Alok Ranjan always had a passion to make an impact on the world in some way. He was destined to be an entrepreneur, no matter what challenges got in his way.
A native of Patna, India, Ranjan, 39, was born into a middle-class family. With his father being an engineer, and mother a teacher, he inherited a knack for building things and sharing knowledge.
Knowing that the key to a successful career starts with education, Ranjan’s parents did what they could to usher him along that path.
“My parents believed that having good education is the key to a better life,” the Indian American entrepreneur told India-West. “Although education facilities in my town were poor, my family took pains in arranging good books, which helped me grow.”
An engineering graduate of the National Institute of Technology in Allahabad, Ranjan went to work for NASDAQ via Tata Consultancy Services, where he learned “the importance of speed, reliability and high data volume.”
While he was gaining experience with NASDAQ and then HSN, Ranjan earned a master’s degree in management information systems at the University of South Florida part-time. He later went for an M.B.A. full time at Columbia University to gain an understanding of business practices in the United States.
“The Greenhouse program at the (Columbia University) business school worked as a catalyst to move my business ideas from concept to launch,” Ranjan explained to India-West.
During his studies, he worked as a consultant at North Atlantic Capital and an intern at Microsoft. He later joined Microsoft as its senior business strategy manager.
“Once I had a solid education, experience and stable finances, I took the plunge into running my own venture,” he recalled.
Through his personal experiences with his team members, Ranjan learned what could be helpful to people.
“Whenever we face a challenge we ask ourselves, ‘Are many other people facing the same challenge?’ and, ‘Is it a problem that my team can fix?’ ” he said. “We validate the idea in the market, and if there is need and we are capable of meeting it, we launch a solution.”
That practice led to the founding of Future Today Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif.-based video technology and distribution company that helps content creators distribute and monetize their content on the Web, mobile devices, and connected TV platforms, with more than 300 channels of content, including iFood.tv and “Kids Learn Hindi,” among others.
“When I had trouble learning to cook, I launched iFood.tv. And when I wanted my kids to learn Hindi, I launched the ‘Kids Learn Hindi’ channel,” the entrepreneur said.
Another example Ranjan related to India-West was about a business partner wanting good content for his daughter – something easy to use as TV, but safer than YouTube – that led to the launching of HappyKids.tv.
HappyKids.tv is a hit on Roku, Fire TV, LG, Sony and Samsung smart TVs, as well as Apple, Android and Windows devices, he said.
“This provided safe and smooth viewing experience to kids with great collection of edutainment content, which makes both kids and parents happy,” Ranjan asserted.
All of the content viewing material is free and built for ease and the pleasure of the consumer. The .tv apps, which have garnered more than three million downloads, can be installed on smart TVs, Roku, Fire TV and Apple, Android and Windows devices. They can also be viewed on Web browsers. Other channels include fawesome.ifood.tv, tripsmart.tv, healthsmart.tv andfityou.tv.
The company works closely with high-quality content makers like premium YouTube channels, local and international show producers, kids content creators, independent movie makers, distribution companies and others to get the best content available.
“Growing up in India I mostly learned by reading books, so when I experienced audio-visual learning via videos and animation, I was impressed by its potential to simplify and democratize learning,” he told India-West of his motivation behind the creation of the hundreds of channels. “I found that it is easier to learn and teach through videos and interactive audio-visual means than through books, so I decided to bring this experience to the masses by mixing entertainment with learning and making it available through popular devices like TV and phone.”
Additional benefits of the apps come through personalization.
“Our apps are smart,” Ranjan explained. “They keep learning about your likes and start recommending videos to improve your viewing experience. Our powerful CMS, video management and recommendation technology is in action behind all this.”
In total, Ranjan said his company has more than 300 channels.
“Even though we have wide variety of content like YouTube does, our editorial team ensures that they are well organized in channels, shows and playlists for a TV-type viewing experience,” Ranjan said. “Unlike Disney, which is focused on high-quality fiction, we have a range of content for kids including simple nursery rhymes, stories, multiplication table songs, craft videos and science experiments.”
While people can watch the channels for free, there is an ad-free option available with a paid subscription, much like Pandora. Ranjan said the majority of the revenue for the company comes from its ads, but the subscriptions are picking up.
Going forward, Ranjan said he is fully focused on building the best new media company with a top-notch viewing experience.
“We want to ensure that you can watch media effortlessly like TV, yet fully control your experience like PC,” he said. “As broadband speed increases and data costs go down, the so-called digital media will become the mainstream media and new possibilities will open up. We are excited about opportunities in India and other parts of the world and want to ensure that every individual in the world can have easy access to same kind of awesome media experience that viewers in the U.S. have started to enjoy.
“We want to intermingle learning and playing so that they become one and the same,” Ranjan added. “Kids should learn by doing. Going to the next grade should be as fun as getting to the next level of a game.”
Ranjan said his team is working to create better edutainment content while also having a more personalized immersive and engaging user experience.
And even with his devotion to building a new media empire, he still finds time to help mentor the entrepreneurs of future generations. He serves as an adviser to Applied Informatics and Mindful Medley.
Ranjan resides in the Tampa, Fla., area with his wife, 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. His family has also helped build Future Today, which now has offices in Tampa, Menlo Park and New York.
His wife, a brain cancer specialist, regularly gives advice on the HealthSmart.tv channel, as well as other health channels the company provides; His son recommended launching a channel for tweens that will be available in the near future; and his daughter does reenactments of lessons learned through the HappyKids.tv channel at school shows.