A tale of self-reliance from Kerala’s small town

A fisherman’s son, an entrepreneur, wins Centre’s innovation award for developing a video-conferencing solution

Joy Sebastian
Joy Sebastian's Techgentsia has made it to the top five in the final round of the innovation challenge by the Union government | Photo: by special arrangement

Joy Sebastian is a technology graduate with a keen sense of social service; he is an active member of the library movement besides providing IT support to schools. The son of a fisherman is an entrepreneur in Kerala’s small town Alappuzha. Joy’s Techgentsia has made it to the top five in the final round of the innovation challenge by the Union government, winning ₹1-crore award. Joy has developed a video conferencing solution, scripting a brilliant success story from his town.

Kerala Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac, who is an MLA from Alappuzha, wrote on his Facebook page: “The natives of Alappuzha might wonder: was he (Joy) such a great entrepreneur? He was one among them, a man who has been into social service — spending all the time managing the library, providing IT support to the schools and many other small things.”

Joy, a first generation learner in his family, says he had almost no expectation when applied for the contest. “The proposal I submitted was very huge, around 500 pages. I was sceptical if they would bother to go through the entire document”.

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He won the first round along with 12 other entrepreneurs. They were selected from around 2,000 applications. “That was the first step. We were supposed to create a prototype and ₹5 lakh was awarded for it.”

He moved to the next round of the best five and an amount of 20 lakh was awarded to each contestant for developing the product.

Joy completed his B.Tech from TKM Government Engineering College at Kollam in 1999. Joy says it was difficult for his father to arrange higher education for the children. Joy started his career in software development with a Kochi-based company where he worked for ten years. Techgentsia was launched in 2009 and achieved impressive growth in a short span with a handful of international clients.

Joy’s achievement in the innovation challenge came even as big players too ran in the competition. “In the first round of the Best 12, there were companies such as HCL India and Zoho Technologies. In the last round of the Best Five, there were more experienced players than me with similar projects,” says Joy.

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Despite being a company with international clients as ‘Easy Meeting (of which the entire backend is being done by Techgentsia) and Tacodi, Joy Sebastian’s company has no ventures in Kerala. Joy says he has not slept over it much as he does not want to take unnecessary controversy.

However, Alappuzha is a beneficiary of his talent in software development. Joy has been the IT Consultant for Prathibhatheeram, a project aimed at providing academic support to the children of the fishermen community in Alappuzha. The local libraries were developed into learning centers for the children as most of them did not have the atmosphere at home for study after returning from school.

“All the technical support was provided by him. It was completely voluntary and not a paid service. He knows better than anyone else the importance of education for the children in the coastal belt,” says Gopakumar, a native of Alappuzha who has been an active organiser of development activities in the district.

Joy has also been an active organiser of the palliative care project ‘Snehajalakam’ as well as the ‘people’s restaurant’ run by the ruling CPI-M, though he does not have affiliation with any political party. The restaurant provides food three times a day free-of-cost running on a concept that no one coming to Alappuzha would leave with an empty stomach.

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He has also been working as the IT consultant for the museums in Alappuzha. This is also a free-of-cost service.

Joy Sebastian has brought very innovative changes to this idea: A portion of the floor is converted into a touch screen with a 3D map of Kerala. When you step on a particular place marked in the map, the images would be displayed on the wall, says Dr Thomas Issac, the Finance Minister.

“We were planning to prepare giant maps and images in clay and 3D print to depict the history of coir,” he added.

Despite having international clients, Joy Sebastian has no plan to leave Alappuzha.  “This place made me what I am, I want to be here,” he says. And why not — soon, he is going to be the official partner of the government for its video conferencing requirements.

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