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   Nikita Agarwal


Yesterday, Rediff Guide to the Net profiled some of India's tech-savvy super kids. Part II of the story takes a look at teenagers: Greater in age and also in achievements.

Meet Rishi Bhat who created and sold SiegeSoft, an Internet privacy programme; Akshat Singhal who's developed software and represented India at an Intel-sponsored science fair in the US; and Aditya Patil a 13-year-old member of Microsoft Personal Chat that's exclusively for certified engineers.

-- Akshat Singhal
-- Rishi Bhat
-- Aditya Kishore Patil

Age: 16

Claim to fame: Akshat has just about every Microsoft certification under his belt. He's also the world's youngest CLP (Certified Lotus Professional) and CLS (Certified Lotus Specialist).

He has created 20 sites to date on diverse topics including one for Traffic Police, Jaipur. In July last year, he was declared 'IT Face of the Year' by the Poona Business School, Pune. Akshat has developed new and interesting software like the 'DOS color Frenzy'; a software for the Buddhist Dhammapada; and a fully zoomable map of Jaipur with markings for almost every place in the city. This was selected by Simtel.net for their download archive.

His ingenious IDMS (Intelligent Document Management System), a software for storage/ maintenance of documents, integrated with Microsoft Office XP as a tool for document imaging, data warehousing and data mining, won the Intel Science Talent Discovery Fair at the Delhi city-level.

Akshat represented India at the Intel ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) in May 2002 in Kentucky, USA. He was chosen from 70 competitors, and worked without any guide for the project.

The first to earn a Lotus Certification in Rajasthan, he says his status does affect his life in many ways: "People listen to me and many take my advice on anything related to computers. My friends have been appreciative of all my work and are genuinely happy. So I don't find it difficult to fit in with my peers."

He's just like any other teenager and does not consider himself to be a genius: "I was as silly as the other kids, only I preferred working on my computer and experimenting with software to watching TV. It's more fun."

"As a Web designer, my USP is quick and creative designing. I've been making sites for about five years now, and so I'm well experienced with Web aesthetics. The costs incurred in designing are minimal if you have the equipment. As a professional, I'd charge Rs 10,000 to Rs 40,000 per site unless it's for a good cause. I take only a few projects and focus more on doing newer things."

Inspiration: Akshat once took apart the CPU of his computer and tried reassembling, but it didn't work. When the computer engineer came home and showed him that he had done everything right except the way he connected the IDE cable, Akshat felt "cool with computers".

Career Goal: "I plan to finish my Class XII with a good score and then go to college either in India or the US. I'd like to do research in computer science. I'm not sure if I'd start my own firm or join someone else's, but will keep working hard wherever I am."

Why computers?: Why computers?: "I picked up computers because I found them most interesting. It's really a coincidence that I got into computers as a career, because it's more of a hobby than a profession for me.

"I first handled a computer when I was eight or nine. A small computer institute had opened up near our place in Jaipur, and just for the fun of it, I joined the course for LOGO. I learnt the bare basics and though angles and decimal numbers were not a part of my math course, I was using both concepts to make drawings on the computer. It was so much fun and also taught me to think more visually about angles and decimals. Back then, the only mouse that most people knew about, was the one that eats cheese, and the biggest machine I saw was a 486 AT.

"My hard disk had to be reformatted at least twice because I loaded too many programmes on it, but I loved the engineer's visit as I got to see the inside of the CPU and software installations. I tried my hand at that and got pretty good. I also played around with programming tools, graphics packages, and HTML. That sparked everything off".

Proudest moment: "When I was invited to Sai Baba's temple in Shirdi.

My biggest award was the recent one: being selected to represent India at the Intel ISEF. It came after intense effort and also led me to great experiences like a trip to the USA at the biggest pre-college science fair, and an opportunity to work at a good tech company (Agilent Technologies)."

Role model: "I don't have role models, but believe in setting my own rules. I don't emulate anyone, but learn a little from each person."

Web sites developed: Akshat Singhal -- CV Online, Jaipur Teens.

Message to readers: "We should keep developing and experimenting with the Internet and computers. It isn't necessary for a person to be a qualified computer engineer to do great things -- all you need are innovative ideas and a little patience. One of the things holding us back is the lack of adequate Web developing and management skills and the high price of Internet access."


Age: 15

Claim to fame: Developed SiegeSoft, an Internet security software, by himself at age 15.

A Grade 10 student with a good grade-point average, Rishi is also a classical pianist and championship tennis player. Besides, he's acted in a film The Indian in the Cupboard. But his interest in acting was overridden by his newfound success with Seigesoft.

He has already started another company, Myedesk.com that will let people access a Windows-like desktop online from anywhere. "I think it will be very useful for people who travel a lot," says Rishi, who can code in about 30 programming languages.

In an interview, he said: "I'd known for a while that there was a problem with privacy on the Internet. I wrote a code to use myself, and then realised there was an opportunity." That's how he went big.

Along with a Canadian friend, he started up his company Siegesoft.com, which sells users a monthly service that stops Web sites from automatically eliciting email addresses, phone numbers and other information without permission. It utilises encryption technology to offer users the ability to surf anonymously, thereby mitigating unsolicited e-mail.

"People would be upset if their phone had been tapped for years, but that's essentially what's been happening," says Rishi, "About two months after starting the company, I was approached by a Vancouver-based company now called Zimtu Technologies that offered to buy the site and rights to the software. Negotiations soon began, and in September 1999, I sold them the site and rights to my software." David Hodge, president of the company, said he had no idea of Bhat's age when he first found his Web site, but he knew Bhat had "the leading edge in privacy software".

"Here was a 15-year-old working from a home computer, who's contacted by a stock promoter," Hodge said of his initial contact with Bhat through ICQ, "You might say that he was a little surprised."

Bhat was hired as a consultant for the Web site, and has received 1.5 million performance shares of the company.

"We knew that Internet privacy was a huge issue, and recognised the 15-year-old's creation as being marketable," said Hodge, "It was a perfect fit."

For Rishi, the sale of the company he developed over his summer vacation gave him the means to buy a top-of-the-line Pentium III 600-Mhz computer and treat his friends to pizza.

His proceeds from the sale of SiegeSoft are worth over $775,000.

Inspiration: "I've always been fascinated by the fact that computers do exactly what you tell them to. I started programming (in BASIC) when I was about six, developed a passion for it, and just kept on learning. However, it didn't keep me from being a normal child. I also watched TV and played games. At present, I spend plenty of time just relaxing and hanging out with friends. I don't find it difficult to fit in with my peers -- I'm a normal teenager in every way. I just happen to have accomplished more than most kids my age."

Career goal: "I plan to go into a combination of computers and medicine. I'll definitely start a company and be an entrepreneur, as I can't see myself working for anyone else. In college I'll be studying biomedical engineering and computer science. That will give me the background I need."

Why computers?: "I love computers and they happen to love me too :)"

Proudest moments: "Being interviewed on Good Morning America about the Internet privacy company I sold. A few years before that, my good friend Benjamin and I said we'd measure which was one of us was more successful by who appeared on Good Morning America first. Never did I think I'd win the bet at 15."

Role model: "I'd say Bill Gates, mostly because he believed in himself and his company when nobody else did. The way he's built up Microsoft is absolutely remarkable."

Websites developed: Siegesoft.com, myedesk.com.

Message to readers: "Do what you love, and always believe in yourself. That's the one piece of advice I have and I can't stress it enough."



Age: 13

Claim to fame: Studying in the seventh grade in a Pune school, Aditya earned his Diploma in Software Development in December 1999, completed the Microsoft Certified Professional course in June 2000, the Microsoft Certified Professional plus Internet course in July 2000 and finally the MCSE in August 2000. He's now a member of Microsoft Personal Chat that's exclusively for certified engineers.

He was barely seven when he first took to computers. They caught the little boy's fancy, and he mastered DOS and Windows within a year. "At a time when other children were glued to television, Aditya was glued to the computer," said his proud father.

Inspiration: One of his friends suggested doing the Microsoft certificate examination. Passing it made Aditya the youngest Microsoft-certified engineer in the world. His certificate is signed by Bill Gates whom Aditya hopes to meet someday.

Role model: Bill Gates.

Career goal: "My dream is to make the fastest computer that runs on solar energy. For now, though, I have to concentrate on the next computer exam."

Later this month, Aditya leaves for Oxford University where he has got admission for MSc in Software Engineering. He also hopes to become a Cisco Certified Internet Work Expert soon.

Web sites developed: www.adityakpatil.bigstep.com

Part I: Super Kids - Indian prodigies set the Web and record books alive

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