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Young CEO, Big Dreams: IT Comes of Age

A Gift his brother gave him on his twelfth birthday changed the life of Suhas Gopinath. Two years later, when he was 14, he launched a websi...

Written by Johnson T A |
September 17, 2005

A Gift his brother gave him on his twelfth birthday changed the life of Suhas Gopinath. Two years later, when he was 14, he launched a website; at 17 a full-fledged IT company. Today, 19-year-old Suhas Gopinath’s designation reads: Founder, CEO and President Globals Inc. Globals is an IT company with offices in 11 countries, employing over 600 people and notching up earnings of Rs 2.5 crore in 2004-05.

The birthday gift was an email ID. It opened the internet and software world to the Bangalore teenager and ignited the spirit of entreprenuership. Gopinath spent hours at local cyber cafes figuring codes, read books on Bill Gates and Michael Dell, and began preparing to be an IT entrepreneur. A chance encounter on an internet discussion board with a like-minded US university student in 2003 lead to the creation of Globals Inc. Two teenage friends from the middle-class Mathikere neighbourhood, one of them currently CFO at Globals, were Gopinath’s local partners.

Offering cost effective software, internet and mobile technology solutions for small and medium enterprises, increasingly in third world countries, the young CEO and his company are now slowly carving a niche for themselves.

A new software product for school information management has been bought by 200 schools in Nigeria. In India, the Kendriya Vidyalaya CBSE schools are set to soon use it too. On the cards is a Globals Inc office in Pakistan, the result of a recent meeting Gopinath had with Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, several key officials and youth in Pakistan.

 
How Globals Inc was born
   

‘‘There are only five to eight listed IT companies in Pakistan. A lot of the packages for the government and private sector are outsourced to the middle east. There is great potential in having a base in Pakistan,’’ says Gopinath. Still only in the second year of a four year engineering course at the M S Ramaiah Engineering College, in Bangalore, Suhas juggles his student and multinational company CEO hats, working close to 18 hours each day. ‘‘Most of our business comes from the US market. When the day’s work is done here, by around 6 pm, I get a couple of hours rest and then video conference with clients and staff in the US working till around 3 am,’’ says Suhas.

‘‘My college has been good enough to waiver the attendance regulations for my benefit. I want a formal degree but I want a successful company even more,’’ says the winner of an Infosys Young Achievers Award for 2004. Like Gopinath himself, a majority of his employees in India and abroad are also young college goers juggling studies and IT. Many are part-timers. The average age at Globals Inc is 20.

Gopinath is now a flag bearer for young entrepreneurs, travelling around India and the world. ‘‘For the economies of third world countries to grow, job seekers have to transcend into job creators. Whenever I address the youth, I try to encourage them to take up entrepreneurship as an adventure. There are a lot of hurdles but the satisfaction of providing opportunities is huge,’’ he says.

Gopinath’s strategy for his company is steady growth, low cost pricing and a focus on small and medium enterprises. The school information management tool is for example aimed at smaller schools. ‘‘This product has great potential in third world countries. While competitors offer this at a cost of Rs 2 lakh we offer it for around Rs 15,000. We are aiming at the smaller schools,’’ says Gopinath.

Recently President Abdul Kalam and HRD minister Arjun Singh felicitated the unassuming young man. The going has not been all good for the young CEO though. His parents first thought he was spending hours just goofing off at cyber cafes and worried about him being a failure.

‘‘We were very worried about him earlier. Things have changed in the last three to four years, his luck has changed. He still spends too much time on work and little on studies,’’ says his mother.

Gopinath also faced problems when he wanted to register his company in India as a 17-year-old. Age related regulations forced him to initially register the company in San Jose, California. Having crossed the 18-year age mark prescribed in India, he has now registered the company in Bangalore as Globals ITES.

‘‘We could have continued to function as a US registered company, but I always wanted this to be an Indian company,’’ says Gopinath.

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