How To Become Your Own Boss

Suhas Gopinath, the CEO of IT consulting firm Globals Inc, talks about his rise from being the youngest certified professional web developer at 14 to a successful IT entrepreneur.

“If Bill Gates could launch Microsoft from his backyard, I decided I could also launch my company from an Internet café.” Unlike his classmates at Air Force School, Bangalore, Suhas Gopinath did not have a computer at home. This often made him the subject of ridicule. But Gopinath was resourceful. He spent time at Internet cafes to learn about computers so that he could discuss them with his friends. He ended up learning how to build websites, began creating them for American companies, and then launched his own IT consulting firm, Globals Inc. He was 14, and the ‘World’s Youngest CEO’.

Today, at 24, Gopinath heads a company with branches in 11 other countries and an imminent entry into the African market. He serves on the ICT advisory board of the World Bank and was a ‘Young Global Leader’ at World Economic Forum, Davos. “Your mind is willing to take more risks when you are young. All you had to do to become Superman was wear his cape,” Gopinath explains his premature success.

Like most success stories, his story began with a failure. Some American companies were hesitant to hire a 14-year-old who had not been to university yet. “That’s when I decided to become my own boss instead of freelancing.”

However, he came from a middle class non-business South Indian family. When a US firm invited him to the country for a presentation, his family was happy at the prospect of their son becoming an NRI. “But I was assertive and told that I did not want to settle in the US. They were sceptical.” It did not help when he found out that he could not register a company in India until he was 18.

But, “I was impatient and aggressive. I did not want to wait for four years to start my company.” That is how he ended up in San Jose, California in 2000 to set up Globals Inc.

He soon came back to India though. “It was not just about ‘brain drain’. I feel that India has more business opportunities, and is an untapped market for use of technology in education and healthcare.”

His focus on the company, however, cost him his engineering degree; he did not have sufficient “attendance” to attempt the exam. But he has no regrets. “Around the same time, I was inducted on the board of World Bank.” He now holds a diploma course on global leadership and public policy from Harvard University. “I feel that all entrepreneurs add some value to society. I intend to become a social entrepreneur some day but before that, I need to increase wealth to be in a better position to contribute.”

His life somewhere coincides with that of his role model Bill Gates. “When I met him in Davos, I was speechless. He gave me a lot of good advice: ‘The past is a thief and if you let it, it can steal your present and future’. He also told that being called successful is not a badge of achievement. Success is an ongoing and evolving thing.”

Gopinath is presently trying to curb his tendency for micro-management. “The company is my baby, and I don’t like others experimenting with it. But I realise I should not get insecure, and trust my young and strong team.” It is in his things-to-do-before-I-turn-25-in-November list to nurture more leaders within his firm. “The company cannot rise if I am standing at the forefront.” Another task on the same list is to go skydiving. “My idea of fun is to hike and camp in the Western Ghats forest with friends.”

His five-year plan is to launch an IPO and get listed on the stock market. For someone who had a professional head start, would he consider an early retirement? “No, I have a long time ahead. I will probably begin my second innings in my 40s. I will be an angel investor and help other upcoming entrepreneurs.”

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