As author Yuval Noah Harari aptly states, “In the 21st century, to conquer a country, you don’t need soldiers, you need data.” This sentiment highlights the increasing global importance of data, a trend that Nepal is not immune to. Recognizing this, long-time friends Anup Satyal and Bikranta Malla envisioned making a meaningful impact in the data sector in the country.
Both Satyal and Malla were abroad and possessed nearly a decade of experience in investment management and software engineering. Realising the potential of both in Nepal, the two returned during the Covid pandemic and started brainstorming what they could do.
Upon their return, they observed a growing demand for information regarding Covid among the general public. Identifying this need, they assembled a small team skilled in data analytics and began publicly releasing data and reports on Covid cases visually. Their efforts garnered attention, and soon, the general public began expressing interest in their work, eagerly anticipating further contributions from them.
“This made us realise that there is an opportunity in data analytics in Nepal, and then we started Xabit Analytics in 2021,” says Satyal, co-founder of Xabit Analytics.
Data use and decision making
Based in Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Xabit Analytics is a company that integrates, analyses and utilises data. Besides the three above-mentioned works, the company also helps its clients in decision-making and implementation.
According to Satyal, Xabit Analytics is more than a technical company that provides data reports. He says that for them, data serves as a tool through which they advise their clients on decision-making and implementation strategies.
“We are the only company that does this in Nepal. There were before us but none of them are in operation anymore,” he says.
Since its operation, Xabit Analytics has worked with six clients, with the majority being outsourced partnerships. There are several reasons behind the relatively smaller number of Nepali clients.
“Although everyone at the executive level understands the importance of data they are reluctant to invest,” says Satyal. “Nepali companies have still not been able to understand the process of making data useful, and have failed to value the data.”
What also creates a problem is Nepali businesses seeking immediate results.
“When they don’t understand that it takes time, it becomes hard to work with them,” says Satyal.
Nepal v West
This is why Xabit Analytics likes working with foreign companies compared to Nepali ones.
“Communication is clear with foreign clients. They provide us with what they want and give us the data but in Nepal things are different,” says Satyal.
Nepali companies do not have clear goals and the necessary data, says Satyal.
“The data teams of some companies are also reluctant to accept our analytics and are uncooperative. They act as if we are there to take their jobs,” he says.
As a result, the results of data analytics have not been up to the mark. But there are signs of change.
The people working at Xabit Analytics are predominantly young graduates. Interestingly, Xabit Analytics does not specifically seek out candidates with bachelor’s or master’s degrees in data science.
“We prioritise individuals with strong analytical capabilities,” says Satyal. “We prefer fresh graduates or young professionals, as Nepali companies are in the developing stages of data analytics, requiring less intense work.”
Data security and the future
When it comes to data security, for Xabit Analytics, privacy is of paramount importance. This is why, whenever they have the opportunity, Xabit Analytics takes the initiative to educate their clients and the general public that personal or personally identifiable information is not required for analytics purposes. By doing so, they ensure strict adherence to privacy standards and promote a better understanding of ethical data practices.
“There is a misunderstanding among the people regarding data analytics. People think that we need personal or personally identifiable data for data analytics, but that is not true,” says Satyal. “For instance, if we are doing the data analytics of a coffee shop, the coffee shop can just provide us the sales details of their items, without disclosing their real name.”
How long does it take to analyse data? That depends on the data’s quality, says Satyal.
“It can take a day or even months and years,” he says.
Xabit Analytics dedicates the initial three months to cleaning the data, followed by an additional few months to derive actionable insights and generate reports.
Xabit Analytics primarily focuses on two major industries: retail and fintech. Satyal mentions that they have substantial experience in these sectors, particularly due to his expertise in them.
For the future, Xabit Analytics aims to expand its offerings beyond just data analytics and training for colleges and organisations. The company is planning to venture into product development using artificial intelligence (AI).
Satyal says that in Nepal, many organizations are still not effectively using data. Therefore, Xabit Analytics sees an opportunity to address this gap by introducing AI-driven products that can enhance data usage and decision-making processes for businesses across various sectors
“We feel there is a need for that in Nepal,” he says.