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Tech Talk: One stop economic data portal

Updated May 26, 2019

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DIRECTOR  Saad Bin Naseer thinks the low-cost alternative to an otherwise expensive solution can help increase the company’s market share.
DIRECTOR Saad Bin Naseer thinks the low-cost alternative to an otherwise expensive solution can help increase the company’s market share.

All the data geeks in Pakistan know how boring and tiring it generally is to scroll through a thousand websites with a hundred tabs open to finally get all your metrics in one place. And when number crunching is literally your job, the task is ever more daunting.

But with Mettis Global, a Karachi-based business-to-business startup, that problem is averted, at least for financial and economic metrics.

Mettis Global is a web-based financial data and analytics portal that gives access to a wide range of local financial and macroeconomic data on a single platform. Whether you want to check the latest balance of payment statistics, do technical analysis of a stock, check the trend in foreign remittances, the said portal lets you do it all.

The portal covers all the asset classes, from equity and money markets to commodities and fixed income, as well as the macro indicators such as current account deficit and inflation. They get their feed from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics or the State Bank for publicly available free data while for the rest; Mettis Global relies on external vendors.

At the moment, the startup has around a 100 clients in corporates, banks and asset management companies and a few big names will soon be on board.

Mettis Global was founded in 2015 by Saad Bin Naseer — a former capital markets broker and Zain, who wanted to break the monopoly of Bloomberg and Reuters and bring local financial data onto a single platform at much a more accessible price.

Currently, this financial data need is addressed by Terminal and Eikon — two globally used platforms — from Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters respectively, with their prices hovering around $2,000 (Rs302,000) a month.

“Since their price tag is quite hefty, most of the companies have only a few systems installed — often with split screens, or available only to traders. Plus they usually need both — Eikon for forex and Terminal for bonds — thus making it even more expensive,” explains Mettis Global Director Saad Bin Naseer. “Our solution lets them carry out analysis of both on single portal, and at only fraction of the cost,” he adds.

Mettis Global has also been operating in the financial news arena, publishing routine updates on economic indicators such as inflation, financial results and occasional analyses. But for a tech startup still in its infancy, trying to refine the product and get a network clientele, is getting into the content really an optimal strategy? It requires more resources and time that could otherwise have been dedicated to scale the core business further.

“This is how the model works internationally: data portals have a presence in news as well, either through external partnerships or in-house. Plus much of our news is automated through basic artificial intelligence, like government debt figures are updated in a story form without any human involvement, which means we only need a small team to run that. But news is part and parcel of the package when you are in the database business,” he explains.

The startup is completely self-funded and Saad is still cautious about seeking an external investor. “We didn’t have the need until now but once we have enough banking clients, we will explore this option as well,” he says.

As for revenues, the company has a subscription-based model — like that of its international competitors, charging a monthly fee of $200 (Rs30,000) to its clients. With all expenses taken into consideration — including salaries for a team of 25, tech infrastructure, sales, data, licences etc, the pricing seems quite low, raising questions on the sustainability of the project. How much longer can they bear such losses?

“In the first few years, when the product is not fully ready, you have to make through somehow but now that our customers are growing, we are already approaching breakeven,” Saad claims.

Within the local scene, a couple of players operate in the database arena such as Capital Stake from Lahore and Investors’ Lounge in Karachi. How does Mettis Global plan to stay ahead of them all?

“The difference between us and them is they are solely focused towards equity while we have all asset classes covered, so our product is much more extensive,” the director says.

But in Pakistan, capital markets are not the most developed and trading is still an activity limited to a select few. For a B2B startup looking to tap on the market participants, what is the potential pie Mettis Global is looking at?

“The number of investors in stock market is a bit north of 200,000, though very low, is still a sizeable number for us to do business with. Then there are other securities as well so there is enough to make money,” he believes.

Only time will tell if Saad and co can sustain the current business model in a relatively small market.

The writer is member of staff:

m.mutaherkhan@gmail.com

Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2019