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SUCCESSFUL INDIAN OF THE MONTH
Rooma Nanda is currently in the finance industry, working as a residential mortgage consultant. She has over 10 years work experience with various corporates, such as, IBM and Yellow Pages. Rooma has done her MBA from Sydney, and is passionate about learning on a constant basis.  This column is to highlight the achievements of certain individuals who could be a source of inspiration for others. Email 


If we were to describe our column guest for this month in one word, the only word which comes to mind is - a great visionary - someone who could anticipate the right time for a great idea at its infancy stage.Dr Arapaut V Sivaprasad, B.Sc. (Agriculture), M.Sc. (Genetics), Ph.D. (Molecular Biology), born in Cochin, Kerala is our column guest for this month. A great academic who has won several awards and recognition from prestigious institutes, such as, American Biographical Institute, British-based International Biographical Center, New York Academy of Sciences and American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr Siva's biography has been included in the annual editions of "Who's Who in the World" by Marquis Publications since 1996 and he has been invited into their "Who's Who in Information Technology". Dr Siva's innovations and a great vision took him to the path of entrepreneurship. His successful ventures like WebGenie and SearchHound got him a nomination for "Entrepreneur of the Year" award by Ernst and Young in 2001.

With the successful sale of his brilliant ideas, WEBGENIE, Dr Siva achieved tremendous acclaim in the world of IT. Currently settled in Adelaide, Dr Siva sold his second venture, Search Hound, the world's first child-safe search engine, (SearchHound was developed jointly in 1998 by WebGenie and Los-Angeles-based Aesop Marketing Corp.) to a US company for $6 million. Although the product was worth $16.5 million, in return for the retention of intellectual property rights, they sold it at a lower price. SearchHound is now listed on Nasdaq and the Berlin stock exchanges. "We anticipate the technology can now be sold as a separate product to other customers at a minimum of $1.5 million per sale and we also retain the right to develop another search engine in the future." Dr Siva said in his interview to the mainstream newspaper, The Australian. Around 97 per cent of WebGenie's software range is now sold overseas, including 80 per cent in the US. The Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) and the South Australian Centre for Innovation, Business and Manufacturing (CIBM) are assisting WebGenie to market overseas and increase its market share in the 70 countries already utilising the products. There is a comprehensive list of Dr Siva's innovations on www.webgenie.com. The commercial information is available on the above site however our objective here is to introduce Dr Siva as an inspiring individual to our readers.

Please tell us about your place of origin and early education.
I was born near Cochin, Kerala and finished my undergraduate degree at The Trivandrum campus of the Kerala Agricultural University. From there I went to the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi to do Masters in Genetics. IARI is a world class institute and, in the 70's, admission to their masters programme was by invitation only. Fortunately, I had been the recipient of the National Science Talent Award and had just been awarded the Junior Research Fellowship of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Either of the above was a criterion for an invitation to join IARI.

When did you arrive in Australia and what was the special reason that brought you here?
At the end of the Masters program, I received a Post-Graduate Research Fellowship from the University of Adelaide which brought me to Australia to do a Ph.D. There, the area of research was to study the molecular mechanisms controlling the replication (reproduction) of a bacterial virus. This virus is unique in that UV radiation transiently arrests its growth.  Understanding the mechanism might shed some light into the reasons for skin cancer, which is a serious killer among the Australian population. The research identified two genes involved in replication and a new mechanism of gene control was discovered. 

At the end of the Ph.D. program in 1984, I joined a team of scientists in the University of Adelaide to work on a very ambitious genetic engineering project to modify the Australian merino sheep's genetic makeup to establish a new biosynthetic pathway that would accelerate wool growth. It was envisaged that by doubling or quadrupling wool production farmers could cut down the number of sheep and thereby slow down the land degradation caused by grazing. This project, funded by The Australian Wool Board and conducted at the University of Adelaide, resulted in the successful introduction of two bacterial genes into the genome of merino sheep in 1989. It was a world's first achievement. 

Though we could introduce into the sheep's genome a biochemical pathway that was lost through evolution, the resulting baby sheep were dying before birth. We were trying to reverse the effect of 65 million years' evolution. Obviously, mother nature could not be so easily defeated. There were many such ambitious research projects that failed during the 1980's.

Between 1996 and 1997 I worked on a Bio-Informatics project at the Australian National University to study the gene for "Rubisco", the key enzyme in photosynthesis. The aim was to identify the differences between C3 and C4 plants to understand why the C4 plants are more efficient in photosynthesis. Such knowledge would enable the genetic engineering of cereals (C3 plants) such as rice and wheat to make them more productive and thereby solve the world's food problem to a great extent. 

What was your background in computing and how did you get into the Ecommerce software field? 
Since my research was in the area of Molecular Biology, which involves a large amount of DNA sequence data analyses, computers were an integral part of the research. It was before the age of personal computers and well before the age of Internet. Commercial software to assist our research were non-existent. This prompted me to learn computer programming to create my own software. It was this interest in computing that eventually, when Internet started to form in mid 1990's, prompted me to make a career shift towards software development.

Are all the products of WebGenie Software developed inhouse and patented?
All software being marketed and supported by WebGenie Software Pty Ltd. have been developed by me or under my direct supervision.

We have applied for a patent for the latest software, BoxSentry  (http://www.boxsentry.com) but all others are protected by copyright and trade secret. 

We operate in an intensely competitive area, competing with small companies to major players including Microsoft. Our success is mainly due to the quality of software and the personal technical support given to clients.

What in your view, takes for an individual to be an entrepreneur apart from a  good product?
Share with us your story of those days when you had a brilliant product but did not have any buyer for it. 

Identifying the niche market, and the right time to promote your product, is the key. It is not always easy to pick either. However, keeping an eye for the developments on the Internet helps a lot. 

Unlike the old days, when it was not easy to know what happens in the next state, today on the Internet you can find out easily, in real-time, what happens on the other side of the world and what type of product and service is in demand.

It takes much less resources and money to create and distribute a product through the Internet. This was not the case a decade ago. 

Would you like to give some tips to the readers in creating success out of one's skills and talents.
It does not require programming ability or a software to be successful on Internet. One can pick a unique service that may be of value to the masses and provide it with exceptional efficiency. You do not have to be the first one offering it, but just try to be the best.

What makes one stand out from the crowd on Internet is personal touch in all that you do. Mass email and other forms of Internet based dissemination of information (e.g. web pages, ads, etc.) are impersonal. But, your clients are human beings and do not want to be treated like robots.

If you can somehow give a personal touch to the emails, the clients appreciate it very much and tell others about you. See the comments about us (http://www.webgenie.com/Media/comments.html).

Your response to clients should be personal, fast and comprehensive. Mimicking a robotic mail as personal will not help. It should be written by a person to a person. Every company, small or large, can do this with suitably motivated and trained technical support and sales people. But, most companies do not offer it and some of the big ones charge the client for the privilege of talking to them!

In the Previous Issues:

Anupam Sharma
Vikrant Kapoor - Zaaffran Restaurant
Rashmi Mehrotra
Dr. Jagnnath Mazumdar
Naville Roach - Fujitsu Australia
Dr Arapaut Sivaprasad - WebGenie Systems
Suda Navada
Jeet Bindra - Caltex
Dr. Bhuvan Unhelkar
Safina Uberoi - My Mother India Anupam Sharma Bobby Singh Sheba Nandkeolyar
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