Learning with the expert : Thinkun and Blrt

 

Photo credit: dkjd / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Unstoppables.

That was the impression Anurag Chakradhar left me with as we departed after spending 2 hours together over a drink to talk about all things startup and technology.

It was Thinkun and Blrt that first got me interested in wanting to speak to Anurag, but it was the meeting with the man that converted me into a believer that he is on the path to something greater than both Thinkun and Blrt itself.

I was stoked to be able to sit down on an 1-on-1 session with Anurag because he isn’t just “another startup founder”.

CEO Magazine recently awarded Anurag with the distinguished title of start-up executive of the year 2015 – an accolade shared by Adam Jacobs of The Iconic fame. That’s how big a deal he is!

In contrast to my normal interview with the expert posts where I dive into understanding a business, today I want to focus on the man behind the startup; the ideas, his achievements and struggles, and most importantly his business vision for the future.

So who is Anurag?

Born in New Delhi, India and entrepreneurial at a very young age, Anurag partook in his first commercial project when just a baby in Year 11 by assisting in designing and coding of a fully functional website for NTPC – India’s largest energy conglomerate.

That’s pretty impressive stuff coming from a 15 year old living in a country of 1.25 billion residents bursting with I.T talent.

I on the other hand spent my days playing video games when I was his age – hardly inspiring stuff!

Having achieved what he could in India, Anurag wanted more organized structure in his life. In 1999, he decided to embark on his next adventure in life and chose to venture overseas looking for pastures that could satisfy his inner-entrepreneur.

When I first laid eyes on the Sydney Opera house, I knew this city was for me. I made a decision to settle down, unpacked my bags and enrolled myself into a Master of Digital Media course at Sydney University. The course helped me put some structure into what I had learned, but I knew I had to get a job in the real world to up-skill myself further (skills gap). On graduation I scored my first job as a programmer at international marketing firm Ogilvy & Mather, and that was the beginning to my journey towards Blrt.

Before Blrt, there was Thinkun

jasonjots interviewing creator of thinkun

Having learned everything he could from Ogilvy within 3 years, Anurag’s entrepreneurial spirit was again calling for greener pastures.

3 years into my programming role at Ogilvy, I realised that I couldn’t achieve what I wanted working at the company. My goal was to create and own a product that challenges the status-quo. I know it sounds cliche but I knew what I wanted; I was born to run a business and I was determined to work hard for my own dream“, says Anurag.

After handing in his resignation from Ogilvy, Anurag went on a gap year to discover his passion. He trekked across 20 countries and says it was the best thing he had ever done to date because it revived him in ways he couldn’t imagine. Shortly after his gap year ended, he created Thinkun.

Thinkun, Anurag’s 1st startup brainchild, was a creative digital marketing agency based in Sydney’s creative suburb Newtown. It focuses on working with Small-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) devise business strategies around increasing exposure and helps create intelligent marketing campaigns across all forms of digital platforms.

It’s been 10 years since Thinkun was created and it has gone on from strength to strength, boasting clients like Suncorp, American Express and Mastercard to name a few.

It wasn’t enough though

Despite Thinkun being a successful digital advertising agency, Anrag wasn’t satisfied. Owning his agency just wasn’t enough to satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit because it didn’t change the way people use their technology products. That inadequacy led him back to the drawing board, this time bringing on the expertise of Sabrina Antoniou, a 20+ year veteran of the advertising industry. Together after many sleepless nights, their determination eventually led to the creation of what we now know as Blrt.

jasonjots interviewing creator of Blrt

What is “Blrt”?

Derived from the world “blurt” with the “u” removed for the startup effect, Blrt is an instant messaging app that allows you to “talk, point and draw”; the 3 fundamental characteristics that forms the core of product.

Jasonjots trying explain what Blrt does

These 3 characteristics have been essential to human interaction since the prehistoric ages; I mean our ancestors drew on walls! Such a fundamental concept but if you think about it, current communication apps don’t really incorporate it well enough to provide a satisfactory end-user experience. Some of the problems are 1) sending large video files across the Internet takes too long, 2) text messaging only provides static conversations, 3) multiple time-zones mean video-linkup isn’t always possible. And the list goes on.

My own experience tells me that the frustrating problems are real. When I redesigned this blog towards the end of 2015, my instructions were regularly misinterpreted by my web designer. The problem I faced was that I couldn’t tell him that I wanted my logo to be placed here, or to have this white spacing narrowed to this much.

Design ideas just do not translate well into words. Period.

Blrt aims to resolve all that by allowing users to record voice and drawings, and then have it sent to others in a small-format video file via instant messaging. I’ve spoken to design professionals who agree that Blrt could potentially change the way they use instant messaging services within their businesses.

Life would have been much easier if only I had Blrt” is the conclusion that most people come to when they learn of the app, myself included.

What’s the blue-sky vision for Blrt?

For starters, Anurag wants to grow Blrt into a global top-5 communication product that is used by millions in the world.

I’ve spent the last 2 years perfecting the product; beta-testing, focus group sessions on user experience, market surveys, research development etc – you name it and I’ve done it. I believe the current iteration of Blrt is now good enough to be released to the mass market across multiple platforms – PC, IOS, Android, Linux. Users can enjoy seamless connectivity regardless of platform, and it is this that I believe that will be the driving force for growth in year 2016“.

Despite being Australian, Anurag hasn’t forgotten his Indian roots. He plans to bring Blrt to India and leverage on the fact that 731 million Indians have embraced mobile technology.

Putting the context in numbers, if just 1% of Indians sign up for Blrt Premium at $9.99/mth, that would mean revenues of $73 million a month!

And we haven’t even started including users outside India.

The world of entreprenuership is not easy

Creating such a great product doesn’t come without sacrifices though” Anurag quipped.

“It comes with many sacrifices, many of them necessary if I want to build something to change the world. Some of the most important things in life are wealth, health, family, friends, sleep and opportunity cost. To build something as great as Blrt, I can only choose 3 out of the 7 most important things as there just isn’t enough time to have it all. It is a constant struggle to prioritize and it metaphorically beats you up!

The pain on show during our chat is something that I’ve seen many times before when I speak to CEOs of successful companies. They tell me nothing ever comes easy especially in the business world, and it takes years of blood, sweat and tears to create something out of nothing.

And I believe them whole-heartedly.

That’s why I have such big respect for those who are willing to put it all on the line to achieve greatness. And also why I am always very appreciative of inspiring leaders like Anurag who take time out in their unbelievably busy schedule to sit down with me to go through the story.

It is a true privilege, and the only reason why I love being a blogger / fund manager.

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