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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Business » 'I had no training for most things I did in business'

'I had no training for most things I did in business'

By Sudhir Bisht
February 19, 2016 15:19 IST
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'The right attitude, working hard for what you want and taking no for an answer gets you over any hurdles that are on the path to success.'

IMAGE: Ajit Patel's app, which has been developed in Mumbai by a young and dedicated team, is available in IOS, Android and Web versions. Photograph: Fred Prouser/Reuters

Ajit Patel is the CEO and founder of n-gage, a 360-degree lifestyle chat app that promises to revolutionise the way people interact with one another.

While n-gage has its own chat, telephone and video calling format, it can be used to send messages across existing social media platforms like WhatsApp, Skype, FaceBook, Twitter and other similar applications.

Ajit went to the United Kingdom to study in 1978 and qualified with a degree in pharmacy in 1982. By 1989 he was the co-founder, chairman and CEO of the Goldshield Group, one of the most successful pharmaceutical companies in the UK. His company was one of the first, by a person of Indian origin, to be listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Ajit eventually sold his stake to make a tidy fortune for himself and is in India to launch his newest business venture, n-gage.

During his time at Goldshield he pioneered captive call centres in Mumbai in 1999 with GTL. Over a course of seven years, he created several thousand back office jobs in India for the Goldshield Group.

His app, which has been developed in Mumbai by a young and dedicated team, is available in IOS, Android and Web versions.

The app claims to have features that are unique -- it can recall a message, keep a message on the receiver's phone for a few seconds and ensure complete control of the message's life in the receiver's phone.

Sudhir Bisht spoke to Ajit Patel, bottom, left, in New Delhi recently.

From being a pharmacist to taking your company to the LSE to coming to Mumbai, how would you describe your journey so far?

My journey has been a fun-filled and fulfilling roller coaster with some highs and a few lows on the way.

As an entrepreneur I have started many businesses -- some failed, some saw moderate to good success and one of them was a major success.

My first pharmacy business in London, Goldshield going public on the LSE, and my hotel business in Goa are clear milestones.

During my time at Goldshield we had offices in three continents: The UK, the US and India and sales in over 65 countries. This exposure with experience in Africa, my birthplace, I got to understand and appreciate the diversity in cultures across the globe and gain a better understanding of people, a key feature in my journey.

Tell us about your initial days in the UK.

Right from the beginning, my stay in the UK has been fulfilling. Other than the normal everyday struggles we all face, I cannot recall anything unusual.

I believe having the right attitude, working hard for what you want and taking no for an answer gets you over any hurdles that are on the path to success.

As someone who doesn't have any formal training in IT or related fields, what prompted you to start a chat app?

I had no training for most things I did in business. The principles of what I do are the same. When I am passionate about something, I learn.

My knowledge and skills don't drive what I do. My passion drives my new skills and knowledge acquisition.

What prompted you to enter the Indian market first? Why not the EU market?

I have been doing business in India since 1999. I have a passion for the country and I believe it has great potential as the market is young with huge potential. We will enter other markets when the time is right.

Ajit, your n-gage chat app is completely dependent upon the Internet and relies solely upon the service provider's ability to stay neutral to the apps.

Our app relies on the Internet as do other apps. We also have a browser-based version of the product that does not require any download of n-gage.

Whom do you see yourself competing with? You may say your product would complement several other products, but in reality it would occupy the time slots of other apps.

Being a cross-platform app with many new features we complement all the other apps. n-gage users can message other phone users who do not have n-gage on their phones, be it through Whatsapp, SMS, email or any other means.

Our app road map in very different to many existing apps and so road crosses many different types of apps along the way, so the answer will reveal itself in time.

You could be competing against WhatsApp which is fully owned by Facebook. But imagine a situation where that access to WhatsApp is made free of charge by some operators who may team up with FaceBook. Would this hamper your product?

I firmly believe that no one does anything for free. Users these days are wising up, and know that when something is free, there is some level of compromise.

With increasing concerns around privacy, more users will be able to see the need for our product. I also believe in the phrases, 'Where there is a will there is a way' and that 'A river always flows, no matter what the hurdles,' so the success of n-gage will emerge from that.

What is your view on Net Neutrality?

If we can provide services without impacting the free and open market and maintain an anti-competitive environment, then let's do it. The Net must stay neutral for everyone to benefit.

When will you go for a full-scale commercial launch of your app?

The audience will grow at its natural pace with a gentle tug of marketing along the way. There is continuous investment here and we are talking to some friends and family at this stage.

There is for sure an end-game in mind and so very soon I will be able to share with you more!

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