Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Young entrepreneur Ritesh Ambastha

He was a graduate student when I first met him. His father had just got a job transfer from Delhi to Gujarat.  He started his first year of Engineering at Saurashtra University with great aspirations but the picture was not very bright. The curriculum was not up to date, computer labs were poorly equipped, the library did not have sufficient resources and no on-campus recruitment was offered. Search engines like Google and Yahoo were ready to help still accessing new technology was difficult because of several reasons, such as low bandwidth. His days were fun-filled, but nightmares about the future wouldn’t let him sleep peacefully. He started looking for options. While sharing knowledge and information with friends, the idea of organizing a technology workshop first occurred to him. The journey, which began with a small, friendly event, has now taken the form of a successful startup company, iWillStudy.

It is with great honor and pride that I introduce this young entrepreneur. Please meet founder and CEO of iWillStudy.com, Mr. Ritesh Ambastha.
First, hearty congratulations on the successful launch of the Android app for Gujarat Technological University, which I believe has crossed 3000 Downloads!
Thank you for valuing my efforts to improve the higher education system in India. This app will be a one-step solution for students to view news, bulletins, results, calendars, question papers, syllabi, study-materials, etc. on their mobile phones.

Please tell us about yourself.
I am an experienced software professional in Mobile, Web Development, Search Engine Development and Location Based Services application domains. After completing my degree in Computer Engineering, I joined Powai Labs Pvt. Ltd., which was a start-up company supported by IIT-Mumbai. As soon as I finished my training from Powai, I was selected as a Research Assistant in IIT where I worked on J2ME based mobile applications. After that, I joined another IIT Mumbai initiated start-up company, Mobiance Technologies. There, I worked on various Mobile and Web based mapping and mobile tracking applications.  Then, I joined Reliance BIG Entertainment where I worked for a couple of years. Now I am founder and CEO of a company that works in the education domain – iWillStudy.com.
What is iWillStudy.com?
iWillStudy.com is a virtual platform for graduates from engineering and other streams.  iWillStudy.com allows the user to view the latest tools and technologies and current trends in the field of technology, and helps them come up to speed with the job market demands.
iWS is currently working in three domains-  iWS Events, iWillStudy.com and iWS-Training & Placements

As a part of iWS Events, we organize knowledge- intensive technical seminars and workshops in colleges. We invite industry experts from companies like Red Hat, Reliance, Nokia, IIT Mumbai, and eInfochips to provide guidance.
iWillStudy is a social portal, which works as a virtual platform for helping students learn new technologies in a collaborative, community- driven way. It is a social network website specially designed for students.  They can start groups, discussion forums, ask questions and share knowledge by making contributions to various channels. They can also build an online resume. This provides an instant visibility to their profile and provides them with an opportunity to connect with recruiters. Highly skilled professionals also contribute to our forums. Today, there are more than 1650 registered students on this portal.
Through the iWS-Training & Placement segment, we provide training in the latest tools and technologies. This segment innovates and delivers multiple educational products to the market.

How did the idea of iWillStudy occur to you?
I used to help my fellow students in my college days. I used to conduct seminars and workshops for them. It was a part of my routine to help my friends and junior graduate students. I was the founder of a technical group in the college,‘Emerging Techies,’ and led it for almost two years. ‘Emerging Techies’ organized several seminars and workshops.
In those days, I realized the fervor with which students explored and learned new technologies. Unfortunately, the latest tools and technologies were not part of our curriculum.

Gradually, I got more involved in those activities; it gave me more satisfaction than anything else. I found my interest and decided to pursue this interest– to help students – for all my life. So the story of iWillStudy.com started.

Who are your target clients?

The target group mainly comprises of engineering and business school graduate students from metropolitan areas. Colleges are our customers, as we organize technical or management events for them. The third set of clients includes students, for whom we arrange internships and jobs with companies.
How was the initial response to iWillStudy? Has it changed significantly?
We received mixed responses from a mixed set of the population– some appreciated us, some criticized us, and others didn’t care. People who were very close to me and knew me well, also did not believe in me when I started, but we are slowly building confidence in them.

iWillStudy has grown up in different ways in the past two and a half years. It has been a long journey, and what we have to offer has evolved in multiple ways. The first event that we organized was in Rajkot (Gujarat).  310 students registered and participated. This was one of our most successful events to date.
We are growing exponentially as a business model. Event management in the education sector does not pay very well, and one must have a solid strategy in place to follow the planned revenue model. I started by myself,but now we are a team consisting of 8 full-time employees, several partners, and a multitude of consultants. As far as creating values for  society is concerned, nothing can beat our model of helping students.

You graduated from C.U. Shah College of Engineering & Technology. Is that the reason you chose Gujarat for starting new business?
Yes. Since I spent four years of college in Gujarat, I knew people there. My classmates and friends helped me reach out to my clients in the early days. But the main reason for choosing Gujarat was that there are more than 200 colleges in my target group and the quality of the education system is not very good. I knew there was an opportunity to improve. Also, Ahmadabad is not as costly as Mumbai to start a new business. Cost was definitely one of the most important factors in choosing Ahmadabad.
iWillStudy.com was featured in newspapers (*) and tech talks. Was this a part of your advertising efforts/campaign or a result of your popularity?
There were no advertising efforts. This is the result of our good work. Social networking and word-of-mouth publicity has helped us a lot. We think that 2+ years of hard work has helped us gain faith and trust from our target clients.

Did you face any advantages or disadvantages of your young age?
Every coin has two sides :) 

It was very challenging to convince professors and college/university management that my solutions were worthy of merit because they were much older than me. There were times when people didn’t take me seriously because of my young age. On the other hand, it was very easy to gel with our customers – students. Being their mentor as well as a friend (on Facebook) helped me to some extent.
You mentioned Facebook. Did you make use of social media? How?   
Social media played a crucial role in promoting our events, brand and offerings. As we are into the B2C (business to consumer) segment, we gel with our customers on Facebook and other social platforms like Twitter. There are more than 1691 fans of our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/iwillstudy. This page helps us in keeping our customers updated, involved, and only a click away from us.

Using Facebook has helped us in several ways. More than 36% of traffic on our website comes from Facebook. This is a direct impact of our promotional strategies on Facebook. Also, post event photographs, technology updates, news and stories are a part of our social activities.

Several of us, at some point in our professional career, come up with business ideas and dream of starting a company. But very few of us pursue our dreams. When and how did you arrive at the decision of taking a step towards your dream? Please tell us about that decisive moment.
After working for 4 years after completing graduation, I realized that the right time had come. I was not enjoying my work, especially the ‘9 to 5’ routine. I realized that there was something more that I wanted to do; to serve and help people, and to help the society by creating values and solving fundamental problems.
The final moment came when we were wrapping up a project at Reliance BIG Entertainment. I was involved in building India’s largest local search portal. By the time the project went live, I realized that my job was over. I thought that it was the right time to move on, and decided to pursue my interest.

How difficult it was for you to quit your job and let go the fat check, security, and the routine life that came with it?
It was indeed a difficult decision. But I had made up my mind to pursue this dream. A fat check or a routine life never appealed to me enough to provide a reason for my existence.
My dream of starting something new and helping people led me to making this decision. There was no looking back, and I was sure that I would make more than just those pay checks.

How did your parents react to your decision?
Well, they were a bit surprised at first,but very supportive. They believed in me and kept me motivated. 

You worked with a start-up company in the beginning phase of your career. Did that help in making a decision then or in running the company now?
Working with start-ups in the early phase of my career helped me a lot. Their successes, as well as their failures, were good learning experiences. I learnt basics of running a business and leading the projects from the very front. I picked up so many positives from this journey. 

What next after iWillStudy.com? Do you have plans for expansion in or outside of Gujarat?
We are working on our expansion model. We are planning to set up branches of iWillStudy.com in Pune, Indore, Jaipur, Lucknow, Bhopal, and Cochin in the coming years. We have also been talking with a few investors who will help us with our goals.
You have had quite an exciting career as a young entrepreneur. Would you like to share an interesting experience/incident from your journey so far?
There are tons of stories. Getting up in the morning and seeing my photograph in the leading newspapers of Ahmedabad and in the Times of India is one of the most interesting and amazing experiences so far.
What advice would you give to upcoming young entrepreneurs?
The hardest thing about a start up is to make a start.  Then, the most important objective is to keep it alive. 2-3 years ago, I was alone and had a vision. I was making good money for my professional experience and age. But, I had more reason to exist in this world; to create values for the society. That was the only thought that forced me to quit my job and take this risk- a risk to help people. I was on my way to create values, and in turn, create intellectual capital.
The second principle is to create people! A company is all about people and you have to take risk in believing in people.
You don't need a big plan when you begin. Keep visiting cards, an information brochure, and a business suit ready-to-wear, and jump into it! 

* iWillStudy was featured in-



Special thanks to Sakhipriya and Mrunmayee. This interview wouldn't have completed without their valuable inputs.

2 टिप्पणी(ण्या):

Parag said...

Finally read this interview today !
Ritesh's work is inspiring. All the best to him for future !

Trupti Awati said...

Thanks Parag :)

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