Kalyan Manyam (CEO)
Dr. Vishnu Manyam
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Rank in World
|Indyarocks Media Services|
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Kalyan Manyam is the chief executive officer and co-founder of indyarocks, which claims to be India’s leading entertainment social network. His tryst with entrepreneurship started as a college student when he co-founded indyarocks in 2006 with his brother.
Though his father was working with the State Bank of India, he was always interested in doing something on his own. His father used to help other family members to start businesses. In fact, his father started a business, but unfortunately that did not succeed. At the dining table, the discussion always revolved around business. He inherited the entrepreneurial streak from his father. His father’s failed business venture taught him that family support is essential to tide over difficult times.
His first step as an entrepreneur was when he was doing his graduation on international business in Hyderabad. Along with a friend, he started his first business, that of creating Web sites. Making money was not his intention at that time. It was more to get a firsthand experience of being an entrepreneur. But they failed. That was a first-hand learning experience.
After graduation, he wanted to go to the United States to pursue his Master’s but could not do so because of lack of funds. Then, somebody who knew them very well came forward to fund us with Rs 200,000 and that was how they started Innova Health Systems, a company on telemedicine. In hindsight, he felt it was not a good idea to start an enterprise with money from friends and relatives. If it failed, it would result in strained relationships. It was dangerous. The idea to start a telemedicine company came from his brother, Vishnu, who is a doctor. They decided to work together as they had exposure in the field of medicine and technology space.
The product was excellent, but the problem was they were way ahead of time in 2001. Even today, there is no mass market unless you are working with the WHO (World Health Organization) or the UN (United Nations). In India, more than anything, there is a strong need for telemedicine, but not many people are working in that area. When they started to sell the product, many people felt they were too young to manage such a project. They then understood that there was lot more to business than building a product. They could sell the company as they had a good product. They recovered the investor’s money which was a good boost for them.
After selling company, they sat back and thought, what should they do now? They realised they needed more experience. His brother went to the US to study and also practice. He sat for GMAT and fortunately, he got funding from the university to do Master’s in Information Systems. Soon after his Master’s, he got a job with a huge company with a $70,000 pay packet. At the same time, he got a call from a startup in Silicon Valley for an internship but their pay was much less. What attracted him to the (Valley) job was that it was a startup. He wanted to gain all-round experience, and that could happen only in a startup. When they first started their enterprise, they found that they didn’t have experience in anything, except designing products. That is why he was keen on getting experience in all the areas. He went to the Valley, deep into the world of entrepreneurs. The company gave him the opportunity to work in multiple areas. He came back to Hyderabad as a part of the company, but was travelling all over the world.
Even when he was in the US, he was an active member of TiE as his aim in life was to be an entrepreneur. In India also, he is an active member of TiE, Hyderabad chapter and that is how I got to know about ISB (Indian School of Business). When he met the Dean of ISB, told him that he had two options — either he would do MBA there, or he would start something of his own. Dean then asked him what he had done till then. He told him that he didn’t need to study MBA but start something on his own. He felt he was ready for that.
The year was 2006. They looked at the online space. That was when Orkut was growing rapidly. A lot of people were unhappy then as there was no privacy on Orkut. Only scrapping was available. Still, they were the only big one in that space, and there was no one to challenge them. They felt there was a huge opportunity there. That was when they decided to get into that space and started indyarocks.com.They borrowed Rs 500,000 from someone they knew in the US, and registered the company as PhoneLinx Communications Ltd with four employees. First, they thought they would connect those in the special networking only via mobile. They realised they were repeating the mistakes they made with telemedicine venture. At that time, it was dangerous to be only on the mobile platform. That was when they decided to start an online machine first and then slowly move to mobile capabilities.They also decided to change the name to indyarocks — they wanted to build a site for the Indian audience. They heard many people say, ‘India rocks’ and they decided to name venture indyarocks. People did love the name.
Within three and a half months, they built a social networking platform with privacy capabilities, and other thing they did was to integrate user-generated content like videos, photos, audio, blog and classified all on a single platform. The initial marketing became very easy as everybody wanted their blogs to be read and photos to be seen by their friends. They looked at the portals in the US and China and found that they never advertised. They also decided not to advertise but they kept tools that would help those who use the platform to spread the word.