You would not normally associate the temple town of Udupi, also known for its vegetarian cuisine, with information technology.

But just seven km from Udupi stands a multi-storey circular building that is hard to miss. It houses Robosoft Technologies Pvt Ltd, a software product development service firm. Here, Rohith Bhat, Founder, Managing Director and CEO, takes us through his journey.

Entrepreneurship came to him naturally; his father had set up a plastic manufacturing unit, one of the first industries in Manipal in 1970, a year before he was born. After completing his schooling in Udupi, his elder brother decided that Rohith would pursue engineering in the computer science stream. Rohith joined the NMAM Institute of Technology at Nitte village in the Udupi taluk.

First brushes “My first start-up experience was my engineering college,” recalls Rohith. Most of the students lived in hostels and this meant working in teams. He recollects borrowing notes from friends in Manipal and Mangaluru for subjects that were new. “I learnt about managing there. When you don’t have access to anything, you have to make do with what you can lay your hands on. In college, I learnt more about life; how to live with scarcity, as constraint breeds creativity,” says Rohith.

Japanese inspiration On graduating, he joined a small firm in Mumbai. After an eight-month stint, in 1992, a Japanese company offered him the opportunity to build a word processor for the Apple Mac platform. “I worked for them for three years. The idea back then was to build a product to compete with Microsoft Word in Japan,” says 44-year-old Rohith. This Japanese experience set off Rohith’s entrepreneurial passion; it was his ‘Make in India’ moment, if you will.

“At the time, Japan was challenging the US in everything. What could left me wondering was, how a country, destroyed in World War II, rise to a position to challenge the most powerful nation in 40 years. I decided to go back to India, and start something there,” he says. When he broached this idea with friends and family, predictably there was opposition. But his father and two older brothers supported him. With savings accumulated from his Japanese stint, he started the company, Robosoft Technologies, in his sister’s living room in Mumbai in 1996.

Apple pie His first customer was Apple. Having entered India in 1995 it had recruited 20 people to sell Macs. Armed with Mac software development knowledge, Rohith accompanied the sales team on road shows and to meetings with clients.

“Apple had built Indian language support for their Mac operating system. Some of the software we had worked on went into that,” he says with pride. In the first two years of Robosoft, he was working with the engineers in Cupertino over e-mail. Realising that it was immaterial for the overseas customer whether they were served from Mumbai or Udupi, Rohith decided to return to his native place. It was easier for him to get project financing in his home town.

In Udupi, the STEP (Science and Technology Entrepreneurs Park) at KREC (National Institute of Technology, Karnataka) in Mangaluru came out with an offer to host entrepreneurs. “We opened the facility at STEP in July 1998. I was the first entrepreneur at STEP,” he says. Without the promised internet connection, he made use of mobile phones that were making their appearance in the country then.

When he started expanding at STEP, he thought of shifting base to Udupi. Robosoft, which began with a single-office space in Udupi in 2000, had four by 2006.

The company then began facing competition from Bengaluru. Employees were asked at social events why they were still in Udupi. “We then decided to build a building that will be as good as any in Bengaluru. That is the reason behind the circular building with a glass facade,” he says.

When the iPhone was launched in 2007, five of its apps were made in India. Robosoft had made them for its clients. “The response we got was big. We knew that mobile was going to be big. At Robosoft level, we decided to move our business from desktop to mobile,” he adds.

By 2008, Robosoft started a fully-owned subsidiary, Global Delight for app development. By the end of 2008, Robosoft came out with another subsidiary for gaming called 99Games Online. A game based on the movie Dhoom 3 , developed by 99Games, saw more than 15 million downloads.

In 2012, Robosoft got venture capital funding from Kalaari Capital to give impetus to 99Games and Global Delight. Rohith says the company is looking for additional funding. Without disclosing numbers, Rohith says almost 85 per cent of Robosoft’s revenue comes from services.

Around 70 per cent of the money comes from customers outside India. With over 500 staff, Robosoft stands tall in the temple town of Udupi.