CEO and Co-founder, Magzter (World’s largest digital library with more than 70 million users and over 5000+ publications)
“I remember when I was about 11 years old, asking my dad for money. When I didn’t get it from him, I figured out a way to make my own money: I told my dad I would charge him one rupee for polishing his shoes for him. He agreed. And that was when I first started making money.
That same entrepreneurial streak led me to various business opportunities.
In 12th standard, while the rest of my classmates were partying, a couple of us decided to start an event management company called Grafx and it actually made us couple of lakhs of rupees that year. I remember telling my dad that he didn’t have to give me money anymore.
Toward the end of my engineering degree, back in 1996, there were campus interviews that everyone else was gearing up for. I remember my interview with TCS which was one of the largest software companies at the time. During the interview, in response to the standard, “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” question, I said, “I see myself starting my own company that is bigger than TCS.”
And that’s what I did. In 1996, when I finished engineering college, I helped out a friend with his poultry business by managing the entire supply chain – as an aside, we called the retail stores “Chubby Chicks” which gave me the option to quite cheekily tell people, “I’m into chicks” when they asked me what I do. I remember approaching 22 banks for a loan to start the business. Finally, one obscure bank gave me the 10-year loan which I was able to pay back in three years.
Later I ventured into the media business with Galatta magazine about the Tamil film world and two years later we created an app for the magazine – something unheard of in those days – for the iPad. Within a short time we had 100,000 downloads of the app and we started creating apps for other magazines as well.
My business partner and I were walking in Annanagar Park and we thought to ourselves – we have the technical expertise, we know about the magazine business, how about we integrate both these areas? And that’s how we came up with the new idea of creating an app for the magazine industry, an aggregator model, which again no one else was talking about those days.
It soon became evident that if we want the world’s top publishers on our app we have to go global and set up an office in New York, the epicentre of publishing. After a couple months of working out of our friends’ homes, we set up our headquarters in Number 1, Rockefeller Plaza and on June 16th 2011 we officially launched Magzter.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. We would set up meetings with bankers and publishers around the US and they would assume that because we were couple of Indian guys, we were techies. They would tell us to come back later when we were bigger.
But when we went to other countries, that address on our business card gave us credibility and those publishers took us very seriously and signed up with us.
What I would share with someone who wants to be a successful entrepreneur is that you have to see a need and go after it. And just use common sense. If you’re failing, acknowledge it and move on. Unless you fail, you won’t understand what success is. It’s about the next step in an evolution – the opportunities present themselves.”