Sunday, November 8, 2020

From Programmer to Billionaire at Age 33

The story of Div Turakhia, India’s youngest tech billionaire

As a kid, Div Turakhia read 150 business books. As he remembers, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad and Tony Robbins’s Money: Master the Game were amongst his favorites. He also read biographies of famous business people and tech startups, including 11 books on Bill Gates. For the last 20 years, Div said, he spent 800 hours a year reading.

Div’s father, a working-class man, didn’t have a lot of money. But whatever money he did manage to save, he used to buy books for his children. Their home library, Div remembers, was larger than the library at their school.

It was Div’s father who sparked an interest in computers in his youngest son. The boy enjoyed computer games, and one time, his father, an accountant, offered Div to learn how the games are programmed. If you know how these games work, he said, you might get better at them.

That’s how it started. Div absorbed one coding book after another. There were no coding teachers in his environment at the time — so he had to rely on books in his father’s library.

Soon after, at 13 years old, Div got to run his school’s bulletin board system — a pre-Internet messaging interface.

It was the early 1990’s, and the Internet was still making its first steps in India. Knowing anything about computers and networking meant you’re already ahead of the game.

So, at 14 years old, a teacher from Div’s school approached him with a request. “Could you help this company set up a website?” they asked.

Sure, Div replied. Soon, he was the go-to resource for Indian companies to do all sorts of computer work. Build a website? Sure. Connect the Internet? No problem. Make sure the network is working securely? Why not!

Through this, Div was acquiring crucial knowledge about computers, programming and networking. Most importantly, he made connections which would become his first clients.

For two years, a teenager Divyank was making solid pocket change — from consulting work alone. However, there was a thought in his head: how much farther can I push this?

At 16, Div was already an in-demand web-consultant in a rapidly emerging space. He had a choice to make: either he remains a consultant, or he does something else with his knowledge.

At the time, money was not a day-to-day problem for the young consultant. He was making enough to cover all of his needs.

He didn’t have a family to feed, so Div decided to go the risky way and build a product of his own.

It was the year 1998, and the number of people connected to the Internet in India was between 50,000 and 200,000. It was obvious to Divyank that the Internet would come to India eventually.

Everybody who wants to connect to the Internet needs to buy a domain and web hosting. So Divyak’s first thought was to build an Internet hosting and domain company.

Div couldn’t afford to buy servers of his own, so he borrowed 25,000 Rupees from his father — an equivalent of $350 — and rented his first server. Within the first few months, Directi made $4,000 in profit from the India market alone.

Inspired by his success, Div realized that he was moving way faster than the India market, so he decided to try his service overseas.

Turns out, what was happening in India was happening in other countries, too. More and more people wanted to have an internet connection. More and more people wanted to have a website.

Through relentless emailing, Div soon found himself partners in the U.S., Europe and Asia who would agree to localize his offer to the local market. The internet is great when masking the fact that there is a 17-year-old Indian boy sitting on the other side of the screen, Div laughs.

Div later went on to found a number of companies related to his domain business. For example, taking payments from overseas was a painful procedure in India, so he created a payments system. He sold that system for millions years later.

Div’s next big business was Skenzo. He wanted to get into online advertising — which was another emerging field. However, there are millions of sub-niches in the advertising world alone.

Div stuck to what he knew best: domain parking advertising. Each inactive domain can be monetized through proper software. Div created the software — which is used worldwide to this day. It would eventually turn into Media.net, an ad-tech giant Div sold for $900 million to a Chinese corporation.

Divyank Turakhia grew up in a middle-class family in pre-Internet India. He is nowadays one of the youngest tech billionaires in the world. His free time involves flying acrobatic planes, and he once learned how to fly a helicopter because he “had nothing to do for a week.”

You can imagine how crazy he must have seen at the time. Everyone around him would try to prove him he’s ruining his life. His father would often set up meetings with engineers who dropped out of school — a display of “failure.”

If Div could do it, you can, too.

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