Rakesh Deshmukh CEO at Indus OS – World’s First Regional Operating System shares their incredible story in an interview with our team.
Q.Please introduce yourself.
My name is Rakesh Deshmukh, CEO at Indus OS (formerly known as Firstouch).
Ever since I can remember, I was always interested in technology and its social implications. I was always abreast with the latest developments in the computers and internet industries, even though I came from a small town of Indore, where we did not have easy access to technology. My passion to create a career in technology and make it accessible to the masses inspired me to pursue engineering education from IIT Bombay.
During my stint at IIT, I was fascinated by my alumni who chased a technology idea and built disruptive companies from it. This gave me the confidence to chase an idea that can have a mass impact and empower the country through technology. To pursue my passion, I started my career by working with two start-ups before starting my own venture. My work experience gave me an understanding about how the industry functions and what goes into setting up a new venture.
Q.When and how did you think about Indus OS?
It became very clear to me that to create a huge impact there is a need for robust innovation, and true path-breaking innovation is best achieved by a start-up. The idea for the World’s First Regional Operating System first came to me in 2009.
In the summer of 2009, I was visiting my family in Indore and smartphones were just taking off in India. As an early adopter to the smartphone ecosystem, I wanted my mother to experience this technology, and thus gifted her a smartphone. Even though I introduced her to the basic functions, weeks passed and I did not receive a single call or message from her smartphone. She still preferred to use the landline or her old feature phone. I finally asked her why she wasn’t using the new smartphone. Reluctantly, she said that it is too complicated, has poor regional language support and no access to digital regional content.
This was an eye-opener. With a little research I realized that she was only one of 1 billion people in South Asia, who did not consider English as their first, second or third language. I had always believed that technology should have no barriers, and at that moment, I resolved to create a product to break the language barrier to smartphone adoption. I got my co-founders together and decided to create the World’s First Regional Operating System, with a mission to empower the next billion people with technology. This is how Indus OS was born.
India has only 10% population who can speak/write English as their first, second or third language. 80% of mobile users still use feature phones. The English speaking population has been completely covered with smartphone adoption. Cost of a smartphone was once considered a barrier for adoption, but with smartphones available for as less as INR 251 today, the barrier is language and usability. Interestingly, 100% of the next growth in smartphone users is going to come through users who prefer their native language.
Q.Introduce your Co-Founder/Founders and Team.
Indus OS was founded by three IIT-Bombay graduates: Rakesh Deshmukh (CEO), Akash Dongre (Chief Product Officer) and Sudhir B (Chief Technology Officer). Our current team of over 70 people consists of tech enthusiasts with a social mission who believe in the vision of a digitally connected India. The company is funded by angel investors such as Snapdeal co-founders Rohit Bansal and Kunal Bahl, Quikr founder Pranay Chulet, and InMobi co-founders Naveen Tewari and Amit Gupta. Indus OS recently raised USD 5 million Series A funding led by Omidyar Network.
Q. Explain more about Indus OS, what makes you special and how is it different from other?
Being in the high-tech niche domain of operating systems, we have no direct competitors in the regional space. I see Indus OS to be positioned as the technological foundation or a vehicle to reach the next 500 million smartphone users in India. This unique position gives us a chance to collaborate with almost any company in the tech landscape. . Indus OS is not just a technology product, it’s a mission where government, linguists, tech geeks, mobile brands and thousands of developer are coming together to provide technology to the next billion users.
Indus OS brought the concept of regional operating system to the world. Our product is a result of 3 years of research and development. There exists no other company in the world that offers similar functionalities and enables the smartphone user to interact in their native language. The success of the product is attributed to the customization and in-depth understanding of the consumer behavior that the team has done over the course of the product cycle. Also, our technology has total 8 patents and partnership with chip companies. This makes the entry barriers challenging and replicating us very difficult.
Q.What’s the Current Path and future plan?
We aim to digitally connect at least 100 million users in their native language by the end of 2018. We would continue to maintain our leading position by launching more innovations. We have already partnered with two major OEM’s to expand our user base from the existing 3 million, while we are continually exploring partnerships with other major handset brands to make the Regional Operating System available to a wider user base.
The vision of Indus OS is in line with the initiatives of the Government’s Digital India and Make in India movements. We have already taken the first step by collaborating up with the Ministry of Communication and IT’s Department of Electronics and IT (DietY) to introduce native Operating System integrated text-to-speech technology in 9 regional languages.
Q.What challenges did you face while setting up Indus OS and how did you overcome ?
Our major challenge was that because we were creating something that had never been done before, we had no blueprint for the business nor ready professionals and experts to hire. Thus, our major challenge was to find entrepreneurial, visionary and innovative professionals who had the skills and the aptitude to create the world’s first regional operating system. To maintain a world-class team capable of working on cutting edge technology we have to be very selective. We achieve this by rejecting over 99% over the qualified job applicants.
Every startup faces challenges such as cash-flow, customer acquisition, hiring etc. and we are no exception. What has kept us going in times when our resolve was challenged has been the tremendous social impact our technology has had on our users. We are constantly flooded with messages from real Indus OS users (3 million currently), who share their personal stories and give us great insights and suggestions. One such suggestion of Urdu language support was also taken up by our team and we will be launching Urdu support for the first time in India very soon.
At the end Mr.Rakesh shared a few kind words about VID
VID serves as an excellent platform to share inspirational stories of successful Indian entrepreneurs. Sharing success stories of Indian entrepreneurs not only motivates but also educates future entrepreneurs & helps them learn from what others have gone through to make it big. Team Indus OS is truly honored with the opportunity to be featured on VID.