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Success story: He started a software company at 18!

Last updated on: April 12, 2012 15:52 IST

Success story: He started a software company at 18!

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Shobha Warrier in Chennai

Shalin Jain's journey as an entrepreneur started when he was a college going teenager.

Without any academic background in computer science, he designs, codes and develops products.

His successful venture, Tenmiles Corporation develops products that are used worldwide. Shalin Jain, founder and CEO of Tenmiles shares his success story in an interview with Shobha Warrier.

Fascinated by writing code

Though from a well-to-do family, I started working for a multimedia company near my house when I was just 17. The owner was my mother's friend. Since I had been designing websites from the 9th standard, she asked me to help her out.

My inspiration was a neighbour, who was developing software products on his own. Whenever I had time, I used to sit and watch him write code.

After I joined college, I got a part time job as a Flash Developer, web designer and programmer with Software Technologies of the Sanmar group.

I was earning around Rs 5000 as a part-time employee. I also wanted to acquire many skills before I finished my college. But I was forced to quit my job as it affected my college studies.

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Image: Shalin Jain.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj.

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An entrepreneur at 18

After I quit my job, I became restless and decided to start something on my own. So, I became an entrepreneur by default. At 18, you don't dream about becoming an entrepreneur.

That was the time my friend called me to work with him. I told him, it is ten miles up and down, and I did not want to travel that much.

Why I preferred miles to kilometres was, at that time, all of us were fascinated by anything that was American. In America, they say miles. So, I also calculated the distance in miles! I thought miles sounded interesting and kilometres sounded boring.

So when I thought of starting an enterprise, I didn't have to think twice. I decided to name it Tenmiles.

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Image: Tenmiles team.


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Starting Tenmiles

In September 2000, Tenmiles was launched at my house with no capital. I had my desktop to work on. I took my father's credit card and launched my website which must have cost him $10. I forced my father to get me a broadband connection too.

Iniatially, I started offering banner design services free of cost because I wanted to build a customer base. I marketed on the internet and my first client was from Canada. I did not charge my first 200 clients. Frankly, I had no idea how a client from the United States or Canada would pay me!

One day, a client from Canada told me, your work is good. It is not a good idea to accept your work for free. You made three banners for me. Tell me how much do you want me to pay you?

I charged him $20 per banner and started a bank account to deposit that cheque. That was the first revenue for Tenmiles.
After that, I started charging $20 for banners. In the first year, I made $1000. It was all profit, as there were no expenses.  Then, the same client asked me to design a website for him.

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Image: Tenmiles office.


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Designing products

Soon I realised designing banners and websites was not what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something more creative.

Again, my neighbour who was designing products was my inspiration. I hired him as my first employee. Till then, I was running Tenmiles all alone.

First product

Within one hour of him joining, the first idea came to my mind. Back then, screen savers, wall papers, etc. were very popular. I wanted to write a software that would transfer any flash media into an installable screen saver. It was aimed at brand building so that the screen savers remain for a long time.

It took us 16 days to write the program. We named it Screenswift and it became very popular. We put it on the internet and used google ads to promote it. The personal edition was free and the commercial edition was charged.

Big names like Disney bought our product. We have 4000 to 5000 customers. In two years' time, we had almost 2 lakh downloads. It was a big success.

In the second year, the revenue was around $10,000, while building the product, cost us only $3000. We must have had 4 lakh downloads till now. Even after ten years, we still sell the product. 

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Image: Shalin Jain.
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj.

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Success story: He started a software company at 18!

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Moving to an office

In 2002, I finished my graduation. In 2003, I hired two people and moved to an office space, and decided to launch our second product.

From my marketing experience of Screenswift, I understood that gauging the traffic of a website is absolutely essential. We built a product called Livemon. It was a large product and took us one whole year to build it. Then, we found that the performance was not up to the mark.

Second product

Till we developed our second product, Screenswift was funding the company. We have always been profitable.

At that time, we decided to develop a tool for ourselves to look into customer services. Once we wrote that, we found that it was good enough to sell. We targeted small businesses who sell infrastructure products. We called it Helpdesk Pilot and launched it in 2005 at the price of $99. We sold 11 copies in the first month.

A German customer got so fascinated by the product that he translated the interface into German.

The sales went beyond our imagination. It became our flagship product. So far, we must have sold more 2,000 copies.  

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Image: Email management software.


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An event registration product

Another successful product is DoAttend, an online event registration product. It is being used by many business organisers including Nasscom. From 2010 when it was launched, we have 4000-5000 event managers using our product worldwide now.  

WonderfulDay

WonderfulDay is an iOS app, which helps you achieve your daily goals by showing you progress chains. The green dots will visually tell you whether you are following your targets like doing yoga or visiting temple or going to the gym or swimming. The red dot will show you when you don't do it.

This will motivate you to stick to your target. It is a self measuring tool.  We launched this product, two and a half months ago and priced it at $1.

In the first two days of its launch, we became the second most sold business productivity tool in the Indian market. In the app market, we are in the top

Today, we have six successful products from Tenmiles.

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Image: WonderfulDay app.

Tags: , Nasscom , Tenmiles

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US market

Though our products are sold in the US, European and Indian markets, US constitutes 50-60 per cent of our market.

The Indian market, we have found, is a tough one to crack unlike the US market. Our product is available in China also. But US will always remain our primary market.

Revenue

We haven't disclosed the numbers yet. We expect to grow 100 per cent year on year. We have our own office space now. We have a huge customer base in the US. So an office in the US is on the cards.

The advantage I have as a product developer is that my interest is not education driven but passion driven.

I am not an entrepreneur who will build an enterprise and sell it. No amount of money will satisfy me, more than running this company. There is no question of selling my company ever. Tenmiles is my life and I want it to be a solid product company like Adobe.


Image: Ticket management software.

Tags: US , China

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