By Sreeradha D Basu
In college, even as he pursued a degree in computer science, Bikash Barai liked to dabble in painting and host the odd magic show at student festivals. “I created my own style by combining magic, psychology and body-language reading,” says the IIT-Kharagpur alumnus. These casual pursuits gave him some serious returns—the seed money to launch a new business venture.
While still at college, Mr Barai teamed up with IIT graduate Nilanjan De to set up iViz Security, a company that sells technology products to detect intrusion on computer systems by hackers. “When we started, we offered security services to help companies secure their networks, competing with the likes of KPMG, PwC and E&Y,” says Mr De, co-founder, who drew funds from his research scholarship to pitch in his share of the startup capital.
Tired of service offerings, the technopreneurs looked at building a proprietary product. Already adept at reading the minds of audiences at his magic shows, Mr Barai put some of that learning to good use. He and Mr De built their first proprietary tool that simulates hacker intelligence to predict possible attack paths on computer systems. Once problems are detected, the software can also suggest remedial measures. “The product does automatic penetration testing and it can emulate the intelligence of a hacker,” says Mr De.
One of the big challenges iViz faced in the early days was getting customers to trust a bunch of youngsters. “We convinced the director of a company called eRevMax Technologies to let us check his security network,” says Mr Barai. “That resulted not just in our first-ever order priced at $1,000, but also brought in angel investment of about Rs 1.5 crore into the company.”
With this initial investment, iViZ built a team and took its product to market. Product innovation continued at the back-end, with the team using the base technology to put out newer offerings. This included a cloud-based service, which customers could access by logging on to the company’s online portal and getting their systems tested.
From selling to small and medium-sized companies, iViz quickly moved on to acquiring marquee customers such as Reliance Communications, KPIT Cummins, makemytrip.com and NSDL. Such growth brought it to the attention of venture capitalists. In 2007, iViz raised $2.5 million from early-stage technology investor IDG Ventures India. “There is tremendous value in the artificial-intelligence product it has built as well as in the delivery model,” says Hemir Doshi, co-founder and vice-president, IDG Ventures India. Since then, iViz has added over 100 customers in India; in the past year, it has signed up over 15 new alliances in overseas markets. “International markets accounted for 35% of revenues in fiscal 2010,” says Mr Doshi.