Youngest CEO in the world – Suhas Gopinath
** Bangalore boy Suhas Gopinath launched Globals Inc at 14. Today, his firm is a 60-member strong with all of them aged 17 to 22 years.
** It was Catch-22 with a heartbreaking twist. Even before the first faint stubble had darkened his chin, Suhas Gopinath bagged a major outsourcing project that many others would have given their right hand for. But only to be told that the law said he was too young to sign on the dotted line.
** That’s the story of this 17-year-old Bangalore boy wanting to be another Bill Gates. He had launched his own firm at the ripe old age of 14 years. Today, his firm, Globals Inc, is 60-member strong with representatives in the US, the UK, Canada and India—all of them aged 17 to 22 years. None of the members have had any formal computer education. Incidentally, Globals’ young CEO had originally wanted to be a veterinarian, until he was in Class IX and the cyber bug bit him.
‘‘I had no knowledge of the Internet. But when I was browsing the Internet in a cyber cafe I stumbled on a source code of a web site. I was fascinated and thought long and hard. I soon launched my own website, http://www.coolhindustan.com,’’ says Gopinath, fingering his navy blue blazer and battling a pronounced stammer, at the Bangalore IT.COM 2003 venue. That had happened when he had still not crossed 14 years.
** A week later, recognition came when Network Solutions Inc, owned by Nasdaq-listed New York-based Verisign Inc gave him the certificate of a professional web developer. He was invited to Network Solutions headquarters and even asked to maintain their web site. Now hold your breath: ‘‘I declined because I was not interested in serving a US company.’’
** Gopinath says it was the attachment to his family and the ambition to start his own organisation that brought him back to India.
Having passed Class XII in computer science, his veterinarian dream has faded off, but he loves spending his free time with Bushy, his pet dog. ‘‘I don’t have girlfriends,’’ the tiny CEO tells you with a straight face. Globals Inc took shape initially with only four members, and Network Solutions helped him to incorporate the company in the US. ‘‘I was told that in India, you need to pay sales tax and also have an infrastructure before you can register a firm. But all our members work from home or from a cyber cafe,’’ he says.
Gopinath’s company is into web-based and software solutions, mobile and e-commerce solutions—besides making web sites for corporates, advertisers and educational institutions. But Gopinath doesn’t get carried away with the pricing part. ‘‘We even have a client in Frankfurt for whom we made a corporate website. In the last two years, we have been able to generate a revenue of Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000. We charge only Rs 200-Rs 300 for making a website,’’ he says.
** Gopinath had never thought of himself and his team as being far too young in their highly competitive domain, until a Singapore-based business process outsourcing (BPO) company, SingT Inc, approached them. ‘‘They wanted to outsource their projects to us. Everything fell into place, until the moment I found that the law wouldn’t allow me to sign the contract because I was not 18 yet.’’
Not that it has been too much of a dampener. He is now waiting to have the necessary infrastructure in place so that he can incorporate his company in India. ‘‘At any cost, ours will be a purely Indian company.’’
Not just that. Globals Inc has approached the University of Michigan for building a message board that can be a forum for students. ‘‘We also approached the Karnataka Government for projects, but they said the Government projects are given out only to big companies. But we too will be a CMM Level 5 company soon,’’ says a confident Gopinath, straightening his blazer.
** Gopinath has already put the management structure in place. There is a chief operating officer, chief information officer, chief technology officer and vice-president (Human Resources)—all teenagers. But with only a modest Rs 40,000 revenue to be shared among the members yet, the firm has not yet thought of a chief financial officer. ‘‘Members who use cyber cafes are given some extra money to cover that charges,’’ adds Gopinath.
The boy CEO has now applied to Stanford University and is eagerly waiting for the result. But he has not let go his entrepreneurial spirit. ‘‘If I get into Stanford, I will get business from the US too,’’ he enthuses. His ambition is to found another Microsoft. ‘‘Initially, when my mom used to scold me, I used to give her Bill Gates’s example. He is my role model.’’
Joining Globals Inc is simple, provided you are in the 17-22 year age group. ‘‘The membership is free of cost. Once you fill up the form and enter your skill set, we will assign a project. And you become a part of our family,’’ he says.
For, this 17-year-old believes that academic skill sets are not the end. ‘‘We need more of personal skill sets to achieve goals,’’ he quips sagely.