Divyesh Kharade (26) is the kind of geeky friend you’d love to have around — everything from his round spectacles to his ready smile and quick wit are endearing.
But spend more time with him and you realise that his true genius doesn’t lie in his Electronical Engineering degree, the fact that he was placed with Wipro straight out of college or even that he quit two years later to start his own software company with a college friend in 2007.
Kharade’s genius lies in the fact that he is able to identify a problem — often just a small, niggling inconvenience — and find a lasting and technically sound solution for it.
In fact, that’s how Kharade and Jinen Dedhia founded Deltecs Infotech, a software firm that creates learning-based applications for cellphones.
The duo, who studied at Sardar Patel College of Engineering, Andheri, joined Wipro in Pune as project engineers in 2005. “Our job was to make appliances smart and small, using a proprietary technology of Wipro’s,” says Kharade.
Every weekend, they would return home to Mumbai with other colleagues, all of whom would use that travel time to study word lists for GRE and TOEFL exams with flash cards.
That’s when Kharade and Dedhia realised two things: People are eager to use their travel time efficiently, and flash cards are cumbersome. To try and address these issues, they set about building an application that would contain all 4,000 words from the TOEFL word list and could be read on a cellphone.
In three months, they had completed the application and shared it with their travel buddies. The app went viral and the duo caught the attention of coaching institutes and universities, who would later become their clients.
Meanwhile, they incorporated feedback they received from their friends. “A bookmark feature would be useful,” said one. ‘Allow us to write notes and explanations,” said another.
“We realised we were on to something,” says Kharade. In 2007, Dedhia and Kharade quit Wipro to start their own mobile application developing company.
In their first year, they created apps for clients like publishers Tata McGraw Hill and coaching institutes like Career Forum, who wanted to expand by shifting their content to the new media.
They also created learning-based applications for Career Launcher, targeting the entrance exams of Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies and Symbiosis institutes.
“But the work was resource-intensive and we didn’t have enough manpower,” says Kharade. Another inconvenience, and the solution was not far behind.
“We began working on a content authoring application in which, once we fed the content and customised the requirements, an application would be generated,” says Kharade.
To put it simply, the duo created a mothership application — an application that created applications.
At first they used it internally. Then, they made it snazzier, made its user interface more customisable, and made it available to the market in August 2009. They called it Drona.
During this time, the two would work almost 24 hours a day and often slept in their office. “We’d create service apps for clients and plough the money back into Drona,” says Kharade.
Just months after it was founded, Drona won a Handheld Learning Award in the UK for Innovation in Business and Training.
The company’s client list grew to include Wipro, Fullerton India, State Bank of India, among others. These organisations use Drona to convert training and development modules or assessment tests into cellphone applications.
“You don’t need to be a computer science engineer to know how to write programmes — that’s something all engineers are taught,” says Kharade. “To develop applications, you need to be passionate about creating a product.”