My Start-Up Story
By Irfan Khan
Wednesday, 10 Aug 2016
I could resign to my fate and take a bow on the curtain call or pad up for the next innings...As I looked back on my life, I could see that I always went with the new small currents that grew into tidal waves.
On July 13th 2006 my heart was shutting down the pumping as I reached the hospital in the nick of time. I went through an open-heart surgery to remove five blockages. For all practical purposes it looked like my professional life is going into a slow fade-out to black and the end credits would start rolling soon. Back home everybody made sure that I was comfortable which also means that I should not forget that now I am fragile. I could resign to my fate and take a bow on the curtain call or pad up for the next innings...
As I looked back on my life, I could see that I always went with the new small currents that grew into tidal waves. As an assistant director in films I picked up television nuances and dived into the new medium, which was viewed as junkyard of film has-beens. In television I created India’s first countdown show Superhit Muqabla, which also made DD Metro a force against the onslaught of Zee TV. But that was back in 1993.
So when I got a call from a friend in Ludhiana wanting to know if I was up to setting up a music channel in Punjab, I grabbed the opportunity. This was the perfect getaway from getting molly coddled at home. When I reached Ludhiana, all alone, I was informed that since Punjab elections were announced, now its going to be a news channel. I spent the next year in Ludhiana as CEO of Channel No. 1 and recruited local talent and trained them to run a satellite channel from this industrial town.
This is where I found my new horizon. Technology. I set up a tapeless channel, which meant that we never bought any Beta tapes and the entire operation was digital. After finishing the yearlong stint I got involved with Time Broadband, which was bringing IPTV to India. We also got into mobile content for telecom operator Maxis in Malaysia. I was immersed in technology though I was heading content. I was going into a fast fade to the age of content on demand. I was sponging up tech like a fish to water and had no doubts that the future of content is digital.
The content we created for Malaysia reached MIPTV Cannes and was honored among top 3 mobile content. When the IPTV Company folded up I launched into my start up (with support from friends). The concept was based on developing a n algorithm that could do effective profiling and recommendation of digital content. The premise was that content creation has become simpler than content discovery. In times to come people will be inundated with content and have a tough time sifting through the pile. What if we could recommend content based on personal preferences and also cue the advertising likewise. This could reduce the fatigue of viewing inane content and get ads of products that match the personality.
We entered this in the Power of Ideas (a contest of start ups run by CIIE [IIM-Ahmedabad] along with The Economic Times). The fund for this is provided by Government of India – Department of Science and Technology. We won the contest and got funding.
This was in 2012. I had completely metamorphosed into the digital content professional in six years after a life-stopping event.