Srividhya Venkatesan’s Journey with Next XR Group

By Indira Laisram
Srividhya Venkatesan // Pic supplied

The old adage about business is timeless: if you have the smarts, you can take the leap. Melbourne-based Srividhya Venkatesan had an additional asset—technological expertise.

“When I wanted to start a business, my tech background was my biggest asset. I wanted to do something with visualisation and technology, which is why I chose virtual and augmented reality,” she says.

Venkatesan is the co-founder of Next XR Group, a company offering “unique and lasting experiences” through the use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI). XR, or extended reality, serves as an umbrella term for these immersive technologies, encompassing VR, AR and mixed reality (MR).

Next XR works across a wide range of industries, focusing on education, manufacturing, and construction, integrating cutting-edge virtual and augmented reality solutions to enhance productivity, engagement, and innovation.

Venkatesan and her husband founded the company amidst the pandemic in 2021. With Melbourne under one of the strictest lockdowns, she had to innovate strategies to reach customers. Initially, they focused on the global market to attract clients until the Australian market eased.

The strategy paid off. Next XR acquired its first customer in Egypt in September, delivering a health and safety module. By December, Venkatesan was part of SBE Evolve, an accelerator for women founders. In February 2022, the first Australian customer was acquired.

In June 2022, Venkatesan was a finalist in the Casey Business Awards for “Innovation,” while also acquiring a second Australian customer, a transformer manufacturing business. In July 2022, Next XR Singapore was established.

Srividhya Venkatesan // Pic supplied

By August 2022, the company began assisting the Australian real estate industry with 3D designs and modules, acquiring their first Singapore customer in September 2022 and three more by December 2022.

August 2023 saw the opening of an office in India, and in September 2023, Venkatesan was awarded “40 Under 40 Entrepreneur of the Year” by Business Elite Awards. By December 2023, the company had delivered nearly 50 experiences globally. In January 2024, they completed a significant project with 12 VR modules for Australian school kids’ health and safety, and by February 2024, they began working with US clients.

Venkatesan says she was always passionate about starting her own business. “During my childhood, I dipped my toes in organising summer camps and training kids in various skills. Being from a very competitive country (India), I learned the values of hustle and staying abreast with technology and information.”

When Venkatesan moved to Australia in 2018, she had already started and managed her first business in Singapore for two years. This experience taught her valuable people management, sales, and marketing skills. However, she began her career in Australia as a marketing executive for a Registered Training Organisation, which helped her understand the Australian mindset and provided insights into selling products and services in the local market.

After having her first child in 2020, Venkatesan was determined to pursue her dream of running her own company while balancing her professional ambitions and working from home.

During her pregnancy, Venkatesan researched various emerging technologies and wanted innovation to be a fundamental pillar of her new venture. She was particularly impressed by virtual reality due to its ability to bring thoughts to life.

Srividhya Venkatesan // Pic supplied

Recognising the complementary skills between herself and her partner, they decided to combine their expertise to build VR modules. Her partner, a mechanical engineer, had a strong background in 3D design, while Venkatesan had an IT background with coding experience. Together, they entered the field of virtual and augmented reality.

Interestingly, they discovered that out of 1,500 VR companies in Australia, 99 percent were focused on the gaming sector, leaving a gap in VR solutions for the industrial sector. Leveraging her partner’s industry background, they decided to focus on addressing complex industrial problems.

As their company evolved, integrating AI became a natural progression, with many of their solutions involving the creation of AI modules for photogrammetry and other applications.

Being a migrant had its challenges, especially when establishing a small business. “You don’t know many people around; it becomes a real challenge to get your first customer. Also, I started Next XR Group (previously known as VR AR Solutions Australia) right in the middle of the pandemic, it was so hard to showcase everything online as people were reluctant to meet in person. With VR, it’s more effective to experience by wearing a headset than watching a video,” she says.

Navigating cultural differences while operating a business in Australia was another challenge. Venkatesan found that Australian business owners had a different mindset compared to those in Singapore, with Australia being more conservative in adopting new technologies. Conventional marketing strategies that worked in Singapore were less effective in Australia. Explaining and gaining acceptance for VR, an emerging technology, was particularly difficult.

However, attending networking events and meetups helped her understand the market better and navigate these cultural differences. “Being a woman in business also had its fair share of criticism and people needed time to warm up to me, go past the initial jitters to discuss business with me. This was also something I had to adapt and improvise,” she adds.

Another specific hurdle unique to being a young entrepreneur of Indian descent, Venkatesan says, is her strong Indian accent. “People often assume I’m a salesperson,” she explains. “I start conversations by clarifying I’m here to discuss their business problems, not sell something.”

Srividhya Venkatesan // Pic supplied

But Venkatesan has tackled these hurdles with a persistent approach. “Starting the journey in the middle of the pandemic felt like doors closed many times, but we never stopped trying. Today, we have close to 40 customers worldwide. This was a key lesson for me: no matter what happens, we should persevere and be persistent.”

When asked how Next XR stays innovative and competitive, Venkatesan explains that XR technology is always evolving, with each project involving a unique approach. Recently, they developed a Gen AI-based virtual reality module to train the service sector. This module allows customers to interact with service industry employees in various simulated situations, training them on process, people, and crisis management.

Venkatesan believes virtual reality and augmented reality will become part of everyday life like mobile phones. But “the success of VR and AR will depend on industry adoption. AI has already pushed a lot of boundaries. Every process will have an AI component in it and the data revolution has just begun.”

Education and healthcare will benefit more from virtual and augmented reality, she adds. Her company has already started working with NDIS providers to offer their modules to participants.

Her mantra to other young entrepreneurs: “Don’t start the business and then build a community of followers. Start by building a community of followers who believe in your idea from day one. This will help you in launching your products and getting quick wins. In a business, it is always difficult to get quick wins.

“A good startup ecosystem will always assist the country in moving forward, this is our way of helping create that healthy startup ecosystem.”

The Indian Sun acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Connect with Indira Laisram on X

Support independent community journalism. Support The Indian Sun.

Follow The Indian Sun on X | InstagramFacebook


Donate To The Indian Sun

Dear Reader,

The Indian Sun is an independent organisation committed to community journalism. We have, through the years, been able to reach a wide audience especially with the growth of social media, where we also have a strong presence. With platforms such as YouTube videos, we have been able to engage in different forms of storytelling. However, the past few years, like many media organisations around the world, it has not been an easy path. We have a greater challenge. We believe community journalism is very important for a multicultural country like Australia. We’re not able to do everything, but we aim for some of the most interesting stories and journalism of quality. We call upon readers like you to support us and make any contribution. Do make a DONATION NOW so we can continue with the volume and quality journalism that we are able to practice.

Thank you for your support.

Best wishes,
Team The Indian Sun