[Startup Bharat] This entrepreneur started up to make Assam a tech hub
Nilotpal Boruah quit his job at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Gurugram to go for higher studies abroad. Before leaving the country, he went to his hometown in Assam to spend time with his family. During this time, he realised that he wanted to enable his own state to become a technology hub.
“There has been a lack of entrepreneurship in Tier II and III towns of India, and hence, there is lack of employment for today’s youth,” says Nilotpal.
In 2015, he launched TechVariable along with Utpal Sarmah and Ratnadeep Bhattacharjee to boost the tech ecosystem in Northeast India. The startup provides tech-based solutions to its clients, especially product development.
What started as a small entrepreneurial venture is now a profitable global company catering to clients across the world with a team of 30 people.
“Our attrition rate is also low as people who work here want to live here. Unlike Bengaluru or Delhi, people don’t jump to another job every now and then,” says Nilotpal.
Nilotpal grew up in Dhemaji, a small town 500 km away from Guwahati. He completed his bachelor's in mechanical engineering from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, and after graduating, joined TCS and moved to Delhi-NCR.
At TCS, he met many other people from small towns who would often be sad about being unable to work in their hometowns. “Some would say their parents were not well and sometimes, they had to quit their jobs if they wanted to take care of their parents,” says Nilotpal.
Soon, he decided to go abroad to pursue a master’s degree and had even bagged many scholarships. But instead, he moved back home and launched a tech startup.
“In 2015, the internet scenario was still very bad in Assam, so I used to go to a coaching centre to research the startup culture,” he shares.
During this time, he met one of the faculty members of that coaching centre, Ratnadeep. They connected over creating an innovation ecosystem in small towns such as Assam.
“Towards the end of 2015, Ratandeep and I started TechVariable,” says Nilotpal.
At the time, the duo decided to cater to the education industry in Assam — "the only industry we had", he says. “We would pitch edtech products to educational institutions like attendance management and more, but we had no luck.”
Graphic: YS Design
Later, they started looking for other companies as well. And they got their first client.
Nilotpal says the first client was a bus service provider in Guwahati who wanted a digital ticket booking platform like redBus. “It is Northeast India’s oldest and biggest private travel and tourism firm, and we are still working with them,” says Nilotpal.
By March 2016, Nilotpal and Ratnadeep set up a small office in Guwahati, and the third co-founder, Utpal, who is Nilotpal’s friend from college and former colleague, joined TechVariable.
Starting up from Guwahati was not easy for the trio. Since there was no startup culture in Assam, Nilotpal decided to stay in Bengaluru for a few months to attend startup meets and conferences for networking and to understand how startups work.
“I am a first-generation entrepreneur in my family of teachers,” he says.
In Bengaluru, he met Dilip Bharatee, who became a mentor for TechVariable. Dilip hails from Assam and was one of the earliest techies from the state. Through him, he met other industry experts who came from Assam. After that, there has been no looking back.
Along with helping local businesses to bridge the digital gaps, TechVariable also works with companies across the US, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Some of its clients include KPISOFT, Samkhya, Director Intel, PLM365, and Network Travels.
“We stand out for bringing new age tech-first products at affordable prices, and we also help companies to bring such products in the market faster,” claims Nilotpal. According to the startup, the combination of its business knowledge, design thinking, and tech expertise makes it a perfect long-term development partner for any business.
The startup's revenue streams are consulting and working as dedicated development resources with corporates, product development, and product engineering with startups.
There are thousands of small and big companies that help in tech-based product development. For TechVariable, he says, the company stands out for its "technology consulting workforce and best tech practices". Without sharing actual financials, the founders share that TechVariable is profitable at present, with zero debt.
Funding and aspirations
TechVariable is a bootstrapped startup. Initially, the trio raised around Rs 1.5 lakh from friends and family, and now they invest back their profits to support the company’s operations. The founders want Assam to become a tech hub, even more now as the pandemic has made work location-agnostic.
“We are the only end-to-end software services company from Assam and we have the best of talents. This year, we are planning to recruit eight more engineers, and we will continue to work in tech product development, digital transformation projects, and in cutting edge technologies like machine learning,” says Nilotpal.