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Vishal GondalEntrepreneurial Journey and achievements Published On: Tuesday, March 10, 2015 Views 4563

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About – Vishal Gondal

Born on the 14th of July, 1976; Vishal Gondal is the serial Indian entrepreneur & angel investor who is widely known for his stint – India games! Presently, he is acts as the founder & CEO of GOQii Inc – which is a start-up that is getting famous for its Fitness related devices and apps.

Personally speaking; Vishal was born in Mumbai, India and is presently based in Menlo Park, California with his wife Harpreet, (who he met during his India games days) and two sons Aryan & Veer.

During his early days, he was a national level Volleyball Player for the state of Maharashtra. He was also a Rank holder in the National Computer Problem Solving Contest in ‘C’ programming.

In addition to that; he has also been an avid fan of running and walking, but prefers playing them rather than just watching. Since 2011, Vishal has taken part in quite a few half-marathons as well, some of which include:

  • Airtel Delhi Half Marathon – (2011 & 2012)
  • Mumbai Half Marathon – (2012 & 2013)
  • Amsterdam Half Marathon – (2012)
  • Oxfam Trailwalker – a 100 km team event where teams walk 100 kms in 48 hours.
  • Trailwalker events, Bangalore (2012 & 2013)
  • Trailwalker events, Mumbai 2013

A firm believer of the philosophy – “You ‘CAN’, if you think you ‘CAN’”; is also known to be a specialist in leading and motivating his team to strive for that “1%” to achieve 101% success!

Early Life

A final year dropout from R.A Poddar; Vishal started his career at a rather very early age! A highly fascinated young boy that he was; he first managed to get his hands on computers in his eighth grade.

Within no time he mastered the skill; and believe it or not, looking at his talent he was given a project worth INR 60,000 by a bank, to prepare their complete mailing list of around 6000 customers.

At roughly the same age i.e. 13; he stepped into the world of games and by the time he was 16, he was running a computer training institute in his dad’s garage, where he taught WordStar, Lotus, etc. To add to that; Vishal also started his first company called “FACT” in Chembur, Mumbai in the same year!

During those days; he was working on developing a video game on Kargil War that happened between India & Pakistan, along with his team. His game was such that it allowed its players to shoot Nawaz Sharif and other Pakistanis.

Since the launch; this game of his, gained him so much popularity that he was felicitated by the Indian army and was also interviewed by STAR News, CNN and BBC.

Entrepreneurial Journey

Quite evidently; people like Vishal are born entrepreneurs, who do not require special qualification or training to run or form a business. And matching up to that reputation of his; during his course of time, Vishal has successfully given birth to multiple successful ventures too!

Now although, he has been into entrepreneurship since a very early age but formally he began his career with the formation of INDIAGAMES!

  • INDIAGAMES

As well all know, Vishal was an ardent fan of gaming since childhood & because there were no formal training schools available at that time, he learnt pretty much everything about gaming on his own. As a child; Vishal used to programme games on his ZX Spectrum & PC XT (advanced computers of the 80’s)!

And eventually, this hobby of his turned out to become his business.

He first started-off by making games for corporates and one of his first clients were Pepsi! For Pepsi, he developed a game where gamers had to shoot at Coke cans and made it quite catchy.

This game of theirs, gained immense popularity immediately after its release; hence, in no time they were able to raise seed-funding for their start-up and officially launched Indiagames.

In the year 1999; Vishal founded his second but the biggest entrepreneurial venture – ‘Indiagames’ with a team of five members, who were primarily engaged in publishing and developing games across various platforms like Internet, PC, broadband, mobile phones, PDAs, handheld gaming devices and consoles.

To give you a simpler brief; India games was a company that developed games for wireless, console and online gaming platforms and worked with top game publishers, handset manufacturers, Hollywood studios or for that matter mobile operators across the world. They had also partnered with Activision and Marvel to develop and distribute a game based on Spider-Man.

Moving on; things began to work well in their favour and they started to gain the desired momentum as well. Quite frankly, that was because of the uniqueness and innovation they added to the whole package!

But much to their or rather everyone’s surprise, the dot-com bubble burst happened in 2000, killing most of the Internet-based businesses in India and elsewhere. And just everyone else, they too ran out of cash!

During that phase, 2001 to be precise; when barely anybody used a mobile phone, mainly because of the heavy incoming and outgoing rates of INR 8-16 per minute, Vishal played the biggest and riskiest gamble of his life. He bet the last INR 10-20 Lakhs that was left with him, on mobile gaming. But luck turned out to be in his favour and rest as we all know is history!

By 2005, India games became the largest & most important gaming developer and publisher in India, which controlled 60% share of India’s game-related wireless value-added services market.

Later, in the same year; Vishal made an announcement, confirming the sale of a major stake of the company (76.29% to be precise) to TOM online Games – a subsidiary of TOM Online Inc. and kept his position as CEO, this was followed by another acquisition of a major stake by UTV Software Communication in 2007.

And finally in 2011, Indiagames was fully acquired by Disney for around $100 million. At the time of acquisition, Indiagames was making a profit of $400,000 on revenues of $11 million and had over 300 employees covering their offices in Mumbai, Beijing, London and Los Angeles.

A huge turn in events that took place in 2012 when The Walt Disney Company India Pvt. Ltd. acquired UTV! They restructured their digital assets under their newly formed division – DisneyUTV Digital, and appointed Vishal Gondal as their new managing director, primarily to drive better growth in games, video and audio services for mobile, online and interactive TV.

And since then Indiagames has been the market leader of the gaming industry under the esteemed guidance of – “India’s king of Gaming”!

  • SWEAT AND BLOOD VENTURE GROUP

While Indiagames was running at its peak; Vishal decided to enter to different genre altogether, a completely different ball game! In 2007, he began working on venture capitalist firm, focusing on helping start-ups to build base!

He believed that there are a lot of promising start-ups outside large cities like Mumbai and Bangalore, but because there was a huge gap in start-up investing back then, frankly nobody wanted to help start-ups except for an odd few like Erasmic Venture Fund & Seedfund, but as these fund managers were seen to be growing bigger in size; the gap would just increase, if anything else.

Hence, Vishal wanted to create a venture which would help to fill this gap in the start-up ecosystem, where the companies would do more of handholding too! His idea was to find them, invest in them and at large – mentor them. Honestly, this could only be done well by a successful entrepreneur and not by a professional VC who mostly like was a banker-turned-investor.

Without further ado; in 2008, Vishal launched Sweat and Blood Venture Group, with aims to invest in start-ups at a seed level. Vishal started-off by investing an undisclosed amount of his personal money into the venture. As per media reports, the amount was estimated to be a small fraction of the total amount that he had received for his partial exit from India games; roughly $4-5 million!

So far, the Venture group has invested in four start-ups:

  • Gama Entertainment Systems – Mumbai-based developer and manufacturer of entertainment hardware and software products
  • Instablogs – Shimla-based blogging community with a worldwide network of citizen journalists (modelled on the basis of Canadian social news website NowPublic.com)
  • Docsuggest – Healthcare Software Services provider that allows patients to book appointments with hospitals and doctors directly through web or phone.
  • Kyko – a UK-based stealth start-up

And today, after these rounds of investments; there have been more successful entrepreneurs willing to joining hands with him to help early stage companies with an investments capacity ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 (INR 40 lakhs to INR 2 crores).

  • GOQii Inc (Pronounced as Go-Key)

Now, prior to founding GOQii; Vishal being the fitness-freak, tried his hand on various fitness bands in the market, and received nothing else but disappointment. During that time; his own personal trainer used to look at his Fitbit data and used to help him set reasonable goals, to help him prepare for the half marathons.

That was when the whole idea of GOQii emerged! Vishal realized that; all the Basis watch & Fitbit trackers eventually became ornamental gadgets after some time, mainly because these fitness trackers in general had a business model, wherein they just sold the hardware and later it was up to the user to use it or not. Basically, their business model ended when a user made a purchase!

Now obviously, Vishal didn’t want his business to be even closer to those lines; he wanted to ensure that his product sticks & stays with the user and becomes an integral part of their habits and goals!

Hence, Vishal created GOQii; where their business model based on three key principles which started when a user purchased their product!

  1. Sustained Engagement
  2. Good Reinforcement and
  3. Constant motivation

He formed a system wherein the wearable fitness-band was given free to its users, and the charges a user paid, was collected as a subscription fee for personalized coaching.

And last year; after closing its beta program with 1000 subscribers, GOQii was made commercially available in India in August 2014.

So what exactly is GOQii (pronounced as Go-Key)?

Headquartered in Menlo Park, California & founded in February 2014; GOQii is fitness technology venture which offers a combination of a wearable fitness-band paired along with expert-led personalized coaching from world’s leading experts & coaches and lastly elements of karma, to enable a permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle. In simple terms, all GOQii does is;

  • The fitness-band the user wear’s, collects their activity (steps, distance, time, calories, active time, etc.) and sleep data.
  • After which; there is a personal coach assigned to review this data of the user.
  • Once the review is completed, they connect with the user via mobile app to guide them towards their health and fitness goals accordingly.

GOQii is currently backed by leading angel investors such as: Amit Singhal (Google), Dr. Shriram Nene, Kanwaljit Bombra (Dell), Madhuri Dixit-Nene (Bollywood Actress), Mahesh Samat (Epic), Mike McNamara (Flextronics), Prashant Gulati(TiE), Sanjay Parthasarthy (Indix), Steve Luczo (Segate), Taher Khorakiwala and Vijay Vashee (Microsoft), & many more!

GOQii only faces competition from the top-notch companies like Nike+ FuelBand, Fitbit Flex, and Jawbone Up.

Apart from Menlo Park, the firm also has offices based in Mumbai, India & Shenzhen, China and soon will be expanding its services to the Middle East, the United States, and Singapore. Presently; the company offers 6 & 12 months subscription packages for a price of INR 5,999 and INR 9,999 respectively, which includes all elements of its ecosystem (including band, experts, coach and karma).

GOQii’s Mumbai team consists of roughly 50 coaches who work from 10am till 6pm in an open office surrounded by gym equipment, organic food and spaces to do high-intensity workouts. Each of their coach’s hold background in personal fitness! Other than that; they have also spent almost 2 months literally studying a 118-page manual with chapters on nutrition, cognitive behavioural therapy, etc.

Achievements, Awards & Recognition

  • Member of the Nokia Advisory Council for Games
  • Advisor to Nokia on wireless and gaming technologies
  • Listed amongst “Top 40 Indian entrepreneurs” by Business Today (2001)
  • Member of the Inner Circle for The Ink Talks (in association with TED)
  • Head of the Mumbai Chapter of “International Game Developers Association”
  • Nominated for Indian Entrepreneur of the year award by E&Y (2004 & 2005)
  • Listed amongst “Top 50 executives in the mobile content space” by a UK based ‘Mobile Entertainment’ Magazine.
  • Indiagames was featured amongst Red Herring Asia’s Top 100 companies (2005)
  • Featured amongst “20 Fab Indians to watch out for in 2006” by The Week magazine
  • Voted as “Top 25 powerful people in Indian digital business” (2012)

TRIVIA: – While at maintenance; Vishal’s Audi Q7 was taken out for a 7-hour / 100-km joyride around the city from the service station, which was later tracked using the tracking device.

Author:

YoChef puts the spotlight on emerging businesses and reputed personalities to help young entrepreneurs learn from their experiences. Watch out for posts published under YoChef to discover entrepreneurial journeys and life lessons.

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