Thursday, October 29, 2015

Red Hot in Chennai

In the start-up race among Indian cities, Bengaluru looks like the Usain Bolt and every other metro seems like a languid laggard. Chennai, in particular, appears to be the also-ran who won the wooden spoon.

The picture might be very different when you stop viewing start-ups as venture capital funded e-commerce black holes that will never see the light of profit. A little birdie tells me that such money-guzzling outfits reside primarily in Koramangala. Fortunately, the new vanguards of hope in Chennai have a lot more meat in their curry. Let me showcase eight scalding hot ventures of tomorrow to give you an inkling of their sizzle.

‘34 Cross’ is my first exhibit. Located at 34th Cross Street in Besant Nagar, the company is self-confessedly into ‘product development for next-gen web & mobile applications’. Founded by some young guns who studied at IIT Madras, 34 Cross has many aces up its short sleeve. Their cleverly-named Hasura (Haskell Asura) is a piping hot app-development platform built using the advanced Haskell programming language. Also from their stable is SearchMyDB (customized search engine) and FindaKadai (app to discover best food joints in the city).

‘Mad Street Den’ is one of a handful of crazy companies operating in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) domain in the world. They’re into developing smarter apps that leverage gaze tracking, emotion-expression detection, facial gestures and object recognition. ‘Invention Labs’ is another ‘road less taken’ company operating in the realm of building tools for communication among children with disabilities. Their Avaz App uses picture cards digitally to let autistic kids express themselves.

The thing with these pioneers is they’ve consciously chosen fields that require path breaking work. ‘Inthree’ (Inner India Initiative) is one such enterprise. When everyone is talking e-commerce, they’re focusing on r-commerce (rural commerce) by using an ingenious mix of home-grown networks and the mobile phone.

Then there’s: ‘Nimble Wireless’, an Internet of Things (IOT) vanguard helping businesses to monitor the location and temperature of their assets distributed in remote places; ‘Pi Beam’ (meaning: infinite energy), an automobile trailblazer that has designed a super-affordable solar electric 3-wheeler for rural areas that can even power a home, when idle; ‘Twenty19’, India’s largest portal for student internship that’s managed to sew up a vast network of 8000 odd colleges; and ‘EdSix’, an educational gaming company that’s launched a suite of 500 games to enhance employable skills. Still think Chennai is the proverbial slow coach?