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.
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
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
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.
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!