A list of entrepreneurs who have started up with little or no work experience and have made it big in the startup ecosystem.
Over the past few years, the startup ecosystem in India has sprouted entrepreneurs that have not just made the country proud but have also inspired a generation to take the plunge into entrepreneurship.
Unicorn startup founders like Flipkart’s Sachin and Binny Bansal (not related) and Ola co-founders Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati dared to start up after gaining minimal work experience.
However, there are also a few who started up with absolutely no prior work experience.
YourStory profiles the courageous few who have made business history.
Vijay Shekhar Sharma
Popularly known as VSS in the startup world, Vijay is famous for his online financial services startup Paytm, which was launched in 2011. He first started up in the second year of his undergraduate course at Delhi Engineering College in the mid-90s. His is akin to a rags-to-riches story. Raised in a family of modest means in Aligarh, UP, Vijay freelanced his way through college. He founded One97 Communications in 1999, which went onto be funded by Alibaba and SoftBank, among others. Now 40, Vijay is also an active angel investor.
Founder and CEO of Hike Messenger, Kavin, 30, is the son of telecommunications tycoon Sunil Mittal. Kavin started up at 20 while pursuing his Masters at Imperial College, London. AppSpark, MoviesNow, and Foodster were his early creations before he struck gold with Hike, an instant messaging service. Currently, Hike is valued at $1.4 billion, and has grown to 100 million users within three years. Launched on December 12, 2012, Hike is a joint venture between SoftBank and Bharti Enterprise and has major investments from SoftBank, Tiger Global, Tencent, Foxconn, and a few big names from Silicon Valley.
Since dropping out of his MBA course, Kunal Shah has founded multiple startups since 2000. In his Twitter profile, Kunal calls himself a ‘nomad’, and his LinkedIn profile credits him as ‘Founder CEO’ of multiple companies. In 2010, this Philosophy graduate co-founded fintech startup FreeCharge, in his home city Mumbai. It was later acquired by Snapdeal for a humongous $400 million in 2015. Now 36, Kunal’s claim to fame also involves being partner at Y Combinator, IAMAI chairman, Advisor at Sequoia Capital, and an angel investor in startups including Unacademy, and co-working space platform Innov8.
Co-founder of Innov8 Coworking, Ritesh Malik graduated from medical school in 2012. His interest in entrepreneurship led him to pursue a ‘Marketing Science 101’ course at the London School of Economics. In 2012, Adstuck (a marketing startup, which Ritesh co-founded in his final year of medical school) sold its flagship product (ALIVE) to Times of India. In 2013, Ritesh joined Harvard University for a course in ‘Management of Innovation & Technology’. Ritesh is also the Founder and CEO of Guerilla Ventures, an angel fund with a focus on hardware companies. Ritesh, now 28, is also an active angel investor.
As a 17-year-old, Ritesh founded online hotel aggregator platform OYO Rooms in 2013 in New Delhi. Today, backed by investors including SoftBank and Sequoia Capital, the network of branded hotels has grown to the UAE, China, and a few Southeast Asian countries. Till date, the company has raised $450 million and is expected to join the startup unicorn club this year. Before starting up, for five years, Ritesh “worked” as technology executive, social marketer, and sales executive. He has even consulted for corporates like Bharti Airtel and GlaxoSmithKline. He is regarded as one of the world’s youngest CEOs.
Bhavin & Divyank Turakhia
The Turakhia brothers own the web-based business conglomerate Directi. Started with just Rs 25,000 in 1998, Directi went on to start ad-tech company media.net, of which the sale to a Chinese consortium for $900 million put both brothers on the Forbes‘ list of India’s billionaires in 2016. Bhavin, now 38, and Divyank, 36, also co-founded fintech startup Zeta. Divyank’s other ventures include messaging app Flock and gTLD applicant Radix. Bhavin, who started coding at the age of nine, won the ‘Young Global Leader’ award at the World Economic Forum in 2011. He also launched international calling app Ringo in 2014.
An alumnus of BITS Pilani and IIM-Calcutta, Sriharsha’s LinkedIn profile has a curious “job description” – traveller. From August 2012 to February 2013, Sriharsha travelled alone on a shoestring budget from Europe to Asia. “I travelled 3,500 km from Portugal to Greece by bicycle over three months and continued overland from Turkey to Kazakhstan through public transport and hitchhiking,” he says on his LinkedIn profile. Now 32, SriHarsha founded ecommerce tech startup Bundl in 2013. His blockbuster was food delivery startup Swiggy, which he co-founded in 2014. Having raised more than $460 million, Swiggy joined the unicorn club earlier this year.