Entrepreneur Gaurav Mendiratta: The mind behind NyooTV

Gaurav MendirattaWith the growth of technology and the rapid developments in communication, the entertainment sector has evolved phenomenally in the recent past. Eyeing this opportunity early on, Gaurav Mendiratta, Founder and Director, AKG Technologies Inc. (NyooTV) started India’s first online social TV network. What is the venture all about? How has the journey been for this entrepreneur? Gaurav answers these questions and many more, in an email interview:

Q1. What is AKG Technologies all about? What are its main offerings?

Based in Philadelphia, and founded in January, 2009, AKG Technologies Inc. is an internet and mobile entertainment company. AKG is focused on building high quality products for video on demand in India, across Internet, mobile and TV. Its flagship product, NyooTV (www.nyootv.com) is India’s first online social TV network which aggregates and offers premium Indian entertainment content across new media platforms and digital entertainment devices currently to Indian audiences in US and India for free.

NyooTV is the first triple-play video on demand product in the Indian market with mobile applications for iPhone and Nokia handsets along with NBox, an internet video streaming device for television sets.

Q2. What is the scope and opportunity for your product in India?

With the phenomenal growth of internet users in India in the past 3 years along with the aggressive adoption of social media platforms, the outlook for NyooTV is very positive. According to the ‘How people watch – Neilson Global Survey Report’ released in September 2010, 70% of online global consumers watched video over the Internet in March 10. Indian consumers stand 4th in the global rankings and exceed by 21% of the global population in online-video consumption.

India is second (with China and Brazil) in terms of watching videos on television. It’s around 8% above the global consumption. Also, India ranks 4th, globally in watching videos over mobile. This includes mobile-TV as well. The penetration is highest among consumers in their late 20s. There is still an evolution curve here, but with the roll-out of 3G mobile connectivity by leading telecom operators this year and increasing usage of smart-phones by consumers, the mobile-video consumption market is bound to receive a huge impetus.

Q3. Why did you decide to start your own venture? Why specifically this particular idea?

Coming from a family who is full of entrepreneurs and always been in different small businesses, I was bit by the entrepreneurial bug at an early age. After my Masters in Telecommunications and Networking from University of Pennsylvania, I got a very good opening with Comcast, the largest Cable and Internet service provider in US.

I was on a fast track and in less than 3 years I earned the prestigious designation of ‘Principal Engineer’ at Comcast. For 4 years I enriched myself with lucrative engineering roles. During my tenure, I had the opportunity to work on next generation products and services and along the way I learned about video on demand (VOD) on TV. In 2007, VOD was gaining popularity in the US. In fact at this time, VOD was lunched on the internet with a new face, hulu.com. Hulu became incredibly popular in US and set new standards for premium content on the internet. India did not have a good quality product for VOD on internet, mobile and TV did not have any product at all. Given the craze for Bollywood and TV in India, I was convinced that VOD has immense potential and by January 2009, work had aggressively commenced.

Q4. Who are your competitors in this industry and how does your product fare in comparison? Its USP?

The key competitor in terms of video content consumption in India is YouTube with its user generated content (UGC). Also, media companies such as Rajshri, Bigflix, etc. are also present. Lot of other websites have short form videos and of course the pirated content is a big issue as well.

The key factors which differentiate us from the competition are that we have licensed and aggregated legal content from all over the internet and we make its consumption social!  The premium legal content is acquired through tie-ups with entertainment companies such as A2Media, Imagine TV, Shemaroo, Moserbear, Times Music, 1TakeMedia etc. NyooTV also features in-house programming initiatives like the recently announced ‘Rockumentary’ of one of the most popular Indian bands, Euphoria. Apart from this we have indexed legal Indian content from all over the web.

Beyond content, NyooTV.com, which is India’s first Social TV, it integrates social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. to enhance a users experience by enabling a strong connection with their favorite social networks while viewing content online.

NyooTV’s social media initiative to connect with consumers online has resulted in over 4.5 Lakh fans on their official Facebook fan page in just 5 months! This is a clear indication of the kind of popularity NyooTV enjoys amongst Indian consumers making it the second most viral Indian media brand on Facebook. The website www.nyootv.com had received close to 3.5 Lakh visitors and over 1 million page views in the month of October 2010.

Q5. Do you think technology has tremendously increased the scope for entrepreneur ship?

Yes, I feel technology has given an impetus to Indian entrepreneurs. The success stories of technology outsourcing companies such as Infosys, Wipro along with kind of growth witnessed by BPO and KPO industries, technology has played a major role in setting up global knowledge based services in India.

Also, with a tremendous talent pool which India enjoys, along with the benefit of emerging low-cost yet effective technologies and government provided subsidiaries on the hardware front, we are already seeing both software and hardware technology start-ups spring up.

Q6. How is managing a technology-based venture different from any other?

I don’t know if I fully qualify to answer this question, but I have managed a retail business and have some experience in the construction business as well. A Technology venture has its own nuances, so the problems can be very different, for example using an Adobe based out of the box solution compared to a free open source solution which you have to develop in-house can change everything in terms of product quality to the delivery timelines. Dealing with or managing developers and technology people is also very different, one needs to be very logical and methodical to understand where they are coming from.

Q7. What were some of the challenges faced in starting this company?

As with every start-up, the biggest challenge is getting the right kind of people on-board who work with a holistic view and with seamless integration towards a collective vision we set to achieve. In my case it even became harder as I started this company sitting in Philadelphia, with majority of my team being in India. Tools like Skype calling and video conferencing made our life little easier.

Q8. How did you grow your enterprise in the past two years? What are some of the milestones you have achieved so far?

I started the company with my own funds. Since inception, I had on board a team of stalwarts who were my advisors and mentors. In Aug 2009, I raised a seed round of funding, which helped me build the complete the product and start marketing it. Mr. Peter Gardner was the lead investor in the funding. Peter is a full time investor, he has invested in companies like Last. FM which is still the world’s largest music portal.

We launched the beta version of the NyooTV.com in March this year and fully launched it in July. We also unveiled the mobile apps and Nbox products, which would be out in the market soon.

Q9. What are some of your future plans for AKG Technologies?

We plan to continuously innovate our web product and launch mobile offerings too. We will soon have a field trial with our next product called NBox, which will be formally launched early next year. We will strive to make Nyoo TV, ‘the ultimate destination’ for video entertainment, which in any case is a leading brand today.

Q10. What will be your advice to entrepreneurs and start-ups?

My sincere advice to all entrepreneurs and start-ups would be:

  • Focus on building a good team. An OK idea with a fabulous team has 100 times more probability of success compared to a fabulous business idea with a mediocre team.
  • If you are still evaluating business ideas/plans. Always prefer businesses which give you some revenue/cash flow within few months of operation.
Unnati NarangAbout me:Unnati is a freelance writer, author and entrepreneur. From her blog to media initiatives like Times Ascent, HT Edge and The Better India, she is always keen on any writing opportunity that may come her way. Her writing bug extends to her venture www.serenewoods.com, a publishing portal she co-founded early 2009, for emerging authors. She is also the author of Drenched Soul (poetry) and If At All (Fiction).

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