On Saturday, when Suhas Gopinath, 23, arrived for Shaping Young Minds Programme (SYMP), there were not many to escort him to the venue.
It was after sometime that some of the organizers recognized him and ushered him inside the Sangeet Natak Academy auditorium where he was the main speaker for the session. And when the moderator introduced him, many gasped.
For the Bangalore based youth, with a boy-next-door look was actually the world’s youngest CEO, who at 14 had floated his own web-solutions company, India Inc, even before the first faint stubble had darkened his chin.
In fact, he became his own boss when he had just cleared his class IX!
Today, his company, which started from California, US has presence in 11 countries, has 250 employees (most of them young) and a multi billion turnover.
“Oh, there have been so many occasions when people have mistook me to be an imposter masquerading as a CEO. It happened six months back in Washington where I had gone to attend a World Bank meet. The security stopped me when I told them that I was the CEO and president of a company,” he reminisced talking to HT.
And he recalled instances when international firms refused business with his company simply because he didn’t have a proper moustache, he was (and still is) so young!
He said, “Hailing from a conservative family, I knew there was no way I could give up on my studies. So, I took admission in an engineering college whose lecturer on coming to know that I owned a company, applied for a job with us!”
Gopinath didn’t admit his teacher in his company. “We strictly go by merit and do not admit anyone on connections alone. In fact we do not even consider how many marks one has obtained. The emphasis is on skills,” he said.
Gopinath, who idolizes Bill Gates said, “When the global meltdown happened, our company wasn’t impacted. In fact, at Davos, we issued an advisory for global firms on how to be a winner in recession hit times.” His message to the youths: “Being your own boss is far more fun. It was a visit to an Internet café as a kid that led me to think of launching a company offering web solutions.”
The first employee he hired for his company was 30 years, half his age.
“I realized there was a issue if the employees had a boss half their age. To overcome this, we did two things, started hiring younger people and laid emphasis on doing away with hierarchy. Often, we would switch off lights and start playing with the employees. That helped me bond with the employees.”
How much salary does he earn? “Well so much is being said about CEO salaries these days. But let me tell you I draw a very meager salary, almost what my project manager gets. I utilize the rest of the amount for my company’s expansion.”
The young CEO said, “UP had excellent potential. Its for the government to make the climate investor friendly.”
By the time he was through, Suhas Gopinath had indeed shaped several young minds in the audience as most of them said they too would like to employ rather than get employed.