By Verghese V Joseph –
With over 13 years of experience in a variety of domains such as IT, services, marketing, and sales representing organisations like Dell Laptops, Bell Canada, and CCS Infotech Ltd, Srinivasan Yagnanarayanan went on to found Square Comp – GRAHAs VR to offer IT infrastructure support to the consumer market. One of the first people in Chennai to enter the virtual reality (VR) space, he founded GRAHAs VR, which became a part of Square Comp Solutions in early 2017 and is supported and funded by IIT Mandi, a pioneer from Chennai, India in the VR business.
With its unique smartphone-based virtual reality headset, GRAHAs VR has received numerous honours and recognitions. In addition, Startup Grind, in collaboration with Google for Entrepreneurs, named them among the Top 100 startups at the Silicon Valley Global Conference. Srinivasan was one of the previous Seed Spark Program’s Top 20 Finalists, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Incidentally, Srinivasan has finished NASBA’s Cloud Computing: Core Concepts course. He has also completed Technical Career Education’s Python Code Learning Programme. He has also co‐authored a knowledge paper on Use Cases of Metaverse in FICCI DT6 – Metaverse Conference. They were also the conference’s VR partner. At FICCI TNIE Startup STAR Awards ‘2022, Srinivasan and his team took home the title of “Most Promising Metaverse Startup of the Year.”
In July 2023, Padma Shri Dr. Sridhar Vembu released a Knowledge Paper on How India may Achieve Trillion Dollars in VR / AR. Srinivasan is one of the co-authors of this paper. GRAHAs VR was chosen for the NASSCOM Emerge 50 Awards as one of India’s Top 85 Startups.
AsiaBizToday caught up with Srinivasan Yagnanarayanan to understand the philosophy, culture, and the solutions that his company has brought to the market. Excerpts:
Q: Where did you get the idea for this company and what problems are you trying to solve?
A: 2016 saw me start my own company that provided consumer-facing IT infrastructure and support. The industry was going through a fundamental transition, as I saw. I came upon virtual reality (VR) at that point. I was of the opinion that this was going to be the next great thing in computing as well as the future. Therefore, I began constructing my own VR device.
During one of our conversations, my acquaintance, who works in HR for a well-known automaker, lamented the difficulties they were having in providing their staff with proper training. He talked about how much money they spend annually on training and how long it takes to teach employees to the level of proficiency needed to tackle complex jobs.
They were spending over INR 3 – 4 crore. (USD 500k approximately) per annum towards training and it takes almost 12 – 18 months for a new hire to handle complex tasks and tools.
At that point, it became clear to me that using virtual reality (VR) in the training process might significantly cut down on the amount of time and money needed to train the staff. After that, we began working on our VR solution, which allowed us to cut the cost of training to more than half of what they were previously spending on retraining and upskilling the industrial workers. Our VR system is four times faster and more concentrated than classroom-based training and e–learning combined.
Q: What’s your background? Who’s on your leadership team and what’s their background?
A: Our core team has me as the founder and Sriram Kesavan the co-founder. Both of us have been childhood friends for over 20 years. We both have a collective experience of close 25+ years in automotive, technical support, product development, marketing, etc.
Sriram joined GRAHAs VR as the co–founder & COO in 2020 after quitting his role in Daimler Mercedes Benz. He has completed his Diploma in Electrical & Electronical Engineering and has close to 12 years of experience in the automotive domain in mechanical, operations, and service. He has completed the Fundamentals of IoT and is a Certified Scrum Master.
In addition, Dr. Rajaram Venkataraman, president Kritilabs Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and convenor of the Technology Panel, FICCI Tamil Nadu State Council is our adviser and mentor. He has been instrumental in our journey so far and offers his expert advice and guidance in all the operational matters related to GRAHAs VR.
Q: When were you founded? Where does your startup stand now?
A: Square Comp Solutions was incorporated in October 2021. We got our first paying client on the very first day of our incorporation. We are now generating revenue and are in the early traction-to-scale phase. We have solutions deployed both in India and in the US. We have also raised a seed funding of INR. 20,00,000 from IIT Mandi Catalyst & IIT Mandi – iHub Foundation.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We have 5 full-time employees apart from the founding team and we have over 10 people working with us part-time on a project basis.
Q: How fast are you growing and what’s your revenue?
A: We have generated a cumulative revenue of INR. 20,00,000/- and are looking to clock in Rs. 2 crore (USD 20 million) by the end of next financial year. We are looking at over 240% YoY growth, given our lead pipeline and our solution. We are also in the process of developing the next version of our products and services, which will steer the growth of our startup further.
Q: How many markets are you in?
A: We are currently operational in India and the United States of America. We are further in the process of expanding into Saudi Arabia. Before the end of 2024, we look forward to expanding to Japan, Qatar, Latvia and European Union.
Q: How did you go about raising capital?
A: We have raised INR 20,00,000/- in seed funding from IIT Mandi Catalyst. We are in the due diligence process of closing our next round of funding.
Q: How were you able to monetise the idea?
A: Virtual reality was mostly used in the gaming sector when we first started. Rather than being viewed as a computing device, it was more of a gaming gadget. We have resolved a genuine issue that the training sector’s industries were facing. It was clear how valuable our virtual reality solution was. Businesses are far more likely now to use digital transformation technology and are prepared to invest in the next generation of computers. This provided us with the chance to put our solution into practice, make money, and meet a genuine need for them while also introducing digital transformation techniques.
When we started off, virtual reality was predominantly prevalent in the gaming industry. It was considered much as a gaming device rather than a computing device. We solved a real problem faced by the industries in the training segment. The value created by our virtual reality solution was evident. Companies were willing to spend for the next generation of computing and were much more prone to implementing digital transformation technologies. This gave us the opportunity to implement our solution and generate revenue as we solved a real need for them and ushered in the digital transformation practices.
Q: Define Your Success, Your Way
A: We are unquestionably successful compared to where we were and where we are now. However, this is not the kind of success we hope to achieve. Our goal is to create the greatest computing device of the future, one that will aid common users in expanding their skill sets across all domains and levels of competence. With the use of technology, we hope to redefine skilling.