Two Techno-startups, Two Role Models for the IT Community


‘‘There are two must-see hot-spots on the Campus where you will truly discover the winds of change sweeping across Kerala’s technology field,” one of the senior officials at Technopark’s Park Centre in Thiruvananthapuram told me some time in July 1998, during my second visit to the futuristic landscape. One-year-old Destination Kerala was, by then, acknowledged as a media vehicle committed to the cause of Technopark.

I was soon ushered into the Periyar building-based, gadget-filled office cabin of the managing director of NeST, the first hot-spot, where N Jehangir, NJ, as he is known in the IT world, welcomed me with his characteristic warmth and sense of humour, mentioning in passing the common thread that binds us to Kanjirappally in Kottayam district, my native village where many of NJ’s close relatives live and thrive.

It must have been an auspicious day, for, Network Systems and Technologies Ltd. (NeST for short), was creating history those days as the first-ever IT startup in Kerala, and generously invited Destination Kerala to join in their adventurous trip. Jehangir, the automobile fanatic, laid out his game plan for global IT leadership before me and urged that our magazine open its pages to highlight the forward rush of his young company. Those were hectic days, and the final outcome of the run together is here for all to see.

Over the past 18 years, we have kept up the vigil for each other, as NeST, the startup, bloomed into a full-fledged company with global operations, spreading out and diversifying, reaching out to markets in far-away lands, even as Destination Kerala too registered steady progress and managed to keep up with the pace at which IT burgeoned in Kerala as the top wealth creator for the State.

Over to IBS, the second hot-spot based in Nila building. It was a different story. V K Mathews, the IIT-Kanpur luminary, left his prestigious and lucrative job in the UAE to migrate to Kerala, deciding to pitch his tent at Technopark and prove to the world that his home state in India indeed is a worthy investment destination, contrary to the negative propaganda it suffers.

International Business Services, as IBS was initially christened, began operations in October 1997, barely five months after this magazine was founded. My first tete-e-tete with VKM, the International Indian (as he likes to call himself), in the office of the Chairman and Managing Director of IBS, opened up avenues of collaboration on a mutually complimentary basis. I was then planning to attend the American Travel Market ’98 in Orlando, Florida, USA, with an IT special of Destination Kerala, and VKM readily agreed to join in. It was a colourful issue and made waves in Orlando. Over the years, our relationship has weathered minor storms and hiccups that slowed us down, but the forward march of IBS, the tiny startup that VKM created amid much nay-saying and discouragement, went beyond its original mandate. We, in turn, marvelled at it and reported on with genuine excitement.

NJ and VKM, both gentlemen to the core, have metamorphosed into role models for the youth of Kerala’s IT community, many of them emulating the path they so adventurously laid out with their startups, and in the process, proving to the world that hard work always pays, and that there is often a goldmine at the end of a hazardous journey, provided your focus is right and honest.