Procure Analytics CEO and managing partner Suja Katarya knew her company needed to accelerate their use of technology if it was going to survive the pandemic.
In 2020, Procure Analytics doubled its technology team to develop artificial intelligence and reporting tools to help their customers in purchasing maintenance, repair and operational (MRO) products. That shifted focus led to a public rebranding — from Procure Advisors to Procure Analytics — in November.
But Katarya said it wasn’t easy making those shifts when the pandemic upended the company’s typical workflow, and she also had to balance her growing her company with caring for her two young children.
Katarya started her company in 2013, going from two employees to 100 in seven years. Before Procure Analytics, she worked as a vice president at Consolidated Container Company and as a director at Unisource. A Georgia Tech graduate, Katarya credits Atlanta for giving her opportunities in her career.
What led you to your career?
After finishing my MBA at Georgia Tech, I worked in investment banking for several years, focused on M&A. Eventually I became the VP for M&A at Altium Packaging, then owned by Vestar Capital, where I completed more than a dozen acquisitions.
While working there, our private equity started a small buying project to support their portfolio companies in purchasing maintenance, repair and operational (MRO) products. I, along with my business partner, Keith Brower, started working on the project in conjunction with our day jobs. Our program, which was a data-driven, high-touch, high-service model, attracted other private equity groups and portfolio companies.
When Altium Packaging was sold at the end of 2012, we took the buying group with $50 million in sales, two employees, and 400 square feet of office space and started an independent company now known as Procure Analytics. Today, we have $1 billion in sales, about 100 employees, and 33,000 square feet of office space.
Who was your biggest influence in your career?
My mother was relentless in her pursuit of excellence and her demand for the best performance by her children. She stressed education, personal responsibility, the highest standards of ethical behavior and the value of a strong work ethic every day. My mother led me and my brothers by example.
Other key influencers were my father, who is a successful businessman, factory owner and the kindest man alive, and my husband, who is a managing director of an investment fund with global responsibilities as well as my constant sounding board for new ideas and projects. Lastly, my business partner, with whom I have worked hand in glove for the last 15 years.
What is the biggest challenge in your career or job?
Personally, with two young children, ages 10 and 12, it is balancing the demands of a growing business with the responsibilities of being an engaged and involved parent. My No. 1 priority is ensuring my children are the best possible citizens of the world. Professionally, it is the dual challenge of maintaining the high-service levels that drive loyalty among our member companies while finding the talent and fostering the culture that fuels our growth.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Meeting and exceeding the expectations of our member companies. We do not have a sales force. Virtually 100% of our business and growth come from member referrals. As members recommend us to their associates and word of how we operate spreads, the continuing pace of new members joining our program affirms that we are meeting members’ expectations.
What’s the hardest business lesson you’ve learned?
Not every road leads to the promised land. I like to say “Yes,” and the hardest business lesson is to learn to say “No,” so my team and I can focus on key priorities. As we have grown, we have a plethora of opportunities. It is important to be disciplined and focus our resources on the win-win-win opportunities for our members, our suppliers and us.
How have you adapted the company to the Covid-19 pandemic?
Like most companies, we have been operating remotely for almost a year. During that time, our headcount grew about 40%. Bringing on new people and orienting them to the company’s business model and processes, as well as maintaining service levels while working remotely, has been an enormous challenge. Adapting our high-touch, on-site processes to a remote environment has been a challenge.
Before Covid, we traveled to many of our members for on-site visits. This was a significant driver in our relationship-building process. Our travel budget dropped by more than 98% during the pandemic. But we have become very efficient in the use of online video conferencing. We conducted more training sessions (albeit online) than we did pre-Covid, all while continuing to grow at more than 30% in 2020.
How do you see the industry changing after the pandemic?
Our business has been focused on relatively low-dollar, high-frequency consumable items that often fall below the radar of most companies’ procurement teams. Our largest supply category pre-Covid was PPE, a category many people simply paid no attention to that suddenly became a global focus last spring. PPE, and other cleaning and disinfecting categories, will become a much more concentrated focus for many of our members.
We will continue to expand our offerings and services in these categories. We also believe that there is a tremendous pent-up demand in sectors of our business that we consider consumer discretionary: cruise lines, theme parks, casinos and resorts, and retail outlets, among others. These will surge as the nation and the world return to a more normal operating environment. We expect this semi-moribund sector to boom.
How have you leveraged technology to make sure Procure Analytics stays relevant and adaptable?
One of the positive outcomes of Covid-19 — if such a thing is possible — is that it drove us to accelerate technological adoption. In the past year, we invested in a variety of business intelligence platforms and reporting systems.
We also created an in-house team to develop new artificial intelligence and reporting tools tailored to our business, helping our customers navigate the complex environment of alternative products that maximize MRO savings. We hired a VP of Data Analytics, and more than doubled the size of our technology team to over 20 people.
Our focus on an enhanced technology platform was a key driver in our rebranding from Procurement Advisors to Procure Analytics in November 2020.
How has being based in Atlanta been helpful for Procure Analytics and your personal career path?
Atlanta is a great place to recruit in and recruit to. It is a dynamic town with great universities to recruit from and many Fortune 500 companies from whom we can attract management talent. The city embodies a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit.
Personally, it offered me all of the stepping-stone opportunities that led me to where I am today: Georgia Tech for my MBA, SunTrust for my introduction to investment banking, Unisource for my first management roles, and CCC, where I was able to pull together all the skills I learned to run a dynamic M&A team, which ultimately led me to this company. It also provided my husband a local career path from his MBA to his current role as the SVP, Global Investments at Voya here in Atlanta.
Do you have any advice for other immigrants and women of color entering the business world?
Maintain your humility, stay rooted in your values, and believe in yourself and your potential.
Born in: New Delhi
Lives in: Tuxedo Park, Atlanta
Current job: CEO & Managing Partner, Procure Analytics, Atlanta, Georgia (formerly Procurement Advisors)
Previous job: VP, M&A, Consolidated Container Company (now Altium Packaging), Atlanta, Georgia
Education: BS, Electric Engineering (R.V. College of Engineering) and MBA, Georgia Tech
Family: Husband and two children (daughter,10 at Trinity and son,12 at Westminster)
Hobbies: Reading, philanthropy and work with my temple in Atlanta (with two children, not a lot of time for hobbies)
Read the article on Atlanta Business Chronicle here.