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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Daniel Ek is one of BusinessWeek’s best young entrepreneurs. He entered the world of business at the young age of 14. His long exposure to the world of business helped him develop a knack for spotting business opportunities. While he witnessed the trouble that the music industry was experiencing in his youth, he also envisioned a way to both save the industry and to earn something for himself at the same time. So, as others decided to leave the music business for more stable and promising opportunities, Ek dove right in.

According to Ek, music will succeed if it overcomes the convenience of piracy. His company Spotify does just that. It is pretty simple to use: just download the program and run it on your computer, create an account and just like that, you have access to over 15 million tracks. This was made possible through two-plus years of negotiations with the giants of the music industry. Although it took a while, Spotify now boasts of a wide music collection, which users can listen to for free. The only catch is the recorded advertisements that are played every once in a while.

With Spotify, Ek has been labeled music’s last best hope. Because of his creation, billions of people can now hear the music of a given artist, even though only millions of that artist’s albums have actually been sold. Ek has introduced the concept that sharing begets more sharing, and it begets more people to listen to music. After all, isn’t that what creating music is all about?

Ek now heads a 300-person company that is on the brink of getting another round of funding. He has also gained partnerships along the way, including teaming up with Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and Facebook’s first president. Together with other investors, Ek is striving to make digital music both available and accessible anytime, anywhere.

Ek has definitely brought the music industry the change it has been waiting for.

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Barely five years ago, Rahul Bhatia decided to revolutionize his family-run business, InterGlobe Enterprises. He never forgot his roots; being in the travel business for as long as he could remember, he decided to take on the same path, this time with a different vehicle. Bhatia’s IndiGo Airlines first took off as a humble budget airline that people hardly noticed. Today, however, it has emerged as one of the biggest challengers in India’s aviation industry.

Despite the success of IndiGo, the person behind it continues to be extremely low-profile. Bhatia is best known to be a mix of the old and new; he is not an accidental entrepreneur, but his leadership did set a new record in the world of aviation.

Bhatia is an old timer, with 20 years of experience in the field of transportation, subsidiary hotels and travel agencies. He is also an innovative entrepreneur who understood the market and his country. With his partner Rakesh Gangwal, Bhatia introduced the concept of “cheap seats” to the Indian market – a low cost service that does not fall short on quality.

With this campaign, Bhatia business flew up, up and away. He was able to tap a new market of travellers. His competitors have doubted the effectiveness of this campaign, arguing that profit is not possible with extremely cheap airfare deals. Not a man of too many words, Bhatia proved them wrong with another order for 100 aircrafts worth $15 billion at the Paris Air Show.

For his partners and colleagues, Bhatia’s extreme professionalism and concrete plan are the secrets behind his success. He allowed the business to grow on its own, with marginal spending on advertising and marketing.  Instead, he relied on word of mouth to build a strong client base, something that makes him different from high-profile competitors.

Indeed, the future of the Indian airline industry looks promising under the leadership of the reticent Rahul Bhatia.

The name Sridhar Vembu may not ring a bell to most people, but this name is catching the attention of Silicon Valley’s giants. The founder and CEO of AdventNet, Vembu is the genius behind Zoho,  a productivity suite that has more than 5 million users – an impressive number that  had power CEO Marc Benioff  and legendary venture capitalist Mike Mortiz  knocking on his door.

Sridhar Vembu

Described as the smartest unknown Indian entrepreneur, Vembu is a low-profile guy that quietly runs a $40 million a year business, earning net revenue of $1 million every month. His creativity led to the creation of one of the first cloud computing office suites available in the market. How he did it is even more admirable.  His frugality – some says advocacy – made Zoho (now AdventNet’s corporate name), a company with unique staffing practices. Vembu only hires economically disadvantaged Indian high school graduates as programmers after putting them through two years of education. All in all, Vembu has employed 600 people in Chennai, India. At his office in Silicon Valley, there are only eight.

With that unique workforce, Vembu has built a cash-cow business whose products even compete with Microsoft Office. This is why competitors want to get a piece of his company. Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com, made an offer to buy Zoho to get rid of the competition. With the administration costs eating most of his profits, Benioff knows he can’t afford not to. When Vembu turned down his offer, the rest of the valley got the picture. Vembu wanted freedom, and million-dollar offers are appreciated, but not welcome.

The 41-year-old CEO has a bright future ahead of him. He has shown that Indians can do the same thing to software what the Chinese did to manufacturing.  This cloud pioneer’s vision is just the beginning, and the world has yet to see the best  of him.