IIT Memories (Part 1/5): Two Decades On

As I was preparing for the “My Story” talk as part of the IIT-B Alumni Association’s “Kal, Aaj aur Kal” event in Bangalore on Saturday, a lot of memories came back about my four years from IIT (1984-88). While I could not describe many of these since the talk became a panel conversation, I thought I should share some of that here.

My year of graduation – 1988 – neatly bisects my life so far into two (about 21 years on either side).  For me, IIT was a transformational experience. It would be fair to say that a lot of what I learnt in life, I learnt in IIT. And most of what I learnt in IIT, I learnt outside the classroom!

Now, more than decades after graduation, I can perhaps look back at those four years and see my life since graduation through the prism of those four years. Over the rest of this week, I will describe four themes which permeated through IIT and my life since then.

Before that, to put my life in context, here is a chronological outline of the past 20 years:

  • 1988: Went to Columbia Univ, NY for MS (EE)
  • 1989: Completed MS in 9 months, and then joined NYNEX S&T, White Plains, NY
  • 1992: Returned to India to become an entrepreneur.
  • 1992-1994: Tried lots of things – multimedia databases, electronic parts catalogues software, image processing software, etc. Nothing worked. Had to do a reboot at the end.
  • 1995: Launched IndiaWorld, India’s first Internet portal.
  • 1997-1998: Grew IndiaWorld family by adding 12 more vertical portals (Samachar, Khoj, Khel, Bawarchi…).
  • 1999: IndiaWorld was acquired by Sify for $100 million.
  • 2000: Worked with Sify
  • 2001-2005: Back to NetCore, a company I had founded in 1998. Tried multiple ideas beyond the mailing software business that we had – blogs search engine, enterprise software, thin client-thick server software, digital dashboard, etc. No success in these new areas.
  • 2006-now: Focused on mobile data services as the new area, and launched MyToday (SMS subscriptions and portal), even as Mailing business continued its growth.
  • 2006-2008: Also invested in 15 companies in the digital space.