Not everyone has the mettle of brothers Nikhil and Nishant Rathi to become entrepreneurs as teenagers. They were 17 and 15 respectively when they started developing websites for others as a hobby. This was in the 1990s. For the duo, balancing this and their studies was a challenge, as was turning their talent into a business venture, considering that as mere teenagers, convincing clients that they were providing a service that could change the face of their business was no easy task.
But there was something in them that told them to continue nevertheless, and today, the rewards of their efforts have far exceeded their expectations. The brothers presently helm three companies, namely Web Werks, which runs data centres at multiple locations in India and beyond; NeoSOFT Technologies, which offers information technology services and software solutions globally; and NextStar Venture Capital, which invests in tech start-ups.
Nikhil and Nishant Rathi launched Web Werks—their ‘business’ of developing websites—as a division of their father’s trading and investment business in Mumbai, in 1996. Investing their earnings—this includes the Rs. 1,500 from their very first client—to further their business, they started expanding in the areas of booking domain names, designing websites, and hosting websites on shared servers in the USA.
In 2000, Web Werks become an incorporated company. Later, it turned to reseller web hosting. Recalling those days, Nikhil says, “At one time, we were hosting 5,000 resellers and 85,000 websites worldwide and had become a top domain seller as well as a premier partner of Network Solutions (which controlled the .com domain name)!” By then, the company had acquired their dedicated servers for web hosting. “When fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) came to India in 2010, we converted a 2,000 sq ft room into a server hall and started hosting websites therein. From there, we worked our way to setting up our first large data centre in Mumbai in 2015,” Nishant adds.
Today, Web Werks has 200 employees and eight data centres around the world: in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi-NCR, Noida, Dubai, Philadelphia (USA), Valley Forge (USA) and the Netherlands. “Our data centres have the best-connected infrastructure to launch anything that needs high-speed, diverse and low-latency connectivity. Moreover, they have been built and designed by IBM, with world-class features,” Nikhil continues. Web Werks offers web-hosting services on dedicated servers and cloud, virtualisation, co-location and disaster recovery services, with 24/7 support and 99.995 per cent uptime guarantee. The company has served more than 5,000 organisations globally, including Fortune 500 companies and Government of India bodies. Explaining further, Nishant says, “Web Werks is a Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) empanelled cloud provider and is one of 10 empanelled cloud providers to the government for its MeghRaj cloud initiative.”
Nishant (left) and Nikhil Rathi during their childhood
In 2010, the Rathis decided to split Web Werks into Web Werks and NeoSOFT Technologies. Nikhil explains: “By then, we had several website developers, designers, etc., on board and had built many websites, web portals and intranets, complete with coding. We had begun receiving many international orders, so NeoSOFT was set up as an export-oriented company to cater to these orders.” Thereon, Web Werks handled the hosting and domain registration part of the business, while NeoSOFT focused on providing global IT consulting and software solutions.
NeoSOFT soon began receiving large, long-term contracts for software development worldwide. Nishant says, “Working internationally, NeoSOFT brings in the best of technological know-how and implements them even in the Indian market.” It has over 2,500 employees, seven development centres and offices in the USA, UK, Australia, Japan and Italy. It works with Government of India organisations, leading conglomerates, small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups to plan, develop, test and expand their digital initiatives across mobile, cloud, web, IoT, artificial intelligence, blockchain and DevOps.
Wearing many hats
In 2014, the Rathis set up Mumbai Convergence Hub as India’s first, largest and only commercial internet exchange to enable the interconnection and exchange of internet traffic between internet service providers, content delivery networks and other network providers. Nikhil says, “The Internet is the result of the interconnection of different networks; we had realised that without network interconnection, there can be no internet. After our failed attempts to open up the National Internet Exchange of India for everyone, we got a telecom license and set up Mumbai Convergence Hub [later renamed Mumbai IX].” It was acquired by DE-CIX—the world’s leading internet exchange operator—in 2017 and renamed to DE-CIX India.
Along the way, the brothers also established NextStar Venture Capital as a family venture to invest in start-ups in the technology sector. Nishant says, “Apart from making investments in these start-ups, we coach their founders on strategy, hiring and growth hacking, and help with revenue growth and scaling sales traction.”
Nikhil Rathi at work
Nikhil Rathi graduated with commerce from RA Podar College, Mumbai, in 2000. He then acquired a master’s degree in computer science from Madurai Kamaraj University and an MBA in marketing from Nichols College in Massachusetts, USA. Nishant Rathi, who has completed his BCom from Mumbai’s HR College in 2002, also holds a dual master’s degree in science and MBA from Nichols College. While their strong educational backgrounds have helped them in their journey, the biggest support has come from their family which comprises parents Amritlal and Seeta, Nikhil’s wife Shilpa, son Dhruv and daughter Riya, and Nishant’s wife Neha, son Anuj and daughter Anushka.
As regards future plans, at NeoSOFT, the brothers look to drive digital transformation, build on B2B and international businesses and increase the number of employees to 15,000. As for Web Werks, they intend to expand to all metro cities and set up fibre landing locations—10 MW facilities in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, and a 20 MW facility in Mumbai—and move to renewable energy powered data centres.
Nishant Rathi at work