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Dec 26, 2008

iScence Born At The Sands Of VOC Park Grounds

From left: A Krishna Raj, J Ajai Kumar, A N Gokul, S Gunasekaran. IT’S not everyday you hear about engineers throwing away fat cheques offered by tech giants to follow their dream. But that’s what four youngsters have done in Coimbatore — quitting their jobs to start a venture on their own.
Dreamy they are but they have their feet firmly on ground. Knowing well about the difficulties one faces while launching a new enterprise and raising money, they have all worked for a while to have enough capital to get going. The four who set up their enterprise earlier this year now have rolled out the first research product, N-Gateway, an automated school management software. Drawing a salary of more than a lakh a month along with stock options, it was not an easy decision to quit the job right away and start a new venture for AN Gokul.
But the 25-year-old quit his software quality engineer job at a software firm in Bangalore and joined his three friends to start iScence IT Research Labs to honour the promise he and his friends made to themselves three years ago. “We conceived a plan to start our own IT research company sitting in the sands of VOC Park grounds on the New Year’s Day in 2005,” recollected Mr Gokul. They worked hard for three years and made sure the bank balance that they have before embarking on their new journey would fulfil their personal needs for at least a year.
“We are not into service. Our main focus is only research,” said A Krishna Raj (25), who heads the software development wing of the new company. His last job was as a storage consultant with a technology giant in Chennai with a salary of Rs 6 lakh per annum. In a family of five, whose main breadwinner is an electrician father, it was a tough call but Krishna Raj seemed the most determined of the bunch to go ahead with the business. “When I tendered my resignation at TCS, the company offered me a bigger package, but I was firm to become my own master and thus quit the job to start iScence,” he said.
For Ajai Kumar (24), it was like following his peers into an entrepreneurship right in his learning years. Doing his bachelor degree in computer science through correspondence, Ajai was a network engineer at an IT firm in Coimbatore before joining the team. He heads the infrastructure department of the new company now. The last but the senior-most member is S Gunasekaran (29), who manages the marketing segment of the company.
“It is the sales that drive the growth of the company and we have an experienced person to do it for us,” said Mr Gokul. Mr Gunasekaran from Vellore was last working as a net support engineer for an IT company in Chennai. And the turning point for the four came when they were working for a computer education centre in Coimbatore. “The first job for all four of us was at that company and we became friends working together,” said Mr Gunasekaran. “After our stint there, we parted ways to gain expertise in four different domains in IT,” he said. The four friends then started their company with an initial investment of less than Rs 1 lakh. “We spent money for registration of company name, paid advance for the rented space and bought a server.
The remaining systems are our personal computers,” said Mr Ajai. Since the company’s main motive is research, the four friends have taken a loan for Rs 15 lakh to meet their operative expense for the first year. Despite the slowdown in all industries, the company has in the first seven months made an overall business of Rs 2.5 lakh. “Recession is no way related to us because we are mainly concentrating on the local market. The IT needs are only growing in Tamil Nadu,” said Mr Gokul. Their first research product N-Gateway is ready for commercial launch. For the iScence team, the preparation involved extensive research on potential customers who would be their new paymasters. Therefore they decided to produce software for schools. The software would bridge the gap between school management and parents.
“We have begun marketing our product and a lot of schools, especially residential ones, are interested,” said Mr Gunasekaran, adding that the product has a provision for automatic messaging that would be sent to the parent when her child fails to attend school. “It is mainly about how much we can enhance the IT in local market,” said Gokul, whose company's mission is to have a global presence for iScence by 2010. The company has hired eight people and is paying salaries ranging between Rs 5000 and Rs 15,000. “Five final-year engineering students are doing projects with us,” said Mr Gokul.

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