Shape Your Own Future: The Story of Global 3D Labs
In the Christian Bible lies a notable story of how Jesus brings back a man named Lazarus from the dead. To some this might seem completely fictitious but the essential moral of the story was picked up by Gopal Krishna, founder of Global 3D Labs who decided to shape his own future, in the literal sense.
An IP graduate from MIT, Manipal, Gopal Krishna was not the best of students during his time here. In fact, the founder of this burgeoning company was almost failing out of college, with a backlog in almost all of his fundamental subjects. While on the brink of giving up, he chose to ignore all the negativities in his life and decided to focus on getting his company started with the help of MUTBI. Throwing himself into entrepreneurship, picking himself up and working hard to achieve his goal, he not only completed engineering but also successfully set up India’s forerunner in 3D printing—Global 3D Labs. Additionally, he is also noted as the co-founder of Foodzoned and Chill Maadi.
MTTN: Tell us something about yourself. Where are you from and why did you decide to join Manipal?
Gopal: I hail from a town in Bihar called Muzaffarpur although I’ve lived all over the country. At that time, I was like any other kid. I just wanted to fit in and get a cushy job, do well in academics, get a good placement and you know, become stable. I had a lot of ideas and was interested in Mechanical Engineering so I pursued Industrial and Production Engineering at Manipal and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
MTTN: What was your entire college experience in terms of co-curricular activities like?
Gopal: Well, my entire college life was only pursuing co-curricular activities (chuckles). I became the CR in my first year of college and from there onward, there was no stopping me. I had completely immersed myself in extra-curricular activities and did a lot of things— from writing to entrepreneurship. This is probably why I was extremely bad academically—I was giving it my 100% somewhere else.
MTTN: Coming to academics, how were you as a student?
Gopal: Well, it is no secret that I was absolutely terrible at academics. My daily routine consisted of going to class, getting thrown out of it and then continuing whatever project I was working on. I collected a couple of backlogs in year one itself, and had a particular dislike towards BET. In my third semester as I started throwing myself into my projects, I was getting hit by a wave of Fs—I failed five subjects out of six and managed to pass only math.
MTTN: Did your grades take a toll on your mental health? How did you handle the negativity?
Gopal: Yes, the negativity did get to me quite frequently. I used to constantly get put down by some professors and my father, but there was never a point where I was in depression. I always knew that I was capable of doing extremely well in life and that faith that I had in myself is what made me want to finish engineering.
MTTN: What made you want to push on and continue even though you were close to giving up?
Gopal: When I was at the lowest point of my life, my interest in entrepreneurship was at its peak. Looking at various entrepreneurs around me gave me hope and made me want to finish what I started—B.E in Industrial & Production Engineering. In particular, one of my very good friends Gaurav Prakash was on the same boat. Through all the turmoil in wanting to succeed in making our respective organisations big, the two of us found solace in each other’s friendship. Through all the ups and downs, the entire Manipal atmosphere and support from peers and professors alike helped me a lot—Prof. V.V. Thomas, Prof. Praveen Shetty and Prof. Veena Maben in particular. They not only identified potential in me to succeed, they were also extremely supportive and always had my back even through my disastrous academic phase.
MTTN: It’s a known fact that most Indian parents can be rather strict about education. How supportive were yours through the toughest phase of your life?
Gopal: My parents were initially completely against me. When I failed most of my subjects in college my father refused to speak to me for two entire months. In fact, there was a point when my parents thought I was out of my mind—but that didn’t really stop me. I never hid anything from them and told them all about what I was doing, irrespective of their disapproval. I always respected their opinion and heard them out but at the end of the day, I did what I thought was right for me. Around placement time, when I had gotten an offer from Amazon my parents were extremely persistent on me accepting it. They tried all sorts of things to manipulate me into accepting but I had other plans for myself. So I declined the offer and set on to setting up Global 3D labs.
Until not a while ago, my parents still believed that I had not quite settled down but that changed when my father visited my place of work. He saw how well established we were and that’s when my worrisome parents finally cooled down. Right now, he’s so supportive of me that I could probably ask him for a lot of funding and he would do it with his eyes shut.
MTTN: You mentioned that you found your passion in entrepreneurship and that it is one of the reasons why you are where you are today. Being a science student, how exactly did you get your exposure and develop your interest in this field?
Gopal: What started my passion for entrepreneurship was honestly, MTTN. My friend Gaurav wanted to start this big media organisation catering to Manipal and I was one of the first few people who was on the team. As MTTN gained multitudinous followers, I had an idea of starting a print magazine of sorts. But for some reason, this idea didn’t fare well with the others, so I left MTTN to start something of my own. A couple of co-founders and I started the first student print magazine called Chill Maadi. We went to MUTBI initially through Provenance but got declined. This left us with no other option than to go to numerous shops in order to get sponsored. But the sponsors had one major problem—they could not give money to a student account. This created a need to make Chill Maadi an official business. So, through something (that I co-founded) known as Project Parivartan, we registered Chill Maadi and that’s how I started learning more and more about entrepreneurship. Chill Maadi soon expanded to MITE and MU as well.
As I was an extremely restless kid, my entrepreneurial projects did not stop there. I started my own restaurant called MozCorner because well, I really liked eating momos (chuckles). This was the first time running an entire business by myself. I had to hire and provide lodging for my staff who were from Darjeeling and we made a lot of money. That was when I gained my financial independence.
MTTN: Let’s talk about your company. What is it that you do and how are you different from others that offer the same services?
Gopal: We’re a company that manufactures 3D printers. We’re also the oldest one and manufacture the largest 3D printers in Asia. What makes us different from our competitors is our innovation—we recently created a 3D chocolate, and a 3D PVA printer. Apart from this what really sets us apart is our client list. Within a span of three years we have managed to get into partnerships with big names in the industry such as The Indian Railways, Toyota, Mercedes, etc. We also have tie-ups with various deemed colleges over the country such as IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, VIT Vellore, etc.
MTTN: When did you get the idea for Global 3D labs and to whom did you pitch the initial idea?
Gopal: As I mentioned before, I was an extremely zealous student. Apart from what I already had going on, I wanted to start a company that made biomedical devices, and thus co-founded Expiscor Technologies Pvt. Ltd. The basic aim of this company was to produce cheap biomedical devices of good quality and so my hunt for cheap material began, but ended soon thereafter as I could not find what I needed. That’s when I decided to make my own starter material. After consulting with a few professors and applying theoretical knowledge, I designed my first 3D printer for making biomedical devices. My friends and I worked on our printer for a long time and even submitted it as our eighth semester project—that’s when we got our first interested buyer, so we thought, why not? Let’s start making 3D printers for sale.
When it comes to pitching the idea, it was not entirely my own. The friend with whom I founded Chill Maadi also became a co-founder of Global 3D Labs. If you look at it logically, your friends are the worst people to pitch your ideas to as they can be very biased. If you have a great idea, pitch it to someone with the right skill-set who can manage to guide you in the right direction by offering meaningful suggestions. But, as luck has it I got to partner with my friend (chuckles).
MTTN: Did you face any hurdles while trying to get your company started? How many hours a week did you put in to make it take off?
Gopal: Oh man, don’t get me started on the hurdles and the effort we put in to overcome them. Even though we garnered a great ton of support, there was equal negativity as well. With my college life coming to an end and my GPA plummeting, I faced a lot of self-doubt as well. But I kept my head down, worked twenty hours a day and managed to successfully pull it all off!
MTTN: You’re a prime example in support of the statement ‘you don’t need to be great at academics to excel in life’. Why do you think most students miss out on doing well in exams even though they’re equipped with sufficient knowledge?
Gopal: To be extremely blunt, the academic system is completely flawed. It’s so theory based and there involves absolutely no practical knowledge whatsoever. Students are only focussed on getting a good GPA and not on learning the intricacies of a subject or looking at its beauty—even if they are, the system leaves no space or time for them to explore their interests. It’s always about writing tests and scoring well. The want to learn more versus writing papers definitely causes a lot of stress for someone and results in extremely smart and talented people often failing tests and exams.
MTTN: In your opinion, does learning practically through hands-on experience completely outweigh theoretical knowledge?
Gopal: Oh yes, most definitely. It’s not even that we need a mix of both—we just need to completely eliminate theoretical learning. If someone is allowed to get a bit of practical hands-on experience, the basic curious human nature kicks in and he/she would want to learn about what is going on. For example, if I ask you right now to explain the working of a triple five timer would you be able to tell me anything at all? On the other hand if I asked you to explain the process of soldering, you would know something for sure because you’ve done it. I hope that answers your question satisfactorily.
MTTN: Yes, you’re absolutely right about that. But, we know that the Indian society puts a lot of undue pressure on students to excel academically. Do you think academics and success go hand in hand?
Gopal: There are some nine pointers doing immensely well in life, there are some who are quite average. Similarly, there are a few five pointers doing great while some are not. In my opinion, academics is an extremely minimal deciding factor when it comes to success. I’m not saying it isn’t important, academics do make you a more knowledgeable person, but what goes hand in hand with success is your personality. If you focussed on building your personality while having an average GPA, you’ll definitely go places.
MTTN: Most people today are being forced into engineering and find themselves stuck in a hole that they can’t get out of. If you had to advise them, what is it that you would say?
Gopal: There are three kinds of engineers—the academic kind that can finish their degree with ease and interest, the forced-into-engineering engineers, and depressed engineers. If you fall into the third category, I advise you to quit engineering. However, there is a condition. Make sure you have something you’re really passionate about to work on after dropping out. After all, there is no point in sticking to something if you cannot give it your one hundred percent. There are millions of college dropouts but only a few are successful, aim to be one of them.
However if you fall into the second category, where you dislike engineering but find it somewhat tolerable, I suggest you stay back and complete your degree. In my experience, not giving up when life brings you down teaches you a lot about tolerance, strength and perseverance. These qualities are extremely essential and by sticking to something that you don’t like prepares you for the real world—a world where you can’t go about quitting all jobs midway because of your dislike for your boss, the timings, the workplace, etc.
MTTN: Is there anyone to whom you’d like to say “Look! I made it.”?
Gopal: To my younger self. Although in the past there had been people spewing negativity towards me and what I did, they grew out of it. Hatred lasts a very short time which is why I don’t spite anyone or have anything to prove to anyone but myself. If I could tell someone “Look! I made it”, it would be to my younger self because through all the moments of self-confidence were certain moments of self-doubt. And in my belief, it’s alright if the entire world doubts you but the moment you crumble is when you doubt yourself.
MTTN: Do you have any regrets whatsoever?
Gopal: The one thing that I pride myself on is not having any regrets in life. Given my story, I can have numerous regrets but what I went through has shaped me to be the person I am today and I couldn’t be happier!
Gopal dreams of taking Global 3D Labs to an international platform by making it a multibillion dollar company. He has travelled to four different countries so far and looks at achieving his goal in a year and a half. On the personal front, he wants to pursue his other passion which is writing and is interested in writing a book. Apart from this, in the spare time that he gets, learning to play a musical instrument is on his bucket list as well.
Global 3D Labs: http://www.global3dlabs.com
-Nethraa Kannan for MTTN