Conventional wisdom has always taught us B-Schools, or at the very least the ubiquitous colleges, are the breeding grounds of first-generation entrepreneurs. But this wisdom has, over the past few decades at least, been turned on its head as many iconic successes in the domain of business have increasingly been nurtured and steered by people who have never even seen the facade of a B-School, and in some cases, haven’t even completed college. NRI Achievers brings you some choice vignettes …
Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg. Every internet-savvy Indian has no doubt heard these names of the wildly successful founders of two equally successful behemoths. And while acknowledging their success, it is often bandied that they were both college dropouts. With this trend continuing in our own Bharat, we took it upon ourselves to fathom what exactly makes them tick. Is it their passion, their out-of-the box thinking, their willingness to take risks and back them up by putting their money where their mouth is or what ? Or are they just one-off flashes in the pan ? Our digging brought out some nuggets. All of them college dropouts who turned entrepreneurs. Drawn from the blooming Indian startup ecosystem that has turned trends into torrents.
Self-taught programmer at 13 and an avid web designer, Varun took natural interest in developing web applications right from the word go. Even at an early stage in his transformative years, he foresaw a clear market gap for ‘easy-to-use’, user-centric approaches to web-based ticketed support and visitor engagement. Convinced that this was the way to go, Varun dropped out of college to first set up Kayako Infotech in 2001 at Jalandhar, when he was just 17. Today, he is the CEO overseeing the business, providing overall direction to the enterprise as its leading product architect, and taking a proactive role in the design and development of the product line.
Born in a small village at Rahimatpur in Maharashtra, Kailash Katkar worked his way to the top to become the Chairman and CEO of a 200 Cr business. This man behind Quickheal technologies started with a job at a local radio and calculator repair shop, later going ahead in 1990 to start his own calculator repair business. In 1993 he started a new venture, CAT computer services, where around that time his younger brother Sanjay developed a basic model of antivirus software which helped in solving the biggest problem of computer maintenance at that time. In 2007 this was renamed as Quick Heal Technologies, and since then, there has been no looking back. Kailash has managed to achieve all this without formal education.
A computer science student of the LBS College Of Engineering who chose to drop out in his 5th semester near the end of 2007, Deepak never let his ideas be bound and caged by book or syllabi. He chose instead to instead break out of these binds imposed by our education system and followed his passion for computers. This ultimately led him down the entrepreneurial pathway, where he founded Quest technologies, which let people answer someone else’s question that had been asked via text message. His primary company was Innoz Technologies, the one behind ‘SmsGyan,’ handing Internet’s knowledge to people via texts. His latest venture is Lookup, a local commerce messaging app that lets users chat with local businesses and shops.
Ritesh Agarwal is the man behind India’s largest room-aggregator, OYO Rooms. The startup is a network of technology-enabled budget hotels. This Gurgaon-based company, was founded by him in 2012. Oyo, which today has 750+ hotels under its umbrella, is backed by Lightspeed Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Green Oaks Capital. A college dropout who founded Oravel when he was 18 has today received its share of accolades and has transformed (or rebranded) into OYO Rooms. Ritesh is said to have merely completed his high schooling at St. Johns Senior Secondary School.
Freecharge, the famous platform that revolutionized the online recharge system with three step recharges along with providing coupon offers for the same value, was the brainchild of Kunal Shah and Sandeep Tandon. The company was founded in 2010 and has recently been acquired by Snapdeal. Kunal did his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Wilson College and later went to Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies to do an MBA, from which he dropped out sooner than later.
For 29 long years, Mahesh Murthy spent his time helping build big brands through his marketing acumen. He then moved on to help startups with marketing counsel and funding for another 13 years. Out of these three odd decades, 19 of these years he spent in digital media. Mahesh is a dropout from Osmania University, who stated with selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Moving up the Ladder, he has won notoriety and awards in his later years as a Creative Director at Unilever, The Economist, Pepsi and MTV, for whom he wrote and shot a series of top award-winning commercials. He is today the founder of advertising company Pinstorm – an ad firm offering a unique pay-for-performance solution to corporates across the world.
Indeed there must be something wrong with IIT-D, with this is second dropout making ‘news’. Azhar dropped out in his 4th year of engineering. When we say he made news, he did it by introducing ‘News in Shorts,’ the only app that really cuts to the chase, delivering only the vital details in a news to all those lazy people and even to those who don’t have enough time to go through all of them. The app makes sure that each news is conveyed in less than 60 words. Got a minute to spare ? Keep up with the world with news in shorts. While it all started as a Facebook page, news in Shorts has now garndered its share of fame so well that it has received INR 25 Cr in funding some three or so months ago.
The original brain behind housing.com’s meteoric rise, Rahul Yadav was one the co-founders of the company and a dropout from IIT-B, who called it a day in his fourth year. This apropos did not deter him from reaching for what he wanted to achieve. He knew that he was building a brand and working to solve a problem which no one ever tackled head on. Getting into the foulest quagmire of controversies, he has so far played it pretty cool, be it resigning or then taking it back, or giving away half of his shares to employees. Though now out of his own baby housing.com, he sure is a guy with an attitude, brash but with a whole load of confidence.
Bhavin Turakhia is the founder and CEO of Directi, an internet domain name registrar founded in 1998 by him and his brother, Divyank. He has a vision about the internet industry in India that seemingly only a few have rivaled. He is credited for the impressive growth of Directi into a global web products company, with a number of businesses and millions of customers worldwide. Though he is an engineering dropout who cut it off from after hisd 12th, he has never stopped dreaming big. In his own words: “Everything the Byte touches should be our kingdom.” This is the vision that Directi is looking forward to.”
Pallav Nadhani is Co-founder and CEO of Fusion Charts & RazorFlow, as well as the CEO of Collabion. A serial multi-tasker, Pallav started his first business at the age of 16 from his bedroom in the year 2001, when he found himself dissatisfied with Microsoft Excel’s charting capability while completing his high school assignments. His company is a service provider of data visualization products. Given the success it has garnered so far, it found its way into the list of NASSCOM EMERGE 50 leaders in 2009. Even after he dropped out from University of Calcutta, this setback didn’t stop him from achieving what he aimed for. He has subsequently earned his Masters.
Abhishek is a quintessential entrepreneur who loves to code and bubbles with the passion to instill people with his new ideas. This fizziness of his is flavoured with the desire to connect people through web and mobile, which resulted in his co-founding frankly.me with Nikunj Jain. ‘Frankly’ is a platform that revolves around the the idea to expand the horizon of conversations that people take part in. It has onboarded various celebs and many people have taken onto the platform to ask anything from them and getting video answers in back. Prior to this he Abhishek had founded zumbl.com. An IIT-D Computer Science dropout, he is passionate about increasing the IQ of an average conversation on the Internet.
Co-founder of ‘adpushup,’ Ankit Oberoi’s startup provides ads optimization so that publishers and bloggers can benefit from their existing website traffic without the need for any coding skills. The company uses A/B testing to compare between different ad variations like different placements and different sizes. Ankit is a dropout from Maharaja Agrasen College – because he found it was ‘a waste of time.’ In his own words: “You don’t have to be at the college to learn something – Internet can teach you better.” His fascination with the Internet made him found Tamranda Web Solutions, which provided web hosting, domain registration and more. He has served as a director at Innobuzz before starting up his startup – adpushup.
Amritanshu Anand is the co-founder of Retention.ai, a setup that allows app developers and marketers to track uninstalled users and understand their behaviours. It also enables companies to re-target users who have uninstalled the app. Amritanshu started his career as an advisor at the Entrepreneurship Cell of IIT Kharagpur, where he worked to foster the spirit of entrepreneurship in India. However, he dropped out of IIT but did not let anything stop him from pursuing his interests, which ultimately saw him kickstarting his successful business in May 2013.