[Techie Tuesdays] Ahimanikya Satapathy - Entrepreneur, Geek, Technology veteran, Ecosystem enabler
When it comes to Startup ecosystem in Bangalore, Ahimanikya Satapathy needs no introduction. He has been running the Bangalore Alpha Labs for quite some time, and has also been organising ‘Bootstrap At Breakfast’ event for over two years, both of which have grown into great platforms for entrepreneurs. Ahimanikya has been in the limelight for being an enabler to the ecosystem. Today, in Techie Tuesdays we bring to you the other side of him - ‘The Geek’.
The Art Scholar
Ahimanikya spent his early days in Bhubaneshwar, where he graduated in Chemistry. His family had an inclination towards literature. His father is a poet who owned a printing press and had a keen interest in politics. The environment at home shaped Ahimanikya during his early adulthood. His father wanted him to be a lawyer. After his graduation, Ahimanikya took a break and started exploring his life purpose. He learned to make sculptures and started painting, reading about religion and literature. He wanted to join Shantiniketan to learn art, but they had very stringent admission procedures. Ahimanikya could not clear the interview. After the interview he got to know that one of his uncles was on the interview panel, but Ahimanikya wanted to go through the right medium and not using influence. He chose to forgo the opportunity.
Magician who could ‘C’ through networks
During the time when he took a break, one day Ahimanikya visited a library. He came across “Introduction to Computer Science”. The book was enough to spark his interest in the field. Ahimanikya joined a course in computer Science. His main inclination towards Computer Science was ‘C’ language. In his first semester Ahimanikya had read most of the books on ‘C’. He had read 36 books on ‘C’ in six months, possibly every book which was there in India on the subject. It was the thrill of doing things and his expertise of ‘C’ came in handy. After one year Ahimanikya dropped out of the course and went to Mumbai to look for a job.
Jobless Jack beats IITians
Ahimanikya spent six months roaming around the city without a job, until one day when he saw an ad in the newspaper for the position of a Research Associate at IIT Mumbai. Ahimanikya wrote the exam and got selected from among a total of 200 people, most of which comprised of MTech and PhD students from IIT. Dr. Deepak Phatak, who was the Dean of Resources Development at IIT Mumbai at that time, took Ahimanikya under his wing and assigned him to a project where he would help develop an aircraft simulation system for training of pilots.
Life at the IIT Mumbai hostels was a dream come true for Ahimanikya. Things were entirely different from Bhubaneshwar. The student of art had entered the abode of science. There was internet connection in the hostel (we are talking about 1995). Ahimanikya ensured that he made the best use of facilities which were provided to him. He used to spend 18-20 hours in the lab. “I learnt most in this period”, he reminisces.
One day when he was working in the lab, Dr. Pathak came and dropped a book “Java in a nutshell” on a table. When, for almost a week, nobody touched the book, Ahimanikya took it and started reading. Soon he picked up another book on HTML and Applets and went on to get his hands dirty with Java. He started applying for positions to different places. He got an offer from US, but Ahimanikya was quite skeptical about it. He got another offer from Equinox Solutions, a Bangalore-based firm which required a Java engineer. He joined them. Wherever Ahimanikya went, he hacked the network devices as most of them used ‘C’.
From desi boy to US
Soon Ahimanikya got a consulting job in the US. He was also engaged by this time. He moved to US for the first time, most of his salary was spent in international calling. In his first year in US, Ahimanikya had worked for several big companies and had got a taste of the cubicle life, which he did not find to his liking.
He joined another company ‘Knowledge Universe’ in US, which was an education and talent management company. He helped build the core logic of the platform during the short duration. As he moved on through different companies, Ahimanikya made sure he was growing with the team, both in terms of knowledge and as a person, mentoring and managing people. Once when he was working with a company, ‘VerticleNet’, his manager went for a four week vacation. This gave him the freedom to do what he wanted. To impress his manager, Ahimanikya developed a GUI based tool which could query different databases and manage the data intelligently. When his manager returned he saw the tool, but real magic happened when his manager went to Oracle’s OpenWorld conference. There he got to know about ETL. Upon returning, the manager told Ahimanikya that what he had developed was an ETL tool. Ahimanikya thus became an ETL expert without even knowing the terminology.
As the craze for databases caught on, Ahimanikya was hired by a company SeeBeyond where they wanted him to build a complete team. They wanted him to be a manager, while Ahimanikya saw himself more as a coder. He joined the team as a Software Architect. After sometime SeeBeyond was acquired by Sun Microsystems. At Sun, Ahimanikya’s team was getting ignored. There were less resources being allocated for the team. In this fight for existence, Ahimanikya took the role of an intrapreneur to save his division in the company. To motivate his team, they developed a some trendy stuff using Data Mashup as part of Sun’s Data Integration Suite, which includes Sun Master Patient Index. The company liked it and thus the team was saved. This was also the beginning of Ahimanikya’s interest in the amalgamation of Healthcare and Technology.
Returning to India
Ahimanikya returned to India in 2006 and he built a team in India for his division in the company. He quit Sun in 2009, after which he rented a friend’s room in JP Nagar, Bangalore. Soon enough some of his former teammates joined him. His team at Sun was laid off. Within a week they had over 17 team members working in a 300 sqft room. They continued working on the same product (it was open source) which they were working on when they were at Sun. As they created a presentation and sent it to people, they started getting business. Within a few days they had a business of around 15 lakh. And thus, Fresco Informatics was born.
Ahimanikya took a break and shut Fresco Informatics as it was getting more of a services business. He went back to Bhubneshwar and in 2011, Ahimanikya came back and started Bangalore Alpha Labs, a co-working space for startups and ‘Bootstrap at Breakfast’. Contrary to popular belief, the word ‘Bootstrap’ in Bootstrap at Breakfast does not come from bootstrapping, instead it comes from Twitter Bootstrap - a CSS framework, which Ahimanikya witnessed at one of the meetups he went to.
In 2013, Ahimanikya started DocEngage, a healthcare CRM for doctors, which has been going great since then. Coming from an arts background, Ahimanikya can deftly relate coding to art. He believes coding is like painting, only the canvas has changed. As a veteran he advises people to create things which last long, like a piece of art which never loses its meaning.