Virtual Information and Communications (VirtualInfoCom), based in Kolkata, India, provides its customers with services like game development, simulation, Windows Phone applications, mobile applications, iPhone applications, Android games, mobile gaming and ad promotion, ad commercials and short films, corporate films, animated movies, music videos, visual and special effects, software development, Web page designing, and management solution tools. In short, everything around its core competency of animation and graphics.
Sramana Mitra: Hi, Arijit. Let’s start with your background.
Arijit Bhattacharyya: When I started, I was in school and I used to draw comics.
SM: What school were you in?
AB: I was in Shodepur High School, and I started dreaming of comics. Usually my teachers would throw me out of class because I was drawing and writing stories during my history classes. So, that was when I thought I’d like to do something with animation and comics. That dream stayed with me for the next couple of years, and then I decided to start my own company.
Now, I’ll give you my family background. My father is a company secretary, and my mother is a public prosecutor. Naturally, my mother wanted me to either become a doctor or a lawyer. But when I took the position that I would be an entrepreneur, it was a tough time trying to get my mother to understand what I was trying to do.
SM: When was this?
AB: It was in 1998. I started my single shop with 50 rupees ($0.90) in my pocket and no computer support. I decided to open an animation house so that I could recruit a couple of people and start my company. That was my sole dream when I started back in 1998. It was a tough time. So, I shifted into machine assembling and software development. With that, I went for my B Tech entrance examination.
SM: Where did you go for your B Tech?
AB: Well, I joined economics instead of B Tech because economics (I thought) would give me an opportunity to gain deep knowledge of the business process as well as an understanding of commerce. I’m a hard-core science student, and I don’t know anything about commerce, economics, statistics and subjects like that.
SM: So, you stayed in Kolkata?
AB: Yes. I chose a college near my home so I could do my business as well as my studies. I told my principal that I had a job because if I told him that I had my own business, he wouldn’t have allowed me to bunk my classes. So, I used to do my software development from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and I used to go to college at 10 am and would leave at 3:30 pm. Then I would find a couple of customers, find a couple of marketing people so they can market my company.
SM: Did you pay these people?
AB: Yes. I used to pay them a percentage. Whenever I developed software, I would give them a 20% cut of each sale. That’s how I paid them and how I created a circle of people.
SM: How did you find these people who could sell software?
AB: I used to roam through buses and trains and talk to people. If I found that a person was acquainted with retailing or selling or he’s doing an office job, I would ask whether he needed a backup solution or a software solution, something like that. It was kind of hectic because selling software was not easy. During those days, I would carry an extra shirt and shoes in a bag because I had to travel through trains. You can imagine what that was like.
SM: Yes. It was extremely hot, and you were drenched in sweat.
AB: Exactly. I used to carry that shirt because I needed to showcase myself in front of the clients so that I could sell myself. That’s how I used to take orders. After a year, I thought things weren’t happening, and I needed to try something else. So, I started taking people from rural areas in remote Bengal. I would go once a week to these areas and try to find talent there. I found my first employee, you could say, in one of those areas. He was a day laborer on an agricultural field and used to get paid daily. They would sell every day. That’s how they lived.