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Want to be an entrepreneur? Start young

April 23, 2010 14:16 IST

Deepak Ravindran, Abhinav Sree, Ashwin Nath and Mohammad Hisamuddin were back-benchers at the LBS College of Engineering, Kerala.

They graduated in 2009 and instead of choosing the well-trodden path of getting an MBA degree or a cushy job with a multinational company, these 20-somethings decided to start their own company, Innoz Tech, which deals in rich mobile and web applications.

"I think, if one wants to be an entrepreneur, it's best to start at an early age. While we did not have the advantage of experience, we were lucky, as we got good mentorship at every step," underlines Deepak Ravindran, the 22-year-old CEO of the company, which was set up in August 2008.

Starting early has other advantages too. "We can completely focus on our business and take risks without having to think of any other commitments," he quips.

Of course, convincing their family members was difficult in the beginning, but, after the initial hiccups, things pretty much fell into place. Being a top ranker in TATA-NEN hottest start-ups in 2008 and having represented India at a global business competition in the US in 2009 convinced the families to support their vision.

"Even then people didn't take us seriously as we were young," recalls Ravindran. But the young entrepreneurs managed to put together an initial capital of Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) and began with their flagship product SMSGyan.

"SMSGyan was our college project, which we decided to commercialise. As the name suggests, it's about receiving on-demand information through SMS on various topics like gadget prices, cricket score, movie/book reviews and so on. It's like an encyclopaedia that responds to user queries over an SMS with a maximum of 500 characters," explains Ravindran.

The application works with all handsets, requires no GPRS and is free of cost for the existing 1 million users.

"Though we see several other applications based on the same concept, what makes us special is that we deliver information through a single channel," adds Ravindran.

The enthusiastic technophiles also went on to pitch their business for the iAccelerator programme, an initiative of the Centre of Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM-Ahmedabad and got selected. "We were the only students selected from the 100 applicants and received our first round of funding from the programme," boasts Ravindran.

With 3G networks on the horizon, Innoz is banking on its second product, Tranz, which took six months to develop with the help of the iAccelerator. Tranz is a file-sharing application to transfer photos, videos and music with phonebook friends.

"Mobile phones are no more just simple devices to call friends. It's a PC, camera, MP3 player and a lot more," details Ravindran. The application can be accessed over a mobile internet connection and already has around 10,000 registered users, adding an average 100 users per day.

This 13-employee company has seen some active investor participation too. "Our investors include Silicon Valley veterans, as well as MNCs like Intel, Microsoft and Sun, who gave us technical support," lists Ravindran.

For now, Ravindran and his friends are game for a big expansion for their small company and believe they can clock a turnover of Rs 24 lakh (Rs 2.4 million) this year.

Innoz hopes Tranz to be as popular a social network for mobile users as Facebook is on the Internet. "We have our sights set on accelerating our user base for the two products. Our target group is between the age group of 18 and 25 and we plan to collaborate with cultural festivals in colleges to make our brand more visible. Being among the Technopark companies is certainly an advantage and we intend to make the most of it," says Ravindran.

Manisha Pande in New Delhi