Mumbai: History lessons were never so interesting. Imagine learning about ancient Rome by clashing swords in a gladiator fight in an arena, or taking a walk inside the Egyptian pyramids to learn about pharaohs—all while sitting before a computer at home. Futuristic as it may sound, a small company in Mumbai is capitalizing on the growing popularity of three-dimensional virtual worlds such as Second Life to offer such services to users.
Indusgeeks Solutions Pvt. Ltd offers virtual marketing and business solutions focused on enterprise and education. It recently partnered with an Indian education software provider to test its solutions in the latter sector. Founder Siddharth Banerjee declined to name the partner citing non-disclosure agreements. Indusgeeks has built a platform on Second Life that enables students in distance-learning programmes to plug into a simulated environment replicating and enhancing real life learning processes. By assuming an avatar (a virtual identity), each student can attend classes, go on field trips (to say, ancient Rome) and perform experiments in labs, all in the virtual domain created by Indusgeeks.
Virtual education: Indusgeeks founder Siddharth Banerjee.
“The team has chosen to bring the concept of virtual environments to the field of education, (which) will bring the much needed simulation capability to learning,” says Anand Lunia, partner and chief financial officer of early-stage venture capital firm Seedfund. Worldwide, virtual worlds popularized by Second Life and multiplayer online games are gaining currency. A study by Virtual Worlds Management showed venture capitalists and media firms invested $184 million (Rs863 crore today) in 23 virtual worlds in the first quarter of 2008. In India, however, it is at a nascent stage. Of the 50,000 registered Second Life users in India, Banerjee estimates an active base of 1,500-2,000. “Our strategy is to focus on the utility aspect of this medium to create relevant use and drive adoption.”
The primary source of revenue for Indusgeeks currently lies in enterprise applications such as virtual business centres that enable remote conferencing (similar to video conferencing, but with avatars) and creating virtual brand presence for companies on the Second Life platform. Most of its revenues come from Indian clients, but the self-funded company plans to expand into the West Asian market in the next year. Indusgeeks has a 12-member team, comprising mostly design and engineering graduates. Banerjee himself is an unlikely founder with no technology background. He interned with financial audit firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu for three years preparing for a career in chartered accountancy, but ended up starting his own company instead.
Indusgeeks Solutions Pvt. Ltd is one of the nominated companies at the Tata NEN Hottest Startups competition, of which Mint is the official print media partner. Details of the competition can also be accessed at www.livemint.com/hotteststartups