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Passion Meets Brilliance

Building a successful enterprise is no mean feat. How about doing that multiple times? Deepak Ravindran makes this look formulaic. He began his entrepreneurial foray as a young high school student — by making a website for small businesses. Inspired by the stories of Google and Yahoo, and how they were founded by college dropouts, he dreamt of going to college and finding like-minded individuals to startup with!

Fortune favoured Deepak and he met his co-founders in the first year of college. Together they formed Innoz Technologies and launched an offline search engine called SMS Gyan by partnering with various knowledge providers including Wikipedia. In 2008, while in their fifth semester, the team decided to drop out of college and incorporate their firm.

A major impediment for Deepak was his age. People found it hard to trust someone who wasn’t even 20 years old! And, a college drop out at that. However, Deepak worked tirelessly, and Innoz finally partnered with leading telecom operators such as Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, and Tata Docomo to integrate SMS Gyan into Value Added Services (VAS). With a simple profit-sharing model, Innoz not only crossed the million-dollar revenue benchmark but also received widespread recognition. Innoz is even listed in the Limca Book of Records as the largest offline search engine. It was not fair weather all the way. Increasing internet penetration led to a decrease in usage and sales of offline search engines. The founders had to resort to selling their technology to telecom operators and exited the space in early 2014.

“Start young! You have little risk of failure and regardless of success or failure, you will have lots of great stories to tell when you get older.”

Not disheartened by this turn of events, Deepak continued his journey with Quest (funded by 500startups) in the US. Quest used smartphone technology to enable its users ask questions to people geographically close to them. He soon understood the limited growth prospects of this product in a fiercely competitive market and decided to move on. After a short stint in the Silicon Valley, Deepak returned to India in late 2014 and founded Lookup, a WhatsApp-like chat messenger connecting users with local businesses. Success followed — the app acquired a million users in just eight months. This innovative product and the industrious entrepreneur caught the attention of industry leaders such as Kris Gopalakrishnan and Vinod Khosla; they invested about the US $3 million over several rounds of funding.

In 2016, Lookup was acquired by NowFloats. Deepak is now working on building Pirate Fund in an attempt to help entrepreneurs in cross-border connection of India and the US.

Deepak’s endeavour has always been to build meaningful, innovation-based businesses. No points for predicting that he will continue doing so!


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