way of acquisition, we expanded further into energy and deeper into the physical commodities space to support bulk handling facilities.

With the evolution of Smart Commodity Management, we are redefining the market again. Two years ago, we recognised the importance of analytics and what it could mean for commodities businesses. To remain competitive in today’s complex and volatile markets, commodities companies need next-generation systems with advanced analytics to make better, faster, factbased decisions. Management control and decision support has become a key element of any commodity management software solution.

No longer is yesterday’s commodity management software adequate for companies exposed to commodity market risk. While the ability to capture the data that surrounds each transaction or engagement is still required, that functionality alone is not enough. As margins tighten and conditions get tougher, today’s commodities businesses require Smart Commodity Management – those systems that focus on predictive analytics, visualization, and optimization.

At Eka, innovation is the cornerstone of our organization. We pride ourselves on building the best commodity trading and risk management products to meet the needs of our customers. Each year, we reinvest at least 20% of our revenues into R&D.

In addition to managing Eka, you provide direction in areas such as product direction and growth strategy – what are your goals for the near future in terms of growing and developing Eka?
Eka’s Smart Commodity Management includes Commodity Analytics Cloud, an advanced analytics solution that brings commodity specific analytics to all business users, and InSight CM, a nextgeneration ETRM/CTRM software solution for managing commodity transactions end-to-end throughout the value chain. These two solutions provide the analytical and operational capabilities that commodities companies need to manage in today’s complex and volatile markets.

Commodity Analytics Cloud is a cloud-based, advanced analytics solution delivering apps specifically designed for the commodities markets that address high value business issues. These apps provide an end-to-end analysis of the entire enterprise, spanning multiple categories including P&L, procurement, risk, and supply chain. With Commodity Analytics Cloud, users can download the specific apps needed for their area of the business, and even customize apps for their individual needs. Over the next year, we will continue to create apps that address questions our customers have.

InSight CM is an end-to-end ETRM/CTRM transaction management platform built on a nextgeneration architecture suitable for a wide range of commodities in the agricultural, manufacturing, metals, and energy industries. Commodity market participants use the InSight CM solution to manage commodity trading, raw material procurement, risk & compliance, and supply chain & operations. As we have done since the company’s inception, we will continue to enhance our ETRM/ CTRM software to provide a competitive edge for our customers.

Eka is the only company that provides the analytical and transactional capabilities for our customers to succeed. It’s our ongoing vision and innovation that enables Eka to stay in front of the market.

Earlier this year, Eka Software Solutions announced a partnership with GlobalView – a premier provider of enterprise-wide market data solutions for the commodity industries – how has the partnership impacted your company’s analytics platform and the commodities markets in general?
In discussions with our customers, a recurring challenge is making use of the large amounts of disparate information from multiple data sources, including ETRM, CTRM, ERP, CRM, spreadsheets, market curves, weather data, IoT sensors, and unstructured data such as social media. A key component of our advanced analytics platform, Commodity Analytics Cloud, is the data eco-system that provides instant access to all the data required from internal and external sources so business users can perform real-time analysis. As part of our partnership with GlobalView, data from GlobalView is now available in Commodity Analytics Cloud. With this partnership, companies gain an integrated solution for managing commodities that includes advanced analytics and market data from the leading data provider.

Two key tenets of Commodity Analytics Cloud are the ability to bring in data from multiple sources and to support the massive amounts of data typical in commodities businesses. Commodity Analytics Cloud enables users to focus on data analysis, not data collection and integration.

What were some of your biggest achievements in the past twelve months?
Commodity analytics has instigated a burst of interest in commodity management solutions. Since the launch of Commodity Analytics Cloud, we’ve experienced rapid adoption across multiple industries throughout the world. In the first six months of availability, seven enterprise customers in the US, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Canada have licensed Commodity Analytics Cloud.
In addition to new customers for our analytics platform, we continue to gain new customers for our ETRM and CTRM platforms across industries and throughout the world. In fact, three out of the four top global agriculture companies use Eka’s agriculture platform.

We were recognised by Commodities Now magazine in their annual Commodity Business Awards and won the award for Excellence in Commodity Logistics. We were also named a Major Player in the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Energy Trading and Risk Management (ETRM) 2015 Software Vendor Assessment.

What are your predictions for the rest of 2016 in terms of smart commodity management solutions?
For commodities companies, margins will remain tight and companies will continue to seek ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Adopting the most effective commodity management solutions will continue to trend. Eka’s pipeline is strong and will continue to grow as the market clearly recognises the value of Eka’s commodity analytics solutions and our ETRM/CTRM software with integrated bulk handling.