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The making of a freewheeling success story

By Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai
May 18, 2009 09:41 IST
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As a student of IIT Madras, Ram Prakash and his batchmate K S Sreeram were the only graduates who did not take part in campus recruitment.

Driven by their dream to start their own venture, they almost scandalised their families when they launched a company Tachyon in 2000, right after college with a paltry investment of Rs 400,000.

"Even this amount was part borrowed from family, who were really anxious about our lack of work experience since the year we launched was really not the best time for a new technology venture," says Ram Prakash, co-founder and CEO, Tachyon Technologies.

The company started with a bang. "Purely on our merit, we bagged product development work from companies like Rediff and Standard Chartered Bank," states Prakash, with a sense of pride.

Within 3 years, the company had grown to 40 people. But organic growth is not what this techie wants. "We were asked by a multinational company to hire around 100 people who could smooth the progress of developing software products for them, but we declined," says Prakash, adding, "Tachyon is not just another product company looking to make some fast bucks."

The big break for Tachyon came when they developed a product called Quillpad which allows one to type text in Indian languages like Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, and Nepali.

Prakash readily explains his star-product, "It enables users to spell out words in local languages phonetically in Roman letters and Quillpad's predictive engine converts them into local-language script."

Being web-based, it is available online with email and Internet search features too. Tachyon's clients include Rediff Mail & iLand, Ibibo, Indiatimes, Guruji, Fropper and OnMobile and generates more than Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) from its licensing.

More recently, the company has licensed Quillpad to LG Mobiles that will provide the software on 4 handset models. The company is also in discussions with Nokia to license Quillpad to few handset models.

The mobile version of Quillpad allows users to send SMS in their own language. "Quillpad enables accurate prediction of non-dictionary words. Also, since English words are often used literally in languages such as Hindi or Kannada, the Quillpad mechanism lets you type the English word without having to spell it phonetically," adds Prakash.

Indian bloggers and website owners have given thumbs-up to Tachyon's language product, which has caught the attention of Google too that has quickly introduced its own transliteration tool within 6 months of Quillpad's launch.

The techie businessman and his friend Sreeram are not the only ones who are confident about Tachyon. Earlier this year, Rediff increased its stake in Tachyon Technologies to 26 per cent from 19 per cent.

Prakash labels the move as a deliberate move to generate funds from Rediff as venture capitalists would not have been convinced about their research-based strategy. Seems like the next chapter of the World Wide Web will not be written in English alone.

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Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai
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