Smartphones, iPads, and anything else you carry around as your mobile office might be moving to a new business beat soon. MooFwd (Moo-Forward), a mobile technology company, has opened an office at the Carnegie Center, looking to bring the feel of business and educational computer systems right to the palm of your hand.
The company’s name —and its colorful cow logo — stem from an Indian cultural reference. Cows have long been considered sacred in India because they produce milk (not due to Hinduism as many westerners believe). Therefore, when a cow crosses the road, traffic halts until the bovine leaves on her own accord. MooFwd’s CEO Sachin Ahuja (pictured at right) says it was time to “move the cow forward” and push for technology to marry mobility.
MooFwd was founded in 2009 by Ahuja and Sunil Mehta, the latter of whom established Orion Systems Integrators in 1993. Ahuja says Orion is a hard core IT firm and a traditional systems integrator with marquee clients like AT&T and KPMG. Orion was basically started out of Sunil Mehta’s garage before a location in Edison formally opened. The firm moved to Monmouth Junction four years ago and has offices in Atlanta, Chile, and Germany with its main offshore development center in India.
Orion, which employs roughly 600 people in the U.S. (half in New Jersey) was the incubator for MooFwd. Ahuja says he effectively still holds a position with Orion as MooFwd is under its umbrella, but he does not do any work for the company.
Ahuja initially worked with Orion in 2004 before joining Goldman Sachs as a technologist. He is a native of Delhi who came to the U.S. seven years ago. He currently lives in North Brunswick.
Ahuja had been designing systems long before he came to the U.S. While he lived in India he would visit the U.S. on business for his job with Sapient. The self-described “geek by nature” started his technical career stateside by designing solutions for 1800FLOWERS.com in Long Island in 2005. He admired the company’s structure, logistics chain, and, most importantly, its IT. Later he did the same work for Citi Group in Manhattan.
“We were creating this beautiful, flexible architecture that would allow many variables to work together, but there was no corporate will to do this,” he says of his work at Citi. “There’s a huge gap between buyers or creators of technology and users of technology. The gap in the goals and aspirations of these two groups really tries to straightjacket technology into where it is safe, gets the job done, and might not be perfect.”
Ahuja said that problem often leads to rogue pockets within organizations, where people implement their own technology because IT isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. In 2008 the idea for MooFwd dawned on Ahuja, based on what he wanted to develop with the big corporations he worked for. He approached his former co-worker, Mehta, whom Ahuja describes as “a conservative guy, but one who risks.”
“The biggest problem that MooFwd solves is fragmentation issues,” Ahuja says. “You’ve got fragmentation of devices — iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys, that whole universe is very fragmented. Enterprises ask ‘how can I manage fragmented devices and not have to buy one type of device to give to all my employees?’ With our help they’ll save funds, let their employees use their own mobile devices, manage the fragmentation, and still get their own productivity apps on the devices in a secure fashion.”
MooFwd has presented to universities, financial companies, and hospitality chains, and its client roster now includes one large pharma firm and a logistics company. Ahuja sees the pharma sector as prominent on MooFwd’s radar in the next 12 to 18 months. With those two clusters in the Princeton area, it makes good sense for MooFwd to be near potential clients, he says. The company has 12 people at its Carnegie Center office and anticipates hiring as many as five technology people and three sales people.
Education is a big opportunity for MooFwd. The company developed a system for Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (where it has another office). Using what it learned about the university’s needs MooFwd introduced the Mooestro M-learning (mobility learning) suite. The product enables a university’s IT department to create mobile applications that act as extensions of the university’s main internal systems. In effect this gives students consistent and customized access to all of the functions they need.
Mobility’s future in higher education could be bright because the different facets of a college’s own technology fall short of meeting the demands of students and faculty. Schools typically have both student information systems (SIS) and learning management systems (LMS) deployed, along with support systems around them to manage other functions. Ahuja says MooFwd’s goal is to meet the challenge of integrating the systems, typically those with secure infrastructure, with a variety of mobile devices.
“Mixing in traditional university technologies with new ones such as iPhone grade book apps is necessary and cutting edge,” he says. “Colleges hold the financial data and portal data of students so they can’t put everything on the public cloud because it’s relevatively secure. Then the LMS system delivers content to students — announcements and notifications or course content. They may not be used very well by students because they’re archived systems, and now you need to go and convert all of it to mobile.”
MooFwd has met with Educational Testing Service, which like his company has a footprint in Chile. The TOEIC exam (similar to TOEFL) is important to students in Chile and many other Latin American countries. Princeton, Rutgers, and ETS all contribute to the picture here.
“Mobility can impact education in a very positive way,” Ahuja says. “Since education is a big deal for us Princeton is the best place to be.”
Ahuja is the youngest of three children. His brother is 10 years older and his sister seven years older, leading him to joke that he was an afterthought at home. Growing up his family was not well-off financially and his father, who made and sold “Made In India” stickers, worked each day from 4 a.m. to midnight. Witnessing his father’s dedication to making his business succeed made a very strong impression on Ahuja.
“That’s my MBA,” he says. “In the little time he spent with me he would tell me stories. I would think, ‘why does he do the same thing every day?’ Now I understand.”
Ahuja went to Delhi University, earning his undergraduate degree in economics. He originally chose the university for its reputation in the arts, though. He studied theater for four years and was interested in setting the scenery for theater productions, as well as lighting and sounds. “Technology is a creative field, and theater is a very creative field,” he says. “In both fields you are creating a product out of nothing.” Ahuja studied economics because it “helps balance the ambiguities” of everyday work, he says.
But his creative edge is never far off. “In theater it takes a couple of years to create a good production. Only at the end of the process you get gratification. In technology, even if my product will not be ready for a year, I’m happy on a daily basis because I created something beautiful within the day,” he says.
Moofwd, 103 Carnegie Center, Suite 209, Princeton 08540; 855-266-6393; fax, 732-422-6445. Sachin Ahuja, CEO. moofwd.com.