YourStory recently caught up with Entrepreneur Sharadha Ramakrishnan, founder Monkey Creative Labs, on what it takes to translate an idea to enterprise.
Tell us about Monkey Creative Labs. And how is Monkey Creative Labs different from other mobile/web app developers?
Monkey is an idea, born out of the need to dot the i's and cross the t's in the script of today's communication scene. With web technology as our tool of choice, we aim to redefine the concept of collaboration as it is perceived today. Monkey Creative Labs is different from other web developers in one single way. We do not think of ourselves as web developers. We are solution providers aiming to solve current issues that our world faces, our current medium being web technology. Monkey is comprised not of web developers but of creative thinkers.
How did the idea for Monkey Creative Labs come about? How did you zero in on the name ‘Monkey Creative Labs’? How much capital was required to implement the idea?
It was a decision born out of a series of events; Starting from facing rejection in campus placements by MNCs that judged me to be “too creative” and “too ambitious” to work in their companies, to the realisation that I want to be able to execute my own ideas and make a difference where I can. Right from the first year at college, I was an active participant of the E-Cell at PSG Tech. This participation and the fact that I was Joint Secretary of the club in my final year, contributed a lot to my exposure to entrepreneurship. An event during my tenure as Joint Sec, The Asia Pacific Incubation Network (APIN) Conference, in which our E-Cell was involved as organisers, led me to Dr. David E Martin, founder of M-CAM Inc. Dr. Martin was the keynote speaker that day and it would be an understatement to say he struck us all dumb with his talk. Intuitively, I went up and spoke to him about the an internship opportunity at M-CAM Inc. - next thing I know, two of my friends and I landed in Charlottesville, Virginia, for six months. Little did I understand that the act of going up to Dr. Martin was the first impulse behind my decision to start Monkey. Our tenure at M-CAM Inc. was an eye-opener; starkly different from the corporate atmosphere we had heard about and were exposed to in our previous internship. I take pride every time in saying that Dr. Martin, his family and the entire M-CAM Inc. experience were my launchpad. Towards the end of the internship, I made my decision and I was cock sure what Monkey was going to be about.Taking a hint from the project at M-CAM Inc. and my past experiences, I came to the conclusion that most of the issues faced by the world today is because of lack of information sharing platforms. Be it redundant patents, law suits for infringement, years and years of redundant research work, poor publicity for student events, or lack of exposure to world events, it is a medium to share relevant information that is lacking in today's communication scene. Information becomes localised day by day, circulating within the same network of friends, in no way able to break the boundaries of personal interaction. Monkey will focus on taking that one step further – information sharing between and among groups of people – basically, taking collaboration to a whole new level.
The choice of the name Monkey was very amusing. To explain it would be very hard, but putting together my fascination with evolution, the significance of Hanuman and Sun Wu Kong in my life and the lives of the ones I love, and my belief that, in today's world, to evolve, we need to de-evolve, the one word that fit all of it was “Monkey”. The logo also signifies the coming together of various people (indicated by the colours) to collaborate and create something new. It also bears another important message that we wish to communicate – That Monkey belongs to the world.
Coming to the capital involved, as I'm from a pure computer science background, I jumped into this without so much as knowing what the word capital actually meant. But we worked it out and invested around 3 Lakhs to get things started; and this included the office space, furniture, desktops, office equipment, the works.
Tell us about your background.
I am 23 years old, oldest of three girls, born in Palghat, and raised in Muscat, Oman. With an entrepreneur for a Mother and an engineer from IIT Madras for a Father, we were brought up with all the broad mindedness and exposure one could ask for. I have a Master of Science degree in Software Engineering, from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. I did two internships as part of the course curriculum, one in the 7th semester, at Global Service Centre, Reckitt Benckiser, Gurgaon, and the other in the 10th semester, at M-CAM Inc., Charlottesville, Virginia. It was during my 10th semester internship that I decided to start off on my own.
Growing up, I've always been sensitive and responsive to both personal and social issues. People say I'm a rebel; I'd like to think of it as independence. Through all of it, I had the support of my family which was one of the most important factors behind my decision to start Monkey. It is a luxury that many people don't have, and I'm grateful for it. Apart from all this, I'm an avid lover of music, a basketball player and a state-level JAM-er.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have (if any). Is there acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate the same?
It is way too early to talk about any of the above as we have not launched our product as yet. But the response to our ideas have been positive and exciting to many. Whether we can live up to the excitement is yet to be seen. We remain confident!
Where do you see web/mobile app space and Monkey Creative Labs five years from now?
I will not deny that when I started off, I had every intention of Monkey being the next Facebook or Google. But today, what I really wish to see five years hence is the change that we are sowing the seeds for now. Five years hence, Monkey will truly belong to the world, hopefully breaking the boundaries of geography and ethnicity, our products will bring the world closer by making information more available, relevant and open. Collaborations with Facebook and Google will become a possibility and we very much believe that they will want to collaborate with us as much as the vice-versa is true.
What is Monkey Creative Labs’ revenue model? Have you been funded? If yes, can you throw some light on how the funding came about and from whom?
As I mentioned before, Monkey was an idea conceived towards the end of my internship at M-CAM Inc. And I do not know if it was a stroke of luck or the amount of confidence Dr. Martin had in me (I would like to think it is the latter), our first project was a contract with M-CAM Inc., signed on the day Monkey was incorporated. The project included the development of an accounting tool, a Saas based model. This contract has been a regular revenue generator as well as a huge learning curve for me, as an entrepreneur as well as a programmer. Since Monkey started off with such a project, looking out for funding options to launch the development of our first product, was not necessary. We are currently in the alpha testing stage of the product and will be looking to launch it soon.
As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?
One of the biggest joys of being an entrepreneur is the freedom, and one of the biggest challenges is the responsibility that comes along with that freedom. I absolutely love waking up every morning and thinking that I'm going to work today to do something I love, to work towards something that excites me and I'm passionate about. Each and every step that we take as a company gives me a high. The satisfaction I take back home everyday is palpable because at the end of each day I know we're closer to the goal. And most importantly I know where we want to go with this. Most youngsters nowadays hate going to work because they have no clue what they are working towards. One of the things that puts a smile on my face every single day is the office. My interns and I did it up in January, when they had just joined, and it was a great bonding activity.
When I think of challenges, I should be grateful that none of the usual ones that an entrepreneur faces comes to mind. I have all the support I need, financially and morally. But one of the things I did find that were in my way, are my age, gender and my own temperament. I was under the impression that in today's world, being a young girl is not a difficult thing. Society has it's way of looking at things and I get the “what does she think she's doing” look very often. But it comes as a package deal; more the opportunities, more the challenges. I say bring it on!
How big is the Monkey Creative Labs team? Give us some info on team composition. Are you looking at hiring?
Monkey's board is comprised of two Directors, myself, and my dad, Ramakrishnan Gopalakrishnan. In January, we took in 3 interns, Abhisek Gupta from Shobhit University, Meerut, Pravin Premkuma and Sumant Malhotra, both from VIT, Vellore, all final year students from computer science backgrounds. I must say that the three have been assets to the company in every way. They brought a lot of fresh energy and willingness to work and have done a great job so far at Monkey. We will be looking at hiring shortly, post the release of our product.
Let us know about your expansion plans.
We are currently focussing on the Indian scenario; student groups and colleges in India will be the target audience of our first product. We plan to expand to companies, schools and eventually go global depending on the reception of the idea.