Anup Tapadia = Child prodigy + Hardware & software technopreneur + Millionaire in five months of starting up

Touch MagixAnup Tapadia, founder, TouchMagix, is the winner of the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award for Interactive in 2010

Anup Tapadia, winner of the British Council Young Creative Entrepreneur Award for Interactive in 2010, pretty much sums up the Indian potential to innovate – A Microsoft-certified programmer at 14, startup entrepreneur at 16, and a millionaire at 23. This “innovation express,” which blazed off at 14, is still running at a magical speed and churning out interactive products that catch your eye. If you achieve a million dollars in five months of starting up, then you must be special. So, Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, YourStory’s chief evangelist, decodes for you what is it in Anup that helped him become an extraordinary innovator.

YourStory: Thank you Anup for talking to YourStory. What are your impressions on winning the YCE award? How did it benefit TouchMagix?

Anup Tapadia: Recently I was fortunate to be a part of the YCE awards arranged by British Council and also the winner of “International Young Creative Interactive Entrepreneur 2010” award in London. I feel along with the award, it was the journey that was quite exciting. On winning the national YCE awards, 12 winners from different countries like Poland, Columbia, China, India, Mexico and many more assembled in London to compete for the International YCE award and go on a 10-day creative industry road-trip in UK. This full trip was sponsored by British Council to promote cross-border collaborations in creative economy. There were lot of practical learnings during the trip and I made some really good friends from all over the world during this trip. It has helped me in shaping up a better vision for TouchMagix and we are also in process of finalizing an office in central London as I realized the potential of UK market through this award.

YS: You seem to be a child prodigy—world’s youngest Microsoft certified system provider at 14. Can you give us more info about your education and initial work experience?

Touch Magix

Anup: I started exploring computers at a very young age. At the age of 14, I became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified professional to achieve MCSD, MCSE, MCDBA. I was fortunate to receive written compliments and motivation from Bill Gates, Azim Premji, Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar [scientist and former Director General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)], Dr. Irwin Jacobs [former CEO of Qualcomm] and many others for this achievement. At the age of 16, I started off my company TechnoKarma Labs with a vision to build innovative Indian products for the global market. Our first product was 802.11b based mesh router. This router was a low cost and more efficient alternative to the way wireless networks were being deployed. During this time, I was also associated with International Institute of Information Technology,  Pune (I2IT) for research in High Performance Computing under mentoring of Dr. Vijay Bhatkar. After my 12th standard at Fergusson College, I was offered to join in as a full time MS student in Networks & Telecom at I2IT skipping my engineering degree. At the age of 19 I received my first Masters degree. As part of my Masters thesis, I had worked on a low level distributed memory management system for virtual machine clusters.

After my Masters, I worked for 1 year with Qualcomm at San Diego, USA. I developed two products in distributed mobile computing at Qualcomm’s Corp R&D which were patented. I received an offer to join University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for MS-PhD program in Communication Theory and Systems. I decided to join UCSD for PhD. My topic of research was Ad-Hoc networks and large scale distributed systems. During my stay in San Diego, I got a chance to work with a venture capital firm and get a view of several start-ups that they had invested in, or were planning to invest-in. This experience was invaluable. After completing the Master’s courses and some MBA courses I decided that I would like to come back to India, and start off TouchMagix. Presently I am on leave of absence from UCSD. I have been consulting to several start-ups in India and US on technology and product development.

YS: TouchMagix was started in 2009. And it has become one of the star companies in quick time. What inspired you to venture into interactive space and what is the “secret sauce” of your success?

Anup: MotionMagix was inspired by the movie Minority Report in which Tom Cruise uses free space hand gestures to flip through a pile of information to find links between data. We thought it would be a great idea to convert any kind of ordinary surfaces like walls, floors and tables into interactive surfaces. The other ideas have been inspired to make natural user interfaces driven by multi-touch and gestures a reality and improve human computer interaction overall. MagixFone on the other hand was an idea created from a market demand to enable a user to use cell phones to interact with large displays.

For any successful venture, the secret sauce I believe is to have a team who can listen to the customers need and build a product to address the market gap.

YS: What is TouchMagix’s USP in the interactive space and who are your target customers? Please explain your offerings to the customer.

Anup: We have a superior and cost effective hardware+software combination of technologies than most of the competition around. Technology is just one aspect of the media. The possibilities with the content that one can build on this media helps us establish our position. We are offering an Open SDK interface for developers to give them freedom to innovate on content. We are also have features like audience measurement, and web-based remote management and multi-display supports, which will set us apart. Being in India, we have a cost advantage along with the technology edge to deliver this product to the world. We have a team with diverse experience in technology, advertising and gaming and we believe we can make this happen.

TouchMagix products are used in following application areas:

  • Advertising and branding
  • Events
  • Education and Museums
  • Retail and Malls
  • Corporate presentations and displays
  • Gaming
  • Bars and restaurants

Following are the technologies we offer presently:

MotionMagix

This technology capture’s user gestures performed on walls and floors. The sizes of the projection and distances from the detection area (in case of walls) can be dynamically adjusted according to the requirements on-site. MotionMagix™ can be configured to capture either hand or foot gestures. In each case, the software is programmed to automatically identify the exact pointing area and movement direction. This provides the smoothest interaction available in the industry and allows more people to interact with each other on the projection area.


MagixTouch

This technology is used to capture actual user touch on a glass/acrylic surface. This type of interaction could also be combined with MotionMagix™ to offer a complete interactive experience. The system could be activated by a gesture (user approaching the screen, passing by, etc.) and the content could be activated directly by using the user’s finger as pointing device (similar to using a mouse on a PC). The MagixTouch™ technology supports click, double-click, drag-n’-drop, rollover and also multi-touch, to allow a few users to interact on the same screen and to perform activities that could use 2 hands in parallel (rotating images, resizing frames, etc.)

TouchMagix provides Free SDK & Creative Suite for designing content and special effects on our various platforms.

YS: Can you explain your business model? How did this model get you into the millionaire club in 5 months’ time?

Anup: … Great team, hard-work, vision and some luck!

YS: What is your financial model—bootstrapping, family and friends funding, or others? Because your business would involve hardware and a bit of initial capital investment, how did you manage the initial phase of the company’s finances?

Anup: The first phase was funded by angel investors and family funds. My family has been in business since many generations and I was fortunate to get their wisdom and advice in the process. As the business grows we may plan to raise venture or PE funding to scale- up.

YS: What was your Proto.in experience like? Is it true that Proto exposure helped you get Mumbai Angels to invest in your company?

Anup: Proto.in was a great platform to meet people who share a similar zeal for start-ups in India. It also helped in creating awareness about TouchMagix’ existence. We were not looking for funding at that point in time.

YS: Innovation doesn’t seem to stop at TouchMagix. Can you take us through the magic with MagixTable and MagixFone, your latest offerings? MagixTable is touted to be the world’s thinnest computer and it excites us because it is from India.  Please take us through this experience and your philosophy of Indian products for a global audience.

Anup:

MagixFone

MagixFone is a combination of hardware and software that allows user to engage with a display using their mobile phone. A user can dial a number given on the screen at the point of interaction and the hardware can pick-up the call and allow the user to use his/her mobile’s keypad to interact with the display with key tones. No special software is required on the users mobile to enable this interaction. It works with any GSM and CDMA mobile. The system also has capability to distribute SMS coupons on a successful game. It can also receive SMS and be interfaced with the content. MagixFone can also give campaign interaction statistics to measure impact. MagixFone exposes the API for content developers to use mobile signals and abilities to connect the user with interactive content. Multiple units can be used to enable multi-user engagement on the same display.

MagixTable

The MagixTable™ is the first of its kind multi touch interactive table, leaving behind its bulky and complex predecessors. The MagixTable™ has a rich application suite with easy customization tools and 40 simultaneous touch points. TouchMagix also provides SDK for 3rd party application developers to design their own content for use on the table. Additionally, the consumption of power is 60% less than other surface computers and works under high ambient light conditions.

We believe in innovating products by focusing more on the need of the market than what the competition is offering. This way we can isolate our thoughts and focus on solving problems rather than catching up with competition. All our products are uniquely engineered to solve a real world problem. We strongly believe that Indian companies can innovate and our vision is to create an ecosystem for new product innovations in India.

YS: Your recommended books for a startup entrepreneur….

Anup: Art of Start by Guy Kawasaki and Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston.

YS: Your tips for a startup entrepreneur…

Anup: Once in a while, close your eyes and think what’s right? Then just follow your dream!

YS: Final word…

Anup: I was fortunate to get an experience in both hardware and software during my journey of learning. My dad always says, “You are a jack of all trades, and master of some!”. This trait has been helping me in integrating hardware and software required to create a product. Having our own hardware solved lot of problems, which would have been difficult otherwise. It also helped in building the intellectual property around it.

I see India as a place with ample opportunities for an entrepreneur. My dream always has been to see India as a product innovation hub rather than a BPO hub. I decided to setup my company in Pune to pursue this dream. TouchMagix Media Pvt. Ltd. is the first entity of the TechnoKarma Labs. I dream to have many more product companies like this in times to come. I love to interact with like minded people who share this vision.