Coding the Future: Sitting Down with Varun Mayya
Ah! College life is that prelapsarian youth where all you have to worry about is assignments and waking up in time for those dreadful ‘8 AM classes’. However, this young chap had already envisioned great things and immersed himself in various projects and business ventures. With Sizr being his first step into the ever competing business world, he now is the CEO of Jobspire and looks to start a finishing school for students to learn the art of coding. The MIT Post managed to grab a few words with Varun Mayya, a fierce young entrepreneur of MIT’s 2015 batch.
The Post: Hello Varun! This is the MIT Post. Thank you for joining us in this interview. We have a few questions regarding the developments in your and your startup’s recent past that we think Manipal would love to know more about.
Varun: Hi, yeah sure. Go on.
The Post: Let’s start off with the big news. Jobspire has just been acquired by JustCode. Could you tell us more about this acquisition? The initial knick-knacks. How it came under their radar and what happened from there on.
Varun: We started receiving acquisition offers sometime in August last year. The Jobspire graph, that is the number of people and companies we had, kept climbing. Thus, we started getting acquisition offers from companies like Quikr and another in Delhi. While we liked both offers, I personally didn’t think that the Indian market was the way to go. We had already seen it and going from 200,000 users to 2 million users wasn’t a big leap for us. Then JustCode came forward.
The Post: Why the merger? What lies next for the venture?
Varun Mayya: We’re targeting the US market now and have some different plans for the Indian one. In the US market we’re building a version of Jobspire with a very strong testing base. This new platform is specifically for developers because that’s where we think the future lies and has pretty good numbers. At Jobspire, we weren’t limited to developers.
The Post: You mentioned that Jobspire’s focus is now on the US Market. How is this different from the Indian one?
Varun Mayya: In the Indian Market, we charged our clients anywhere between 200-1000 dollars, depending on their demands and size. In the US, this price goes up to 20,000 dollars. However both these markets are fairly similar. In India though, we had unstable contracts due to hiring seasons, where companies employed people for a limited period. Our long term ones were from MNCs already working with the US. So, yeah, we shifted our focus there.
The Post: Tell us what ignited the idea of Jobspire?
Varun Mayya: All right, so when I was in college, we were already was running a company called Sizr. However it wasn’t as challenging, so we decided to exit it. Initially, it was just me and Kartik who were planning on doing something and we would think about what industry to disrupt. When the idea of Jobspire struck, it was still a very young time for the startup industry. Zomato had just begun and Flipkart was still selling books. I would say we got lucky, because we started early. We built Jobspire in our Manipal hostel and by the eighth semester, we had some capital raised. All we wanted to do was help people, you know, help people like you and me find jobs.
The Post: Let’s talk about Jobspire looking back. You have competitors like Naukri and Quikr that do pretty much the same thing. What makes Jobspire different from these?
Varun Mayya: We had something called window shopping for employees wherein they could see what and how a company looks like. There are a lot of unknown companies on Naukri, and people spam apply. We didn’t want to do that. So, to attract top talent, we decided to create an employer brand. We help the companies showcase what they look like, how they operate, etc. Just like a celebrity needs a brand, an employer does too. That’s the only way you can compete with companies like Google and Yahoo. We helped small companies get on the same platform as them.
The Post: In another interview with The Post, you’d stated, should you have some free time off post the acquisition, you’ll start doing something cooler. Something you’re more passionate about. What other ventures are you now looking forward to?
Varun Mayya: There are quite a lot things I’m working on, one being the ‘finishing school’. The problem we found in Jobspire was that even though we had a lot of jobs, most of them focused on developing applications and we just couldn’t find good people who could code. Overtime we realized that a lot of engineers didn’t know how to write a code and would end up getting pay packages worth 2 lakh Rupees per annum even after slogging off for four years. You know, fifty years ago, if you didn’t know English, you didn’t have a competitive advantage and today if you’re unaware about it, you won’t probably pass school. I feel this is something all top entrepreneurs mirror. If you don’t learn how to talk to machines, you’re going to be left out. It is the age of the coder. Apart from this we’re building a services company and also doing some stuff in genetics.
The Post: That sounds interesting. Tell us more about this finishing school.
Varun Mayya: A finishing school is a place here you can come to us for probably one to three months and learn how to code, irrespective of whether you’re a law student or an engineer. We believe coding is something supplementary, like learning the English language. The boot camp is not like a traditional school. It’s more of team work, where people will learn and build apps together. These apps are going to be live apps, something that will go on the internet that hundreds of people will use. At the end of the course, there is no pass or fail, but if you’re able to build a live application, we consider ‘us’ to have succeeded. So all you have to do is come here and learn for three months and you’ll have a skill for life. We have some of the best instructors from Bangalore and will be teaching Ruby, which is the easiest language and is special to me, because I built Jobspire using it.
The Post: From a successful entrepreneur who began working at the age of seventeen, what message comes out to someone who dreams big like you?
Varun Mayya: I would have probably said ‘follow your passion’ if you would have asked me this question when I was seventeen. But today, all I can say is, Code and I’ll tell you the reason. If you know how to code today, you can absolutely build anything and your job for the next thirty years is guaranteed. Even if you’re a mechanical or bio-chemical engineer, your job is going to be automated in the next few years. So today I advise people to code, which I think is probably easier than learning a new language. All you need is some basic skills and you’re done. If you know how to code, you can be a freelance coder or get a job and basically earn up to fifteen-twenty lakhs per annum, which is sufficient to secure your lives and possibly start your own venture.
The Post: It was a pleasure talking to you, Varun. We wish you all the best for the venture going forward and I’m sure the students would really love the idea of the boot camp. Thank you for taking time off and speaking to us.
Varun Mayya: Thank you so much.
As told to Garima and Navaneeth from The MIT Post. The chat with Varun Mayya was an insight into the business world and this tete-a-tete was an incredible learning experience for us.