From using his dad’s computer as a seven year old and installing TV aerials and satellites at eight, 15-year-old Sahil Gupta has progressed to running his own ISP in Hamilton. And that was after first using the net just four years ago, after arriving in New Zeal-and from Tanzania.
The Hamilton Boys High student says he hopes to hit it “big” with his ISP, NET4U, and perhaps become one of New Zealand’s top businesspeople. “I want to be one of the ‘young’ achievers in the IT business world, not as big as Bill Gates but enough to be proud of myself and to make my parents proud of me,” he says.
However, Sahil’s first go with his father’s $17,000 486 PC was not a success as he broke it, causing a few hundred dollars worth of damage, by not perusing the Read Me files. But from then on, he has gone from strength to strength.
Aged 12, after arriving at Auckland, he started selling computers privately. He would buy PCs at auction, upgrade them and sell them on. Then, he decided to sell them new, with internet access bundled.
Sahil says using the internet at Mt Roskill Intermediate “totally inspired him”.
“I wondered how it worked. I have a habit of pulling things apart to see how they had been formed. I asked my teachers 101 questions every day. They got quite sick of me … but we learnt a bit together.”
His family moved to the Waikato, and after 18 months of selling PCs as a sole trader, last year Sahil formed NET4U with his brother Anshul as director. However, the schoolboy essentially runs the business himself. He is trying to raise $5000 to $10,000 capital to speed the growth of the business, which runs with the help of up to four contractors.
He still sells a few computers every week and aims to double his ISP customers from 1000 to 2000 by year end. His internet services include ADSL (JetStart, for $22.50 a month, cheaper than Telecom) and 56Kbit/s access, web hosting and computer services.
Sahil tells other bright kids that to succeed in IT, they must set their emotions aside. “I have had people buying computers off me, who have emptied their banks to buy it. You feel guilty when this happens and they pay you that last cent of their hard work. But, you have to make a living, you can’t fall for it. Also, you need to deal in a professional manner, you must be clear in stating what you offer as to what level of a service you would offer,” he says.
After finishing school, Sahil plans to study a conjoint degree in law and computing, saying there is a shortage of lawyers with IT knowledge, and as a member of the school debating team, he loves arguing.
School, Sahil says, gets in the way of his business but it is his first priority. He also finds Hamilton offers few other diversions, so ISP aside he has little social life.
“My mother is quite worried as I work between five and eight hours a day other than school work. I hardly sleep over four hours a day,” he says.