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9 Schools And 21 Location Changes During A War Couldn't Stop Gobinthiran Kulendran From Finding Success
Gobinthiran was born in Vanni, Sri Lanka, in 1997. Life threw him a lot of challenges - he changed schools 9 times while moving homes 21 times during the height of the war and ended up losing everything except for one bag.
Ara Ehamparam
COO & Co-founder
Canada
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Amidst all this, he saw a computer for the 1st time in 2005 and was enamored by what it was able to do. Someone told him about the search engine “Google” in 2009, and he started learning everything he could including software design, web design & graphic design. He spent all his spare time hanging around in internet cafes.  He started doing projects locally and earning a few hundred Rupees for it. His mother and aunt pawned their jewellery and bought him his own computer in 2011. There was a catch – there was no power in his home, so the computer was left at his aunt’s house in Vavuniya. He would go there for the weekends and come home to attend school on weekdays. After some time, the power came to his village so he brought the computer and kept it at a neighbor’s house, which he would use for one hour a day.

After school, he worked in the industry for 5 years including networking within the Yarl IT Hub community which exposed him to overseas clients.  In August 2019, he got his first UX design project from the US via LinkedIn.  He finished it in 5 days with almost no sleep and was paid about $1,500.  That gave him the confidence to continue building his company, which has completed 60+ projects, worked with 40+ clients from 16+ countries!

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I read your story and it’s a powerful one.  What drove you specifically to start HUEX Studio?

My first business was selling GTA Vice City cheat codes at game centers to play games. It taught me - if I make money I could do whatever I like. After that, I worked at the construction sites for 1000 LKR a day. My life goal is to travel around the world and experience different cultures and food.  In order to do this, I need money + I have a passion for designing, so I merged the two.

Tell us about your experience with the Yarl IT Hub community as it seemed to be a transformative one for you.

During my teenage years, I wasn't clear on how I could achieve my goals and work toward my dream life. I tried different things and nothing really helped.  One day, I was invited by my school to participate in the Yarl Geek Challenge Junior 4 (2015). I built a website (WordPress-based) that was a bus timetable system to participate in the competition.  I didn't do it to win as I ended up meeting so many mentors and it opened my eyes to a great future. I met the below-mentioned people who significantly impacted my life:

  • I met Miller Alexander Rajendran, who introduced me to User Experience (UX).
  • I met Alagan Mahalingam who gave internship opportunity at his company (01 Tech)
  • I met Jeythan Tharmakulasingam who gave us space at their office (SenzMate) to build my company.
  • I met Mohamed Zajith who is our first full-time employee.
  • I met Jarachanthan Ratnakumar who is one of our current core members at HUEX STUDIO.
  • We are selected for the YIT Accelerator program which provides dedicated mentors and guidance towards success, there I met Mr.Giritharan, who is currently helping me a lot.

I read about your experience about the limited time you had access to a computer because of power limitations in your village (making those trips back and forth to your aunt’s house or having access for 1 hour a day at your neighbors).  Tell us about what you learned both knowledge-wise and about yourself personally, during that time?

I would say, never give up, go, and work for your passion. Look for opportunities around you, there are plenty of them. Be wise to utilize it.

Where do you see the business and yourself in the next 5 years?

I want to share the success with the people who are with me now, including Mr.Jarachanthan Ratnakumar, Abiseban Pirapahran & Sagana Naguleswaran who have been extremely wonderful to work with.  Without them, I would not be able to run the business. Together we are planning to expand our team to 40+ people and launch products to the global market, I am currently pursuing my degree at the University of Moratuwa and I want to graduate with good grades. My goal is to travel to at least 10 countries.

I know you are in the services space, have you ever thought about “productizing” your services with any of the projects you’ve worked on?

Yes,  we are always brainstorming and researching a few product ideas and hope to launch our first one to the global market in the coming years.

Do you have any mentors that have helped you in the progression of your career? 

Absolutely, I would not be where I am without my mentors.  My parents have helped me with solving a number of different problems.  Whenever I am stuck on a difficult problem, I consult with my mentors for the advice and it's always been useful.

Do you think everybody needs mentors?  How does somebody find a mentor?

I believe that everyone could benefit from having a mentor.  It's like "Google For Experience" in the sense that you get to tap into their life experiences.  I would love to have different mentors for different industries or expertise.  To find mentors, go to events like meetups, networking programs, panel discussions and competitions.  Stay in after the event finishes when people are bit more relaxed. Have conversations with people.  Listen, respond and share your story.  Get their contact information and make sure to follow-up.  There are always people willing to help you if you ask in a humble way.  

What is a great business idea or product that you would be working on if you weren’t focused on HUEX STUDIO?  

I would start an organic farm and a travel-based YouTube channel + blog.  It would be another way for me to fulfill my life goal of traveling while covering my expenses.

Loved the story about how you got your first international project from the US via LinkedIn.  What is something manageable and tangible that somebody could do to increase the size and improve the quality of their network?

In order to showcase our skills to the target audience, you need to have a great portfolio that speaks to those skills in terms of a high level of quality.  I would post my portfolio on social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram in the early stages of my career.  I believe that there are literally millions of people looking into solutions to solve their problems at any given time but they don't know where to find those solutions.  I think social media (at least today) is where people often turn to and it's a place where you can easily reach those people at a relatively low cost (if not free).  

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What do you think you would tell 16-year Gobinthiran looking back?

When I was 16, I didn't want to go to school because I wanted to study design-related courses, but it seemed like there was no program or option for this.  I literally asked everybody including relatives, teachers and even the Education Department in my district.  I felt like my passion for design and the aspirations associated career-wise related to design were not really taken seriously.  As such, I thought there wasn't were any opportunities out there to follow my desired career path, so I quit school.  After about a year, I found a course available at the state university which was free if I got certain results in my Advanced Level examination.  So I rejoined the school and passed my exam.  I am at a top university (University of Moratuwa) in Sri Lanka.  I'm currently purusing a degree in Bachelor of Science Honours (B.Sc. Hons.) in Information Technology & Management NOT Honours Degree of Bachelor of Design which I wanted.  The course was available, but no one was aware of it, including me.

How would you describe your dream life?  

Traveling around the world with my circle without worrying about money.  I want to stay with locals, eat street food, experience their culture, support them and then move on to the next place. 

What is your favorite book(s) you’ve read recently and why?

“100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People” - this book is about design and behaviour. I love reading about psychology and people. It helps me to design better design-centric solutions for our customers.

What is a new belief, behavior, or habit that has most improved your life?

Whatever I choose to do, it has to be high-quality and I won't stop until I hit that goal.  For example, even if a client is happy with the work but I'm not, I will tell them I need extra time to meet those standards, even if it means I won't get sleep.  

If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?

I would donate it to build a sustainable economic ecosystem for my people in the North & East so they would be set up for generations to come with no worries.

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How would you describe the Tamil community in Sri Lanka? 

I don't believe that they are aware of the opportunities available around them.  Most people I see encourage their children to follow conventional career paths like becoming a doctor or engineer.  But I don't see them encouraging them to explore to find their passion and support them on that journey.  I think this needs to change within the community here.

What is your favorite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?

Rice Flour Pittu with Egg Fry (Arisi Maa Puddu with Muttai Poriyal).

What is your favorite Tamil movie?

Guru, a movie by Mani Ratnam based on the journey of a successful entrepreneur Dhirubhai Ambani. There is a song starting with “Ore Kanaa En Valvile..” by A.R.Rahman which is my favorite song and it motivates me to go forward whenever I feel stuck.

 

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Ara Ehamparam
COO & Co-founder | TamilCulture
Canada
Socialist-minded guy looking to make a difference. Co-founder of @TamilCulture, @Contin...
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