Shikhil Sharma and Ananda Krishnan (BTech CSE, Class of 2016) started their entrepreneurial journey in their second year itself by founding Czar Securities in February 2014. The duo, who became friends in the college mess, began by offering security testing services on a freelance basis. Apart from cold calling companies, the ethical hackers would identify loopholes in the web security systems of multinationals in the hope of getting a break. They got their first break when NIIT University (NU) entrusted them with the job of ensuring the security of its cloud campus programme.
Soon, their growing prowess began winning them both customers and awards. They featured in Yahoo’s Wall of Fame (twice); Adobe’s Hall of Fame, and the AT&T Hall of Fame in 2014. Microsoft acknowledged them as security researchers when they discovered security loopholes in Microsoft’s web portal and they won the sixth Entrepreneurship & Innovation Competition in Wuxi, China, in 2015.
In 2017, they founded Astra Security. At the fifth Global Conference on Cyber Security in Delhi that same year, they received the award for the most innovative startup from Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi. More importantly, they received an equity-free grant of 57,000 euros from the French government when they won the French Tech Ticket Program award for foreign startups in 2017. They won against 70 startups that were shortlisted from 1100 applicants. The award, presented by former French president, François Hollande, included mentorship and office space by the incubator, Startup42, which saw them move to Paris. This enabled them to win customers in the European Union. They were then backed by leading Berlin-based accelerator, Techstars.
Today, Astra Security, which operates out of India and the US, boasts of an Advisory Board comprising Vijay K Thadani, Co-founder, NIIT Ltd.; Rajendra Singh Pawar, Founder, NIIT Ltd.; Kamlesh K Bajaj, Founder CEO, DSCI and Rajeev Shorey, Principal Scientist, TCS Research. One of the leading cyber security firms in the world today, the company offers services such as VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing) and their proprietary Astra Security Suite. Clients include the likes of Ford, Gillette, Hotstar, Religare, Townscript, MeraEvents and Kotak Securities, among others.