Even as much of the world is digitizing its governance, in small towns and villages of India, data about its citizens is still being largely logged on long and thick notebooks. Have they received the subsidized cooking gas cylinders? How frequent are the power cuts in the village? If these data points exist at all, they are probably stored in big paperbacks stacked in a corner of some agency’s office.
Five years ago, two young entrepreneurs — Prukalpa Sankar and Varun Banka — set out to modernize this system. They founded SocialCops, a startup that builds tools that make it easier for government officials — and anyone else — to quickly conduct surveys and maintain digital records that could be accessed from anywhere.
The Indian government was so impressed with SocialCops’ offering that it partnered with the startup on National Data Platform, a project to connect and bring more transparency within many of the state-run initiatives; and Ujjwala Yojana, a project to deliver subsidized cooking-gas cylinders to poor women across the nation.
“This is a crucial step towards good governance through which we will be able to monitor everything centrally,” India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said of National Data Platform. “It will enable us to effectively monitor every village of the country.”
Two years ago, the duo wondered if the internal tools they built for their own teams to manage their projects could help data teams around the world? The early results are in: Atlan, a startup they founded using learnings from SocialCops, has secured more than 200 customers from more than 50 nations and has raised $2.5 million in pre-Series A funding led by WaterBridge Ventures, an early-stage venture fund.
The startup, which employs about 80 people, also received backing from Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of conglomerate Tata Sons; Rajan Anandan, the former head of Google Southeast Asia; and 500 Startups. On Tuesday, Singapore-headquartered Atlan moved out of stealth mode.
The premise of Atlan’s products is simple. It’s built on the assumption that the way most people in enterprises deal with data is inefficient and broken, Sankar and Banka told TechCrunch in an interview. Typically, there is no central system to keep track of all these data points that often live in their own silos. This often results in people spending days to figure out what their compliance policy is, for instance.
“Atlan wants to democratize data inside organizations,” said Sankar.
Teams within a typical company currently use a number of different tools to gather and manage data. Atlan has built products — dubbed Discovery, Grid and Workflows — to create a collaboration layer, bringing together diverse data (from internal and external sources), tools and people to one interface.
“We are reimagining every human interaction with data. For instance, code has a profile on GitHub — what would a ‘profile’ of data look like? What if you could share data as easily as a Google Sheets link, without worrying about the size or format? Or what would a data versioning and approval workflow look like? What if data scientists could acquire external data within minutes, instead of the months it takes right now?,” said Banka.
The startup has also built a product called Collect that allows an organization to quickly deploy apps to collect granular data. These apps can collect data even when there is no internet connection. All of these data points, too, then find their way to the interface.
Atlan intends to use the capital it has raised on product development and sign more customers. It has already won some big names, including Unilever, Milkbasket, Barbeque Nation, WPP and GroupM, Mahindra Group and InMobi in India, Chuan Lim Construction in Singapore, ServeHaiti in Haiti, Swansea University in the U.K., the Ministry of Environment in Costa Rica and Varun Beverages in Zambia.
In a prepared statement, Manish Kheterpal, managing partner at WaterBridge Ventures, said, “companies are struggling to overcome the friction that arises when diverse individuals need to collaborate, leading to project failure. The IPOs of companies like Slack and Zoom are proof that we live in the era of consumerization of the enterprise. With its sharp focus on data democratization, Atlan is well-positioned to reimagine the future of how data teams work.”
As for SocialCops, Sankar said it will live on as a data science community and pursue its signature “social good” mission.