Of humble origins and uncompromising visions: Kerala startup founders inspire Techspectations crowd


Kochi: What unfolded was a shared story of humble beginnings and unfailing convictions when five promising entrepreneurs sat together and spoke from their experiences at a panel discussion at the fifth edition of Manoramaonline Techspectations here on Friday.

The inspiring tales of entrepreneurship came at a discussion on ‘Startups: Building from Kerala’, powered by Onmanorama Startup Launcher podcast. The series is available on all podcast platforms.

A common theme shared by all the panellists was their belief in the need for a strong vision and a trustworthy team.

Binu Jacob, MD & CEO, Experion Technologies, set the tone of the deliberations as he set off with an anecdote from his IIT days. He recollected how his convocation day, back in 1995, turned out to be the biggest inspiration to try the entrepreneur’s hat at a later stage in his career. He remembered how Keshav Mahindra, the then chairman of the Mahindra group, motivated the fresh IIT graduates to stay back in the country at a time when brain drain was the norm.

“You are all going to make America rich, taking India’s money. Why don’t you join us industrialists like us and create jobs and wealth for India,” Binu said, quoting Mahindra’s speech. Mahindra then went on to announce an investment of Rs 675 crore which he bet on ‘the power of Indians’. “If this investment fails, you won’t see Mahindra on the earth, he said. It turned out that the Indian minds didn’t fail him,” Jacob said, going into the details of how he co-founded Experion Technologies, a global product engineering services company offering transformative digital solutions, after his stint at the Indian Air Force and a few tech companies.

Jacob stressed the need to have a team that shares the vision and work culture for the growth of a company. He said Experion had the fortune of having very like-minded persons as its co-founders. “We all come from ordinary backgrounds, so we could sacrifice easily,” he said.

Interestingly, all the other panellists followed the anecdote path paved by the IAF-officer-turned-businessman. Jithu Sukumaran Nair shared his experience of shifting his career as a successful shipbuilder and marine engineer to start VAAN Electric Moto, an early-stage electric bike manufacturing startup. He reasserted his vision of starting a company from India and going global even as he shared his concerns over the shortage of funds and governmental support.

Jofin Joseph, founder & CEO, Totto Learning, a promising parenting app from Kerala, shared the story of how he became an accidental entrepreneur straight out of college. He and his friends started ‘Profoundis Labs Pvt Ltd’, his first startup inspired by the work his seniors had done. The startup was later acquired by FullContact, a US-based firm.

Joseph started Totto Learning after his son was born in 2018 as a result of his never-ending curiosity about parenting. “Ninety per cent of the brain development of a kid happens during the age group of 0-6. That is why a parent is the most important educator in a kid’s life. Yet a parent is the most unprepared educator in a kid’s life,” he said, on the importance of his product. Of returning to entrepreneurship after selling off his first startup, this is what he said: “Once it bites you, it’s very difficult to get off.”

He said the vision of a company is like the king. He used an analogy from the blockbuster Baahubali to say how products should protect the king – that’s the vision – just like the soldiers on the war front.

Binu Jacob of Experion Technologies, Jithu Sukumaran Nair of VAAN Mobility, Jofin Joseph of Totto Learning, Dr Tom Joseph of USDC and Sreejith Sreekumar of Giacca & Abito Sartoriale Fashion during the panel discussion. Photo: Manorama

Sreejith Sreekumar, founder & CEO, Giacca & Abito Sartoriale Fashion, shared his view that entrepreneurship is like parenting. “You need trustworthy people with you,” he said. On the importance of the quality of products, he said, “what you create will outlive you”.

“A lot of new brands come up but they don’t sustain. “Only thing I’m very sure of is that we will be there even after 25 years. It’s important to have a vision and align the entire team with your vision,” he stated.

Dr Tom Joseph, co-founder, USDC, spoke about how his company cashed in on the right opportunity when the government announced its policy of online integration of education in 2021. Terming their strategy ‘deep integration’, Tom Joseph said over a short span of time, they could emerge to be a substitute for physical learning. In response to a query on the future of job creation, he shared the curious idea that ‘in the future people will be replaced with people with machines.”

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