Reimaging Business for Future – Yi CII Brainstorming, Sat July 8th, 2023 AIMA, Nashik

Harsh Deodhar: Sunil sir, most of the Nashikers would know you very well, but if you could tell us about your journey?

Sunil Khandbahale: People see me as an Innovator, as an entrepreneur. Those who know me closely know my passion for education, for innovation towards entrepreneurship, especially social entrepreneurship. However, I see myself as a Lifelong Learner.

You asked me about my journey, It’s a long way. Well, to cut a long story short, I studied in a Government Zilla Parishad School in a small village, which hardly had walls or roofs, and a few years later, I graduated from MIT Boston, the number one university in the world. The second thing I would like to share is that, I worked in a small garage, a fabrication shop and a few years later, I was working at the Facebook headquarter at Menlo Park. The third thing, I can share is that I was able to convert my first employer into my first customer and this is how I started my joinery of entrepreneurship back then in early 2000 at the age of 19. Now I am heading KHANDBAHALE.COM is one of the world’s largest India official languages digital platforms counting a userbase of over 100 million for their language learning and translation needs, which I started back in 2000 to overcome my language barrier. Apart from this, I am passionate about Social Innovations, so we have KHANDBAHALE.Org, which manages multiple projects in the language, music, education, innovation, and spirituality domain Kumbhathon – technology for Kumbhmela. I think I have achieved most of the things I aspire for. Now it is no more about ME, but WE. I work for the next generation.

Harsh Deodhar: Most of engineers, would have stopped once a solution is drafted, but you sir went on digging dealer, learning from MIT Sloan to currently perusing PhD, what made you go on?

Sunil Khandbahale: To answer your question, I would like to quote Mr Desh Deshpande, is a great Indian American Entrepreneur and Philanthropist. He said, “There are three types of people. 

#1 Ignorer: One who sees a problem, and ignore it. 

#2 Blamer The people who see the problem and keeps blaming someone for it. and 

#3 Solver: The type of people are one who sees the problem and obviously they don’t ignore it or blame, but take it as a challenge and solve it. I become restless when I see the problem. And that’s what keeps me going. 

Harsh Deodhar: Launching, MIT Sloan fellowship, Leading Kumbhathon, being invited by the Whitehouse- incidences are many – but if you could tell us what was a major turning point in your life and why?

Sunil Khandbahale: #1 The very first turning point of my life, definitely was going to school. Because my generation was the first in whole of my genealogy to enter into school. 

#2 When I was ranked top in my first year class of diploma, because I had clean bold in all 6 subjects in first unit test. The reason was I had schooled in Marathi medium and I could not understand English. That academic success is what boosted my self-confidence. 

#3 turning point is when I had denied an admission by a computer institute because I had no money to pay their fees. That forced me to learn coding at my own and that’s how I become self-taught software engineer.

#4 When I sold my first software to my first customer, who happened to be my first and last employer, and this is how I became an entrepreneur. 

#5 When I was graduated from MIT, Boston because that could show to many students back in my country – that this is possible and you can do it. This is how I am emerging as the messenger of education. 

Sunil Khandbahale speaking at Reimaging Business for Future - Yi CII Brainstorming, Sat July 8th, 2023 AIMA, Nashik

Harsh Deodhar: Sir, you have seen a poster boy hero level success, making not only a small village in Nasik proud but for the whole nation proud, I know of one physical challenge you had- while coding for long hours your back pain problems started so you designed a sleeping position PC to continue your work- this just being one- I’m sure there would be many if you could tell us how you over came these challenges.

Sunil Khandbahale: I think of three things when it comes to entreprenuerial jouney; 

#1: Passion: You must have passion of whatever you are doing.

#2. After passion, you must take Action, so your passion comes into reality.

#3 Vision: A longterm vision is the key to let the whole world know what you are up to. These things get’s you everything you needed. Confidence, courage, support, name, fame, money …everything you need. 

I recommend the all time famous book called “Alchemist”. It says, “When you want something, the whole universe conspires in order for you to achieve it”. 

Harsh Deodhar: Sir, whats your piece of advise for young innovators of India- what works and what doesn’t? if you could guide young India in the right direction?

Sunil Khandbahale: #1. I like to quote, “Whatever in impactful is sustainable, and whatever sustainable is impactful.”  Work for impact, rest will follow. I started my business with zero penny in my pocket. Don’t think of raising funds upfront. Investors will be after you, if you have really have an impactful idea. 

#2. Continuous learning: I strongly believes that, “You have to do all, what it ask for.” In the beginning, I was an innovator of these technologies. I invented and developed those for my own use, then further for small groups. But then you want to scale it up. There comes entrepreneurship. The journey from innovator to entrepreneur and to a business is vary interesting. I think, after innovation, as an entrepreneur, you must be a life-long learner. That is only possible if you have learning mindset, studentship is the positive environment for that. Now a days, many students think of education as a waste of time and wants to take break. Please do not get influenced by the dropout stories of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. These legends are school drop-out not from any ordinary school but from Harvard and Stanford like worlds top universities. One in million reaches there. They had passion, action and vision for their dreams. Now the time has changed. We are living in a competitive world. With my experience, I recommend continuous learning, till the last breath of life. Go get graduated, post graduated, doctorate, multiple doctorates, so you are the master of your own thoughts, your own field. Embraced the longline studentship. 

#3 And third – India is an opportunity. Population, Diversity, Disparity, Poverty, Corruption, scarcity of resources, unemployment are not that challenges but opportunities to grab. Worlds all unicorn companies are coming to India. India is a world’s big market place. And being Indian, no other than you understands the complexity of it.. Get into social innovations, Solve the local challenges, be the next unicorn! 

#4 Fourth and most important thing: Don’t rush for the destination, enjoy the journey! Because life is all about here and now!

#5 And Harsh, you asked me what works and what doesn’t? right? I would say, what works is your imagination, and what doesn’t is also your imagination. Nothing can stop you from achieving your dream but your imagination. Believe in yourself and move forward. “Hum honge Kamyaab, hum honge kamyab ek din, man me hai vishwas, pura hai vishwas …”

Photo credits: Yi, Nashik team.