MEET 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 as one of those typical upwardly mobile youngsters hanging out at a cafe. It's hard to believe then that this is the guy who's created a buzz in the mobile world with SMSGyan, an SMS-based information delivery system, which went viral in March 2011. Deepak, who was recently named 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, this week. Deepak, who just turned 23, is one of India's leading technology entrepreneurs, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Innoz Technologies, a mobile start-up firm, dealing with value-added products for the mobile industry.

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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 whopping 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 low when compared to the number of mobile users — 100 million, as against 700 million mobile users. That's why we decided Innoz would concentrate on the mobile market.” 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, who is with the Police Department, introduced me to computers at a young age, and when I was in high school I started freelancing, designing websites for corporates under the logo 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. “I realised that college was the right place to bring my dreams to fruition. Luckily for me, I found like-minded individuals in my batchmates Aswin and Abhinav and our senior, Hisham. SMSGyan was actually Hisham's final-year project. Pooling our skills, we developed the idea. And despite the fact that we were all but scraping through college, it helped immensely that the college authorities gave us the freedom to bring to fruition what was potentially a viable, but essentially, a madcap scheme!” says Deepak.

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. “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.”

Innoz was also part of renowned iAccelerator'09 programme of the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM Ahmedabad. NITA SATHYENDRAN

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