Kerala village start-up gets Rs. 1 crore after winning govt’s challenge to take on Zoom

On Thursday, Kerala start-up’s Vconsol was named as winner of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology’s Digital India “Grand Challenge”, bagging Rs. 1 crore.

ELEVEN YEARS ago, Joy Sebastian started his company Techgentsia Software Technologies Pvt Ltd, and now he has won a prize of Rs 1 crore.

The Challenge started on April 12 to form a world-class video conference solution, an Indian equivalent of Zoom in the time of COVID.

Sebastian hails from Pathirappally, a village near the backwaters close to the Info Park. This challenge presented him with an opportunity —to showcase his potential to the world. “We decided to develop a product for the country. Now, that dream has materialized,” Sebastian says.“I started Techgentsia in 2009 with a friend, Tony Thomas. We were classmates from school, and he has now moved to Australia. “, he said.

“We have been focusing on R&D in video-conferencing solutions from the beginning and have a few clients from the US, Europe, and India for the B2B model. We have grown over the years, and now employ 65 people,” adds Sebastian. He completed his MCA from TKM College of Engineering in Kollam.

Developed in 3 months, Vconsol’s USP is its safety, says Sebastian, “apart from all the features available on Zoom” in the premium option.

“Security has been pointed out as a problem with Zoom. Vconsol has addressed it with tighter measures. Each participant will have a different password. And, to ensure that only those expected or invited can join the video-conference, an OTP verification code will be sent to mobile phones of participants,” he says.

Image Credits: Newsweek

According to the IT Ministry, Techgentsia, picked from 1,983 applicants, will be provided with the financial support of Rs 1 crore and an additional Rs 10 lakh for operation and maintenance for the next three years.

The start-up made its way through a list of 12 applicants, who were provided with Rs 10 lakh to develop a prototype. Then five were shortlisted from these. They were provided financial support of Rs 15-20 lakh for “mentorship, testing, and onboarding” on the National Informatics Centre (NIC) cloud.

“Besides, the jury also selected products developed by three (other) applicants… and decided to offer a developmental contract to be supported by Rs 25 lakh each for further maturing their product within three months,” the Ministry said.

All the four, Techgentsia, Sarv Webs Pvt Ltd (Jaipur), PeopleLink Unified Communications Pvt Ltd (Hyderabad), and Instructive Softlabs Pvt Ltd (Chennai), will get the support of government tech arms, including CERT-In and CDAC. 

The NIC, meanwhile, will facilitate their adoption on GeM, the government’s e-market portal. Announcing the victor, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad referred to Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi calls for AatmaNirbhar Bharat and said:

 “We are committed to developing India’s software product and mobile app economy in a big way, and efforts like this will go a long way in that direction.”

For the challenge, the jury and mentors included: Debjani Ghosh, NASSCOM chairman; Saurabh Srivastava, who heads Indian Angel Network, a grouping of investors. Sharad Sharma of iSpirit, a software think tank; and officials and experts such as Rajat Moona from IIT-Bhilai were also nominated.

So what made Sebastian’s firm a clear winner? “Confidence in our technology and the ability of our developers,” he says.