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Updated: November 23, 2011 18:26 IST

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Nita Sathyendran
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ON THE GO Technology entrepreneur Deepak Ravindran
Photo:S. Gopakumar.
THE HINDU ON THE GO Technology entrepreneur Deepak Ravindran Photo:S. Gopakumar.

Deepak Ravindran, technology entrepreneur and CEO of mobile start-up firm Innoz Technologies talks about his company's success story

At first sight Deepak Ravindran could pass off for one of those typical upwardly mobile youngsters hanging out at Café Coffee Day. It's hard to believe then that is the guy who has created a buzz in the mobile world with SMSGyan, a SMS-based information delivery system, which went viral in March 2011. Deepak, who was recently named as one of the ‘Top 35 Innovators under 35' by Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Technology Review magazine, was selected as a fellow at this year's prestigious InK (Innovation and Knowledge) Conference to be held in Jaipur, next week. Deepak, who just turned 23, is one of India's leading technology entrepreneurs, co-founder and the Chief Executive Officer of Innoz Technologies, a mobile start-up firm dealing with value-added products for the mobile industry.

Trendsetter

Innoz, co-founded by Deepak along with college-mates and “fellow backbenchers” Abhinav Sree, Aswin Nath, and Mohammad Hisamuddin, was the first virtually incubated company in India, incubated by Technopark in Thiruvananthapuram under its Technological Business Incubator initiative; a firm begun in 2008 with a capital of Rs. 50 lakh (“on loan from the three Fs: Family, Friends, and Fools”) and now valued at a whooping Rs. 100 crore!

“For the foreseeable future at least, the mobile industry will continue to flourish in India. And that's simply because internet penetration is still comparatively quite low when compared to the number of mobile users – 100 million to the 700 million mobile users. That's why we decided that Innoz would concentrate on the mobile market,” says Deepak.

Not too bad for a kid from Thrissur who “dreamed big,” sitting in his dorm room at LBS College of Engineering, Kasaragod. “I've always had that fire in my belly to succeed. My father, Ravindran, a government employee with the Police Department, introduced me to computers at a young age, and when I was high school I started freelancing, designing websites for corporates under the logo of Swades Solutions, from which I used to earn quite a bit of pocket money,” recalls the youngster, who is now based in Gurgaon, Haryana the hub of the mobile industry in India.

He says he was inspired by success stories of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sabeer Bhatia, and India's own Suhas Gopinath, to name a few, to strike out on his own. “I realised that college was the right place to bring my dreams to fruition. Lucky for me, I found likeminded individuals in my batchmates Aswin and Abhinav and our senior, Hisham. SMSGyan was actually Hisham's final year project. Together, using our complementary skills, we developed on the idea. And despite the fact that we were all but scraping through college, it helped immensely that the college authorities gave us all the freedom to bring to fruition what was potentially a viable, but essentially, a madcap scheme!” says Deepak, with a laugh.

The quartet's big break came in 2008 when R.C. Dutt, expert advisor and consultant for incubation activities at Technopark, who was on the lookout for student start-ups, asked them to send in a business plan. Deepak and Co. were offered the virtual incubation solution while they were in their fifth semester at college.

“There we were living in a hostel in Kasaragod, and we had this fancy office address far away in Technopark! We received all the mentoring and support that comes with virtual incubation and were able to focus on our product,” says Deepak. Innoz were also part of renowned iAccelerator'09 programme by the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad. From then on it's been SMS by SMS into the big leagues.

Success, says Deepak, has not gone to his head. “I'm still the person I was when I started out. Of course, I enjoy the perks that success brought (he recently gifted his parents, Ravindran and Vimala, and sister, Deepti, a Volkswagen). All the good things that have happened to me, whether it was meeting up with my friends or chancing upon Nithin Misra of Airtel in a coffee shop, happened in a flash. I was in the right place at the right time.Carpe diem!” says Deepak, as he signs off.

SMSGyan

“SMSGyan is kind of like Google's ‘I'm Feeling Lucky' option, ideal for mobile customers on the go. Customers just need to send a query to SMSGyan (to 55444) and it will provide the optimal answer based on verticals such as encyclopedias, acronyms, weather information, dictionaries, cricket scores, stock market, lyrics, movie reviews, and so on,” explains Deepak. Innoz tied up with telecom giant Airtel some time back, and now SMSGyan has some 10 million users across India, answering around 1, 00,000 questions daily. It is soon set to expand to other networks in India and abroad.

Short takes

When not dreaming up new ideas for Innoz, Deepak likes to travel and meet people. He recently went on a dream trip to Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, where he met actor and angel investor Ashton Kutcher! He's also a big time foodie and a self-proclaimed ladies man. And he's also made a list of 30 things to do before he is 30. Here's some of them:

Run a marathon

Watch an EPL match and cheer for Manchester United

Win the Global Social Venture Competition

Go to Russia or Ukraine and fly my dream machine – Sukhois and MiG

Take at least one of my start-ups to the stock market

Spend a week of wildlife photography in the Nilgiris

Go on a month-long Caribbean cruise

Learn to play guitar and jazz on stage

Meet the Google Guys

Become a billionaire

Invest in and mentor two college start-ups

amazing guys,great work and all the very best for future projects.

from:  shajahan
Posted on: Dec 6, 2011 at 21:47 IST

Really Inspiring story.

from:  shaheer
Posted on: Dec 3, 2011 at 16:05 IST

Deepak, I appreciate your effort and achievment @ young age..
Best of luck for future projects.

from:  Vinay Padki
Posted on: Nov 29, 2011 at 19:48 IST

Really Inspiring.

from:  Tamim
Posted on: Nov 28, 2011 at 19:29 IST

really inspiring...nothing is a cakewalk...the most important thing is
that..he followed his heart and achieved it right.

from:  pratyusha
Posted on: Nov 26, 2011 at 17:00 IST

woww...congrats to the team....proud that the we all are from LBS...Go ahead and all the very best for your future....

from:  Sreeraj
Posted on: Nov 26, 2011 at 10:26 IST

...........Hats off........

from:  jiss jose
Posted on: Nov 25, 2011 at 16:41 IST

Dear Deepak,I would like to appreciate your enthusiasm and energy to achieve this . Keep rocking

from:  Arun
Posted on: Nov 25, 2011 at 14:11 IST

thinkin different and trying different,they did run for success instead of simply sitting with day dreamz..really really inspirational..congratz guyz!

from:  Abdulla km
Posted on: Nov 25, 2011 at 06:10 IST

Proud to be your college mate dude!

from:  Vishnu Padmanabhan
Posted on: Nov 24, 2011 at 23:49 IST

Best of luck for you guys...

from:  Vinayan EP
Posted on: Nov 24, 2011 at 21:57 IST

Really inspiring guys...hats off...:)

from:  Anand MV
Posted on: Nov 24, 2011 at 21:39 IST

Wow, very inspiring, it would be really nice , if Deepak can take some time out and spend his experience with school kids.
Even The Hindu can come up with competitions related to Business ideas/Plans among the school students.

from:  Malar
Posted on: Nov 24, 2011 at 16:51 IST

this is good to be doing something different and hatke....... i also want to do something to be different but time................

from:  divyang parmar
Posted on: Nov 23, 2011 at 19:11 IST
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