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Little 'ions' in quest for fun-filled Facebook

January 14, 2014 12:37 IST

FacebookWhen (chief technology officer) Satyam starts checking in, there will be traffic jams in electron flow!

This is not a line for a Rajnikanth-inspired joke book, but from the company manual of Little Eye Labs, the first Indian start-up acquired by social networking giant Facebook earlier this month.

The manual, or The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Life at Little Eye Labs, as the company calls it, has more such gems, including the leave policy ("take some”) and dress code (“please wear some”).

Interestingly, the company is understood to have included the Rajnikanth reference in the manual because of Chief Executive Officer Kumar Rangarajan’s fondness for the south Indian mega star.

The first-floor office of the start-up, acquired for $15 million (Rs 93 crore), is not that easy to find.

With only a tiny board above the door to distinguish it from other houses in the largely residential neighbourhood of BTM Layout in south Bengaluru, your query to passersby for directions will be met with gotilla (‘don't know’ in Kannada).

Entering the office is now out of bounds, since the seven employees (four of whom are the founders) are in the process of becoming Facebook’s employees, and, thus, not open to interacting with the media.

The journey of the four co-founders -- Kumar Rangarajan (styled, chief ion), Satyam Kandula (chief tech ion), Lakshman Kakkirala (chief noisy ion) and Giridhar Murthy (chief engineering ion) -- was not all this formal when they started in August 2012.

The ‘program geeks’ who titled themselves ‘ions’(short for ‘eye-ons’ at their venture, realised their common passion of developing tools while working together at Rational Software, before and after the company was acquired by IBM for $2.1 billion in February 2003.

Collective endeavour

“Starting the company was not one person’s idea.

“We had been thinking about it for a while and since we all come from the background of building tools, we set up the company,” Rangarajan said after the

acquisition was announced last Thursday.

The mission was ‘to build the world's greatest developer tools’, as the company's website says.

The other passion all four share is to 'never be suited and booted' and make work fun, said one of the staff.

That was probably a reason they chose Facebook, which they believe is a 'fun place' to work at.

The focus on ensuring fun at work is validated by the employee handbook, which states, “As an employee of Little Eye, we’re sure you’re going to have fun working here and building the company!

“This handbook will guide you through your first days at the company, and outline the rules and regulations you'll have to abide by while you enjoy your time here!” the four-page guide says.

According to a person close to the development, the founders of Little Eye Labs had first met Facebook officials during a conference in May 2013.

“Exiting was never the focus of the founders,” the person said on condition of anonymity.

“Initially, they were exploring Facebook as a customer and over a period of time, the conversation went towards getting acquired by them.”

On a serious note, Little Eye Labs’ co-founder and Chief Engineering Ion Giridhar Murthy says he believes the information technology product ecosystem in India has evolved drastically.

“We have seen the evolution where products have matured and people are focused on building world-class products from India. The focus is right and the industry is moving in the right direction,” he said.

The company’s entire team is in the process of moving to the US in a few months.

The team will continue perusing their passions from Facebook's headquarters at Menlo Park, California.

“From there (the California headquarters), we’ll be able to leverage Facebook’s world-class infrastructure and help improve the performance of their already awesome apps.

“For us, this is an opportunity to make an impact on the more than one billion people who use Facebook,” says Rangarajan, who has opened the doors for many Indian start-ups that hope they are now on the radar of large global companies.

Itika Sharma Punit in Bengaluru