One of the most disruptive companies in the world has roots in a slum in DelhiTime: 2016-10-26 16:48:11 Source: yourstory
He was standing on stage at the Pioneers Festival in Vienna under a big screen that was showing him taking a selfie with a virtual Snoop Dog. A few minutes later, he was chasing objects with his phone to make them come to life through his app Blippar and to extract information from them. That is how, pointing at a lipstick, he found out the potentially perfect shade of red for his lips, and pointing at a banana, he learnt the healthiest recipe for banana pancakes.
Ambarish Mitra is very serious about what he does but has the ability to explain it in a very entertaining way. In fact, behind the fake bombs he launched on the audience through the screen of his phone and the celebrities popping up for selfies, there is a company which made it to the top 20 of CNBC’s Top Disrupter List in 2015, Bloomberg’s list of top UK Business Innovators in 2016, and Business Insider’s list of most disruptive tech companies, also in 2016. Blippar is an app that uses augmented reality and machine learning to allow users to interact with any object through smartphones and other devices. Ambarish and his Co-founder Omar Tayeb launched it in 2011.
Before getting to this point, Ambarish had a quite novel-like story, which definitely adds to the fascination of Blippar. He was born in Kolkata and grew up in Dhanbad, until he decided to run away from home when he was a teenager due to a conflict with his parents. He settled in a slum in Delhi, where he sustained himself by selling magazines door-to-door and working in a tea stall.
Then, inspired by the strong role that women have played in his family for generations and pushed by the reality of gender inequality around him, in 1998, a 19-year-old Ambarish created Womeninfoline, one of India’s early online communities for women. With it, he won an e-business competition, built a company that went public a couple of years later, and earned him enough money to try his luck abroad. He set off to London, where he finished university and, after a few years, a joke about Queen Elizabeth coming to life from a 20 pound note led to the inception of Blippar.
A story of dualities
The reason Ambarish decided to take part in an e-business competition while living in a slum was a great passion for tech transmitted by his father. Paradoxically, his father was also one of the main reasons for Ambarish’s decision to run away from home.