He barely managed to crack his class 10 exams. Today, the Punekar is the man behind one of India’s most trusted anti-virus solutions.
The name Kailash Katkar may not ring a bell. Not unless we tell you about Quick Heal Technologies, reputed to be among the best anti-virus and cyber security solutions in the market. Haven’t you heard your older tech-loving sibling ever tell you that your laptop is doomed unless you have Quick Heal installed?
Kailash is the founder, MD and CEO of this homegrown cyber security company, and an inspiration for having built a business empire from virtually nothing.
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Born in 1966 in a village in Maharashtra, Kailash grew up in Pune. He came from humble beginnings — while his father was a machine setter, his mother was a homemaker.
Contrary to what may seem, young Kailash wasn’t particularly keen on studies either. The student of Children’s Academy High School lasted in the classroom till only his teens, dropping out soon after class 10.
As the family’s resources were limited, Kailash supported his parents and siblings with a job at a local shop for calculator and radio repairs. He took up the job in 1985, barely out of his teens. Displaying a talent for machine repairs, he spent over half a decade honing his skills at the store and also building on other areas like accounting and operations.
Armed with hands-on experience, Kailash took his first entrepreneurial step in 1991 with a calculator repair business.
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With an investment of Rs 15,000, not an entirely paltry sum back in the day, Kailash set up shop in a 100 sq ft worth room. Small as it was, his experience made sure that the business turned out to be profitable.
Yet Kailash had bigger plans. This was the early 90s after all, and the world was waking up — quite rapidly — to the possibilities of personal computers and the internet. Kailash enrolled himself in short courses to learn more.
Using his early knowledge, the enterprising business-owner found a visible gap in the market. While many companies and people were investing in computers, they were unable to find proper maintenance partners. Kailash expanded in the area, establishing CAT Computer Services in 1993, offering maintenance services to clients.
Despite an initial lack of response, the entrepreneur persisted and the first customers came a few months later. In a major coup, Kailash secured the maintenance contract for New India Assurance in the same year, followed by more contracts. As profits increased, Kailash added more staff members to the team and began to plan business expansions.
The company developed its first anti-virus, called Quick Heal, a year later in 1994.
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With the use of computers increasing, people felt the need for anti-virus software to keep their devices secured. Anti-virus software was an expensive proposition those days, and free programmes rarely did an effective job.
It was Kailash’s brother Sanjay who came up with a solution. Then a computer science student at University of Pune, he developed an anti-virus programme for DOS. Kailash sold the first units for Rs 700, priced much lower than standard market prices.
Quick Heal became an instant hit, thanks to its affordable pricing and remarkably good service. By 1996-97, the company was generating a turnover of over Rs 12 lakh. Sanjay had joined the company and, along with his team, worked to develop superior versions of their bestselling product.
Business wasn’t always great — in an article in Economic Times, Kailash mentioned almost shutting down the company in 1999. Nevertheless, by 2002 the company had shifted to a 2,000 sq ft office in Pune and their first branch was founded a year later in Nashik.
“By 2005-6, we had diversified our product portfolio, moving beyond the anti-virus solutions,” said Kailash. “We covered the entire gamut, from security and tuner solutions, which focused on increasing computer speed, to mobile security and gateway level protection.”
The company was renamed Quick Heal Technologies, as we know it today, in 2007.
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An investment by American private equity firm, Sequoia Capital, in 2010 bolstered the company further. By 2013, the company had over 600 employees and 23 offices across India.
Kailash also instituted the Rotary Cyber Safety Initiative, which acquaints citizens, especially students, teachers and parents, with cyber-security awareness. He has also won numerous awards, including the SME Channel’s Achiever’s Award 2011, Maxell Award for Maharashtra Corporate Excellence 2012, Army Institute of Technology’s (AIT) ‘Young Entrepreneurs’ Award and the Quality Brands India Award 2012-14.
As smartphones and tables gradually eclipse computers, Quick Heal Technologies has ventured into mobile security and new product development in tandem with future technological innovations.
The success of Quick Heal Technologies is often attributed to Kailash’s people-oriented approach to the business, and humility. As the business adapts to changing technology, Kailash remains at the forefront of innovation and business expansion.
Not much unlike the ambitious boy who started the journey of a lifetime in a repair shop.