If his name sounds familiar, Koby Yogaretnam was the brains behind WHATSHERSTORY, an event planned in collaboration with TamilCulture this October. Koby was also featured by TamilCulture for his hand in bringing Pothys to North America.
Koby has quickly made a name for himself in the global Tamil community, not just for these projects but for his involvement in a number of high profile international business ventures. Paralleling his entrepreneurial success, he has become a rising role model to many aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs, and has channeled his increasing visibility to develop budding Tamil entrepreneurial talent into viable business models.
Having reached several career feats in his 20s as a consultant at Accenture and Lehman Brothers, Koby developed an itch to try something new. Unbeknownst to his family and friends, Koby spent hours browsing the internet in search of inspiration to start his own business. During one of these searches, he discovered an untapped online marketplace connecting vendors and suppliers of Tamil-Hindu weddings to prospective clients. After discussing this void in the Tamil-Hindu wedding industry with several friends who were getting married, Koby developed TamilHinduWeddings.com in 2013.
Koby initially invested $600 dollars into the website. It soon grew to become the largest online directory connecting Tamil-Hindu wedding vendors and suppliers to prospective clients around the world. With its increasing popularity and a Facebook fan page with tens of thousands of fans, it grabbed the attention of a major corporation involved in the Indian wedding industry, who approached Koby for assistance in marketing an event in London.
Unfortunately, this exposed Koby to the difficulties that come with being an entrepreneur and placing trust in anonymous individuals who can breach this trust to further their own interests. However, Koby saw the experience as a learning opportunity and was determined to not let it discourage him. He reached out to widely successful Indian saree supplier Pothys and pitched a proposal to showcase and sell their sarees at events in London. This led to the formation of a business partnership with two weekend saree events in London and one in Toronto totaling over $2 million in revenue.
Koby’s involvement with bringing Pothys to Toronto generated interest within the Tamil-Canadian community. Koby met with the CEO of Tamil-Canadian firm Ideal Developments, and proposed a mobile app idea termed Adocal (a notable blend of the words advertisement and local). Adocal allows small businesses to advertise to potential local customers through mobile videos. After discussions with the CEO over their shared goal of inspiring the next generation of Tamil entrepreneurs, the firm decided to invest in Koby’s vision.
Koby sits as one of four judges on Tamil Entertainment Television’s (TET) “The Launch Pad” - a show produced by Ideal Developments’ subsidiary Ideal Incubator. “The Launch Pad” provides aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs with the chance to pitch their business ideas and products before a panel of successful Tamil men and women for a million dollar investment. Airing every Sunday at 9 PM, the winner for this season will be declared during a live episode on December 6th.
Koby is also in the midst of developing InvestJaffna.com. Having felt a compulsion to develop a business project that would enrich Sri Lanka’s Tamil north, Koby partnered with one of the largest construction companies in the country in building luxury condominiums and shopping centers in the Jaffna region. With the establishment of a website as well as scheduling several presentations around the globe to promote his project, Koby hopes to tap into the region’s significant GDP growth and to members of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora interested in investing in their homeland.
This project is perhaps the most telling of Koby’s career trajectory. While growing up in London, he described feelings of disconnect from the Tamil community. Encouraged by his parents to immerse himself in mainstream British culture, he began to feel a sense of insecurity and longing once he grew up to learn about his heritage and contribute to it.
Koby hopes to leverage his consulting and entrepreneurial experience to guide the next generation of aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs. Inspired by the words of his late grandmother to offer a helping hand to Tamils in need, Koby’s next vision is to launch a website that will allow him to offer mentorship to aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs around the world.
Through demonstrating a sheer passion and dedication to his business ventures and seeing aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs thrive and succeed, it is clear why your votes have named Koby Yogaretnam TC’s Most Influential Tamil of 2015.