Have you heard about TechVariable? No? Well, no worries as we bring to you TechVariable, the team and their thoughts right before you on the screen in front.
TechVariable is a Guwahati-based start-up, which was launched with an aim to bring the young engineering minds of the region under one roof so that innovative ideas can turn into reality.
Launched by a group of young minds, TechVariable was launched at a time when the start-up ecosystem had just gathered wings.
It was a tough decision then, which now can be considered one of the bravest and the brightest decisions of all.
In conversation with Partha Prawal for The Story Mug, Ratnadeep Bhattacharjee, co-founder and COO of TechVariable speaks more about their beginning, the journey and the road ahead.
Partha: There is a story behind everything, what's yours?
Ratnadeep: Humble Beginnings: Decidedly a bootstrap company, we got our firm registered from our 2 BHK apartment. We had a seemingly exciting MVP for the education sector, specifically for schools, colleges and other training institutes.
As the COO of TechVariable, I started visiting schools and other educational institutes, in most cases without prior appointment and started speaking to the owners and decision-makers about the services we could offer through our MVP.
After days and months of meetings and discussion, it was time for me to take a call as I found that even though there is an evident need for the services we were offering, there is a clear lack of general awareness about the potential of IT for workflow modernisation.
The surprising element was that since revenue generation was not an issue for them, they did not understand that the revenue potential with digital transformation is multiple times more. (Sigh!!!!)
However, during one of our networking vigils, we were able to sign a local training institute for their MIS (Management Information System) portal. Even though the size of the project was not what we had aimed for, it was just the impetus needed for us to keep at it. The MVP for the education sector was not making sense to us looking at the market and hence it was a dud affair from then on.
Partha: What is the hardest part- the start or the journey thereafter?
Ratnadeep: The market reality can be a hard nut to crack: In the meanwhile, we were desperately tapping into our network, letting them know about our software consultancy services and how it can be beneficial for various sectors prevalent within the region.
Business development meetings were in vogue from then on and after each meeting, there was always a sense of hope as every kind of business seemed to be in requirement of technology-driven modernization. But what looked like a simple case of supply-fulfilling a demand, turned out to be an exhausting affair eventually due to the underestimation of development efforts on the part of the businesses, besides the classic case of disproportionation between services required and budget allocated.
“But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining and we kept on believing that ours was just another meeting away.”
Partha: How did the three of you come together?
Ratnadeep: The three of us- I, Nilotpal Boruah (CEO) and Utpal Sarmah (CTO)- have known each other since our engineering days.
We used to meet up and jam during the weekends with our ideas overflowing over a few beer bottles. So, that can also be referred to as the ‘Beginnings’ towards our dream.
Partha: What has been the support of your families in the journey?
Ratnadeep: As you know the start-up culture in Assam has not yet achieved its popularity nor earned the trust of many. So, I would say we did have a hard time trying to convince our respective families about our new venture some 5 years back.
Gradually, they could see our passion and endeavour towards a clear vision and today, I would share my heartiest gratitude to them for standing tall with us all throughout this roller coaster ride.
Partha: Who have been your inspirations?
Ratnadeep: To be honest, none as such!
Our failures and how they motivated us like steps towards success has been one major inspiration.
Partha: Has there ever been any conflict of ideas amongst you?
Ratnadeep: I believe there should be no limits to brainstorming new crisp and conflicting ideas. As a dynamic team, we are genuinely curious about new ideas. We are excited about the possibilities, and the best way to bring them to life.
We welcome change with both hands- learning, experimenting and improvising on the way, so conflicts are quite regular amongst us and our team as we all take them in a positive, constructive manner.
Partha: What are the services you provide?
Ratnadeep: We help start-ups to bring their tech-products to market 2x faster. We are a full-stack development studio- web development as well as mobile applications and our team of project managers in different domains, who have vast experience in developing different ranges of products optimized time to market within an affordable budget.
We make sure that a proper post-Go-live support framework is established so that the client can fully focus on other business activities. Our product engineering and R&D services have catered to multiple funded start-ups and corporates.
We specialise in product development and software services with these capabilities in Machine Learning, NLP, Semantic Analysis, Angularjs, Reactjs, Nodejs, Python, React Native, Progressive App, TensorFlow, Keras, Neural Networks, Neo4j, Dynamodb, Elastic Search, GraphQL, and Amazon Web Services.
Partha: What was the first project that TechVariable accomplished?
Ratnadeep: A casual meeting- an opportunity popping up from nothing: Our CEO Nilotpal Boruah, was once waiting for his train for his hometown, when he had a chance encounter with Utpal Barsaikia, one of the IT revolutionaries from the region.
They got into a discussion about each other’s line of work and in between, Nilotpal could slip in his visiting card, just in case. Fast-forward two weeks, he gets a call from Mr Utpal, intimating him about a possible project requirement from Network Travels, the largest private bus-fleet form Northeast India.
Eventually, we met the owner and after a series of meeting, we were hired as their IT consultancy and development partners. Meanwhile, we moved into our new office and things seemed to fall into place, slowly but surely.
Partha: How did you manage to overcome the initial hiccups?
Ratnadeep Overestimation of the potential market can be catastrophic: Even though the Network Travels project was incumbent and was a big step in giving us a sense of belonging, the slog was still on as inadvertently the situation was still not under control.
We hired two excellent resources for the project, but while doing so we found that it was very difficult to find industry-ready developers locally. This made us think that training and development need to be one of our services and we even successfully trained a batch of interns in the summer of 2016. This lead (in the hindsight ‘mislead’) us to believe that opening a training centre for Computer Science students of the region might just be the one thing that the market needed at that point in time.
We were so confident that we started generating funds from our acquaintances for taking care of the infrastructure costs. The ‘TechVariable L&D Centre’ took shape and everything about it was state-of-the-art (picture shows a glimpse). But to our utter disappointment, the admissions and footfalls never reached our targeted expectations and this venture was turning out to be a disaster. Ultimately, we had to close it down, accepting that it was a mistake and a loss-laden affair.
Partha: Tell something about your team.
Ratnadeep: We are young, vibrant and friendly. Our demeanour is objective and purposeful. We talk about ideas and solutions, not jargon and excuses.
We prefer to be forthright, not roundabout or hyperbolic. We like to uncomplicate and simplify complex tasks and discussions.
Partha: Can you guide me through the interiors of your office?
Ratnadeep: Sure, you may check this small tour video to check out our newly expanded head-office.
Partha: One thing that you look for in someone while recruiting someone new.
Ratnadeep: We look forward to curious, nimble and reliable talents to help us in our endeavours.
In fact, the complete credit and appreciation for whatever success we have been able to achieve go to the extremely talented, and at the same time, motivated group of individuals we have had over the years.
We have been fortunate in the sense that the same group of core members have been with the company since the beginning- which is almost unheard of considering the size of our business and a competitive technology employment landscape. This is because, we genuinely believe that employees make the company, not the other way around.
Partha: Any bad memories that you would like to forget?
Ratnadeep: The catchphrase “Learning to walk by falling again and again” couldn’t be truer.
I really believe that the maturity, not just in the individual front, but also in the business front, has come from experiencing a gamut of failed undertakings (resulting in sleepless nights, stress and anxiety).
Moreover, identifying uninformed optimism and informed pessimism is still a challenge. There have been and will be many roadblocks throughout this journey, but what really keeps us going is the dedicated team that we have been lucky to work with.
Partha: What effect did the COVID-19 lockdown had on you- as individuals and as entrepreneurs?
Ratnadeep: During these tough times each team member's experience of working remotely with international clients, meetings with people from different time zones, internal team meetings is certainly helping us to keep working efficiently and managing deliverables On-Time.
I believe a remote work programme, when approached strategically, can deliver far greater organisation benefits such as improved (talent) attraction and retention, increased productivity and engagement, reduced real estate costs and environmental impact and more.
Whether a pandemic-driven plunge into remote working spurs a more permanent paradigm shift across industries depends largely on whether the experience is positive for employers and employees. This way we could successfully fare the year of the pandemic by signing 11 new projects and recruiting 14 new employees.
Partha: When not in the work-mode, what do you love doing?
Ratnadeep: After work, we love to relax with our family and friends, watch soccer and listen to some good music, AC/DC preferably.
Partha: Any message for those who are thinking to start their own start-ups?
Ratnadeep: Never give up, once you start.”
But do give it a good thought, before you start because the grind ahead would be really hard at times. Good luck! 🙂
Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.