Looking to the near future Bhatia forecasts: “The whole area of computing continues to grow so dramatically in power and storage every 18 months and is being used in every aspect of our lives. We’re not very far away from where our entire computer will fit into a tiny phone and all we need to plug in is a screen.”
“I’ve just witnessed the maiden test flight of a Boeing 787 that was almost completely designed by computer and only towards the end were the parts put together by people. This shows that the modelling of life processes will increasingly move to the computer and, with that in mind, I have just made an investment in a company that binds proteins to molecules. The day the first drug is created by this method will completely change the way drug discovery takes place in the world.”
Bhatia, 42, is Indian by birth, has lived in his adopted America since 1988 and calls himself a ‘true global citizen’. This mixed heritage is part of the driving force to open up the world, which he is achieving by creating “inexpensive communications to bring down barriers”.
“With the work I’m now doing in India, I don’t really physically need to be present. With voice conferencing and screen set-up desktop sharing, I can do everything as if the person is sitting there next to me. That has already brought down the barrier of distance and also made the world a more global place."
The three companies he says currently take up most of his attention are of huge benefit to small and medium sized businesses and entrepreneurs. They cut communication costs, the need for corporate travel and enable more time actually on the job.
Under parent company Sabse Technologies, SabseBolo (meaning ‘talk to everyone’ in Hindi), has been developed. This free conference service enables multiple parties to listen and participate in a call without the hassle or cost of existing set-ups.
Live Documents is another recent invention that causes Bhatia to enthuse: “It’s phenomenal. It has the entire Microsoft Office suite, which you can use online like Google Docs, but without any of the limitations. That’s a huge market because Microsoft generates $25 billion annually and by selling that project we can go after them directly by offering the same thing at a much lower price. “
Bhatia has long been interested in the process of voice activation and Mobivox is the most advanced speech recognition engine yet. Just upload all your personal contacts and, from then on, it’s completely voice activated dialling.
“If I want to call you, I’d just say your name and it would call right away instead of going through a phone list. We’ve got the most advanced technology so in terms of time we’re at least a couple of years above everybody else.”
Jaxtyr was Bhatia’s most exciting acquisition of 2009, which he believes is set to overtake Skype in terms of free global calling.
“It’s an international free telephony service similar to Skype, with the only difference being we enable mobile-to-mobile calls as opposed to PC to PC. It’s already live in 54 countries around the world and we have 12 million subscribers but is growing every single day.”
As the wait time before connection is between 30 seconds and two minutes, Bhatia hopes that revenue can be generated by piping audio advertising into that slot.
But is he braced for the backlash from the giant mobile companies worried they’re going to be pushed out of business?
“I’m hoping to partner with at least one carrier company in each country then share the revenue. We’ve got a lot of positive response, not from the biggest, but the second and third largest carriers who see it as a great way to acquire new subscribers and grow their user base. We’re just marketing our service at the moment and hoping to sign a couple of them up. We’re also developing an App to download on the iPhone. Once we do that we’ll be better known than we are currently.”
Being Indian at a time of such economic growth puts Bhatia in a great position to capitalise from country’s booming economy. Plus he has the added advantage of being able to tap into the national psychology.
”India is still growing pretty aggressively and rapidly, and because they’re starting from a much smaller base, a lot of things can be done over there.
“But it has its own challenges. I cannot take Western models and transport them in totality.”
For many years Bhatia has run the online travel portal Arzoo.com, which he describes as the ‘Expedia of India’, but he has far grander schemes in the pipeline. He wants to develop an entirely new city in India called Nanocity, which aims to emulate the success, philosophies and innovation found in Silicon Valley, California.
At the moment it exists as 11,138 acres of flatland at the foot of the Himalayas, but its future is as a thriving, sustainable eco-hub of economy, education, knowledge and creativity.
But Bhatia admits that initial plans have encountered setbacks.
“We lost out on one year. We were hoping to break ground in the first quarter of 2009 but that did not happen because that was right in the midst of falling world markets and supposedly worldwide recession. But now that people are realising India’s still growing, I’m hoping to bring it back on track and break ground in the first quarter of this year. I think the first people will start moving to the city five years after we break ground. If it's 2015, that will be great.”
So, after over two decades of recognition and a long list of honours, awards and achievements, is it money or invention that drives Bhatia?
“I’m always extremely excited by things that use the power of the human mind,” he explains. “To make something that is 10 times faster, or 10 times cheaper or 10 times more efficient. Whether in the field of bio-technology or software engineering, what really excites me is to challenge the existing business practices and do something in a manner that completely alters the playing field.”