We all know stories of college drop-outs Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and many others of the like, whose names boast of topping the chart of best entrepreneurs. While many such stories are evolving in India too, here is a quick look at the inspiring story of a young boy and his pals from India who followed the path of the names mentioned above.
At 17, he started a web designing company. At 19, he dropped out of engineering college to join an accelerator program at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmadabad. At 22, he built an offline search engine called SMSGyan, which allows its 120 million users to text any question and get answers immediately, without the luxury of internet on their mobile phones. By 23, he was an angel investor.
That’s Deepak Ravindran for you. Born and brought up in Thrissur, Kerala, a typical old town in the south of India, he took his medical and engineering entrance exams, securing ranks in both. He liked computer science, so he picked up engineering.
Deepak joined Kannur University to study Computer science. In 2009, he dropped out of college and co-founded Innoz along with 3 other friends – Hisam, Ashwin and Abhinav. The reason to drop out of college in 2009, while in the final semester was to join the iAccelerator’09 program in which they had received the first external source of funding and were invited to join the incubator at Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad.
They had started a service SMSGYAN as their final year project. SMSGYAN had raving success inside college campus which soon spread to other parts of the state and country. Realizing the low level of internet penetration in India, these young chaps were motivated to build a cost effective platform on mobile for instant information. SMSGYAN did the amazing job of delivering information from internet on to your handset without you needing to go online. As of today, the service has processed over 1 billion requests with over 120 million users. “Dropping out is a fad now. But it was extremely risky back then. The only reason we did it was because we were getting funded for the first time,” he says.
Deepak believes that persistence is the key to success. Initially, the MNC telecoms were amused to see this young chap carrying a CEO card. After many rejections he and his friends cracked the first deal with Airtel, one of India’s biggest telecom operators in a coffee shop.
Currently, Innoz is working with leading technology partners across the globe. Innoz was selected as the Red Herring Global 100 and Asia 100 winner for 2010 as well as Nasscom Top 8 Emerging Companies in India for 2010. This young team’s work has appeared in Forbes, MIT, The Sydney morning Herald, Economic Times, Times of India, Bloomberg UTV, Business Standard and more than a hundred other magazines, newspapers and blogs.
But by 2014, with data lording over voice, Ravindran realised the rules had changed again. To meet the challenge, he decided to merge the two big trends of messaging (chats) and apps. Lookup was born out of this union. Currently, Lookup receives over 10,000 messages daily and most of them are answered by its in-house call center team. The top three queries so far have been for reservations, product pricing and availability, and appointments.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone was Ravindran’s competition at one point. Stone was interested in acquiring Quest for a possible expansion into the Asian market. But Ravindran managed to raise just $50,000 over a year, falling way short of the $500,000 target. “If a Silicon Valley can exist with the brains of twenty-somethings creating exciting businesses and Fortune 500 companies, we too can ride a buoyant economy, innovate, and create successful brands and businesses,” he says.
This young entrepreneur is a big believer in taking chances. The entrepreneurial Journey of Deepak Ravindran is extraordinary and highly motivational. Feeling inspired?
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