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Kerala’s Pioneering IT Startup Turns 25

In Business
October 06, 2023

Palnar Transmedia, one of Kerala’s first Information Technology startups, which has expanded its footprint into the US and European markets, is all set to celebrate its silver jubilee on Saturday, 7th October.

Dr Syed Ibrahim, the Founder-Director of Palnar Transmedia, said the company would unveil major expansion plans at the event.

“We’re proud to be a flagbearer for the entire IT community here. It has been an eventful journey,” said Dr Ibrahim, who worked with a German firm for three years before that.

“Palnar now has a collective size of more than 300 employees working in India, the USA and Germany with a combined turnover of more than USD 17 million.”

He started the firm with his colleague Sreejith with an initial capital of USD 650, operating from a 150 sq ft space at Technopark’s Pamba block on 16th September 1998.

Growing with the state’s robust IT ecosystem, Palnar’s focus was primarily on the German-speaking European market. Shortly after its launch, the company got its first client from Germany, and its office became more prominent, adding 150 sq. ft.

Payments from abroad were slow as bank transfers took over a month, making it challenging to meet salary deadlines.

Overcoming heavy odds, it kept moving and eventually latched onto the big IT boom brought about by a massive technological transformation.

In 2019, Planar acquired German IT company iworxs GmbH after working with it for over 12 years, marking its entry into the European market with a new German identity.

In neighbouring Switzerland, Palnar partnered with Smartup AG to develop some path-breaking solutions like an application for bike parking towers in German and Swiss towns.

For its Austrian client DaFi, Palnar provides the entire solutions for managing hundreds of solar installations and energy management systems across the Pongau region.

“We have been able to penetrate the German market effectively, offering a direct association between German clients and iworxs. The actual programming work is being executed by the teams sitting in Thiruvananthapuram,“ he said.

It was not all rosy for the company during its long journey. It went through a severe shortage of funds and client losses, especially during the financial crisis of the mid-2000s.

“It was a completely different IT landscape in Kerala way back in the mid-1990s with less than 10 IT companies to count,” Dr Ibrahim recalls.

“Technopark then looked almost empty with just two buildings – Pamba and Periyar. The total headcount was not more than 200.”

Internet speed in MBs was still a distant dream. The modem had to labour hours to get a steady connection to Germany to download or upload even small digital files.

With the absence of Google and other search engines, it was almost impossible to search for potential clients. The only source was printed directories and personal contacts.