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Living her dream in India: Barbara Maim

Living her dream in India: Barbara Maim

Meet an entrepreneurial woman, who moved bag and baggage to India, to become a technology entrepreneur and start her new life with her husband, kids, and company.

Lausanne born Barbara Maim’s day begins early. A working techie, she wakes her kids and gets them ready. It’s fruits today for breakfast. At 8:30 am, the nanny rings the bell. She wishes them a good day with the nanny and is off to work with her entrepreneur husband. Their workplace is a 10-minute auto rickshaw ride from their home… in Bengaluru.

Photo of the family in an Autorickshaw

“We work from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in an office we share with a couple of French friends who have a similar story to ours. Once back home, we let the nanny go, take care of dinner, diaper changing, feeding, reading routines,  and the lights usually go out pretty early if we want a chance at an 8-hour sleep.”

Born and raised in Switzerland, Barbara and her husband Jonathan Maim, both doctorates in computer graphics, had an entrepreneurial dream. They came up with their first project idea in 2010 – Minsh – to build an online virtual world. Needless to say, the project required high funding and a clear go-to-market strategy. At one point, the couple found themselves running out of cash without a sufficiently reliable source of revenue or funding. They were faced with a difficult situation.

“We could give up our entrepreneurial journey and find good, well-paid jobs as engineers in Switzerland, or we could continue the adventure, but not in Switzerland as the cost of living made it too difficult for us to survive,” says Barbara.

They decided then to base their project in India. “My husband googled for places in the world with a cheap cost of living and a startup-friendly, tech-oriented environment. Bangalore came up. We decided to take a leap of faith: we sold our furniture, gave up our apartment, took our backpacks and just left.”

“The first time I arrived in Bangalore in June 2011, I was shocked at the chaos: so many extremes were living together in harmony: the fragrance of flowers and the smells of sewer, large trucks and small auto rickshaws, Bollywood stars and beggars, colourful houses and broken sidewalks,” she recalls. .

Barbara and her husband have lived in India for over 6 years now. As they settled, making India their new home, their project Minsh too evolved. In 2012, they started a community of JavaScript developers named BangaloreJS. The community grew very quickly. They had meetups every month. They networked with other developers, sharing challenges, ideas and work. It was all wonderful, but they also realized they needed a better tool to communicate with each other for their offline meetings.

EPFL Alumni Running Team

I’m the president of the EPFL Alumni Bangalore Chapter. We are quite a few who like running. We organized an EPFL alumni get together where we went for a run and then had a hearty french breakfast

 

“That’s how the project of our first app came up. : We had a dedicated BangaloreJS app specifically designed for our community, where developers could chat, share articles, organize meet-ups, etc. We released our app after 8 months and soon realized many more communities were interested in getting their own white label communication app, too,” recollects Barbara.

Today, Minsh is a platform that easily creates a new white label app based on a customizable template. Hence providing each client with their own app with its own branding and user base. It has over 50 apps available on Android, iOS and on the web.

The app has the following features:

  • Keeps communications simple and private: Messages can be posted publicly to all the users or privately to the recipients of your choice.
  • Simplifies event organization and follow-up: The in-app calendar displays your events. For each event, you can enter all relevant details: timing, geo-localised venue, description, registration, etc. Additionally, the app collects users’ feedback after an event is over.
  • Boosts interactions: The searchable members’ directory displays all the users of the app and their geolocation. Users are provided with a profile page where they can enter their details.
  • Displays important information on a personalised space- An optional space can be customized to share your documents, sponsors, promotions, or any other item, depending on your needs.

 

But what makes it unique? “I’m pretty sure we were the first in India, but not in the world. Our key differentiator is that we focus on communications: Minsh apps are all about connecting its users with each other,” states Barbara.

Seven years and two kids later in Bengaluru, Barbara calls herself more Indian than Swiss. Barbara who grew up having Swiss delicacies like fondue and Raclette now enjoys Idli and Dosa on weekends with her family. “I am used to the cows on the streets, the dogs barking at night, the drums during Hindu festivals, the Muezzin singing at 5 AM, the honking, and the traffic. It’s all my daily routine. Honestly, whenever I go back to Switzerland, it is so clean, so quiet, the lawns are so perfectly mowed, it feels like I’m in a Disney World for adults!” she laughs.

While living her entrepreneurial dream Barbara and her husband also explored India. “I travelled much more when I didn’t have children, but I still managed to visit a few places: Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Chennai, Pondicherry, Kochi, Alleppey, Andaman Islands, Allahabad, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some more,” she says.

Photo at Ulsoor Lake

We took this picture in Ulsoor lake for my birthday while enjoying a romantic weekend without our children (our nanny was kind enough to watch them over the weekend)

 

And how has she managed on the language front, living in a country that speaks over 22 languages, not to forget the different dialects? “Gottilla!” she says in Kanada (I don’t know!). “I was very eager to learn, but quickly realized everybody was speaking a different language in Bangalore: Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi… and the common denominator was English, so I just stuck to it!” she signs off.

About The Author

Keerthana Nagarajan

Keerthana Nagarajan is a freelance journalist and lives with her husband and two little girls in Zurich. She has written for Swissinfo covering Indian-Swiss Expat stories. She also shares her motherhood experiences at Motheringmatters.ch (An Expat- Swiss Parenting website) Keerthana worked previously in the Netherlands at Radio Netherlands Worldwide, covering South Asia news, and at CNN’s sister concern in India, CNN-IBN, a 24-hour news channel. Continnect is her first start up online project.

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