Gautham Sethuraman is someone who wears many hats. An engineer turned writer turned a management student and now heading a startup for online content presentation. His business idea is vivid -“We are building an app for the knowledge-hungry time-starved people”
He and his team have come out with an app- KNAPPILY to provide knowledge and content for many topics in just a few swipes. Here is an excerpt from an interview he recently gave to the Editorial Board, IIFT
So you went from being an engineer to a writer?
Gautham Sethuraman: It is much easier to connect the dots looking back. I did my Mechanical Engineer from Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai. I began my professional career with Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd. as Graduate Executive Trainee in 2011.
But by then I had had my letters published in The Hindu, and Deccan Chronicle, completed internships in media and journalism with Sportskeeda, and The Sports Mirror. So when I was offered a job at Trivone Digital Services as a Sports Writer, it was both scary and exciting at the same time. I also learnt that I will be able to do a lot more than what my job description suggests. So I took it up.
I got to do everything starting from managing the payments of bloggers to social media marketing. I guess that’s one of the wonderful things about a start-up - it teaches you the importance of getting your hands dirty. I had the opportunity to meet/interview athletes like PV Sindhu, P Kashyap, Baba Aparajith, S Badrinath, etc. I was fortunate to work with a team that let me implement a lot of my ideas. It is a unique feeling to see your ideas bearing fruits.
I subsequently worked with Wadhwani Foundation as a Senior Associate, where I worked on Business Development activities, Social Media, Quality Audit, etc… again more than what my job description suggests!
How has life at IIFT been?
Gautham Sethuraman: It has been challenging. The first few months of any Business School is challenging. On top of that, IIFT offers one of the most rigorous academic curriculum. Once I warmed up to these things that the institute had to offer, I started working on start-up.
But it is also exciting to return to student life after a four-year gap. I get to interact and learn from people from so many different cultures.
What made you pursue entrepreneurship?
Gautham Sethuraman: Serendipity. I didn’t plan on becoming an entrepreneur when I entered IIFT. But when I first heard the idea, I was excited. I have been working on it for the past 5 months. It was a familiar industry where I have worn multiple hats in the past, I also get to work with a rockstaresque team, so it wasn’t too hard for me to make the decision. But yes, managing academics and start-up has been quite challenging.
Tell us about your start-up…
Gautham Sethuraman: We all at some point have been guilty of putting down the newspaper when we don't follow a report. We often just rush to our favourite sections in the newspaper because that's what we are comfortable reading/analysing/debating.
What if we are able to read an article on any topic, and are able to get a well-rounded understanding of everything we need to know?
This is how the idea for Knappily (short for KNowledge APPlication DaILY) was conceived. We, a team of 7 people analyse and present our content in the 5W1H framework (What, Why, When, Where, Who, and How), under which we anticipate the questions that can be asked about a topic, and present it in a format that can be easily consumed.
In 2 minutes, and just a few swipes, one can go from little or zero knowledge to getting a 360-degree view of any particular topic!
How did your batch mates and faculty take it?
Gautham Sethuraman: For the first few months, I didn’t tell people that I was involved in a start-up. For me, it was a beta-test phase where I was trying to figure out how much time I can set aside for my start-up after a long day. But when I shared the news with them, they – both my friends and the faculty - were happy, and very supportive of it. I constantly interact, and learn from Dr Gautam Dutta.
What do you do in your free time?
Gautham Sethuraman: I’m getting trained in Carnatic classical music. I also love listening to light music. I’m a huge fan of Ilaiyaraja and AR Rahman. I read a lot. Besides nonfiction, I follow Quora and Brainpickings religiously. I write about sports, music, and self-help occasionally. I have written for several websites (Sportskeeda, Chakpak, etc.) and dailies (News Today, Business School Magazines, and Deccan Chronicle). I blog here.
What would you like to tell the MBA aspirants?
Gautham Sethuraman: For a minute now I’m going to throw political correctness out the window. 90% - I’m quoting a pessimistic number here – get into an MBA to land a high-paying job. While financial freedom is an important thing to pursue, the question you need to ask yourself is this: Do you see yourself playing that role for 10-12 hours a day for the next 3-4 years?
I see people who are not even remotely interested in a stream celebrating landing a high-paying job in it. There is a line between being open-minded and desperate. If you find yourself applying for a job you are not interested in because it is high-paying or peer pressure, you most likely on the wrong side of the line.
Always take suggestions. But be a student, not a follower. Let what you do be a product of your own conclusion.
(Gautham is an MBA(IB) student, batch of 2015-17 at IIFT, Kolkata Campus)