Alumni Connect: 18th Parallel makes video games accessible to all
Nishith Shah, a casual gamer-turned-entrepreneur, through his start-up, ‘18th Parallel’, introduced a technology to transfer mobile games to a larger screen - the television. An alumni of College of Engineering Pune (COEP), he shares his journey into transforming his passion into a successful career.
1) Tell us about your educational background. In terms of academics, how do you think you performed in college?
I graduated from the Electronics & Telecom department, College of Engineering, Pune (COEP) in 1997. As a student, I think I was consistently an average student. As far as I am concerned, education was the right blend of theoretical and practical, and I tried to maintain that balance throughout my time in college.
2) What drove you to choose this career path? Why did you chose to take a leap into a new medium like video games?
I have been involved in the design and development of technology products across multiple sectors throughout my career. Over the years, I have worked and built products in the telecom, networking, security, and industrial sectors before moving to the media and entertainment sector. Eventually, the co-founders, who are also my friends, and I, realised that the video and video game market has a bright future in terms of design. While, startups in the video sector were already popular,the video games sector was uncharted territory in the country. We made use of that gap in the Indian market and founded 18th Parallel in 2011.
3) What happened after you graduated from COEP?
After graduation, I was offered scholarships for post-graduation studies at Duke University and a couple of others universities in the US. I went on to do my Masters in Science from Duke University before entering the workforce.
4) What are some of the highs and some of the lows that you have encountered?
My first job was as a research scientist at Bell Communications Research in New Jersey. I quit the job to join a startup in the Bay Area, which was acquired by Alcatel. Post the acquisition, I moved to India and continued working at various startups before I quit to start 18th Parallel along with my co-founders. In terms of highs and lows, the Alcatel acquisition was definitely a high. After founding 18th Parallel, it has been a roller coaster ride with major highs and lows every few months so it has been difficult to keep track.
5) Tell us about your startup 18th Parallel. How did it find a place in the Indian video game market?
18th Parallel, powers an end-to-end software and interactive services platform for Android set-top boxes deployed by TV operators. In simple words, we created a way to convert a stand-alone android device into a micro-console. This was made keeping in mind the Indian market, where consoles and the games continue to be too expensive.With our product, we bridged that gap, bringing the popular mobile games on to television screens and making them accessible to all. Our customers include large national operators such as Airtel and DEN Networks as well as over the top (OTT) service providers such as Vuclip.
We have a lot of exciting upcoming projects on two fronts. Android set-top boxes are a new greenfield area for us and new product and feature ideas for this platform keep coming up and as more operators are increasingly signing up, so a lot of implementation work in progress.
6) What are some of the future plans for 18th Parallel?
On the product front, we are expanding our software platform aggressively. On the business front, we are also actively looking for opportunities to work with TV operators outside India.