Friday, November 02, 2012

Interview With A Young CEO: A Journey From Nepal To United States

He prefers to live in reality, but has never stopped dreaming big. He believes that learning is useless if you don’t dare to use it in some innovative way. He hails from Nepal, a beautiful small country surrounded by the Himalayas, but has proven that geographical boundaries have no meaning in life and technology leaves a lot to be explored. He has achieved a lot in a very short span of time but still strives for more and more exploration of technology.
His name is Bhupendra Khanal, and he is the CEO of a product tech venture called InRev.
Here is an interview session with Bhupendra:
Welcome Bhupendra and thanks for sharing your inspirational journey. How about starting with your school days?
Well, what I can recall is that I was class topper until grade 5, then became a top-middle tier by getting 4th to 8th position until grade 10.
As I grow, my belief on curriculum came down. I didn’t see a clear correlation between academic qualification and success in society, and I started believing more in the practical world and less on curriculum from middle school onwards.
Tell us something interesting about your higher studies.
From Nepal, I came to REC (now NIT) Durgapur, West Bengal, India on an ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) Scholarship to study engineering. I attended fewer classes in engineering but focused more on practical work. I built a simulator for a 8085 processor with Binit (who was my college mate and now partner in InRev).
I presented a paper on South Asian Union (on the likes of European Union) with SAARC Nations + Burma in third year. This presentation got nasty. While all my competitors were focusing on winning the competition, I spent the time to educate people on how we could convert South Asia from a poor group to a prosperous group. I didn’t worry about the time and presented for 28 minutes. It was 18 minutes overtime. The hosts asked me to stop but I insisted on continuing. I requested to continue while I bowing out of the competition. The judges gave permission, and while someone else won the awards, I won the hearts of the people.
I ended up studying less of engineering and more of management during my last 2 years of school, and most of my time was spent in the college library.
Was it a cake walk from college to your first job? Which company? What exactly was your profile there?
I was among the last few of my college to find a job. Those days were bad.
Somehow I got the break though when Global Analytics took me as a Business Analyst. I got introduced to data analytics, predictive modeling and forecasting over there.
What was your tenure in Global Analytics? What was the reason of a change in career? Was it for a job or because you started your own venture?
I worked for GA for about 14 months. I left the company to join Fair Isaac (now FICO) as FICO was my dream company. Most very successful entrepreneurs in the analytics field were ex-FICO folks including the founders of GA, and I wanted to know what was there. I joined Fair Isaac as a Marketing Analytics Consultant.
After Fair Isaac?
After spending some time in FICO, I felt I was ready for big things in life. I learned analytics technicals at GA and earned a brand association at FICO. I had the ingredients with me.
I then started Marketelligent, an Analytics Consulting Company, as a Founding Member in 2007 along with Anunay Gupta (Ex-VP, CitiBank) and Roy Cherian (Ex-Head of Marketing, Kingfisher Beer). Marketelligent turned profitable in the very first year and clients included ICICI, Nestle, UB, and Microsoft. I left Marketelligent in 2008.
Would you like to give any particular reasons of leaving your own venture after just a year?
As a computer science engineer, I always had an affinity towards software products. I did enjoy the consulting role but could not stop myself for long.
I left Marketelligent to start Software Product Company. Thus, InRev was born on the 1st of January, 2009.
Lauch EventHow is the Journey with InRev so far?
We launched Buzzom, the Social Media Profile Management tool, in March 2009 and served more than 2 million people. It was a B2C product, which hardly brought any money to the company.
So to make some money, we launched Haklus, a professional version of Buzzom, on Jan 2010 and acquired more than 500 paid customers. This got us some money but we felt the market was not big enough for us to stay long.
This made us stop development of Buzzom and Haklus and entered the bigger space of Social Media CRM, and thus came Simplify360.
Simplify360 is a complete Social CRM suite that covers Brand Monitoring, Marketing Campaigns, Channel Analytics and Engagement Console.
Would you rate 2010 as most dynamic year of your life so far?
Yeah, after 2005, each year is beating the earlier year in that metric. 2010 was a crazy year.
Simplify360 was a huge product from Day 0. We knew the Social Media Market inside out after being in the story for long, and planned the product to make the world's best and the biggest. This called for challenges on the next level – to launch a world class product, we needed a world class event.
I choose to go to the US for the product launch. Simplify360 private beta was launched at the MidVentures event (the largest tech fest in the midwest United States) at Chicago on September 27, 2010. It was launched in India through its own event, simplySocial2010, on October 23, 2010. The US saw the first full version of the product through the 2010 Rock event in Chicago.
What stage are you currently in?
We are close to getting a fund from a US based investor, who comes as an angel investor and strategic partner. We plan to start our official US presence with the partner next month.
Any inclination towards sports in life?
I am a soccer player and fan. I was a mid field player and admire Roberto Carlos. I also enjoy watching Messi play, especially for Barcelona.
I do watch cricket; and I love to see Sachin bat.
Literature in life?
I enjoy reading and writing poems. My favorite poet is John Keats.
I like to read books on real life achievements and strategy. Some of my favorite books are Blue Ocean StrategyGood to GreatGoogle Story and Go Kiss The World.
Any message for your readers on Blogcritics?
Do what you enjoy in life. Success will follow.
Bhupendra has written a book regarding his CRM (and beyond) product Simplify360, which we will be discussing in detail in a future interview
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