HE HAS bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and he has been involved in research since he completed his bachelor’s.
With his background in research and academia, one wouldn’t expect Mr Saurav Bhattacharyya to be CEO of a company that deals in mobility intelligence and makes navigation software used by companies and government organisations ranging from Google, BMW and ComfortDelGro to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
After graduating with his first degree in 2000, the 37-year-old went on to do his master’s part-time under the supervision of Professor Thambipillai Srikanthan, director of NTU’s Centre for High Performance Embedded Systems, while working as a project officer.
Working in embedded chip architecture, his research involved designing silicon chips for various purposes.
His primary area of research was in voice biometrics (a numerical representation of the sound, pattern and rhythm of an individual’s voice). In 2002, he applied for Start-Up@Singapore’s business plan competition.
The business plan was based around his work on voice biometrics, and he was pleased when he made it to the final round.
“That was when the business bug hit me,” Mr Bhattacharyya, who hails from Pune and has been a permanent resident since 2001, told tabla!. He added with a laugh: “I’m a numbers sort of guy and I realised that I liked the dollars behind the zeros.” – See more at: http://business.asiaone.com/news/most-cabs-here-use-his-firms-software#sthash.wpFx8iNa.dpuf
With Prof Srikanthan’s encouragement, Mr Bhattacharyya decided in 2005 to quit his job to set up a company that would try to license the technologies that were being worked on in NTU.
“I wasn’t happy to just be putting out papers for conferences and journals. I was more interested in taking NTU’s technology and commercialising it for real-world usage,” he said.
With initial investments from co-founder Prof Srikanthan and angel investor Allen Pathmarajah, Quantum Inventions (QI) was born. Initially located in NTU’s Innovation Centre, QI was focused on routing software and navigation systems.
In 2007, QI got the opportunity to work with LTA on a landmark project in Traffic Information Platform (TRIP) development.
TRIP obtains raw traffic data from multiple sources and transforms them into traffic information that is used in applications like navigation software and other real-time traffic information services.
Today, QI has seen approximately 52 per cent growth per annum with sales in six countries and raised over $5 million in funding.
It has received multiple awards, including SPRING Singapore Standard Council’s Standards Merit Award (2009), the Young Innovator Award by LTA’s Excellence Awards (2010) and the Young Professional of the Year award at the Singapore Computer Society IT Leader Awards (2013).
The company also has a larger office space now, located in Kallang, to accommodate its team of approximately 63 people.
Its mapSYNQ information dissemination platform and Galactio navigation software are widely used, with Galactio being used in global positioning system navigation devices for cars.
Galactio has also been launched as an application for Android phones, with an iOS version currently in beta mode.
“Today, when we’re driving, every second or third cab we see is using our navigation software,” said Mr Bhattacharyya. “It feels nice to see your technology being used.”
It is no surprise that Galactio is so widely used.
It is extremely user-friendly, as Mr Bhattacharyya demonstrated through the iOS version, highlighting some of its features: A fast search function, the ability to choose routes according to options like the shortest travelling time or minimum tolls (in Singapore’s case, ERPs), a function that allows the user to preview and share routes and even provide information on bus lanes and speed limits.
As you get closer to your destination, the app will also bring up a list of available parking options.
All these were designed with the consumer in mind.
For instance, he explained that information on bus lanes and speed limits is available so that new drivers don’t get fined. He added: “Taxi drivers and experienced drivers are familiar with this, but new drivers are not.”
The human factor is something that was a challenge for Mr Bhattacharyya, who had no previous experience in the corporate world.
“Learning how to manage human capital was the most humbling challenge – and it is still a challenge today,” he said. Keeping his staff engaged and interested is something that he is still getting the hang of.
It is nonetheless obvious that personal interaction is important to him.
He makes it clear that the company’s success thus far is a team effort.
He credits head of innovation and technology Mohit Sidhwani and research and development manager Chan Siew Kiat as “operational co-founders” – they have been with QI from the very beginning.
“I decided early on that I wasn’t going to touch the technology anymore because these guys were deep into it anyway, so I focused on managing the business,” he explained.
And what is the most rewarding thing about starting his own company? Mr Bhattacharyya replied that he liked seeing his team grow.
“We’ve been in operation for close to nine years now and, over time, we’ve seen our team grow, from getting their bachelor’s degrees to getting married to having kids. It’s nice to see that they’re also enjoying their time at QI.”
Mr Bhattacharyya, who got married in 2013, also tries to spend time with his family and friends.
Spending time with his wife Ujjaini Ghosh is one way for him to wind down after work. The two enjoy travelling together, as his wife “loves travelling and seeing new places”.
He also loves racquet sports, tennis and squash in particular. He used to play squash for SAFRA in the national leagues in 2004 and 2005, but stopped due first to an injury, then because of work, as QI started in 2006.
But “tennis is my first love”, and he has picked it up again, playing twice a week in the mornings and once a week in the evenings with his friends from NTU.