MobME Wireless Solutions becomes the first campus start-up in India to go public with an Initial Public Offering. The three founders of the company talk about their historic leap into the big leagues

The time is 12 minutes past noon on December 12, 2012 – that’s 12.12, 12-12-12 (Phew!). For most of us it’s just another interesting sequence, one that occurs but once every 100 years. For the guys at telecom start-up MobME Wireless Solutions Private Limited, though, it’s “a Neil Armstrong moment” – the ‘one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind’ variety or in this case, a giant step forward for start-ups in Kerala.

At 12.12 p.m. on Wednesday, the sixth anniversary of the company’s founding, Sanjay Vijayakumar, Sony Joy, and Vivek Steve Francis, the 28-year-old co-founders of MobME, all natives of the city, took the leap with their company into the big leagues and announced their decision to go public with an Initial Public Offering (IPO). An IPO is the first sale of stock by a company to the public, the first step in the three-step process to listing it in the Stock Exchange.

With this, the Kochi-based MobME, a telecom value added services company that is one of the most successful start-ups in the sector and the first campus start-up in Kerala to be successfully incubated through a Government-funded Technology Business Incubator (based at Technopark), becomes the first campus start-up in India to go public, the first home-grown IT company in Kerala to do the same!

Understandably, the trio is over the moon. “Six years ago we started MobME as a vehicle to create employment, knowledge and wealth in society. At the time, taking a leap into entrepreneurship while at college was rare in India and unheard of in Kerala. Others called it madness, we called it MobME!” says the dynamic Sanjay, his pride at the feat irrepressible – a feeling that’s equally reflected in the demeanours of Sony and Vivek too. Sanjay is the chief executive officer of the company, Sony, it’s chief operating officer, and Vivek, is chief financial officer.

“We’ve travelled a long way and it has been a fun and eventful journey. There comes a stage in every company’s life when it truly has to emerge. This is MobME’s time,” adds Sanjay. Sony chips in: “Yes it’s been six years. But what we’ve realised is that it’s just the start of the journey. The first part of our journey was only shared with a bunch of friends, who later became partners/employees in the company, a bunch of investors who came in at different points of time, a bunch of clients, who we started off with in a small way, a small group of family and well-wishers, who’ve been our rocks, and a bunch of mentors who’ve inspired us with their knowledge and expertise. They shared the story with us and our ups and downs too. We felt that it was necessary for a much wider set of people to be part of the journey.”

Securities and Exchange Board of India regulations for and during the process of an IPO prevent the youngsters from divulging the company’s plans. But increasingly, on a global scale in the IT field there seems to be a shift from the services business to the product business and the youngsters seem to be right up in front of the trend leading what will soon be a smart phone revolution in India.

Of doing business in Kerala, though, they can’t stop waxing lyrical. “Nowadays we see many start-ups being set up in tier-two/tier-three cities. But back in 2006 there was much pressure to base the company outside the State owing to lack of an IT ecosystem, talent pool, metro life, less remuneration... But we were determined to stay in Kerala. Marketing and sales divisions, for obvious reasons had to be set up in the metros, but to base the technical division in Kochi was a logical decision, which turned out to be a cost and work effective one too. We wanted our employees to sit in 10 minutes of traffic instead of the two hours of traffic!” says Sony.

“It’s only a myth when they say that you can’t get business in Kerala and to succeed your dreams have be national or global,” adds Vivek, who seems to be the quietest of the lot. “He’s a whiz at crunching numbers, while Sanjay is our seeker/hunter who comes back with 100s of ideas,” explains Sony, with a grin. “And Sony’s expertise is in whittling down the ideas,” quips Vivek.

The camaraderie is evident in the easy interactions among the trio. “We have a wealth of history (Vivek and Sanjay went to Loyola school together; Sony studied in Christ Nagar school), we shared triumphs and failures, we share interests and dreams, we are all workaholics, we all share the same house… even the top 20 people in our company are our classmates/batch-mates/ college-mates. They too are very like us,” say the trio. And with this kind of camaraderie surely the sky is the limit.

Back ‘home’ at CET

As “a sort of a gurudakshina”, the announcement of the IPO was made at the place where it all began – the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram (CET), the alma mater of both Sanjay and Sony(2005 batch). Vivek, meanwhile, is an alumnus of the Sree Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering, (2006 batch). At the function were Technopark CEO, Girish Babu, CET’s present and former staff members and the trio’s colleagues, friends and relatives. “It was a historic moment,” says Sanjay.