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A peek into the Indian start-up garage

While it is fashionable for Indian start-ups to say they are in a "garage", Indian tech companies hardly start writing code in a space meant to park motor vehicles, or repair them.

twitter-logo Goutam Das        Last Updated: May 22, 2012  | 16:57 IST

Goutam DasIt's a rough, bumpy ride through narrow, crumbling mud roads worsened by summer rains to the "start-up garage" of Hashcube, in Bangalore's JP Nagar 7th Phase - more than an hour's drive from the central business district of the city. For the sudoku game app maker, the address serves as a home-office.

The home-office is a two-storey building with a small parking slot and a garden. Founders Ramprasad Rajendran and Deepan Chakravarthy share the garden with a snake that keeps slithering into the open.

The cozy ground floor of the building - with a long hall and three rooms - has tables and chairs strewn everywhere. This is their idea factory.

On a Saturday evening, when most 20-somethings take their girlfriends or boyfriends out, we discovered the Hashcube founders (in their late 20s) with two other start ups - social media analytics company Beevolve and recruitment software provider Recruiterbox - ganging up in the house to brainstorm their businesses.

The founders of the three companies had met at a common start up accelerator.

The place, rented by the founders of Hashcube for Rs 20,000 a month, reverberated with energy and loud chatter. None of the entrepreneurs are from Bangalore - Deepan, from Salem in Tamil Nadu, is the son of a paddy farmer. Before starting Hashcube, he was working for a services company in Singapore. It wasn't easy convincing his parents that starting a company was a good idea. Ramprasad, who previously worked in Wipro and Motorola, didn't tell his parents about the company until its games gained momentum.  

The same Saturday evening, deputy chief photographer Deepak Pawar and I ended up at another "garage start-up" in the posh eighth-floor apartment of Siddhartha Banerjee, near Electronic City.

Siddhartha Banerjee with wife BhavnaHe is laying the foundation blocks for CodeConclave, a mobile strategy and app development company due to launch in June. Salarpuria Symphony - as the apartment is named - is his home-office.

What a contrast to Hashcube! Banerjee had worked in advertising abroad for about a decade before returning to India and metamorphosing into an app developer. His three-room apartment has minimalist design but is aesthetically appealing. Tintin mementoes and framed posters - Banerjee and his wife Bhavna are huge Tintin fans - abound in the living room.

Perched on a bar stool near the Banerjee kitchen and looking across a designer mirror that stretched across a green wall, I couldn't resist wondering about the different nature of start-ups, how and where they begin.

While it is fashionable for Indian start-ups to say they are in a "garage" - many American companies did begin that way, including HP, Apple, Amazon and Google - Indian tech companies hardly start writing code in a space meant to park motor vehicles, or repair them.

Perhaps, because few houses have the luxury of a garage. Instead, they bootstrap themselves in rented houses infested with snakes or in the presence of comic book heroes!

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