Suhas Gopinath is an Indian entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Globals Inc., a multinational Web and IT solutions company that he created at 14 years old. He was once recognized as the world’s youngest CEO by the World Economic Forum. He is also currently the Founder and CEO of HappyEMI, a digital lending platform, a Young Global Leader, National Co-Chairman of FICCI for ICT and Member of National Expert Advisory Committee for the Government of India. Now at age 33, Caribbean Insights writer, Latoyaa Roberts, sat down to have a brief chat with Mr. Gopinath about his journey and advice to future young entrepreneurs at the 5Th Global Youth Forum under the theme “At a Crossroad: Industry 5.0 vs. Inclusive Development: Where is the Future” held by Youth Time International Movement in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from December 2nd -6th, 2019. Here is what Mr. Gopinath had to say:
Latoyaa: Generally explain your business and service solutions that you offer.
Gopinath: Globals Inc. is a company focusing on IT solutions for schools and colleges and small and medium-size enterprises. We are one of the world’s largest companies that builds technological platforms for education because education software is niche and sometimes a more forgotten sector compared to banking, healthcare or manufacturing. We have the monopoly in that space across countries such as the United Kingdom, India, Singapore and France. Apart from that we also have a large practice on Global Security for defense.
And we also look at analytic solutions for government services using data to predict what will happen to enable policymakers to use tangible data to make policy decisions. So for example, if they want to correct a policy they have written on free meals for children, infant mortality or free health care they can look at the data we enable them with so they can calculate better policies.
Latoyaa: Because you started this business at the tender age of 14, how was your business model different from other companies and how did that lead to your success?
Gopinath: The main fact that I started at a young age there were of course pros and cons. The pros were that I didn’t have any baggage (he laughs) and I didn’t have to worry too much about money. It was absolutely pure passion that I was building with. When I did it with pure passion the good part is the product was built with high quality because it wasn’t built for me with a passion of monetizing it. Money was always at the backburner and there was nothing like a money number target. As companies grow and you develop a corporate spirit, you have to put financial targets along with the passion so at least I was at an advantage by just starting the company as a young programmer with only passion.
Also, it was a lot easier to work and build with other programmers. When I walked the floor, I interacted with my team. When I see someone building, I will sit and code with them which really meant two things – my team knows what I am doing because I know the work and also they like the fact that they have a leader or founder who can sit with them and contribute to the work. I always ask them if there is any way I can help. I believe that single statement makes staff know that they have the support of the CEO himself even if I may not have the direct solution. At least they can depend on me for support and that message has a huge impact on my workforce. The motivation is in turn linked with the product and the product is always good and customers are happy.
Latoyaa: So reflect 20 years ago, how did you fight the stigma attached to being a young entrepreneur/ CEO?
Gopinath: When I started off, I was not in the limelight. I only got into the spotlight 2 years later, when I was about 16. I think getting into the limelight was definitely overwhelming for me because all of a sudden I had media interviews, people contacting me as friends and extended relatives and associates just showed up. Even my school teachers now acknowledged me. So it was personally a huge change in the way the world saw me; you know like how you see in movies.
The downside to that is, at times it made me more inefficient because there is too much media and attention without you knowing it. People around me started to create large expectations and benchmarks such as calling me India’s new Bill Gates (he chuckles). But for me I just wanted to do what I like to do which was coding to build products and to scale the company. The only benefit from the media was more customers calling but it came with a lot of pressure to me and also my family. No regrets now but yeah there were some tough times.
Latoyaa: Do you think that you lost part of your childhood or youth and what were your coping mechanisms?
Gopinath: Of course I did. For example, when I went to my college for my bachelors in engineering in India, my seniors always told people he can become your future boss and I had everyone from my teachers to students always wanting to talk to me. So I could not be a normal student. They saw me as someone special. That completely snatched away the coolness of being at college. Youth is definitely a wonderful part of life and no matter how much wealth and recognition I have gained, I can’t go back to enjoy it.
However, I still tried to cope and keep myself busy. Apart from playing with dogs, I do some sports like football and squash and of course, I like to play chess. It is one of my favorite games. Physically it’s bad because it makes me lazy since I am not active on the couch. However, when I play chess I get a lot of ideas that can be used in a business context or just internally for my self-growth.
Latoyaa: What advice do you have to give a young person who wants to get into entrepreneurship?
Gopinath: So basically two things. The first is to have the right co-founder. It is very important because the top can get very lonely. I think that’s one of the mistakes I made. I didn’t have a co-founder at all. A a co-founder can edge the risk. You can fight. You can talk. You can have healthy arguments and you can strategize ideas and figure it out. As a single founder, I realized I am the only boss so even if I made a bad decision everyone still listened to me.
The other thing I will say to young entrepreneurs is to take action on your ideas. Your idea is a commodity and everyone has ideas every day. Have unique impactful ideas not incremental ones and the belief is to try even if it fails. The acceptance of failure is very important. The eco-system is mature across the globe and now is the perfect time for anyone to be an entrepreneur. The biggest disaster is if you don’t action your ideas and a few years later you see in the newspaper the same idea you had was executed by someone else who become a billionaire. That would probably be the worst feeling you have because you didn’t try.
Latoyaa: What’s next for you…well at least within the next 5 years?
Gopinath: I think in the next 5 years I am not sure if I would be doing what I am doing currently. I am a person who likes to do new things and I probably would start one more company which may focus on something totally different but it would also be technology-based. I also would want to delegate responsibility of running the company to someone else.
Latoyaa: Final words?
Gopinath: Young people stay shamelessly aggressive. That’s how I met Bill Gates in a washroom (with a smirk on his face). After he spent 15 minutes outside of the washroom with me, the one piece of advice Bill Gates gave me was the past is a thief if you allow it to steal your future. So as humans we are always worried about the past and the past may steal your future in the present. So if you ponder on the baggage from your past you can’t succeed. So personally and professionally it’s important that we take the learnings from our past but don’t stay stuck with it.