A Compaq 486 computer, a dial-up modem, a pedestal fan, a table and two chairs crammed into 150 sq ft of makeshift space inside Technopark, Thiruvananthapuram, was all that one of the first start-ups in Kerala had when it started its operations in 1998. Twenty five years later, what started as Palnar Transmedia Private Limited, has grown into iworxs GmbH and Company, employing more than 100 programmers each at Technopark and at its centre in New Jersey in the United States. The company is set to celebrate its 25th anniversary this week.
Syed Ibrahim, who began his IT career in a German company in Technopark around the time the park was set up, left it along with his colleague Sreejith Narayan after two years with the intention to start a company. While Mr. Narayan left to the US to set up the company’s operations there in 1998, Mr. Ibrahim began the work for setting up the India operations in Technopark.
“During that period, the Technopark campus had just the park centre and two buildings which were fully occupied. We approached K.G. Satheesh Kumar, who was heading the Technopark, requesting for a small space. So, he allocated us 150 sq ft in one of the buildings, which was the only available space. By this time, Sreejith had sent seed funding of $650 to kickstart the company. During that time, even the concept of a start-up was not very familiar here,” says Mr. Ibrahim, the current Managing Director of iworxs, who also heads the Goethe Zentrum Trivandrum.
Because of Mr. Ibrahim’s connection with Germany, the company decided to play to its strengths and focus on clients from that country.
“We collected printed company directories for various German cities, wrote to them and went to Germany to meet potential customers. Out of hundred such meetings, around five would be successful, as Germans were initially hesitant to offshoring work in India. The first client came from Frankfurt, to create software for public utilities and the municipal office. Two programmers were appointed initially to get the work done, but we soon added more people to the team as we began getting more projects from a diverse array of companies,” he says.
Parallely, Mr. Narayan, the founder director of Palnar USA, also began expanding operations in the US. Over the years, the company has done hundreds of projects, a majority of them in Germany and countries such as Switzerland and Austria with German-speaking regions, including projects for retail companies, green energy and parking system software.
“Mr. Ibrahim is perhaps the first entrepreneur created by the Technopark ecosystem. Starting a company was quite tough during those days as you were on your own. From those days, the start-up ecosystem has now progressed much with funders, mentors and grants,” says Anoop Ambika, CEO, Kerala Startup Mission.
The 25th anniversary of the company will be celebrated at a function to be held in Kerala capital on Saturday. Sindhu Gangadharan, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director, SAP Labs India, will deliver the keynote address.