Gray Cell: From Gray Cell To Blue Chip

A
typical Silicon Valley story–the only difference being that it happened
in the Silicon Valley of India. Gray Cell was born in a bedroom converted
into an office with one computer and a couple of lakh of rupees borrowed
from friends. And the man who did it is TS Rajesh. It was a tough decision
to go for products and the challenge before Rajesh at that time was the
emergence of convergence.

He wanted to create a unified
messaging device converging on voice, fax, mail and the net. It was the
opportunity that convergence provided–of bringing together the internet
and a technological device–that Rajesh and Gray Cell were quick to latch
on to.

The first product that was
developed was the Personal Assistant, a desktop device, which was bought
by an American company for a ‘small price.’ But with mobile telephony
emerging in a big way, the wireless device concept came into being. The
dream then was to connect internet to the mobile. And Gray Cell’s
challenge was to create a truly world-class, Indian branded consumer
product.

In 1996, the prototype was
built and Motorola deployed the product–Page Mail–in its pagers. But
the company was more of a technology company working on the back-end of
applications.

The transition to be a
consumer product company came in December 1997. And it was a transition
that was difficult to make. The mindset had to change, global thinking had
to happen, branding, market communication, packaging, all had to be
thought out. The challenge that lay before the young team of Gray Cell was
not an easy one. Its dream was to come out with a device that would
connect anyone in the world with any mobile device to the web. There was a
paradigm shift in the strategy. More than the desktop-to-desktop messaging
it was a means of people-to-people messaging. It was a ‘killer
application’ that the young enthusiastic team developed–Unimobile. The
first internet mobile device, it was termed as the ‘free branded new
media lifestyle consumer web product.’ The best part is that it is
compatible with the existing 500 million devices.

Today, Gray Cell has come of age. Its strategy is clear. It plans to bring out a tool like a real audio player and to partner with web companies, all the big portals in India and the mobile telephone companies for a mobile-commerce (m-com) tool. The business strategy is to use the m-com tool to increase the consumer base and sell them specialized services. Gray Cell has incorporated a company in the US and made its Indian operations a wholly-owned subsidiary. After four years at the helm, the founder has done a Bill Gates.

Rajesh has become the chairman
and brought in a new CEO to head the company’s day-to-day operations.
The Founder-Chairman will go back to his passion of being the ‘chief
architect.’  

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