India File

Udupi: now serving hot entrepreneurs

A J Vinayak | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on February 01, 2016

Making a point: Rohith Bhat (standing), founder of Robosoft Technologieswith his team in the Udupi-based office - Photo: H.S. MANJUNATH

The town, known for its cuisine, is becoming an unlikely incubator of start-ups

In December, Star Chef, an iOS app, crossed $5 million in revenue. The app launched in August 2014, was developed by 99Games Online Pvt Ltd, a gaming studio from Udupi, a town with barely 165,000 people and quite an unlikely place for a start-up. But for Rohith Bhat, founder of Robosoft, the software product development company that owns 99Games, the location doesn’t matter.

It was by no means easy, even for a local like Bhat, who had done his engineering from a college at Nitte, in Udupi. After stints in Japan, where he worked for Apple Mac, and Mumbai, Bhat returned to coastal Karnataka, first starting out at the Science and Technology Entrepreneurs’ Parknear Mangaluru. By 2000, Bhat’s company had grown too big to operate out of STEP and he shifted base to Udupi. With investments from Kallari Capital and Ascent Capital, Bhat never regretted starting his company in Udupi. “Challenges are there everywhere, only the form of challenge changes. If Bengaluru has one kind of challenge, Udupi may have another kind of challenge,” he says. Udupi, when Bhat started off, had poor air connectivity, and the entrepreneur also had to overcome the perception that entrepreneurs in tier-2 and 3 centres cannot start a tech company. For the new kids on the block - Buttistore’s Shreemukha and Winkl’s Thankur Rahul Singh - the challenges are to do with employees and the local mindset. Shreemukha’s start-up is an online market store for customised arts and music. For him, the biggest challenge is to get permanent employees. The artists are temporary employees working on order. Many of the fresh talents tend to move to Bengaluru, and the experienced ones are costly for a start-up like him. Singh of Winkl feels that the challenge is to make people try out something new. Praveen Kalbavi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Mangaluru- based Novigo Solutions Pvt Ltd and Chairman of the IT sub-committee of Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says that due to the lack of an ecosystem, entrepreneurs move to bigger cities to gain scale. Unni Koroth, co-founder and Director of Foradian Technologies Pvt Ltd (an education technology company), was forced to shift to Bengaluru. “Once we started travelling to Bengaluru twice a week, we understood it is time to move.”

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Published on February 01, 2016
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