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Suhas Gopinath, CEO at 17

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Most of us worry about finishing class assignments on time or who to take to the latest Abhishek Bachchan flick, but Suhas Gopinath has bigger things on his mind. Although he was not old enough to drive in some countries or sign legal documents, he became the CEO of his own multi-national corporation at age 17. Gopinath dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as a kid, but at 14, he became fascinated by the internet. His interest started with the creation of his own Web page,  but it soon turned to the development of a new company. In 2000, Gopinath started Globals, Inc, an IT service company that now boasts 11 offices worldwide, more than 400 employees and profits of more than $1 million a year.

Gopinath's talents earned him global recognition not only because of his age but also because of his innovative business practices. He often speaks at conferences to people twice his age (or older!), offering tips on how to run their businesses. He also initiated a programme for other young people who are interested in business called "Building Entrepreneurship Skills in Youngsters"; the programme even received accolades from  former president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. Gopinath accomplished all this while working on his BE in information science at the MS Ramaiah Institute of Information Technology!

Gopinath is forward-thinking in business but also has a lot to say about social issues. He spoke at a young leaders' conference about the importance of viewing the world as a global community without political borders. And he is just as passionate about animal rights. Gopinath sat down with PETA Youth to discuss his views on business, animal rights and what young people can do to revolutionise both.

At age 17, you became the youngest CEO in the world. What was your motivation?
I was very much motivated by the success path of Mr Bill Gates. At the age of 14, I established Globals, Inc, with a primary motive to provide a platform to talented youngsters worldwide based on their skill sets and irrespective of their age and academics. Today, when I look back, I feel proud that as an entrepreneur, I have been able to create job opportunities for more than 600 talented youngsters worldwide.

Why do you think it is important to support animal protection?
As humans, we need to have some morality and ethics to give back to those innocent creatures from which we have taken and exploited for our comforts and needs. [We need] to utilise our intelligence and resources in protecting innocent animals instead of applying the same intelligence to [destroy] animals.

Are you a vegetarian? If so, why do you think one should be a vegetarian?
Yes, I am a born vegetarian. Animals used for their meat are treated and killed brutally; a vegetarian diet is low in fat and high in fibre, which is essential for a healthier and longer life. Why eat meat and fish for a shorter and unhealthier life?

Tigers are endangered because they have been killed for their skins. Elephants are killed for their tusks for ivory. What do you have to say about the illegal trade in exotic-animal products?
I feel very upset when humans do business [in] animals' skin and bones by trading them illegally. Government needs to take severe action [against] those who trade animal products illegally and also those who buy such products. When there are no customers to buy such products, the trade [in] animal products will be drastically reduced. The educated crowd should not encourage such activities.

Why do you think it is important to use synthetic leather as opposed to real leather?
There is no point in dressing ourselves in an animal's skin since we wouldn't know the pain caused to the animals by killing them and extracting their skin for usage in leather products. Instead, we can use synthetic leather or other alternatives which are cheaper and better, instead of showing off by wearing natural leather and encouraging the killing of animals indirectly.

Do you see synthetic leather as a lucrative business opportunity?
Being an entrepreneur, I very much foresee synthetic leather as a great business opportunity, as it has great scope in terms of sales and marketability, with less infrastructure and investment. I advise … young entrepreneurs to strongly consider venturing into the synthetic leather domain.

What role do you think young people can play in spreading awareness about animal rights issues?
Youth can play a major role, and they can be very instrumental in creating awareness about animal rights issues, since they usually have a strong network of friends through whom the message can spread.

If you saw an animal in distress, what would you do?
I would consider providing relief to the animal as my top priority and would immediately provide the necessary treatment myself if possible or would transport it to the nearest animal relief centre or veterinary hospital.

What would your message be to young people about protecting animals?
Friends, it is our duty and responsibility to protect animals as … past generations have been exploiting animals and have become dependent on [using] animals. It's time for us to break this vicious circle and spread the word [that we need to] protect animals and preserve their natural habitat, or our future generations will see a tiger or lion only in calendars and magazines.

You don't have to run a million-dollar company to make a difference for animals. Just stick with us, and we'll keep you up to date on the latest giveaways, promotions and celebrity interviews. Sign up for the PETA India E-News today!

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