Anenth Guru is popularly known in the Bangalore mobility circle as the guy who goes from hackathon to hackathon, building complete apps for his company. And these just aren't hobby apps; these are full fledged utility apps which garner a good number of downloads across various app stores across platforms. He's also a co-founder at travel startup, TripThirsty and at 26, he's rubbing shoulders with people who have committed to Wikipedia and have worked for corporates like Saleforce.
However, a few years ago, Anenth Guru was passing out of a college from Tamilnadu, looking to do an MTech and probably join an IT company and so on. However, IIIT Bangalore made sure that it wouldn't happen. Anenth was introduced to the world of startups and even co-founded the popular Bangalore based startup Ideaophone and currently, TripThirsty.
Now if you're a student, you're probably thinking that it was some flash of lightning that made Anenth Guru who he is today. But what really happened was otherwise. Its about doing the simple things, regularly and just being genuinely interested in things.
Read on. Anenth Guru. Co-founder at TripThirsty. Techie Tuesday.
MS Paint Classes
I never knew that there were classes for MS Paint, but it would be here that Anenth first interacted with a computer - "My brother used to go to computer classes and he used to take me along. I was in 2nd or 3rd at that time and I used to go through an MS Paint class. They'd teach you to paint and draw. Of course, there were others learning to code, but here I was, learning to draw. When I think back to those days, its really funny."
He started to code seriously in his senior years of school where computer science was a subject. Anenth says, "I had a computer at home and after school, I used to do my own stuff on that. Like if we were taught addition and subtraction on VB, I'd go back home and try and build a calculator. Knowing that I had learnt something out of the regular school syllabus game a kick. I used to teach others as well. Round about this time I knew that I wanted to be a computer science student."
And so he did. But things didn't go according to plan.
A regime and multi million dollar startup idea
Anenth did his undergrad from Mepco Schlenk college in Tamilnadu. He says, "Though it was a good college, it was in a very small town called Sivakasi. Most students from these towns come to chennai and I was doing the opposite. But it was a good college and I tried it out."
Here, Anenth developed an interest towards graphic design. He says, "I was in a way known in college for photoshop related work. I designed everything I could get my hands on; ID cards, badges and everything! I was also passionate about videography. Ours was a very strict college and we weren't allowed to bring cell phones, or cameras. So I sneaked in a camera and made a complete video for our college symposium, which I am proud of even today. I really enjoyed it."
It wasn't until his final year that Anenth got to do something of his own. He says, "My college made engineering a regime and we just had to complete the syllabus given to us by Anna University. Only in my fourth year, I could do something of my own as a part of my colleges final year project." His fourth year project was a collaborative drawing tool, much like the very popular iOS game, Draw Something. He says, "Everyone in college thought that it was the ideal project for me as it was collaboration of everything that interests me. But I wanted to make sure that I build something that just doesn't end up in a CD ROM and never comes back. Of course, it was only later I realized that it could have been a startup idea in itself." Check out a demo of the product -
But he wouldn't be denied for long from the concept of a startup. His next stop was IIIT Bangalore.
A whole new world
Anenth was quick to admit that his experience at IIIT Bangalore was a direct opposite to what it was at MEPCO. He says, "Our professors were so knowledgeable. Many of them were PhDs. Many of them had served at very high posts at large IT companies and came back for the passion of teaching. They knew exactly what was current. It was here that I realized that a computer engineer could work for more than just TCS or Infosys!"
IIITs have a lean semester where the course consists of subjects not related to computer science, like English and Marketing. This gave Anenth that time to put his coding skills to use. He says, "There was Wiki Bootcamp, which was a meetup where we were introduced to what it meant to contribute to Wikipedia as a programmer. That's where I met Sundar (TripThristy Co-Founder), through my brother. He was looking for someone who will build an app which would work as a autorickshaw meter. Now this was a lean semester and me and a friend of mine signed up for this. Back in 2009, Android wasn't so well known and the only smartphone per se was that Nokia Xpress Music. Mobile and Java was something that I didn't know much of, but we learnt as we built the product." The product was Suruk, which is a hugely popular app on Symbian. It even got a lot of media coverage. He says, "Building that product was a lot of fun and it made me look at building commute related mobile apps for a living." This transpired to be Ideophone. However it didn't work out.
Anenth says, "While building commute related mobile apps was a lot of fun, we had a tough time building sustainable revenue models. So we pivoted from commute to travel, as TripThirsty and so far it has been working well for us."
When I asked Anenth as to why enough people aren't taking to real coding as he did, he blames it on a lack of incentive. He says, "For me, there was always an incentive to do something and that's why I put the effort into learning. For others also, there needs to be an incentive which is worth for them to put time and effort into it."
Anenth also believes that there is only so much a college can do to provide that incentive. But he does believe college can play a larger role than what it does today. He says, "A college should provide exposure and inspiration. For example, IIIT Bangalore used to bring in CEOs of companies on a monthly basis to meet students, which I found both useful and inspiring."
Before signing off, I asked Anenth if he had any advice for budding computer engineers and he quipped in Tamil, "Adhu ellam enaku varadhunga!" (Translates to I don't think I'm the right person to be giving advice.)
We'll let you be the judge of that.
Catch up with Anenth on Twitter.