35 Under 35 Special - The Game Changers of 2017
They are the 35 boldest entrepreneurs of India who are changing the game in various industries and together they represent the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of India's millennial entrepreneurs. They have not just questioned the conventional wisdom but answered it with their fiery and risky business undertakings. They have inspired every young Indian to not shy away from breaking the status quo, rewriting the rules and transforming the world. Entrepreneur Magazine is glad to present the Indian class of 35 Under 35.
The Zen Billionaire - Kavin Bharti Mittal, 29, Founder & CEO, Hike Messenger
2016 didn’t mark the best year for start-ups. Funding was down and valuations saw a nose dive. At that time four-year-old startup Hike raised funding that too with a valuation of above billion dollar. Hike made it to the unicorn list of Indian startups in shortest span of time. Entrepreneur decodes Hike!
(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Mobile Service Marketplace - Abhiraj Bhal, 30, Co-founder, UrbanClap.com
UrbanClap was started 2.5 years back with the vision to organize the local services market in India. The idea was to create a large tech business which primarily caters to customers need. The local services industry is very fragmented and unorganized.
Sharing his start-ups story, Abhiraj says, “When we started UrbanClap, hiring a plumber, beautician, yoga trainer, math tutor etc. was a painful process. There were no standards, no concept of trust, pricing inefficiencies, and the industry was shackled in the “yellow pages” era. We saw this as a large opportunity.” By leveraging technology, and a set of simple yet powerful processes, the company has been able to build a fairly disruptive platform, which is now the default way to hire these services in India.
(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Chatter Box - Sachin Jaiswal, 28, Founder, NIKI.AI
Sachin Jaiswal founded, Niki, an AI aided chat bot, in 2015 to get rid of traditional offline method which allows customers to get suggestions and is more instinctive, but very slow
“It is the best of both worlds. It enables the user to converse with Niki to explore options, which is as natural as chatting with a friend. It also provides a fast and convenient experience to the customer to simplify their life” he says. The journey so far has had many ups and lows. Having investors like Ratan Tata and Unilazer Ventures on board, the company is seeing 35 per cent growth in revenues month on month.
(This article was first published in the February issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Cool Mathematician - Manan Khurma, 31, Founder And CEO, Cuemath
You are above all if you know maths, if not then you are just another one among all. That’s precisely how most students feel in learning numbers. But what makes them hate maths is lack of clarity on basics right from lower grade and style of teaching math that seems inherently boring.
Launched in December 2013 Cuemath unlike other e-learning platforms is focused on helping kids understand maths right from kindergarten till 8th grade through a technology enabled offline learning mechanism. “I realized that maths is a way of thinking and if you can build a strong maths foundation at a very young age then students can excel in it,” says Khurma, a maths lover who have been teaching maths to students even before graduating from IIT Delhi in 2007.
The Cyber Security Savior - Jaspreet Singh, 34, Founder And CEO, Druva
According to Jaspreet, “When the whole world was still building solutions by support of hardware and software (DVDs), and no one was thinking of cloud centric solutions,” Druva found the gap in the market and emerged as a big product centric company in the space of enterprise data and cyber security of end point mobility devices like smart phones, laptops and tablets.
A Password To Security - Saket Modi, 26, Founder, Lucideus TECH
Incubated out of IIT Bombay, Saket Modi, Vidit Baxi and Rahul Tyagi started off as a Cyber Security Training company, Lucideus Tech Private Limited, in 2012. In 2013, they also started their services business with the objective to quantify digital risk such that a risk becomes an informed decision leading to minimal disruptions to businesses and lives.
“Since then, we have served more than a hundred of the Fortune 500 companies in India and abroad. In 2016, in support of Digital India, we started a campaign called “Secure Digital India”, where we yearn to train more than 10,000 students across more than 50 colleges spanning in more than 30 cities,” Modi says.
Entrepreneur Turned Actor - Rana Daggubati, 32, Actor & Producer
Not being the typical story of an actor becoming a producer, Rana started as a producer and then took to acting. Talking about the change in path, Rana says, “This was a decision which I made eight years ago, at that time I was doing a lot of things but cinema was where my most of the interest was.” In 2004, Rana set up Spirit Media and in 2010, Rana’s acting career started with ‘Leader’ a political drama in Telugu. Soon after his first film, he starred in a Hindi film called ‘Dum Maaro Dum’.
It was a fair debut but the country finally took notice of him with Baahubali. The 2015 historical fiction became the highest grossing Indian film. The film took four years to be made but it was worth all the time and became the third highest grossing Indian film globally. As per Rana, each film comes across as a new learning. The actor is also the brand ambassador for the Pro Kabaddi League.
The Rise Of P V Sindhu - P V Sindhu, 21, Sports Personality
Born to parents who were professional volleyball players, PV Sindhu went on to choose badminton as a career. Sindhu started playing at the age of eight-and-a-half with her interest
driven towards badminton.
As a child, Sindhu ended up crying every time she lost a match. But, over the years she improved her game and also learnt to handle failure. After passion, Sindhu counts hard work as the ultimate recipe for success. Sharing her aim, Sindhu says, “I definitely want to see myself at the top of the world.”
Pai Brothers: Keeping Age Biases At Bay - Pranav Pai & Siddarth Pai, 27, 24, Founders, 3one4 Capital
Pranav (27) and Siddarth (24), sons of T.V.Mohandas Pai, prominent thought leader and investor, Chairman of Aarin Capitals, have joined him to take the legacy of venture building forward with their fund 3one4 Capital. Having honed their skills under Pai, better known as MDP, the duo strongly believes that they are here to add their personal touch to their fundamental learnings. 3one4 Capital is a venture capital fund that invests in technology, product, and platform companies that drives the expansion of markets and the creation of new verticals.
Young VCs are more of friends. Pranav, a Stanford graduate, said that both of them are the youngest in the industry and that gives them two advantages – apart from having the zeal to work really hard, their companies function very differently from other VCs.
Leader By Compulsion And Choice - Aditya Thackeray, 26, Politician
When politics is a serious business, being the grandson of an enigmatic leader is not an easy task. When grandfather, Balasaheb Thackeray, and father, Uddhav Thackeray, conquered the stage with speeches, young Aditya, now the chief of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena, would enter the crowd and communicate with people. “This would make them feel that I am one of them,” Aditya says.
When teachers in his college called a strike, Aditya looked into the concerns of the students and the issues pertaining to the teachers and solved those issues and immediately emerged as a youth leader.
Moving From Microfinance To Music - Ananya Birla, 23, Founder, Svatantra Microfin
For Ananya, setting up things on her own has been the call. Putting behind her surname, she is the daughter of India’s leading industrialist, Kumar Mangalam Birla, she set out on her own. Entrepreneurship runs in her blood, owing to this, Ananya couldn’t resist and started out at the age of 17.
Even while studying at Oxford, she dabbled in a venture to teach kids how to code. From coding, Anaya went on to start Svatantra in 2012. Svatantra is a new age microfinance, which leverages technology to make 100 per cent cashless disbursements, enabling rural women to join the financial mainstream. In the last three years, Svatantra has grown from six branches to 82 branches, from 8,000 clients to 1.60 lakh clients, from Rs 8 crore to Rs 230 crore of a loan portfolio. In human capital, it grew from 30 employees in 2012 to 700+ employees at present.
The First Indian Who Cracked The NBA - Satnam Singh Bhamara, NBA Player
Standing tall at 7’2”, Satnam became the first Indian to be drafted into NBA after he was picked up by the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA drafts in June 2015. Born in a village called ‘Ballo Ke’ in Barnala district of Punjab, he got the opportunity to train at the prestigious Bradenton based IMG Academy that has previously produced players like Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Joakim Noah and Chauncey Billups. Bhamara is currently tackling it out in the NBA Development League (D-League) for Texas Legends and has played in five out of 14 games so far, scoring six points in all.
In 2010, Reliance Industries partnered with the global sports marketing company, IMG, to sign a 30-year contract with Basketball Federation of India (BFI) to improve the facilities and help organize leagues to improve the standard of the game in India. In 2010, Satnam led the Punjab team to national victory and was chosen by BFI to play in NBA ‘Basketball Without Borders’ in Singapore.
The Indian Shakira - Neha Kakkar, 28, Singer
From a contestant on a reality television show to now being a judge for future singers, life has come full circle for this vivacious singer. 2016 was a year that belonged to Neha Kakkar with some chartbuster hits like Kala Chashma and Kar gayi chull. 2017 looks much more promising for this young talent.
Neha Kakkar started singing at the tender age of four. Being a sibling to Sonu Kakkar and Tony Kakkar, music was an everyday phenomenon at home.
Having such talent at home, she never felt the need to get any formal training in singing. This further led to her aim to participate in Indian Idol 2. “I started with Bhajan-Sandhyas, Mata-ki-Chowki from the age of four until 16 when I auditioned for Indian Idol 2,” shares Neha.
Doing It The Virat Way - Virat Kohli, 28, Captain, Indian Cricket Team
From being seen as a brash, aggressive, and outspoken member of the Indian cricket team to captaining India in all three formats of the game, Virat Kohli in a very less time has given the perfect direction to his never-say-die attitude to get on top of his career, the way he guides the ball to the stands. But as they say with great power comes great responsibility, Kohli has from time to time been dismissed by his sceptics but the 28-yearold Delhi boy has showed his other side of self-belief, persistence, and having long term vision till he comes back in the game.
This speaks volume about his maturity over the time not just only as a player. Drawing a parallel to his business interests, one can read between the lines of how his personality and maturity is visible off the field as well.
Making Luxury Accesible - Amruda Nair, 33, Joint Managing Director And CEO, Aiana
Hailing from the legacy of The Leela Group, the grand-daughter of Capt.Nair, Amruda Nair has set out to create a brand of her own and establish it in the hospitality sector as a favoured destination for Indians travelling abroad. She realized that annually only five million travelers are entering India whereas more than 18 million Indians are travelling abroad. So, “Aiana wants to be where the Indian traveler is,” tells Amruda. Aiana has a joint venture with a Qatar based investor and has already acquired eight properties across the middle-east apart from six in Kerala and Karnataka. Currently, Aiana is on an expansion spree.
Trade On Booze At Tbse - Mihir Desai, 33, Co-Owner, The Bar Stock Exchange
It was during Mihir Desai’s visit to New York in 2014 where he came across a brewery trading in beer like a stock exchange trades in stocks, and he was fascinated by the concept. It was there and then, that he planned to open one in Mumbai with more categories of spirits, beers and wines.
“We’ve been in the bar business for over a decade now, and our desire to try something out of the box led to planning such a concept in India,” shares Mihir, who has now expanded in other cities and in global market by setting up first outlet in Dubai. TBSE trades in alcohol whilst making sure the customer has a great exchange.
In The Driver’s Seat - Greg Moran, 31, Ceo And Co- Founder, Zoomcar
Greg has dedicated his entire career to sustainable development across the globe. Zoomcar is India’s first and largest self-drive rental player. Remembering his early days, Greg says,
“Getting to the start line was very challenging due to the ambiguity around government regulations. Even today, it is a challenge since it also constrains our supply growth.”
Zoomcar is yet to break at the corporate level. That’s what Greg plans to achieve in 2017. He is building Zoomcar, into a large scale, by becoming a hyper local transport business in India with ZAP marketplace.
Success Fructified - Tarun Arora, 31, Director, Finance And Operations, IG International Pvt. Ltd.
Tarun has been instrumental at enabling IG to emerge as the leader in fresh fruit imports to India. Having completed his diploma in private equity from the Harvard Business School, he then completed an MBA from MIT School of Business. Groomed in business fundamentals by his father, Tarun identified the need to establish an end-to-end cold supply chain for fresh produce.
The immense business potential of the idea led to the incorporation of IG Supply Chain Pvt. Ltd, which currently comprises temperature-controlled warehouses holding a capacity of 20,000 pallets across nine facilities. In addition to the cold stores, IG Supply Chain operates a fleet of 70 trucks.
The Next Generation Story Teller - Arunabh Kumar, 33, Founder And Ceo, The Viral Fever
TVF caused disruption in the content business by making the Internet a mainstream medium for original content consumption. From leading the revolution of web series in the country, it has changed the branding and advertising business too. Though TVF went on to raise $10mn from Tiger Global, the company has been profitable from the start. Talking about managing money, Arunabh says, “For us everything is cash flow management. We have been profitable since our inception.”
Milking The Cow, Literally! - Rahul Uppal, 33, Founder And Director, Woohoodoodh (Happy Beverages And Foods Pvt. Ltd.)
While consulting a client on the dairy business, Rahul himself started researching to understand the model. He says, “I was motivated due to the advanced stage of the White Revolution, which although generated quantity, but utterly left quality go down the drain.”
Today, Uppal’s WooHooDoodh is selling almost 700 litres of unadulterated milk to about a 1,000 families in Pune. Talking about the best moment in this entrepreneurial journey, Rahul says, “When I saw somebody just bought and started drinking milk from the carton itself”.
The Matchmaker - Kalyani Khona, 24, Inclov, Founder
The world’s first matchmaking app that focuses on people with disability and with health
disorders is Made in India. The 24-year-old founder, Kalyani Khona, believes that no one should be alone.
With an aim to serve the society, a non-techie, Khona, launched the appbased
platform in January 2016 with her co-founder, Shankar Srinivisan. Amongst the seven investors and advisors on board for Inclov are Raghav Bahl, Quintillion Media’s owner, along with an advisor from global matchmaking website, Match. com. 80-90 per cent of the stake is still with the founders.
Parcel From The Sky - Ankit Mehta, 33, Co-Founder And Ceo, Ideaforge
For a kid who says it was in his DNA and that he graduated from IIT Bombay, Robotics seems pretty much a natural thing for him to happen. Back in college, Ankit and his team realized that a helicopter was one of the most complex devices ever engineered and set out to independently discover the Quadroter configuration that laid the platform for their highly sought after UAVs.
Ideaforge’s UAVs were deployed during Pathankot incident and Uttaranchal natural disaster that came to be of immense help for the agencies, but Ankit tells us, “Our biggest PR achievement came when our idea was used in the movie 3 idiots.”
On Auto Mode - Samar Singla, 32, Ceo, Founder, Jugnoo
Samar Singla’s third startup, Jugnoo, was tough to get off the ground again but it took him six months to reach 1,000 daily transactions and in next six months, it touched 20k daily.
Talking about the hardest decision Samar made, he says,“To say no to Flipkart and Naspers for Jugnoo funding.” Jugnoo went on to raise USD 16 million in three funding rounds. Starting from being an auto-rickshaw aggregator, it has now evolved into a go-to platform for all the hyperlocal needs. Profitability is the target for Jugnoo by this year-end.
From Pollution To Printer - Anirudh Sharma, 29, Founder And Director, Graviky Labs
On a fine sunny day on a dusty road in Mumbai, when a truck passed by leaving clouds of black fumes and pigments on his white shirt, rather than washing it off, Anirudh thought of extracting ink out it. That’s practically how Graviky Labs seem to have come about to life.
He and his team have developed ‘Kaalink’, a retrofit to the exhaust of engines that captures around 95 per cent of particulate matter pollution to turn it into recyclable products like ink, carbon nano tubes and even future wearables.
Discount Brokers - Nikhil Kamath, 31, Co- Founder, Zerodha
Financial brokerage company, Zerodha, which was launched in 2010, have been providing
services at as low as Rs 20. “Since 2010, we’ve continued to disrupt this industry by bringing in new technology initiatives and still managed to keep the cost low,” says Kamath.
The company which was funded by their own trading income and friends at the beginning managed to break even within an year. “The hardest decision was to move to a brokerage free environment on equity investments last year. Investing in stocks is now absolutely free at Zerodha,” he says.
The Supercar Reseller - Jatin Ahuja, 32, Managing Director, Big Boy Toyz
There are very few people who are able to pursue their passions and indeed fewer parents who let their children turn their passions into profession. Jatin Ahuja is the lucky boy who got his passion of exotic cars transformed into a venture and got his father, a CA on board to look over the finance department. Big BoysToyz, a division of Magus Cars, sells pre-owned high end exotic beauties to other enthusiasts who may afford it, at a price they never bargain.
Back in school, Jatin used to tell the brand of a car blindfolded by the noise it made, and in college, he successfully revamped and sold a damaged maroon S Class at a profit of 25 lakhs. That, he calls as his biggest turning point in life.
The Creator – Turning Sci-Fi Real - Aronin P, 27, Co-Founder And Ceo, Sastra Robotics
Fascinated by electronics while growing up, Aronin P. gradually realized how future belongs to a marriage between machines and humans that can bring characters from the science fiction movies to reality.
Started in 2012, his robotics start-up,Sastra Robotics, has built an industrial robotic arm for small scale manufacturing and research and a touch screen testing robotic arm to save time and cost. In fact, the latter is the world’s fastest touch screen testing robotic arm. But the most exciting first of its kind in India product Aronin and his team developing is a prosthetic robotic arm (like seen in I, Robot movie) to do much more than what a human hand can do.
Siliguri Startup Building A Global Tea Brand - Kaushal Dugar, 33, Founder & Ceo, Teabox
Siliguri is a laid-back town and e-commerce and start-ups are not a regular feature, that’s where Kaushal Dugar made the dent. Teabox is delivering freshness by reducing production to consumer time, which is typically three to -six months to a week or even lesser. In the past four years, it has shipped over 40 million cups worth of teas to customers in over 100 countries.
Teabox went on to raise over seven million from investors like JAFCO Asia, Accel Partners, Keystone Group LP and Dragoneer Investment Group, Ratan Tata, Cameron Jones. Kaushal proudly shares, “We are highly profitable on units economy basis.”
The Everyday Designers - Anisha Singh, 34, Co-Founder, Letternote, 2012
To fill the gap with a range of everyday objects with a simple, minimalist design aesthetic, Anisha Singh with her husband, Gurpreet Singh, founded LetterNote in 2012. Before Gurpreet and Anisha founded LetterNote, they were running a creative agency. It was a big pivot for them to start a product design brand.
“We started Letter Note with our savings and haven’t taken any external funds. We have focused on a steady, self-sustainable growth path for LetterNote”, said Anisha. They have remained true to their design philosophy, created an unique design brand, found acceptance and appreciation, and have a profitable, growing business now. Their big high is when they see someone using a LetterNote product.
The Changing Face Of Cinema - Ayan Mukherji, 33, Film Director
With two all-out hits, Wake Up Sid and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, even before he turned 30, Ayan Mukherji fits perfect the bracket of new age directors and undoubtedly no one does young love better. Grandson of S Mukherji, who founded the famous Mumbai studio (Filmalaya), son of not-so-well-known actor Deb and cousin of screen goddesses Kajol and Rani Mukherji, Ayan grew up binging on Hindi movies.
Though he started studying engineering but left it after a year to assist Ashutosh Gowariker’s movie Swades. Later, he also assisted Karan Johar. Currently, Ayan is directing Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt for his superhero film, Dragon.
A Vision Beyond Sight - Srikanth Bolla, 24 , Founder And CEO, Bollant Industries
When he met former President APJ Abdul Kalam, he told him he wishes to be the first blind President of India. He is also the first Indian blind student to secure an admission in MIT. Today, he is running his 4-year-old company, started with a total investment of Rs. 8 crore, including that of Ratan Tata, to churn out annual revenue of Rs. 20 crore, selling earth-friendly products and helping cottage industries grow with the technical know-how of modern machinery and financial inclusion. Incidentally, over half of Bollant Industries’ workforce is differently-abled.
Srikanth tells us, “I wanted to provide employment opportunities for people whom nobody wants to employ. That is my social mission and I combine it my commercial mission, because charities are not sustainable. We want to create something that people would be of proud of using and that should not disturb the ecology and the environment.”
Easing The Taxing Job - Archit Gupta, 32, ClearTax Founder
ClearTax solves two key problems for a consumer namely tax filing and tax savings. In order to address the painful need to solve the tax payers’ headache, this great software was created which was very easy to use. For businesses, the ClearTax platform helps businesses get incorporated, do their business and tax filings.
Sharing his lows from his journey Archit says, “Three years of bootstrapping was incredibly challenging. Maintaining cash flow to stay alive was painful on many days.” ClearTax went on became the first Indian company to raise investments from PayPal co-founder, Max Levchin and Founders Fund.
The Mover And Shaker - Rajesh Yabaji, 28, Ceo And Co-Founder, Blackbuck
Within around 10 months of launching operations in April 2015, Bengaluru-based BlackBuck became India’s biggest logistics company in business-to-business full truck load (FTL) freight transportation category. The inter-city logistics start-up works on a marketplace model by aggregating truck fleet owners and improving their utilization time by 30 per cent with real time visibility of the demand and movement of trucks across India.
“We have 100,000 trucks aggregated on our platform but that is not even close to probably one per cent of the total trucks in India which is about 10 million out of which five million trucks operates on inter-city routes,” says Yabaji.
Fuelling A Revolution - Neha Juneja, 32, Co-Founder, Greenway
Prior to Greenway Neha Juneja had two other start-ups which did not take off. In 2011, she partnered with Ankit Mathur and co-founded Greenway. She went on to raise USD 2.5 Million from Acumen Fund, Vikram Gandhi and Pramod Bhasin. Sharing her biggest achievement,
Neha says,” Our biggest achievement has been able to build a credible distribution network and to fully backward integrate i.e. set up a manufacturing unit from scratch. Glad to share that today, Greenway is India’s largest manufacturer of clean cookstoves.” Greenway is one of the few enterprises that sees a lucrative business opportunity in developing specialized everyday products for developing world consumers.
Tapping The Budget Segment - Sidharth Gupta, 32, Founder, Treebo Hotels
Started at a time when the nearest competitor was “demonstrating gravity defying growth and seemed to have found a business model that was unstoppable, unbeatable”, says Sidharth Gupta. Treebo had a tough time in the initial phase to validate its model of business that did not rely on unrealistic discounts and freebies to the customers.
What differentiates Treebo from hotel aggregators is the fact that the in-room inventory is completely owned by the company, giving them larger control on the properties. Today, Treebo has become the third largest hotel chain and the largest budget hotel brand in India with 230+ properties and an inventory of 5600+ rooms in 45+ cities, getting a total of $ 23 million as investments, which is just a fraction of what the nearest competition has raised and spent.