Alumnus finds political niche through Internet

Lindsay Minnema

Northwestern alumnus Ravi Singh first became interested in politics when he was kicked out of military school as a teenager for refusing to remove his turban, a symbol of his religion.

Almost 20 years later, Singh, 31, is co-founder and CEO of Election Mall Technologies, an online resource for Internet campaign tools and services. The company sells campaign Internet tools such as software and computer programs that help promote candidates and allow them receive donations online.

Singh recalled that after he was kicked out of military school, his parents asked U.S. Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to help push for legislation that would make it illegal for the military to discriminate against individuals who wear turbans.

“At an early age, I got to see how the (political) process works,” Singh said, “and learned that you can’t take your freedoms for granted.”

USA Today magazine recently called Singh, who received a master’s degree in political science from NU in 1995, a “new powerbroker whose sites and bytes may well influence how you cast your ballot come November.”

Since founding Election Mall with his brother, Simer Singh, in 1999, Singh said that his faith and identity have helped him succeed.

“(Singh) was very into the political role of the Indian community in Illinois,” said political science Prof. Benjamin Page, who advised Singh on his master’s thesis. “He had a lot of hustle and was very smart.”

In 1997 Singh became the first Indian American to run for a seat in the Illinois State House of Representative. Although he lost the election, he said he learned that he could serve the community even if he wasn’t in public office.

“You don’t have to hold public office to be a public servant,” Singh said. “At the time, I regretted not winning, but now, I think it was the biggest blessing. If you don’t have losses, you won’t have the success you are destined to have later.”

After his unsuccessful run for office, Singh came back to NU to learn more about e-commerce. For one month he went to the University Library every day to read everything he could about starting an Internet company.

“I wrote my business plan like I was writing a paper for a professor,” Singh said. “And that’s how I built my company.”

Soon after, Singh launched Election Mall. His first client was the Republican National Committee, which used his patented eYardSigns in the 2000 presidential campaign for George W. Bush.

The software for eYardSigns, which creates and distributes interactive electronic postcards, is one of many products Election Mall now offers clients.

“People look at politics as a thing separate from the people, but it’s not. The two are connected,” said Simer Singh, the brother. “That’s what we look at: getting candidates to connect to people more directly.”

Last year Election Mall received sponsorship funds from Microsoft. The company has since grown from a few clients to 300, including senatorial and gubernatorial candidates. Election Mall also consults for both presidential candidates.

“Technology is helping candidates raise money and get more votes more efficiently, quickly, and easily than ever before in the history of politics,” Singh said. “This is not only a new age, it is a new revolution.”

Reach Lindsay Minnema at [email protected]