Tracking city-based businessmen across the globe, who are collaborating with bigwigs and picking up accolades.
STARTING from automobile company Ashok Leyland (they launched India’s first indigenous electric bus earlier this week) to FMCG conglomerate CavinKare, with presence in over 20 countries, Chennai-based enterprises have been making impactful forays into foreign lands for a while now. More recently, we’ve been noticing startups setting up offices abroad, picking up awards along the way (think Freshdesk). In fact, one such player, Zoho Corporation, after setting up an office in California, saw their client base increase so much that they are now investing a fortune in an upcoming data centre in the country. We speak with four entrepreneurs who are making an impact on foreign shores and inspiring others.
Fourteen years at Intel taught Vijay Karunakaran a thing or two about man-management. This came in handy when he started InGage in 2013, developing gaming software, and augmented and virtual reality services. He now has offices in the US and Singapore, and launched his first one in Dubai two weeks ago. The laurels that came his way (his sister app development platform, Buzztm, recently featured in NASSCOM’s list of the top 12 startups this year) barely reveal the challenges that he faced when setting up shop outside the country. “Language barriers, cultural differences and long distance management are all major obstacles that crop up when you have businesses abroad,” he says. Despite that, he has managed to get 100 customers in the last two months. We are not surprised. After all, he is the man who developed Karbonn Kochadaiiyaan, the 4D augmented reality app themed on Rajnikanth. Details: myingage.com
Backed by clients like Google and Microsoft, Impiger Technologies has developed over 500 apps so far, including their latest ones for US-based restaurant chains like Applebee’s and IHOP, and Chennai-based companies like Fenner India and Rane Group. Owner V Ramakrishnamoorthy—who started overseas operations in Dallas, USA, in 2005, and has since employed over 300 people across the globe (of which 280 are in Chennai and Coimbatore)—believes that the differences between domestic and international deals lie in factors like pricing. His company currently gets 25 per cent of its revenue from Google. That said, they are going to collaborate with the Landmark Group in Dubai, along with the city’s law department (offering an automated mobile interface for lawyers to check documents on the go). Details: impigertech.com
It may have taken nine long years, but when Umesh Sachdev was selected as one among the ‘Top 10 Millennials Changing the World’ by the Time magazine this June, the world sat up and took notice. His app, Uniphore, excels in developing speech recognition software and allows users to interact with their digital devices in their native languages. Launched in 2007, it now has over 70 enterprise clients and four million users, and features in the list of companies ranked by Deloitte Technology Fast 500. With this background (plus six patents to boot), Sachdev started his international expansion in 2014. “Before heading to bigger markets like Europe and USA, we chose Philippines, Singapore and Dubai. Once we tested our potential there, we decided to tie-up with partners in the US,” he says. He believes that Chennai has a good product talent pool. “Hence we have set up our product office here and services offices in Bengaluru,” he shares, adding that they will be focussing on the US and Asian markets for the next two-three years.
Many of you may remember CardMunch, the app that created digital versions of business cards. It was acquired by LinkedIn in 2011, only to be shut down later after the social network moved on to Evernote. Its founder, Sid Vishwanathan currently owns Sweetness Technologies, an app that allows users in San Francisco to send personalised gifts to their loved ones, along with video greeting cards. Looking back, he says, “I spent almost four years at LinkedIn working on CardMunch. But as an entrepreneur, the itch to start something new never goes away and I decided to go back to the drawing board,” he shares, lamenting that talented entrepreneurs from India have a tough time setting up businesses as non-resident founders in Silicon Valley. “Over a five-year period, we processed nearly 100 million business cards, thanks to my workers, the majority of whom are from Chennai,” he adds. He advises young entrepreneurs to find solutions to domestic problems before thinking of going international. Details: sweetnessapp.com