Editor’s Note: VidTeq (India) Private Limited is a Bangalore-based startup in the field of Navigation, Location and Local Search. The company builds VideoMaps, digital maps and a search database for navigation and locational needs for businesses. VidTeq is the first company in the world to come up with the concept of a VideoMap and the technology associated with it. It was selected as a NASSCOM EMERGE 50 company in 2011, recognizing the company as one that will shape the market. In this interview, Chandra Thimmannagari, VidTeq’s founder and co-CEO, describes their journey to become the leader in Navigation, Location and Local Search for India and other developing countries.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and live another business day over again (good or bad), when would it be? What happened that day?
Chandra Thimmannagari: I would like to go back to February 9, 2009. This is when we launched our website. The kind of feedback we got from users was quite amazing. Some users were saying things such as “good to see a novel idea coming from India, “proud to be an Indian,” etc. This is what had been driving us all along since we launched our company in May 2008.
SandHill.com: You spent several years in the United States, getting your Master’s degree and then working with companies such as AMD and Sun Microsystems. Where did the idea for VidTeq originate?
Chandra Thimmannagari: I always wanted to do something different that would help the masses. After I accepted an offer from Intel India and left the USA to move back to Bangalore in 2004, I realized how difficult it is to travel from one point to another in India without asking for help. I felt this problem would get worse in years to come and wanted to solve it in my own way.
When I started thinking about this problem, I knew that the solution that exists in western countries wouldn’t apply in a country like India. In western countries just carrying text directions helps you reach your destination, but in India there are no street names. I knew that solving the problem needed an out-of-the-box idea.
This is when I thought: what if we provide a video clip of the complete route (VideoMap). I tossed this idea around and was able to convince others that this would be the best solution to solve some (if not all) of the navigational issues in India. I firmly believe, once you watch a video clip of the route, it stays in your memory, thereby helping you reach your destination in a hassle-free manner.
SandHill.com: How did you decide the company name?
Chandra Thimmannagari: NavTeq is the leader in digital maps. We picked the word VidTeq as we wanted to be the leaders in video maps.
SandHill.com: How did you convince your first investor to invest in your company?
Chandra Thimmannagari: Our first investors were our friends and family members. We still had to go over the business plan and convince them about the technology and how it would change the way people would navigate here in India. They were quite convinced on the idea of VideoMap, so it became easy for them to invest in our company.
My two co-founders (who were also my college mates and colleagues) and I provided part of the necessary funding from our personal savings.
SandHill.com: What was the funniest moment for you at VidTeq so far?
Chandra Thimmannagari: This was when I was presenting about VidTeq at Bangalore IT Biz 2010. A guy in the audience asked whether we had permission to shoot videos of streets. I said “no.” Then he asked, “What if the government comes after you?” I said, “We will see then.” The whole audience started laughing. Then there was a little silence and I said we did get permission for shooting videos of streets. The guy felt quite happy and started laughing as well. It was funny as I felt the guy should be appreciating the technology, but he was more worried about the permissions. We had a clearance from the traffic police commissioner’s office before we started creating the map videos using vehicle-mounted cameras.
We also had a funny moment when we were editing a map video. We saw a dog chasing a person on a street. This was captured by our vehicle, which goes daily on streets to capture raw videos. It was really funny to watch the video. But users don’t see this, as we edited it out of the video.
SandHill.com: Please describe a tradeoff you had to make in your time-to-market race and how you decided what to do.
Chandra Thimmannagari: We wanted to take our website live ASAP as we wanted to raise funds through VCs. To take it live, we had to ensure things would work fine across browsers – IE6, IE7, Firefox and Chrome. Things were working fine on Firefox, Chrome and IE7, but some key features would break when we tried to load in IE6. We had to decide whether we should have a fix for IE6 before we went live. We decided not to have the fix and took it live on February 9, 2009 (within nine months from start).
I personally think we made the right decision, although it didn’t help us raise funds at that point in time.
SandHill.com: Is your product mainly for consumers?
Chandra Thimmannagari: Although consumers benefit from our services, we are a B2B company. Our three Web products – Wayfinder, e-Visit and E-Schedular address the needs of small and medium businesses, enterprises and real estate companies.
Wayfinder is a route map solution for any business that has a website. Typically every website has something called a location map or route map. In most cases this is either a Google Map or some kind of JPG/PDF image. As part of Wayfinder, we provide a video direction link that sits on their website. Clicking on the link throws a pop-up wherein the user can request video directions from his location all the way to that particular business.
E-Visit is a virtual visit and category search service for real estate firms.Through our product link that sits on real estate portals, our service allows users to virtually visit a property from the convenience of their home or wherever they are without having to physically visit the place.Our product also provides information about the area surrounding the property.
E-Schedular is a tool for the transportation department within a corporation. It automates the complete process of scheduling employees to various cabs based on certain user constraints (e.g., the travel time of an employee should not be more than 90 minutes, first pick-up should never be a female employee, last drop should never be a female employee, close to 100 percent occupancy, etc.).
This tool not only automates the scheduling/routing process but at the same time reduces cost for the company. The tool also provides optimized video routes thatemployees can view towards increasing their safety.
SandHill.com: You mentioned earlier that you always wanted to do something to help the masses. Did you recognize while growing up that you had an entrepreneurial personality?
Chandra Thimmannagari: I really recognized it later, when I wrote my first book, “CPU Design: Answers for Frequently asked Questions,” published by Springer Publications. When I was about finished with all the chapters, Springer asked whether they should help me with the hard cover and title for the book. I said “no” and designed my own hard cover and came up with a catchy title. They really liked the design and title and went with it. The book went on to become one of the bestselling books in the Processor Design field. At that point I knew there was something in me about entrepreneurship.
SandHill.com: Who is the entrepreneur that you would most like to meet?
Chandra Thimmannagari: Steve Jobs. I loved his passion for work and thirst for innovative ideas. I got to know him only through his biography.
SandHill.com: Are you using social media platforms in your marketing strategy even though your market currently is only India?
Chandra Thimmannagari: Yes, we are quite active tweeting about our new customers at our Twitter account. We also post things about VidTeq at various Facebook forums (Bangalore traffic forum, etc.). This helps increase our direct traffic to vidteq.com.
Chandra Thimmannagari is founder and co-CEO at VidTeq (India) Private Limited. In 1991 he went to the USA to pursue his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University. Upon graduating, he worked with Advanced Micro Devices. In 1997 he joined Sun Microsystems, where he held several engineering and management positions. In 2004 he joined Cradle Technologies. In 2004 he joined Intel India and moved to Bangalore and worked on many of Intel’s cutting-edge microprocessors. He held several engineering and management positions at Intel India until he left in 2008 to start VidTeq. He has filed 26 Patents in the USA; 11 are approved and 15 are pending approval. He authored “CPU Design: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions” (Springer Publications, USA).
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor at SandHill.com.