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From Cotton, Clothing and Knitting to Social Media Audio App: The Entrepreneurial Journey of Tonto Founder Manna Justin

Tonto CEO and Founder Manna Justin has a long history as a mover, shaker and somebody who gets things done.

 “My background starts very early,” said Manna, who was born and raised in India. “I’ve been wheeling and dealing ever since I was a teenager. “ 

Hailing from an Entrepreneurial family that traded in cotton for generations, Manna while in college launched his own clothing company. Following that endeavor, he opened a knitting company, and that led him to launch a third company that sold knitting machines.

Underscoring everything was an entrepreneurial spirit in Manna that continues to resonate today, but in the audio and social media spaces with Tonto. 

Tonto is a short form audio platform and app that allows users to post audio and post comments on what they’re hearing. Tonto features short form audio including:

  • Funny soundbites generated by friends and strangers
  • New, uncut music clips
  • News reports from the field generated by established media outlets
  • Random audio missives 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

Manna opened his first business at age 20. At the time, he was still attending college and living in India. 

“I started my first clothing business and that brought me to Europe,” he said. “From clothing, I made a switch to technology in the late 1990s-early 2000s.”

Manna’s first foray into tech involved consulting—Indian tech, tech development with companies in Europe and the U.S.—and that led him to build products.

“That’s how I’ve built various products over time, and I’ve sold some of them to other companies,” he said.

Tonto is perhaps the most compelling thing that Manna has ever built. 

“Tonto is a very personal thing,” he said. “It came about while I was recovering from COVID and needed some entertainment. I thought that this was a great way to listen to various types of audio content created by other people; new content not available on Youtube, or whatever other channel I can listen to while I’m doing something.”

Tonto emerged from the successful software development company that Manna runs. That enterprise boasts a workforce of 70 employees, 60 of whom are based in India and are primarily programmers; and the remaining 10 on the Spanish team who are designers, project managers and programmers.  

“The team is not small and it’s already generating a lot of revenue from outside software development business,” Manna said. 

He takes the revenue earned through outside work and uses it to fund the operations at Tonto, which is supported by a team of 10 in India working on the technical development side; and four in the Spanish office focusing on marketing, project management and design.

Manna said the Tonto team’s geographic and cultural diversity is a major asset, as is the broader business culture he brings from his extensive work in the U.S. 

“The U.S. is where I have the most influence in terms of business, because of my exposure with clients,” he said. “It was a big challenge to transition a startup culture from the U.S. to Europe, because there are very different expectations from team members. 

“But we try very hard to bring that same energy, that startup energy to the team. It’s a very young team—early 20s, late 20s—and everybody is working very hard. They’re all committed. Every one of them is really excited about the possibility of creating something great and that is why we are able to pull it off.”

That’s not to say that Manna hasn’t had his share of failures. But he approached those failures as learning experiences and turned the lessons he learned into tools.

“I’ve failed so many times in the past,” he said. “What I’ve learned is that, no matter what you do, it’s your customer, your client, your end user who’s important, no matter what you do. It’s not the product, it’s the experience your client has. So we are hyper-focused on that. Nothing else matters more than that. That’s the bottom line.”

Visit gettonto.com to learn more. 

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