Millions of hits without the Net

K. Giriprakash | Updated on March 23, 2013 Published on March 23, 2013

Deepak Ravindran CEO, Innoz Technologies

“That’s how the life is, right?” asks Deepak Ravindran, all of 25 and a college drop-out to boot.

So, you wonder how much of life he has seen to make such a statement. He runs a business which gets about 4 million hits every day and till date, has had 120 million unique users.

So, what is the business all about? Deepak and three of his friends hit upon an idea while they were in engineering college that is getting them millions now. Their company Innoz gets you access to Internet service on your mobile phone even without surfing. Message 55444 with a query on any topic and within seconds, you will receive the information in your message box.

Ravindran’s parents are government employees and, therefore, there was nothing to suggest that their son will become an entrepreneur one day. But, when he was in class 8, he showed the first signs of his talent for making money. Some of the computer-related magazines at that time used to give out a games CD as a freebie for buying the magazine, which cost as much as Rs 200. Ravindran realised that his friends and classmates didn’t have access to games on computers because of lack of access to Internet.

As he had a computer, he decided to make copies of the CD and sell them to his friends that fetched him enough money for him to not only return the borrowed amount to his father topped with a premium but also buy more copies of the magazines.

Before you nod your head in appreciation, Ravindran comes up with another: “Ya, it is no rocket science to do business.” As simple as that. Because, what comes next is another go at enterprise. When he was 16, Ravindran floated a company called Swadesh Solutions based on the Hindi movie Swades where the protagonist, a NASA scientist, decides to return to India to work in his village.

Ravindran, who by then, was quite adept at using the computer, started designing Web sites and within months, was earning Rs 5,000-10,000 a month. He also started an e-commerce site to sell mobile phones online. But the business flopped because “it was ahead of its time.” But Ravindran didn’t give up. He decided in his early years that he will never work for anyone. So, he joined an engineering college to “hunt for talent.’’ “I realised that while I had marketing skills, I needed someone with ideas, computer skills and organisational skills.”

Fortunately, for Ravindran, he not only got the people he wanted but also a blockbuster idea as well. While he and his friends were chatting one day in college, one of them wanted some information but didn’t have access to the Internet on his mobile. That’s when the idea struck — what if they could access the Internet for any query just by sending an SMS.

It was around the same time, Ravindran had formed a team with his friends. They took the idea to several people and soon started getting interest from angel investors, one of whom happened to be Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys.

The model seems simple on the face of it. Anyone who wants information on anything can send a message with the query and within 10 seconds, can receive the answer. All queries go to a centralised computer system which searches all the available search engines and the best answer is sent across to the person.

The service is a huge hit among the tier-2 and -3 towns where Internet access is an issue but queries ranging from health to marital problems are asked. On an average, Innoz receives at least 3 million queries every day and the number goes up to 5 million when there is a cricket match being played.

Within three years, Innoz had raised about Rs 1 crore through angel investors. Ravindran realised that if the messaging service had to be successful, he had to tie up with service providers. Hence, he travelled to Delhi, stacked up with friends and started making the rounds of Airtel and other service providers. But luck turned Ravindran’s way one day. He was sitting in the coffee shop of Airtel when another person who was wearing the company’s badge sat down next to him. Both started talking and the person who happened to be one of the top officials in the company got interested in the idea. He asked him and his co-founders to meet him the next day. When he heard their story, he immediately offered them a contract. Thus began the journey of Innoz. Innoz has three offices across the country and has tied up with service providers in Pakistan and Africa. Innoz posted revenues of around Rs 6 crore last year and in the next fiscal, hopes to post Rs 15 crore..

Published on March 23, 2013
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