Startup Space Perspective: Kratikal Tech
26th Sep 2017 21:38 Nikita, Zeeshan, AnshumanTweet
“Morning shows the day”, Such is the story of Kratikal; a company for which the seeds had been sown in MNNIT Allahabad from the first days of the founders in the college. It has not been long since the founders had strolled among the same aisles of the college, building up their start-up, and inspiring and helping their juniors to start their own; and today their company stands with a strong presence in Delhi NCR and expanding in the entire nation.
Recently we had an interview with the founders of Kratikal where they shared their journey till date and much more.
1. What is the story behind Kratikal? How did you feel the need for cybersecurity?
During the First Year in college, my account was hacked which made me curious causing me to investigate further about Hacking. For which I spent long hours in the CC (Computer Centre) of Tagore Hostel which made me question and discuss about how my account got hacked and other advanced techy stuff related to Hacking.
During the Workshop [held during Avishkar] the topics that were taught made us wonder about the existence of a company which could ensure these things. Then we thought that even we could teach these topics since we have already grasped them. So we decided to give 6 months duration for preparation regarding what we should cover in order to teach the students and also did some research on cybersecurity knowing the mass appeal in case of cybersecurity.
In our 2nd year at MNNIT, we started visiting schools and colleges nearby UIT (United Institute of Technology), UIM (United Institute of Management) and colleges near Prayag. Our first workshop conducted in UIM was unpaid and received a great response which gave us boost to continue on the path. While doing workshops we initially did demo workshops for which we took feedback from the students and in case less than 80% people were satisfied the workshop was made free but thankfully not once did our feedback got less than 90% appraisal.
When we passed out from MNNIT, 40+ workshops had been conducted. The knowledge we imparted was the same knowledge required for implementing in a company. When we started E-Cell MNNIT (in 2015), we got a chance to meet J.P Bhatt from Impact QA. As he mentioned about lack of cybersecurity, we assured him that we could add value to his company. So we moved to Delhi in a two-seater office where we started hunting for clients and embarked upon our journey.
2. When did you involve investors and how exactly was your association with Impact QA post-college?
The model was profitable from the start; so, we started as a bootstrap. In the service segment, networks and connections work a lot; because no one would trust your services at first without any connection [and you should consider this when approaching investors].
Initially, we got some investors, who were non-strategic, called “La-La investors” in Kratikal jargon. Such investors offered a large sum of money and asked for a lion’s share in the company - 4 crores and 60% was the bargain for one, but they didn’t have any knowledge of the industry and they would not provide any connections. So, we perceived that they wouldn't be of any benefit in the long run.
We had an angel investment from Infibeam, an e-commerce company, which was the first investment in our firm. Later, we met Mr Amajt Gupta at a board meeting of Phimetrics a client firm, when we went to discuss the services that Kratikal would provide. Amajit went on to ask about Kratikal and its big vision, and later invest in Kratikal. Mr Amajit had a background in technology and actually realized the potential of cybersecurity. In addition, he also had a wide network of connections. At the end of the day, money is just not sufficient. It is more important who is giving the money.
“It so happened that, Mr Amajit had to leave for Gurgaon after the discussion; and Mr Pavan, [CEO, Kratikal] who had set his mind to pitch, lied that he too had to go to Gurgaon and thus he boarded the same taxi service as Mr Amajit to earn more one and half hour pitching time on the commute from Noida to Gurgaon on an Uber,” recollected Dip Jung Thapa, Co-Founder Kratikal.
3. What is Kratikal Academy?
India needs 10 lakh cyber-security professionals and there are only about 70,000 currently. So, using our experience of the security testing business, we built a certification programme in association with the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India; which is the first cybersecurity certification programme recognized by GOI, especially focusing on industry-based training and preventive training- so that a student can pursue cybersecurity from day one in college. There is no cybersecurity curriculum in most IITs or NITs. So, we are trying to introduce it as a curriculum right now through Kratikal Academy. The three major services are:
- ISCP (Information Security Certification Program)
- Got accreditation from Telecom Centre for Excellence, Department of Telecom
- Running for college graduates and entry-level IT professionals
- Taught along with colleges and along with coaching institutes as well.
- CSB (CyberSecurity Basics)
- Entry level for school students, focusing on cyber-hygiene
- Two sections, for 9th and below, and 11th and 12th.
- For enterprises
- Train people in cybersecurity hygiene
- Prevent attacks through social engineering
“90% of hacks happen because people are manipulated,” pointed out Ankit Singh, Co-Founder Kratikal.
4. What is cyber hygiene? How is it different from general cybersecurity?
Cyber hygiene is about how you conduct yourself on the internet-how you select your password, how to browse on the internet, how to not fall for spam emails, what kind of information to be disclosed on social media, how to detect various social engineering plans, etc. So, basically, cyber-hygiene is a subset of cybersecurity.
“A company has technical and non-technical employees, both of whom have access to sensitive information. For an attacker, it is easier to hack a non-technical person. Suppose someone scatters a bunch of USB pen drives in the parking lot of a company; then, it is highly likely for a non-technical employee to help the drive get connected to company servers. A more hygienic practice would be not to connect any stray storage to office PCs,” explained Mr Prashant Pandey, Co-Founder Kratikal, on cyber-hygiene.
5. After graduating from college, you went straight up to work in your own startup. So, how was life in a company different from college life; in the special case when the company is owned by you?
The phase was quite similar to college phase, Going for the classes changed into going to the company and working in a corporate sector replaced studying. Our focus was to maximize work irrespective of the ways one may use to achieve them, conventional or unconventional methods didn’t bother us till we get the work done. With this in mind, we had flexible working hours.
6. Who were your first mentors? What advice will you give to aspiring entrepreneurs during their seeding phase who are continuously in a dilemma of Job v/s Start-Up?
Mostly Alumni from MNNIT, including Mr J.P. Bhatt (Impact QA), Mr Karthik Venkat (My Dream Store), Mr Krishna Vasudevan (who had 20+ years expertise in cybersecurity domain) along with Mr Uday Bhaskar, Mr Amajit Gupta and many other mentors used to come to our office weekly and imparted wisdom in various fields.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, I would say, don’t think too much about the outcome. Start doing, if you want to start something in a particular field, then, know everything about that field. Don’t listen to what other people are saying. Most of the startups that fail to prosper are due to the mindset that is made on basis of public opinion. Also, never think of money as a problem and don’t indulge in procrastination.
“Don’t push your Dates, Push your Limits”
Start from small, check for viability and even if you fail, learn from it, gain experience, and grow. There is a continuous transition in the life of an entrepreneur.
“I’ve moved from Sublime to Powerpoint” emphasized Pavan Kushwaha, Co-Founder, Kratikal.
If you believe in something and you have confidence that you can make it, then you must go for your startup. If you go for a startup, you would get an upper hand on people getting into jobs, because when you are in a startup, you are not doing only one thing. You get to know about multiple domains that come handy in short-term and long-term operations of a company. This builds your skillset. So, even if your startup fails, you can go for a job, that too with better prospects. A startup guy would go for a job only when his idea did not get funded or his idea was not viable. Also, companies would prefer startup guys because they would be more focused and dedicated. “Job” would be the last option for a startup guy.
We all had jobs but our inner entrepreneur showed us the bigger picture and we could not look back. Even Ankit, Prashant and Paratosh had to convince their parents for working in a startup. The Indian mindset is very cautious and will always choose the path that is safer but their entrepreneurial zeal took over and they did what they were meant to do.
7. Idea, Team or Timing; which of these in your opinion is most important factor in determining a startup?
Team and Timing are most important as even good ideas fail without proper timing. We started working in the field of cybersecurity at that moment of time when this was on the rise in our country. We initiated our work in the field of cybersecurity and after 2 years Cybersecurity saw a boom and we got to be a part of that uprise.
8. What is your take on the inertia that is currently present in this city/state towards startups? Why is there a significant concentration of Startups in NCR region, compared to a low density here, is it just the flow of modernization or can we build such an ecosystem in Allahabad as well?
Even Delhi is not a preference for a Startup due to lack of developers and unavailability of a good audience. Analysis of the target Audience for the service or the product a startup is providing will compel you to choose such locations. Internet-Based Startup will receive recognition in cities like Delhi, Noida, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon etc. Also hiring is a tough job even in Tier II cities as there is lack of good Tech guys as most of them tend to move to metropolitan for better opportunities. For Manufacturing Startup these kinds of cities is ideal where there is an availability of cheap labourers, low-cost electricity, and cheap land. While selecting site of startup one needs to consider these 3 features
- Team / Employees availability
- Target Audience
9. What is the goal that you plan to achieve; what is your vision for this company?
In the field of e-Commerce, there is Amazon. When we think of Online Payment, PayPal is there; but we are unaware of a name as big as these in the field of cybersecurity. So our mission is to be that name when anything related to cybersecurity comes up. Starting from being the market leader in NCR region and then leading the nation, till we become the global synonym of cybersecurity.
10. You might have heard of the Aadhar card Data privacy stuff, which has been a hot topic these days. Being, from an area of cybersecurity, what are your views regarding that?
At present Indians don’t care that much about privacy which they should. But around 70% of the prominent companies are leaking customer data. US, Australia and other countries are more concerned about privacy and their data usage by service providers and other companies. Govt. should test entire infrastructures and start a bug bounty programme like most of the tech giants have employed, to ensure quality and effectiveness of all government apps and websites which are intended for a greater purpose but may be used otherwise. Regarding data collection for enhancement of user experience, it should be completely user dependent. Just to do business with customer data, they resort to cheap methods where unnecessary access is requested through the apps. There should be complete transparency between the user and the company about their data usage.
11. Do you have a motto / live-by-quote that keeps you motivated to work? How do you overcome depression?
Thankfully we don’t even have time for getting depressed Our motivation is our team even if one out of five is low the rest of us make sure to lighten up and bring back normalcy. We live together just like college days discussing each and every stuff. What motivates us is our vision to become a cybersecurity leader globally. The response we receive from our clients when they feel contented and thankful to us, that particular moment of recognition or feeling of value to the society is what drives us forward.