Mohan Belani - the rebellious entrepreneur

Lin Wenjian
Singapore 9
27 July 2012
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If his father had his way, Mohan Belani would be holding down a regular job as an engineer, instead of running his own media start-up, e27.

“My dad never wanted me to go into business. He gave me an education hoping that I will get a nine-to-five job and lead an easy life,” said the 29-year-old computer engineering graduate from the National University of Singapore.

But sometimes, what dads propose, sons dispose.

In Mohan’s case, a rebellious nature coupled with his determination to “bring value to others” saw him start e27 -- a company that focuses on linking Asian technology companies to external partners and investors -- even before he had completed his studies.

“I got plugged into the whole internet ecosystem when I was at Silicon Valley for a one-year stint in 2006,” he said, during a recent interview with Yahoo! Singapore at his office in Ayer Rajah Crescent.

Just one year later, in 2007, e27 was born, with a clear aim to “inspire and connect the many people that work hard to put Asia on the global map of technology innovation.”

Thinking back, Mohan said, “There are many intelligent people who have the passion to solve specific technology problems. I want to expose them to the industry, and connect them to the right people, such as the investors.

“If you are a young chap with a good idea who may need the right exposure, then I can be the facilitator.”

WINNING THE JUDGES OVER

It is this ability to give others the crucial leg-up in the industry that prompted the judges of Yahoo!’s Singapore 9 campaign – entrepreneur Elim Chew, F&B operator Michel Lu and actor Adrian Pang, to cast their votes in favour of Mohan.

As Chew explained, “It is the industry initiative that we are looking for. What Mohan does have a greater impact on the industry, rather than on just a single company.”

On his part, Mohan expressed his gratitude for getting the judges’ nod of approval.

“When people look at internet companies, they tend to look at the big guns in Silicon Valley, so it is nice to see that our fruits of labour are getting the recognition,” he said on being named a Yahoo! Singapore 9 finalist.

Professing that his nomination “came as a surprise”, he added, “If I win the award, I hope it will show more people that the business of building internet companies is important.”

From being skeptical initially, Mohan’s parents, who run their own import and export business, now give their only son their full support.

With a laugh, Mohan recalled, “My dad wondered why I was doing this when I got an engineering degree. I had to educate them and show that I have a plan and I know what I am doing.”




COMPANY NOW ON TRACK

Indeed, since the start of this year, Mohan has started paying himself “a fair salary”, after taking only a $500 monthly allowance prior to that.

While things seem to be going swimmingly for Mohan now, there was a time when he admitted “I felt I couldn’t grow the company any further”.

That was in July 2010, when he left to set up his own gaming company, Gokil Games.

Yet, deep down, the lure of his e27 "baby" proved too strong and he rejoined the company last December after “being inspired by my staff”.

Mohan’s decision to return to e27 was something his girlfriend of three years, public relations consultant Gina Daryanani, 25, approved of.

“I knew that e27 has always been close to his heart and something that he was excellent at so I was really pleased that he moved back.”

The couple had met at an industry event in 2009 and recently got engaged.

Talking about her fiancé, Gina added, “Something about Mohan that people may not notice is he is extremely committed and loyal to his family. He has a big family and finds time outside of his busy schedule to spend time with them.”

The affable man also enjoys travelling when he has the time.

“Last month, I was in Japan. It was a work trip, but I also took time to learn about the cultures there,” he said.

Scaling the world’s highest peaks used to be Mohan’s other love, but the ex-member of NUS’ mountaineering team had to give it up due to the time-consuming nature of the activity.

“I had to concentrate on e27,” he admitted. But he is quick to emphasise that it is not a sacrifice.

"Over here, everyone is driven by the chance to help shape the internet start-up industry. I am working with a team of very passionate people who want to bring value and not screw anyone up."

VOTE FOR MOHAN BELANI IN THE BUSINESS CATEGORY HERE.


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