Meet Entrepreneur India's 25 Biggest Techpreneurs: Class of 2018
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Entrepreneur’s annual Tech25 celebrates businesses which at their core have reflected on creating new market, reinventing a technology and business model – essentially that’s what defines disruptive innovation. However, scaling up business is not always a direct consequence of disruptive innovation. What separates this year’s 25 most impactful entrepreneur-led technology businesses is that they have excelled in sustaining innovation in their road to become respective category leaders - one-third of which are disrupters already, one-third which are set to disrupt and one-third with greatest potential to do that.
(This article was first published in the May issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)
The Teaching Machine - Byju Raveendran
BYJU RAVEENDRAN (37), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, BYJU’S
Though education and technology so far haven’t come on the common ground, a teacher feels technology can revamp learning. And he is not interfering with the education system, or how teachers have been teaching over the years. His aim is to instill the concept of self-learning among the students.
Byju Raveendran calls himself a selflearner too. A couple of minutes into the conversation with Raveendran you will know he loved Maths and Science so much so that he always found ways to learn the chapters outside the curriculum.
The Badshah of Bootstrapping - Sridhar Vembu
SRIDHAR VEMBU (49), CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND FOUNDER, ZOHO
While talking about the use case of Zoho, Vembu gives the example of how his company runs on Zoho’s operating system. Vembu says, “All aspects of the business run on Zoho - sales, marketing, back office, HR etc. I spend so much of time abroad in spite of that we are always connected because of technology.” Today the company has offices all across the world. The Zoho story began more than 20 years ago when there were hardly any software product companies in India.
The Game Changer- Nitish Mittersain
NITISH MITTERSAIN (38), FOUNDER AND MD, NAZARA TECHNOLOGIES
Leveraging on its technology, Nazara has become a mobile gaming company with significant global presence, by expanding across 61 countries. On staying at par with such technological developments, Mittersain says, “Till date, we have not made any significant investment in hardware such as servers, data centers or disaster recovery centers. However, we have instead outsourced these non-core operations to third party providers and relied on cost effective alternatives like cloud infrastructure.” This ensures that the company is not dependent on any one operating system or technology platform and continues to stay agile with technological changes.
The Defense Attacker- Arvind Lakshmikumar
ARVIND LAKSHMIKUMAR (42), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, TONBO IMAGING
Bengalurubased Tonbo Imaging, the most impactful defense technology start-up in the country, brings economies of scale to defense and enterprise market with an asset light model built on deep technology, similar to existing industries including logistics, hospitality, transportation and commerce. It builds imaging technology that uses multiple complementary sensors to allow users to see and interpret the environment around them during night, dust, fog etc. for military, security, transportation safety and industrial inspection applications.
The News Maker- Virendra Gupta
VIRENDRA GUPTA (46), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, DAILYHUNT
The personalized mobile content company Dailyhunt (erstwhile Newshunt) has been the pioneer in digital content aggregation market in India after Virendra Gupta acquired then Newshunt towards the end of 2011 and rebranded it in its current avatar.
Gupta was earlier running value–added service company, founded in 2007, called Verse Innovation. Since 2011, Gupta had experimented with different technology innovations to enhance user experience much before they became public.
The Data Cruncher- Suresh V Shankar
SURESH V SHANKAR (55), FOUNDER, CRAYON DATA
Among the league of companies which have kept their high growth under the radar for quite some time is Singapore and Chennai-based big data company Crayon Data. Launched by former director at IBM - Shankar has been a big data and digital evangelist for over a decade. Further, he has been the point person in creating disruptions in the way businesses in banking and hospitality sectors use data for intelligent business decisions. For instance, Crayon Data's global 'Taste Graph' data identifies customer tastes and preferences for its clients to have deeply personalized customer interactions.
Milking Scale Via ioT- Ranjith Mukundan
RANJITH MUKUNDAN (33), CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
Dairy technology start-up Stellapps offers farm optimization and monitoring tools to improve dairy supply chain end-to-end including milk's production, procurement, cold chain, animal insurance and farmer payments.
"What's unique to our business is first, acquiring data across the dairy supply chain via sensors bundled with automation equipment using an IoT architecture and second, applying machine learning and analytics on the acquired data in the cloud and using our SmartMoo smart service delivery platform," says Mukundan.
The Agri App-ifier- Shardul Sheth
SHARDUL SHETH (39), CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AGROSTAR
Started as a manufacturer of organic fertilizers in 2010, AgroStar founded by Shardul Sheth - former executive at consumer electronics giant Best Buy - pivoted to mobile commerce to deliver end-to-end technology solutions directly to farmers for quality farming and agri products simply via a missed call. The most well capitalized agri start-up in India, AgroStar has leveraged technology in the best possible way. "For instance, we have digitized a lot of agronomy based queries coming from farmers and used analytics to identify top 80 per cent of farmer's crop specific problems.
Making Inroads in India- Greg Moran
GREG MORAN (32), CEO AND CO- FOUNDER, ZOOMCAR
Moran was working in the finance and investment banking space and often visited India on business trips. During such trips, he witnessed a low ownership of cars and the opportunity beckoned him to do something in the technology space. In the second half of 2012, he moved to India and launched Zoomcar, a self-drive rental company redefining urban mobility in India. Being an American, it was tough for him to launch in India, as per Moran, "We were not really supported off. Our growth has always been massive but it could have been five times faster had the government supported us."
The Warehousing Optimizer-Samay Kohli
SAMAY KOHLI (31), GROUP CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GREYORANGE
Relation between technology and supply chain, if we look at its core, is sort of non-existent other than information technology which also isn't well penetrated. While there have been few technology innovations around warehousing and logistics so far but there has not been a product approach to warehousing solution. Robotics company GreyOrange launched by Kohli and Akash Gupta in 2012 has pioneered that approach to lead the transformational change logistics, warehousing, and supply chain are going through.
India’s First ‘Secondhand’ Advertiser- Pranay Chulet
PRANAY CHULET (44), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, QUIKR
From being Kijiji India - the eBay subsidiary that spun off as Quikr in 2008 to turning unicorn in 2015 to becoming an aggressive buyer to fuel its inorganic growth, Chulet has transformed one of the largest classifieds platforms in India - Quikr into country's own Craigslist, which dominated the classifieds revenue of newspapers in the US in mid 2000s. The technology disruption in the last decade has let Chulet to adopt verticalization of its major offerings as separate boats under the Quikr mothership.
The Showman- Reggie Aggarwal
REGGIE AGGARWAL (48), FOUNDER AND CEO, CVENT
CVENT From using Outlook, excel and sticky notes to becoming the biggest software provider for the hospitality industry, Cvent's story is about persistence and finding the right pain point. Born to Indian parents in the US, Aggarwal started out as a corporate lawyer. He founded Cvent in 1999 as a two-person start-up, and today the company has 2700+ employees and more than 200,000 users around the globe. Its software has been used to power over one million business meetings and events across 25,000 organizations.
Banking on Blockchain- Shinam Arora
SHINAM ARORA (29); ROHAS NAGPAL (45), CO-FOUNDERS, PRIMECHAIN TECHNOLOGIES
Primechain Technologies is developing one the largest blockchain-based solution for Indian banks, an initiative led by the country's biggest lender State Bank of India. Speaking about the technology, Nagpal explains, "It is an innovative mix of tried and tested technologies including public key cryptography, cryptographic hash functions and proof-of-work."
The Oil And gas Disruptor- Daniel Raj David
DANIEL RAJ DAVID (23), CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER AND CO-FOUNDER, DETECT TECHNOLOGIES
The Indian Institute of Technology Madras incubated Detect Technologies is among the unique innovations that India should be proud of. The realization that he had was in industrial space, particularly oil and gas, especially with assets that are static like pipelines, where David saw immense scope for technology development using internet-of-things, deep learning, and predictive monitoring and maintenance. The start-up has built the world's first sensor that can monitor the performance of pipelines in real-time at high temperatures for a long range to avoid defects and corrosion.
Larger than Life- Pete Draper
PETE DRAPER (43), CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MAKUTA VFX
Those who may have missed the visual effects of the high-profile blockbusters such as Ghajini and Baahubali, have probably been living under a rock. The genius behind the marvel of these legendary Indian films, Makuta VFX is certainly not one of the ordinary companies that have mushroomed worldwide in the last decade. This visual effects and animation company based in Santa Clara, California and Hyderabad won a National Film Awards in the year of its inception for the popular South Indian film Magadheera, and second one in 2012 for Eega.
Redefining Mobile Advertising- Anuj Khanna Sohum
ANUJ KHANNA SOHUM (40), FOUNDER, CHAIRMAN & CEO, AFFLE
Around 12 years back, Affle started as a mobile technology platform in the early 3G era. It wasn't purely a technology company but started building tools for marketing. Headquartered in Singapore, and with a team of 200, majority of its employees are based out of India, as the primary business comes from India while markets like Indonesia, Middle East & US are other significant markets. Affle drives the right transactions to the top e-commerce companies through its platforms.
Tech On Wheels- Raja Gayam
RAJA GAYAM (32), CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, GAYAM MOTOR WORKS
n line with government's ambitious project to turn all vehicles electric by 2030, electric three wheeler and bike maker Gayam Motor Works (GMW) has developed swappable lithium-ion batteries for rickshaws which can be replaced in less than a minute. "Right now we are doing this manually but we have plans to fully automate the service," says Gayam. He launched GMW with brother Rahul Gayam and college-mate Sri Harsha Bavirisetty. The start-up is able to reduce the operational cost by one-seventh for customers like BigBasket using GMW's batteries.
The Master Swiper- Mswipe Technologies
MANISH PATEL (51), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, MSWIPE TECHNOLOGIES
Mswipe, the mobile point-of-sale solutions company, has led the way for entrepreneurled businesses in disrupting the merchant side of the payment ecosystem. Founded by Manish Patel in 2012, it is also among the few Indian technology companies backed by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin's B Capital. The problem for small merchants in India has been of their inability to accept card-based electronic payments even as banks being the natural custodians in the payment business had failed to innovate to solve that problem. "I don't blame banks as they aren't technology companies. So they could never address this problem. Whether it was wireless terminals and terminals customized for India, the space was open for disruption and we did that," says Patel.
The Go-to It Guy- Amit Alsisaria
AMIT ALSISARIA (39), CO-FOUNDER & MANAGING DIRECTOR, POLESTAR SOLUTIONS & SERVICES
Much like business-tocommerce models, for many new-age businessto-business (B2B) information technology solutions and services companies, expansion has succeeded profitability. While latter is relatively easy to come by in B2B, Noida-based Polestar Solutions has maintained hockey stick growth over last five years and without hogging spotlight. The company offers industry specific tools such as optimizing the distribution network and inventory levels, reducing total delivery cost, recommending product-price mix etc., to companies across manufacturing, insurance, life sciences, retail and other sectors.
Spaced Out to Fly- Neel Mehta
NEEL MEHTA (33), CO-FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, ASTERIA AEROSPACE
Founded by Mehta and Nihar Vartak, Bengalurubased Asteria Aerospace is a robotics company developing drone-based solutions to provide actionable intelligence. Asteria model is unique - it harnesses aerial data to make current operations of customers faster, safer and cheaper. Elaborating on the concept, Mehta says, "We are a fullstack drone technology company with in-house designed drones, electronics and software, allowing us to deeply customize solutions for our customers."
The Fintech Crusaders- Sashank Rishyasringa and Gaurav Hinduja
SASHANK RISHYASRINGA (35) AND GAURAV HINDUJA (36); CO-FOUNDERS, CAPITAL FLOAT
Rishyasringa and Hinduja went to business school together and returned to India in 2012. Prior to that, Hinduja had sold his previous company and Rishyasringa was in New York working at McKinsey. Coming from different backgrounds, they were looking at bunch of interesting ideas and both found ideas around small and medium enterprises lending to be interesting. "The question that really bothered us was if you can order a product online, get a cab in a few seconds, make payment, get tickets etc., then why can't you access financial products in a similar way. Challenge we set was 'ecommerceifying' the experience of buying," says Rishyasringa.
Coding Bollywood- Nandini Shenoy
NANDINI SHENOY (37), FOUNDER, PINKVILLA
For Mangalore girl, who worked her way up as Microsoft's engineer in the US, no access to Bollywood gossip just because she moved to another country, was unacceptable. Needless to say, the 2000s weren't the days of digital media either. Most consumption of news and entertainment content was done via newspapers, magazines and coffee table books. It was then that Shenoy decided she needed access to Bollywood content, even if it meant creating a platform herself and thus was born one of the most popular Bollywood news websites Pinkvilla. It took Shenoy six months to create a user-generated content website where anyone could post. Her eureka moment came when in 2009 some photos of actor Sonam Kapoor that were posted on Pinkvilla went viral. Since then the website has had no looking back. "I quit my job in 2010 and focused on the website. Production houses started reaching out to us for advertisements. So, we have been selffunded and profitable," says Shenoy.
The E-Grocer- Hari Menon
HARI MENON (56), CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, BIGBASKET
Menon's first brush with ecommerce started in 1999 with Fabmart.com. Since the Indian market wasn't ecommerce savvy and neither had the bandwidth to support it, the founder exited the business and started angel investing since 2006. Later in 2011, when things started becoming rosier for ecommerce players, BigBasket was launched to deliver groceries using a powerful technology backend. Talking about technology being the front-runner, Menon says, "The customers come to us in about three to three-and-a-half times a month. So every visit of them implies what they want to buy." BigBasket's customer base is largely middle-aged women and housewives. This section is mostly not that tech savvy so the process has to be easy to handle.
Curating Mythology Digitally- Sanjay Reddy
SANJAY REDDY (49), CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, SILLY MONKS ENTERTAINMENT
India's love for mythology and digital content has fancied a lot of entrepreneurs to start up in the entertainment industry. Hyderabad-based start-up Silly Monks carved a niche for itself with regional language content in the entertainment industry. Started in 2013, Silly Monks is the first ever digital entertainment channel to be listed on National Stock Exchange (NSE) and received an overwhelming response. It all started with Reddy's dream to start a television channel back in 2012. At a time when Indian television was witnessing a slump and funding was a constraint for starting a satellite channel, Reddy decided to go digital along with his friend, Anil Pallala.
The Digital Healer- Shashank Nd
SHASHANK ND (30), FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, PRACTO
Seen as the next in line unicorn, healthcare technology company Practo has led the disruption particularly on the consumer or patient side by digitizing healthcare. While patients have always found it hard to find the right doctor and get accurate information about the problem or disease, doctors or healthcare providers too had multiple challenges including patient no-shows or lack of detailed health history about their patients for better diagnosis and cure. "I have always believed that digitization is the key pivot for the transformation of the healthcare industry. While on one hand, Practo enables consumers/patients to access diverse healthcare services, on the other, intuitive solutions help healthcare providers manage their unique clinical workflow and enable more efficient doctor-patient engagements," says Shashank.