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Last Updated: Monday, 17 November, 2003, 07:38 GMT
Indian teen at gates of success

Habib Beary
BBC correspondent in Bangalore

He is not yet 18, but he dreams of becoming the Bill Gates of India.
Suhas Gopinath [left] with a colleague
Suhas (L) is still too young to sign some contracts under Indian law

It's no teenage fantasy for Suhas Gopinath, born and based in the southern city of Bangalore.

Government officials and local media here say he is the world's youngest chief executive officer (CEO) of a software consultancy. His company, Globals Inc, is registered in California's Silicon Valley.

At an age when other teens are whiling away time at bowling alleys or go-karting, Suhas is busy drawing a road map for his fledgling company.

The company's revenue is nothing compared to the Microsoft empire, but given time Suhas is confident of raking in a fortune.

"We are hoping to register a turnover of around $1m in the next five years," says Suhas, who launched Globals Inc with two like-minded friends in 2000.

I have sent [Bill Gates] several e-mails but there has been no response
Suhas Gopinath

The firm helps clients in web design, online shopping, internet security and credit card payments.

It hasn't all been plain sailing though - Suhas found his age was a problem went it prevented him from signing a major contract with a foreign outsourcing firm.

"The Indian arm of US-based Smith & Gale approached my company to outsource 50 of their projects in Singapore and Hong Kong but we lost the opportunity because the law did not allow me to sign the contract," Suhas says.

Local reputation

The entrepreneur also had to register his company, which employs 60 people, in the US because Indian law regards him as a minor.

As well as Bangalore and California, the company has representation in New York, Maryland, Virginia and London.

"My idea is to make it an Indian company when I turn into a 'major'," says Suhas.

The teenager is quickly gaining a strong local reputation.

Microsoft boss Bill Gates
Suhas hopes to go to Stanford University and meet Bill Gates

The local government allowed him to participate free of charge at the recent Bangalore.IT.Com, described as Asia's largest IT event

Thousands of would-be employees flocked to his stand, many wanting to be part of his venture.

Suhas says he is looking for people in their teens or 20s. Enterprise is more important than high academic qualifications.

"The upper limit is 25 years," says Suhas, which just about allows in the vice-president of operations, Manohar VND, the oldest member of the team.

Mr Manohar says: "I may be older but Suhas is more experienced. He is the boss."

Suhas adds: "I don't treat my colleagues as employees. This is like a family. Everybody likes the friendly environment."

Suhas' ambition as a child was to become a vet, but the internet fired his imagination when he was 14.

Pakistan hacking

After initial resistance, his father, a retired defence scientist, encouraged him by buying him an internet-linked computer.

Suhas calls it the first investment.

"I used to surf and read up a lot on Microsoft and Dell. Bill Gates is my icon," he says.

Suhas' passion drove him to develop his own web page called CoolHindustan.com, aimed at Indians living abroad.

US-based Network Solutions Inc was impressed and certified him as one of the world's youngest web page developers.

Barely two months after the launch the site was hacked into and changed overnight to CoolPakistan.com.

"It was the worst time of my life," says Suhas, who received threatening calls.

Undeterred, Suhas set up his company, which he says will be a platform for youngsters to develop their talent and provide exposure to technology.

The company plans to go into embedded software and network solutions in the coming year.

Suhas has already applied for a course in artificial intelligence at Stanford University, from where he hopes to fulfil his fantasy of meeting Bill Gates.

"All my attempts so far have failed. I have sent him several e-mails but there has been no response."

His colleagues say Suhas is not a guy who gives up.

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