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The African dream

Ajay Nambiar is working to provide better internet connectivity and education facilities to parts of Africa. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat  

Ajay Nambiar has always been an enterprising young man. When he was in school he made money writing CDs and recharging mobile phones for friends, while reading up on hacking and cyber security for kicks. The experience came in handy, today 25-year-old Ajay is the Director of NT Global Solutions, a technology service provider based in Rwanda.

The company, which is jointly run by Ajay and his cousin Vysakh Nambiar, was founded in 2008 when Ajay was still in his second year of Computer Science engineering at the Adi Shankara Institute of Engineering and Technology, Kalady. “It was not until I was in Class IX that I realised that Vysakh and I had similar interests, and we later worked together on a project based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), that we eventually scrapped thinking it was not viable. This was in 2007, way before WhatsApp and similar platforms using the same technology which are a rage now. However, a relative soon clued us in on positions as code analysts for a project the Rwandan Government was working on, and that is how we got a foothold in Africa,” Ajay explains.

The duo soon found firmer footing, bagging an insurance related Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project for the Defence Ministry of the Rwandan Government. The project required additional manpower, and the lack of skilled labour available within the country saw Ajay recruiting Indian programmers and taking them to Rwanda, thus starting NT Global Rwanda Ltd. The project took a little more than a year to be implemented, and NT Global is still in charge of maintenance and updation. Soon, the two were working on e-governance projects for the Kenyan, Tanzanian and Burundi Governments as well.

All this was while Ajay was still making his way through college, shuttling back and forth and attending classes while simultaneously setting up offices in the countries they have operations in. Ajay says that he was lucky most of his professors understood his situation and were lenient with him. Ajay also says that the real Africa is not as bad as it is in the picture painted by international media. “The countries are rather nice, especially Rwanda, which is undertaking a lot of developmental activities and has emerged as a role model in the region. We have not faced any issues apart from some civil unrest that affected our operations as we were expanding to Congo,” he says, mentioning some internet connectivity issues due to constant stealing of fibre-optic cables in the region.

It was this issue that Ajay and Vysakh tackled next, setting up a satellite-based internet service provider (ISP) called Swiftsat. They are using Swiftsat to provide internet connectivity to peacekeeping forces and the offices of NGOs. “We are in talks with around 12 countries in Africa to provide our services. Vysakh handles Swiftsat while I manage NT Global and NTGInfosec, which is based in West Asia. We are working on some product-based web services with that company, such as an online movie ticketing portal for Doha.”

NT Global plans to start India operations hopefully later this year. “Right now our Kochi office is used for developing hardware and the Bangalore office for marketing, but we have an education-based project that should have great potential in India.”

Ajay says that while there is a lot of potential in Kerala, especially within Startup Village, many do not analyse the risks involved in setting up a startup. “I have seen many cases where people quote the success stories of dropouts like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and want to emulate that. Many startups fold up and the founders end up having to look for other jobs, which could be avoided with more planning. That said, there are some very talented people and startups that we have collaborated with on our projects and referred to our clients.”

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 11:43:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-african-dream/article6206563.ece

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