“Youngistan” challenges the dragon!

Techgentsia team in Alappuzha in Kerala.
Photo: Techgentsia

Raising a threat to China’s web conferencing solutions in the world market, Vconsol, a new product developed by a young web research and development company, Techgentsia Software Technologies Pvt Ltd, from Cherthala in Alleppey district of Kerala became the one-crore worth winner of the Prime Minister’s Innovation Challenge.

While announcing the winner on 20 August 2020, Minister of Electronics, Communications and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, noted that it gives an indication of the changing India where technological advancements can take place even in small towns. Thus, a locally-made Vconsol becomes an Indian solution to web conferencing while pushing down the entry of Chinese-American app Zoom and Google Meet and beating giants like HCL and Cisco.

The company will get financial support of Rs 10 lakh for the next three years for operation and maintenance and will be the official web conferencing solution partner for the Government of India during this period. When asked about the experiences of the company in the venture, its co-founder and CEO, 43-year-old Joy Sebastian humbly says: “It’s a team effort. The co-founder of the company, Tony Thomas, and CTO Ankur Deep Jaiswal have done a great job along with the entire team of 50 members to achieve this.”

The Indian achievement comes on the eve of a survival challenge in the global pandemic condition that hit India’s and China’s billion club population putting them in social distancing and travel restrictions for months along with other nations. Thus, quantum leap innovations of this kind from India are an indication of her potential to become an active player in world software technology market. “It is time for India to become a country where apps are also uploaded… Since video conferencing was an important instrument, we always discussed the possibility of a ‘Made in India’ video conferencing. The government is committed to developing India’s software product and mobile app economy in a big way and efforts like this will take us a long way in that direction,” the minister added.

Vconsol app on smartphone

To develop Vconsol was not an easy task for Joy Sebastian. “Security aspects of the product are a great concern for us. Vconsol is the result of a ten-year-long research of Techgentsia. While the government’s task was to develop a web conferencing solution that can actively participate 25 people, we developed a solution to accommodate 100 active participants and another 300 spectators at the same time. It will work even at a low internet speed. It does not require different video streaming for each person that enriches the data quality and ensures less data usage compared to other solutions,” Joy Sebastian explains.

The Innovation Challenge was open for participation from industries, start-ups and individual experts. The competition was held in three stages — Concept, Prototype and Product Stage. Among the 1,983 companies selected for submitting the prototype only 12 were shortlisted for the next stage and were given Rs 5 lakh to develop the prototype. In the third stage, five companies were selected and Rs 20 lakh each was given to three companies and Rs 15 lakh each for two companies to develop the final product in one month.

The homegrown video app, Chingari, is an answer to TikTok, which won first prize in the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge in the social category and will receive Rs 20 lakh. The second and third winners are YourQuote, India’s largest writing app, and Koo News app, winning Rs 15 lakh and 10 lakh respectively. The jury identified 24 apps for prizes across all categories and another 20 apps for special mention. The app innovation challenge sought entries for nine different categories.

India’s call to boycott Chinese products in the wake of the Galwan Valley skirmish on 15 June 2020 that claimed the lives of 40 Chinese soldiers and 20 Indian soldiers, created an anti-China sentiment even at the local level. However, promoting desi solutions within a short period is practically very difficult due to India’s high dependency on China for parts, hardware and many other items. India has $75 billion worth imports from China every year. Hence, making India ‘Aatma Nirbhar Bharat’ is an emotional goal which cannot be achieved without engaging youngistan in boosting small scale local production in all walks.

A self-reliant India does not mean cutting off from rest of the world. Many start-ups and young IT companies have silently made an entry in the global market. As Joy Sebastian puts it: “We have clients worldwide. Europe-based Easy Meeting, U.S based Kaipura Inc. Corp., Brand Commerce, Ireland-based I-Connect are some of our clients. We give solutions to Mumbai-based Global One, C-dac in Trivandrum and ITI Ltd. Indian Startups are getting a momentum in the global market.”

Joy Sebastian (left) and Tony Thomas (right), the founders of Techgentsia Software Technologies in Kerala.
Photo: Techgentsia

Apparently, India has shifted her focus to many other fields to enhance self-reliance during the pandemic. The personal protective equipment (PPE) sector of India has grown from zero to 1,50,000 pieces a day in two months by the beginning of the month of May. It has a capacity to produce more than two lakh kits a day. The PPE industry in India is worth Rs 7,000 crore (U.S. $980 million) and in two months it grew second only to China. In another venture, India re-purposed her various automobile sector industries to collaborate in ventilator-making. Announcement of a ‘Made in India’ 5G network by Reliance Jio using 100 per cent homegrown technologies and solutions is another important shift.

Among many such shifts in the recent past, the relevance of success of Techgentsia is to be analysed for its vision to bring in a revolutionary change in the space of formal IT education. Joy Sebastian reveals, “My company gives more importance to talent pool than any reputation of an engineering institute. We are even not bothered to know whether the aspirant is an engineering graduate or not. Our team has employees who did not complete an engineering degree and some others have joined engineering college to get a degree after availing their expertise from Techgentsia.”

Adding more to its vision, he says, “Our company has a vision to rebuild the society around us. It is our social responsibility to engage in developing people around us to ‘hi tech locals’ by providing human resource and IT solutions for better community life. My preference is to give job to more people in my locality. When I failed to clear interviews of world companies due to my local flavour, I decided to bring the world into my locality.”

Efforts of Techgentsia could be re-read in a post-Covid world order as a company that makes a difference with its vision at par with the concept ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’. Its product, Vconsol, is the best example of ‘local’ becomes ‘vocal.’ In a country like ours where being elite means western-educated and being local is considered inferior, a vernacular-school-trained man from a coastal hamlet sets his goal in the world market, posing challenges to multinationals, using local human resources in the IT sector and showing that the way forward is to tame the dragon.

JOY SEBASTIAN
“A voyage to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield!”
The voyage of Joy Sebastian, son of a fisherman, from Cherthala of Alleppey district of Kerala is ‘to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield’. Joy’s parents, Sebastian and Mary, struggled hard throughout the year to keep the pot boiling with their meagre income from seasonal fishing. Their children, Joy, and his elder brother, Job, were brought up in a government-sponsored one-room colony where education was a luxury. The parents had to choose between buying textbooks and day-to-day ration.
A determined mother, Mary, always preferred spending on her children’s education to household expenses and even restrained her husband from buying an ordinary fishing boat of their own. The children could not think of new clothes or a good meal, especially during the rainy season. Their struggle came almost to an end when Job completed his polytechnic education and got a job. The family was on the verge of fortune when he got an appointment in a polytechnic college as a lecturer, but he died in a bike accident before joining. Struggling, Joy continued his MCA getting a scholarship from the company where his brother worked and with the support of friends, and by giving tuitions.
He could not get through many interviews because of poor communication, as he had only vernacular schooling. “Even poor family background would have adverse effect on your talent during interviews,” Joy recalls. “That is why I decided to rebuild myself without having any support from corporate companies,” he added. Joy always keeps a village touch, and looked for quality and talent in the applicants to his company rather than looks and high grades. “Most of the employees in my company are from our locality as my vision is to give jobs to local aspirants and to give them a decent livelihood!”
He started his office from home in 2007 getting assignments from a company where he was working. His company, Techgentia, was registered in 2009 with zero investment with a friend Tony Thomas as co-founder. Techgentia expanded in 2013, shifting the office to a hired building in Ernakulam. For more than a year, they had to really struggle hard, depending only on one client; slowly started getting more clients, also shifting the office to Info Park, Cherthala. From here the company started its success journey along with an array of international clients. With a desi touch and maintaining international standards, Techgentia has now won the one crore worth Innovation Challenge, beating HCL and SOHO and challenging web conferencing solutions like Zoom and Google Meet.

Courtesy: Indian Currents

Sini K. Thomas
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Sini K. Thomas

Sini K. Thomas is the Information Officer of Kerala House in Delhi.