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August 17, 2019
- Joint Initiative of WatchOut! & E-Cell is a tech start up of which Shivam Mangla, an alumnus of IIT Roorkee is a co-founder. It gives users the power of creating high-quality videos and animations of a person speaking with just text as input with the support of over 40 languages. (check out their website E-cell, IIT Roorkee in collaboration with Watch Out!, had a conversation with Shivam, the excerpts of which are as follows.

You had a perfectly secure and almost an ideal job at Facebook. So what motivated you to leave it and to come back to India?

I belong to a family that has been doing business traditionally. This might’ve been a reason why I always wanted to have my own business. I’ve always loved scaling up the things I have worked on, which is not really possible after a certain extent in a salaried job, and hence I have always been reluctant to do it. And opposed to it, in a start-up, the sky’s the limit. The harder you work, the more you achieve. And talking about homecoming, I think I’ve always wanted to work in India.

What is your mantra of dealing with the fear of failure and the anxiety of difficult situations?

While making a decision, I always imagine the worst-case scenario, and if I believe I can deal with it, then all is well. There is no ‘What if?’. I believe by staying positive, I can override of the obstacles. For me personally, the worst that can happen is my business failing completely, and still, I won’t have to worry about my financial security, because I believe I can return to my job anytime. So that’s one thing less to be anxious about.

What are your greatest fears and how do you deal with them?

I always try to stay optimistic and avoid thinking negative and so on a personal level, I don’t have any substantial fear of anything. But as a professional, I do dread some situations like being unable to execute our plans or hiring the wrong people. At such times, my relations with my team helps, as we are always there for each other. Launching a startup is an extremely overwhelming task for an individual with its share of anxious moments. At such times, a strong team is required to cope up with all the inhibitions and fears.

What was your initial Product?

When we started working on our product, we had an idea that we can change the way Hollywood movies are dubbed into different languages. We wanted to improve the experience of lip-syncing so that it would look like the movie was shot in the dubbed language itself. Our experience at TechStars Accelerator helped us to develop the idea further and find cases where it is used in marketing and animation.

What is your targeted customer segment? We aim to help companies in promotions sector to help them send personalized videos instead of text in their emails using our tools and to create educational videos so that they are able to produce multimedia content by simply feeding written educational scripts to the digital platform.

Does your company target individuals or is it mainly companies?

We intend to target enterprises as providing this tool to an individual might lead to its misuse by them and lead to ethical and legal issues. This is in accordance with legal procedures that are needed to be followed.

Where did you get in touch with your co-founders?

I met Nisheeth in London, who was, at that time working for Google while I was working for Facebook. We had a lot of mutual friends, as some of my colleagues at Facebook knew Nisheeth from IIT Bombay.. Ashray was already Nisheeth’s friend from IIT Bombay. Nisheeth and Ashray were the cofounders of a startup named SoundRex as well. Thus, the team was formed

What according to you is the ideal team size?

I think that working alone is not so convenient and if there are five to six people making a decision gets too cumbersome. Hence two to four seems good, but then it is very subjective. For me, three works very well.

How was your experience at Techstars?

Techstars is a company with offices in the USA and London. Our initial idea was to match the lip movements of the actors with the dubbed speech which, I think, has a great scope in the film industry. Techstars has a concept of “mentor madness” which resembles to speed dating. Here we can meet a large number of mentors from around the globe for a certain amount of time. If they like your idea, you can connect with them later on. It was here that we realized that our idea could be taken to the next level. So, I think, experience at Techstars was quite rewarding.

When do you think is the right time to launch a startup? Let us say I have an idea now, which is pretty much operation extensive. When should I start working on it, now or after graduation?

NOW. As trite as it may sound, the right time is now. I believe, more often than not, you don’t stick with an idea throughout your life. So you will get to learn a lot if you start early. While working at Facebook, I got a poster that read ‘BEGIN ANYWHERE’. Initially, its meaning was lost to me, but eventually, I understood what it meant.

How do you think one should promote a startup in college that is targeted towards college students?

I think that it is pretty much dependent on what the idea is. Although as a start you can make a Facebook page and stick posters.

Did you explore a lot of groups during your stay at the campus?

I actually applied to almost every group. I was a designer at WatchOut! and I think I wasn’t really good at it. I auditioned for Choreography Section twice and was meanly rejected in the interview round, and that too on my birthday (though I got selected in SDSlabs and MDG, which I guess makes up for this). So honestly speaking, for me, it was really fun out there, exploring things that is; and I would like to suggest that you should explore everything around you while you’re at the campus.

What would you advice to students who want to pursue AI and Data Sciences? What path would you suggest to get familiar with the field?

After graduating with an engineering degree, I know that it’s not that easy to jump into AI/ML because companies ask for experience. A good hack is to look for good startups working in the field and gain some real-world experience. (Join Rephrase!). While in college, you can start learning things by reading stuff on the internet. The most important thing other than the right resources is the peer group you learn/work with, so choose carefully. Apart from that, there are tons of great resources available online -, Coursera,, Et Cetra all these are great resources.

What do you think is your biggest strength?

Ashray was a convener of film club at IIT Bombay and has made short films in college; and has family and friends working in the industry, so he understands the pain points in the field and his business development experience from his previous startup directly helps here. Nisheeth is a genius, he visualizes mathematics like a wizard which is crucial for the kind of tech we are building. He has done his fair share of AI work previously at places like Samsung Korea. And I have experience of working in Computer Vision, AI. I’ve also built software at scale, both in college and at Facebook. The best thing I feel is that the strengths and experience of all three co-founders complement one another and all these pieces somehow just fit together beautifully for the company we’re building.

In your opinion, what are the critical skills a person should possess to launch a startup?

Passion, as hackneyed it may sound is really necessary. If you are passionate about something, nothing’s gonna stop you. For being a good entrepreneur, you need to have the knack to spot opportunities around you and make full use of them. As a student, there are various courses you can get enrolled in to build up your business, one of them being the Startup School by Y-Combinator. There is always a wide repository that you can refer to, you just need to keep an eye open.