Founder and CEO Yusuf Motiwala, 37, spent 14 years designing telecom, digital signal processing, multimedia and embedded software for various companies. Prior to founding TringMe in 2007, he held key architecture and management positions at Aricent (then Hughes Software Systems, or HSS), Alcatel Lucent and Texas Instruments. Motiwala has got multiple patents in the area of IPTV (Internet Protocol television) and telecommunication. He holds a master’s degree in electronic engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay.
Apul Nahata, 36, vice-president, TringMe, held management and technical leadership roles at Qualcomm Inc. and Fujitsu Global before TringMe. Most recently, he was leading the next-generation user-interface design for mobile devices at Qualcomm. He holds a master’s in computer science from the University of Southern California, US. Nahata has got multiple patents in the areas of device simulation, telecom and application software. He has also actively contributed to Eudora Mail client.
Founders Motiwala (left) and Nahata (far right) with TringMe’s software developer Ranjith Haridas.
Motiwala travelled abroad often. He used Skype or a calling card to stay in touch with his family. “The family would be forced to use something similar, installing software, etc., which they were not quite comfortable with. I remember, one day, my father asked me, ‘How come with all the technology, it’s not easier for us to call you directly from the browser just like we send you an email from the browser?’ The question was intriguing, especially coming from a ‘common’ man who wants to use technology, without really knowing much about it,” Motiwala says. And that’s how the seed for TringMe was planted. Over the next few months, intrigued by such questions and experiences, Motiwala found himself questioning the very basis of existing (voice) communication mechanisms and realized that a platform which could unify various sources of voice communication (Web, Mobile, IM, VoIP) was the next logical step.
He goes further, “Imagine this—let’s say you want to build an astrology-related website wherein one can call in from the Web or phone, enter their birth date and consult with you on the go. Obviously, you really do not want to invest heavily into voice technology and want to get up and running within a day or so. This is where TringMe can get started in no time. All you really need to do is use TringMe’s platform and get the site completely voice-enabled without having any voice or telecom expertise. Moreover, you don’t pay anything to TringMe to integrate the platform. You only pay for the telephone services that you use.” TringMe creates innovative voice solutions for phone-banking sites, dating sites, matrimonial sites, travel portals and hospitality portals and so on. The platform simplifies “integrating voice” in just about any application or market segment. Apart from the platform itself, TringMe provides all the tools and services to utilize the platform capabilities in mobile and Web applications. Within a year of launch, TringMe’s product portfolio grew and established TringMe as a prominent player in the voice telephony sector. Recently, TringMe even announced the world’s first real BlackBerry VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), creating a stir in the VoIP industry.
Motiwala gives a little potted history of the voice technology sector. “Voice is a specialized technology and creating anything around voice requires expensive infrastructure and telecom expertise. So far, the only way to create voice application was to get expensive technology from telecom companies and it wasn’t easy for the average Joe,” says Motiwala. “This kept voice technology available only to select business sectors having deep pockets (for example, phone banking by big banks, among others). On top of that, there was no easy solution to create voice-enabled websites, purely because voice technology was highly associated with phone and never with a Web browser,” says Motiwala.
“The decision to chuck a well-paying job for a start-up is not everyone’s cup of tea,” says Motiwala. “I don’t believe in something like a Plan B. However, we did our research well. Confidants who I spoke with were very supportive. Given the necessity of such a technology, the initial response was very positive and hence I was confident that we will make it.”
He continues, “As a side note, sometime people ask me whether they can work on some idea while employed somewhere else and I advise them—do not have any backup—don’t say to yourself that if this doesn’t work, I will go back to a job. If you have a backup, it’s almost given that you will not commit yourself 100% and most likely fail.”
“Innovate, innovate, innovate. Look at the perspective no one else has looked at earlier. Be passionate about what you are doing.
And finally, believe in yourself,” says Motiwala.
Starting capital: Rs 2 lakh
Raising funds : Invested their own money.
First customers: AOL. They created VoIP services for the company. Through TringMe, AOL users could use their mobile phones to make calls on the Internet. It even supported GTalk to make VoIP calls over this service.