14-year-old girl is World’s youngest CEO

Meet 14-year-old Sindhuja Rajaraman, the CEO of Seppan, a Chennai-based animation company launched only in October last. And we’re not kidding. A ninth-standard student, she was adjudged the fastest 2D and 3D animator by software lobby Nasscom at the Gaming and Animation Conclave 2010 at Hyderabad. Interestingly, she is also a brand envoy of design software major Corel Software .

As head of this nascent firm, today she may give tough competition to some of the top CEOs when it comes to taking business decisions, that too quickly. But where did she start?

It all started five years back when I wanted to take my mind off studies and do something new. My father, who is a cartoonist, instilled in me the passion to do animation and taught me the entire process, she says. I have tried my luck with animation even before I started learning it professionally. I did my first mini animation project when I was in sixth standard. It was on “do not disturb animals?,? she recalls.

Early Months

After a few amateur moves last year, Sindhuja made a Guinness Book record attempt for the fastest animation film. The project was for Exnora, a Chennai-based non-profit organisation, to mark the occasion of 10-10-2010. I created a three-minute animation film in 10 hours. It has gone to the Guinness team and I am still waiting for them to announce the final results, she says proudly.

Things started rolling right after that when Sindhuja was offered by First Planet to work as Seppan’s chief executive. With an investment of Rs 10 lakh, First Planet seeded the firm and the entire thing happened within a day. I did not even know what a CEO meant that time, she says.

At Seppan, we are a team of 10 people and we will be adding more people as and when the need arises. Though my team mates are older they always take my assistance and, in turn, they also guide me. They have taught me what corporate world is and what team management is.

Her mentor Kumaran Mani, who helped her with the setting up of Seppan, says, Initially she was a little uncomfortable being a CEO. But now she has learnt the tricks of the trade. When she meets a client she immediately shakes hands, collects their cards and neatly puts it in her folder. Software lobby Nasscom’s regional director for Chennai, K Purushothaman, tells us that Sindhuja is very passionate and committed in what she is doing. She has mastered the domestic animation skills. Now she has to sharpen her knowledge and skills on what’s happening in the international market he said.

To Stay An Entrepreneur

Though some firms have approached her to join them, she is not too keen. I don’t want to join any big corporates now. I want to be free like a 14-year-old girl should be. I don’t want to be overloaded with work. After 18, I will take up bigger projects. she says.

Before signing off like every other professional, she says,I want to make a mark in this industry. When I’m twenty-year-old, I want Seppan to have a turnover of at least Rs 1 crore.Her aim now is to study at the Vancouver Film School in Canada and specialise in animation.

But doesn’t she want to go to school and play out like other kids? My school has given me an exemption. I go for tuitions after work and go to school to write my exams alone.One needs to sacrifice certain things to chase dreams. I also like to play like other kids and that’s why I chose to play with animation, she answers.



Inspiring story of Suhas Gopinath, World’s Youngest CEO at 17 yrs

At a seminar on ‘Education System in India at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, last year, a boy dressed in casuals stepped out of his car and entered the gate. He is stopped by the security personnel: “This event is only for CEOs, you are a college boy.”The boy smiled, picked up his cellphone and soon a whole swarm of organisers arrived at the entrance to usher him in.

But then we really can’t blame the security. Even the wisest of men probably wont guess that the 17-year-old Suhas Gopinath can be the CEO and President of a Bangalore-based IT solutions company, Globals Inc. Suhas had actually been invited as one of the speakers at the seminar…

“Because of my age and looks, I often land in embarrassing situations and do not know how to handle the confusion,”says a candid Suhas, who is currently juggling is corporate life with a BE in Information Science at the M.S. Ramaiah Institute of Information Technology. He owns a car, bought out of his earnings, but doesn’t have a license to drive it around the city as he is too young to get a license! As a CEO, he wraps up mega deals, but cannot sign on the dotted line as legally he is not yet an adult.

His is a story of a pastime turning into obsession. As a student at Air Force School in Mathikere, he frequented a cyber cafe near his home. “I was overwhelmed by the world of Internet. It became a passion. Though my parents were completely against it, I would spend hours before the computer. My elder brother Shreyas encouraged a lot. I learnt HTML, ASP and every possible software at the cyber cafe,” recalls Gopinath.

On May 14, 2000, along with friends Clifford Leslie and Vinay M.N, he floated his own website-www.coolhindustani.com. “I did not have the money to start. My parents refused to give my a penny, saying it was not worth it. So I wrote to Network Solutions Inc in the US and they readily agreed,” he says.

Suhas, really had ‘IT’ in him. In August, the same year, he set up Globals Inc, a web solutions and n e t wor k i n g company, with a team of four. Now, he has 350 employers, offices in 11 countries, and a turnover of $1 million this year.

“Initially we offered the services for free. As most of us were studying and were very young to actually run the company, many clients were not keen on us. But after seeing the work we delivered, they were impressed. Lot of them in fact still are very encouraging,”he smiles.

At the Bangalore office, there are more than 15 full-time software engineers today. How does he deal with employees elder to him by many years? “Most of the people who work with me are between the age group of 17-19 yrs. I treat them as friends first, than act like a boss. So the job becomes much more easier,” adds Gopinath.

But it’s a stressful life, he admits.”As I got more interested in the company, my studies went for a toss. In my Class X exams I scored 80 per cent, but in I PUC could barely get 65 per cent. Even here I try and not bunk too many classes, but clients cannot be given lame excuses. When I have exams, I tell them I am unwell…” he is candid.

A few years ago ……

  • He buys a car but wouldn’t drive because he had no license.
  • He, as a CEO, successfully accomplishes a deal but wouldn’t sign the contract !!
  • He even grew his Mustache to camouflage his student looks

Success comes with a price and Suhas has understood the importance of it. “At times, I repent that I am not a normal boy, enjoying a teenager’s carefree life. Most of the time I am forced to wear blazers and I am always nervous-about work or studies,” he says.

While most others of his age are rolling balls down a bowling alley, he is charting the road map for his company. “We are planning to start management consultancy in the industry sector as well. There are plans to expand our services to non-IT areas by next year,” explains Suhas.

But ask him what’s his message for to-be entrepreneurs and he’s cautious.”I don’t think I am mature enough advise others, but if you have it in you, go for it. One should also make time to enjoy other things in life. With work, you get too busy to even repent,” he adds.

Mr. Gopinath was announced as a “Young Global Leader” for 2008-2009 by the World Economic Forum, Davos. In that position he would be involved in development programs across the world, including in a leadership program. He is reported to be the youngest YGL in the World Economic Forum’s history.