An entrepreneur on a mission to make a difference to society, Udhay Shankar has plenty of feathers in his cap. An excellent student, he has won numerous awards and has been successful in various competitions. He spent a semester abroad at the University of South Australia, where he became involved with the STEMSEL foundation. After finishing his B.E. in Instrumentation & Control Engineering from PSG Tech this year, he is now fully occupied with his two start-ups, The Revolutionary Youth (TRY) and Do It Yourself Academy (DIYA).
Excerpts from an e-mail interview:
Q. I imagine it must have been pretty hard to convince STEMSEL, the Australia-based foundation, to help start your organisation. How was it?
Actually, I did not know the foundation existed until I saw 7 year olds programming controllers. My classmate at UniSA (University of South Australia) was an active member of STEMSEL and through him I met the CEO, Mr PengChoo. All this happened in the last three days of my stay. I had to prove to him that I wouldn’t just walk away after a while. Post discussions for two days, Mr Choo decided to support me. He also provided micro-controllers and kits worth 50,000 without taking anything in writing from me. I was moved by his confidence in me. The best part is that he continuously says, “You can do it in India – no problem. I see energy and fire in those children. Help them.”
Q. Chivalrous Humanitarian Ideological Loiter Device or CHILD, the thinking wheelchair won the nation-wide Innovation Jockeys contest conducted by Accenture in 2013. Tell us something about it.
I won the Jury award, as they felt CHILD did not fit into any of the categories, but was of high value. CHILD took me about a month, working for twenty to twenty two hours a day. I set myself a target to finish it on Jan 26th and so I did. I had a great time at the Innovation Jockeys. It is a very good platform for us to publicize ourselves. The motto of CHILD was to assure “more for less- More comfort and more security at a lesser price”.
Q. Till a few months ago, you were an Engineering student. Now, you’re a full time President of two start-ups, TRY and DIYA. Attending classes to managing start-ups, what was the transition like?
The transition from being a student to managing your start-ups is like having a big shopping list in hand, but not having enough cash in your wallet to buy it. There are people who can offer you credit cards, but you are not sure if you can pay them back in time. So, at the moment, we are trying to make things self-sustaining. I am working part-time on my start-ups. I am also involved in the family business. You got to put in a lot of effort- that I tell you for sure! There are going to be a lot of disappointments – you got to face them with a smile.It’s just a matter of time. I am sure someday soon our start-ups will shine.
Q. Was it easy to convince your family that you didn’t want to pursue the standard placement/MS/MBA route?
It’s not about convincing. It is about standing strong. If you make up your mind, do not budge. Your confidence has to convince the person. My mom, in reality, is filled with fear. What if my attempts fail? What if I am left with no options? To me, it’s all about convincing my mom. I will certainly pursue higher education through some means.
Q. You have achieved so much for someone in their early twenties. Who is your inspiration? What has been the greatest challenge you've faced yet?
I have always had the motivation to do something for the society; my experience at Australia was an eye opener. My greatest challenge is the one I am going through now- to get people to trust you. I am looking for people to help me start clubs in colleges. I started off with my friends, but they have now graduated and moved out. So, only by establishing clubs my efforts can be consistent.In fact, I am trying to start one in our college.
Q.Tell us something about your life and experiences at PSG Tech.
PSG Tech has certainly been very essential in building my career. I am very thankful to my department and college for providing the facilities required and most importantly, the freedom. There are times when I was at the lab for 40 hours straight. I am not sure how many colleges would support that. Like in the life of every student, I’ve had good times and bad. I made some very good friends and transformed from a sensitive and short tempered person to whatever I am today.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
My ultimate aim is to start a group of companies. I am certainly thinking about starting more companies once I get a grip over my family business, TRY and DIYA. I am looking forward to associate with like-minded people to start companies together. After all, India needs more entrepreneurs and more of “MADE IN INDIA”.