Ankit Prasad from Chaibasa a small town in Jharkhand – always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Whenever a relative would ask him the usual question, “What would you become once you grow up?” Ankit always replied, “Bill Gates”.
Computers always fascinated him and he was fortunate enough to have a visionary father, who got the first computer in Chaibasa in 1995 and Ankit became part of the tech revolution started by Gates.
Around the same time, the Prasad family soon moved to Jamshedpur after Ankit’s father, Ranjit Prasad, got a job as geology professor at NIT Jamshedpur. Both Ankit and his two-year elder brother, Rahul completed their primary schooling at Saraswati Vidya Mandir in Chaibasa. The duo did not get to learn English alphabets until they joined DAV School at NIT Jamshedpur.
“Adapting to a new language was proving to be more difficult than expected. All the subjects that required English proficiency started to scare me and that’s when mathematics became my best friend. It required nominal understanding of the sentence, which made me feel very comfortable,” said the 30-year old.
Since childhood, the brothers have been interested in computers. Since the age of six, Ankit has been deeply fascinated by coding. They both started with web design in 2005 and founded a small company that designed websites for local restaurants, service providers and hotels. The small scale business soon picked up and started generating profits.
In 2005, the average boy surprised everyone by achieving a spot in the school’s top 3 scorers in class 10 board result. As the normal social convention goes, he too was fascinated by the IITs. “I realised people’s obsession with IIT and the definition of success that follows,” said Ankit.
He joined a coaching centre in Jamshedpur to prepare for the IIT entrance exam. Throughout childhood, Ankit suffered from hyper myopia and had the eyesight of -18 and -19. It was only in 2017 he got normal vision after a surgery. He could not see what coaching teachers were writing on the board and the huge class sizes bugged him. “Our website business supported me with the coaching expenses but I was not enjoying the process,” he said.
After spending a year in the “pressure cooker”, he finally left to prepare on his own. In 2007, he appeared for the entrance exam and achieved a rank above 5000, which could not get him into an IIT but allowed him to secure a seat at NIT Jamshedpur. He took admission but still wanted to join an IIT.
“My brother wanted to pursue an undergraduate degree at IIT but he could not get in. My parents had high hopes for me but my first attempt did not go as planned. Hence, I gave it another shot and got AIR 400,” said Ankit, who then joined IIT Delhi for an integrated MTech in Mathematics and Computing in 2008.
After joining IIT Delhi, he continued with his business. Soon, the business expanded and he started earning steadily. Through 2009-10, he worked with multiple startups. “I was in college but was already working to get good money. Adhering to professional deadlines started hampering my classes, but I enjoyed my work as opposed to the theoretical research-driven curriculum being taught in the engineering classes,” said Ankit.
The success of Flipkart, Snapdeal and Zomato motivated Ankit and he created Touch Talent from the hostel room in 2012 with his brother. It is a web-based global community that allows users to display, share, appreciate and monetize art and design. During the same time, he started attending lesser classes and could not appear for semester exams. That’s when he decided to pull off a full-time career instead of an engineering degree.
However, he wanted to tap into the growing smartphone industry and in 2015 founded ‘Bobble AI’ which created ‘Bobble Indic’ keyboard. Around 120 languages from around the world, as well as 37 Indian languages, are assisted by the keyboard.
The app makes stickers, GIFs, emojis among other graphics to make texting more expressive and visual. The app now has more than 65 million users and partnerships with global smartphone companies such as Xiaomi, Gionee, Panasonic and Lava among many others in South Africa, Pakistan, Turkey and Europe.
“People made fun of me when I used to call myself a CEO of my small company at the age of 21. I took the path less travelled and most of my relatives did not get it. However, my parents’ openness allowed me to make my own decisions,” said Ankit.
He made it to the list of Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 and that’s when “people’s perception changed” towards him. “It was my first recognition and it instilled confidence of being on the right path,” Ankit said. Besides, he has also been recognised in the Business World magazine’s 40 Under 40 list.
“Even today, my mother does not understand what I do or how much revenue does the company generate, but she uses my interactive keyboard to interact with everyone and that feels great,” said the IIT Delhi dropout.