Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Story of opportunities - from NEN

I was thinking for sometime to take stock of the variety of opportunities that is open for the present generation as a career options. It took a while to capture the thoughts and could manage to pen down few things out of my perspective and experience. Please excuse me for bowling and juggling over the things while you read.

To start with I remember the days where most of the parents from typical middle class background dream of their kids becoming doctors, engineers or lawyers. To some extent this is even applicable now. I began to show interest in engineering domain as my parents told me that I am good in imagination, construction etc in my childhood days. I never know or even think of any other domain until recently as a career option. Of late I think I have come into terms in understanding the other domains, field of interest, career options and business.

At the bubbling age of my career I felt to take up entrepreneurship in manufacturing, production, typical machine shop, as I was fascinated to imitate some of the success my relatives were in such field.

I used to wonder about the banking guys, handling money and transactions. My definition of banking industry is that you keep and play with some one?s money or asset or the so called futures to make out of it and pay back some percentage of the profit (interest) in many forms.

Back to engineering domain, initial days in mechanical, civil stream saw plenty of tools floating and coming up to solve, create, present, imagine and analyse a problem. This paved a way to open up a job market, as many started learning the tool than the process, or technique behind the commonsense. Added to that many started to hire and buy those and thus a huge learning in terms of software tools and product design came in to fore.

To name a few, Proe, Auto cad, Catia, UG, Ansys, Staad were some of the modeling tool released some time back in 1995.Down the line saw some more deeper fluid problem solving tools like Fluent, Gambit, Tgrid, Cfdesign etc. Few the so-called experienced guys (2to 3 yrs) felt to take up it to explore job opportunities than domain knowledge. Ofcourse now there are much more to the scene like Abaqus, Hyper mesh, Lsdyna, I-deas, Nastran as meshing Analysis preprocessing, post processing tool.

Again if you take the automotive domain, OEMS, Tier 1, 2 suppliers, few are into core product design, process solutions, and simulations on performance and process capability. While some of the tier 1 companies are in to styling, BIW, art to part design solutions.

I had an opportunity to be part of many organizations that include brands like GE, Cummins, and Caterpillar. One of the things that fascinate me is the process focus in GE i.e. in to 6 sigma initiatives, technical achievements and people focused business in Caterpillar.

6 sigma is yet another tool, method opened up big opportunity in the career market as a meaning full way to improve things in a methodical manner, which require basic understanding of the situation, process, function or domain of interest. It is also a platform of placing people in an organization for career growth.

Product / process life cycle management is another version derived out from the office of big 3 where huge pay cheques are possible in NA even today.

Back to career options, 6 yrs back I was more focused to get a brand in my resume and was keen to work with companies like GE as that was my dream irrespective of what I do, but I think it still hold good for many due to the features, benefits, that it gives for an employee. There are lots of programs, interesting engagements, entertainments, and extracurricular activites at GE with games, GYM, play ground, tech stuffs for brainy.

Cummins is again people oriented, have decent market share and has good management focus on the need to survive in the market, while caterpillar is a fantastic organization where I learned leadership, people focus, employee engagement, process, a new way to look at 6 sigma.

How about investment domain, finance domain, trading, stocks? This is a wonderful place like banking where you can see many math geeks playing and adventuring money in soft form and creating a virtual asset. You know only 4% of the currencies are available in hard form rest 96% are in assets appreciation and invisible form held in papers. There is a huge opportunity like in this domain right from start up career to software career. I could see many are in to insurance field, mutual fund certified professionals, tax consultants, financial advisors. In my view if I had a change to switch and sustain I would have preferred to take up this as my career to mint money. I do play money games in stocks where there are many born lot prefer to lose money. I had made decent returns ranging from 5 % to 2000% profits with the little investments so this is obviously a lot to me. I use to hear my colleague say that many worship their computers, which they use to trade in stocks by red tilak, puja and ceremonies.

While I was hunting to do something on my own, I was pulled in to many things including MLM and burnt my fingers. I felt MLM is not my cup of tea and am not fit for that though it is lucratively sound in terms of the plan. Suddenly through some common contact I got in to a start up of a call center too while I was in Bangalore working for GE with a minimum investment in lacs!. I came to know about the business plan and no doubt is a huge opportunity. It is nothing but an investment in to the so called dubious huge data base of customers where the guy who sits over here in India would call up to find any opportunity to sell his product or concept. I could see even a 6 month experience guys would fetch some where about 16 to 20 k per month as salary at ban galore. Huge risk of life and business are at stake in this domain if you ask the direction of your career after 3 to 4 yrs?. But for business sake it is a short-term huge margin, high-risk stuff to adventure.

While I was again in to a hunt after burning my finger in a call center I got to know about Art works, painting as business. What a world it is? ?.I could browse through some of the fine art works, where people sell their arts for whooping lacs in a single deal.

Again is it a career for those who have passion like sports. I think it needs a special mindset and encouragement with the environment and parents. Similarly with the filmdom, theaters, luxury world of illusion right from technician?s artists, support service, directors, and producer to the guy who carries the films rolls to the theatre for collections. Any one knows the business of film distributorship?. The deal is like 70:30 in the beginning of the movie release for the distributors to 30: 70 for theatre owners who release the film in their theatres after few weeks to month of running.

There are lots of niche areas like R&D, cryptography, aerospace, plastics, composites, and biotechnologies. In terms of sectors like energy sectors, Textiles, Glass, wool, hatcheries and chemical are few. Of course there are many like telecommunications, Jewelry, Knitting dying, Publishing, Pharmacy, agriculture etc to think about choosing as a career.

In fact my first career started with a hosiery unit in Trichy where I was responsible for purchasing and process improvement in a dying unit. I was instrumental in setting up the stitching unit and Knitting unit for the hosiery garments which is a 100% EOU. That was a nice experience, which taught me about the variety of cloths, textures, processes, dying, matching colours etc. Could be a decent career with risk attached if it is a 100% EOU as the business mainly depends on the buyers.

Luckily my wife has Biochemistry background with MBA and her family has branches of doctors even in Moscow. An opportunity to learn medicine career to a small extent. As there is lots of domain and specialties to offer. Oncology is one niche area where there are very few specialized in India, head and neck surgery. Pathology can pave way to open clinical laboratories on own.

HR is one stream of late I admire, as I believe they play a vital role for any org in their goals and strategy. Some time back there was no the situation. Now the market shows lot of focus on talent management, competency mapping, and Employee engagement, training in soft skills. Recruitment, Balance scorecards are now the hot topic.

To put an end to this topic I wish to list few more avenues to think about career options.

Like retail segment where Reliance, Bharati is coming up in a big way. Tourism, catering, Education are other side where there are plenty of opportunity for career beginners and entrepreneurs. Back to mechanical stream there are still lots of opp into manufacturing sector, Sheet metal, Automotive electronic domain, metal cutting, punching shearing jobs

Story of Hotel Kamat

There’s never a dull moment with 54-year-old Vithal Kamat, executive chairman and managing director of Kamat Hotels India, the Rs 112 crore, Mumbai-based, hospitality group that has brands such as the Orchid Hotel and Lotus Suites among others.
He’s full of stories—about life, experiences, people. He’s put it all down, in fact, in a book—a management book—Idli, Orchid and Will Power! But this is just one side of him. There are many more facets.
Like, he is a motivational speaker, trainer, environmentalist apart from being a successful entrepreneur. Above all, he’s an ardent student of life, willing to partake of himself as easily as a child would.
Indeed, he has absolutely no qualms of being put under the scanner, not at all. Sample this: “I was born into a middle-class family, living in a one-room apartment in Grant Road, Mumbai. There were eight of us: three brothers, three sisters and parents. It was a common room, which would double up as a bedroom at night. The balcony outside was my punishment room. Anybody who played mischief was put there. That included me too.”
This early-life taming though, did nothing much to quell the fiery spirit in him. Years later he would put it to good use to chart his own course—of setting up hotels. “My father Venkatesh was already into the restaurant business when I was born. He was an industrious man, who began working in a restaurant at the age of eight.” Satkar, a popular restaurant in Mumbai, was started by Venkatesh Kamat way back in 1950. But this was not the first. The senior Kamat began his journey as a restaurateur with a small property in Mazgaon, Mumbai. This was followed by the Krishna Bhavan in the predominantly Muslim area of Null Bazaar in Mumbai. Samrat, Suvidha, Suruchi, Senate, the list of restaurants kept growing by the day.
A self-made man, Venkatesh Kamat’s children, especially, his restless middle son Vithal imbibed his qualities of hard work and dedication. “The most precious gift that our parents could give us were good values,” says Kamat.
“My father’s commitment to his work, his discipline, determination and self-regulation were a source of inspiration for me and my siblings. My mother’s ability to manage a large family, her sacrificing nature, for instance, she pawned her jewellery when my father needed money to start Satkar, were not lost on us.”
An engineer by qualification, Kamat’s initiation into the family business happened by accident. His father’s trusted aide, his brother-in-law, had betrayed him. There was no one to assist him in his business. That’s when Kamat and his elder brother stepped in to help their father. The dream of a blissful professional life was set aside forever. Life had indeed come a full circle for the young Kamat.
Once into the restaurant business, something Kamat’s father wished his kids hadn’t got into—the road to success wasn’t easy. Kamat had new ideas, new ways of doing business—some of which did not find favour with his conservative father. “Do business with anyone in the world but never on the basis of bogus newspaper ads,” the older Kamat would exhort his young charge.
But Kamat did manage to introduce some new features nevertheless, like serving beer at Samrat, one of the restaurants he was running alongwith his father. “I had already obtained the permit to serve liquor and father wouldn’t allow it. It took me four years to convince him. Finally, he relented on one condition: that there would be no unruly scenes by beer drinkers in the restaurant,” says Kamat.
This combination, of good food and chilled beer, augmented the customer base at Samrat. Numbers soared by the day. Even a hard-nosed restaurateur like Venkatesh Kamat admitted: “Vithal, you were right.” This was a personal victory for the young Kamat, of finally getting the approval of a man, who was, frankly, difficult to please.
“Our father was tough on us. But today, when I look back, I think it helped us in pushing ourselves. He wanted us to be achievers. And I resolved I would be one,” he says.
Kamat’s innate ability of having a way with people has helped him in no small measure in his drive to the top. As a child, when locked in the balcony of his one-room apartment for a playing a prank, it was his friends, young as they were, who would come to his rescue with whatever food they could. Kamat was able to work his charm on the legendary Rai Bahadur Mohan Singh Oberoi too—the doyen of the Indian hotel industry—who he met as a gawky youngster in the 1970s.
Oberoi was in Mumbai during those days in connection with the construction of his hotel Oberoi Sheraton. Kamat, still assisting his father, landed at the construction site of the hotel in Nariman Point, South Mumbai, on the tip-off from a friend. “I have come to meet the Big Boss,” he told the security guard on duty. Once in the presence of the man he idolised, it was hard for Kamat to contain his excitement, “I want to be a greater hotelier than you,” he told the rather dumbfounded Oberoi.
But Oberoi was kind enough to pardon the young man no older than his son. Years later when the Orchid Hotel was launched, Kamat extended his first invitation to Oberoi. Unable to make it to the inauguration, Oberoi responded with a tender letter, “I have forgotten many people in my life, but I could never forget you. You expressed a desire to become greater than I was. I had never met a person like you in my entire life.”
Kamat’s desire to excel has compelled him to try out new things. The Orchid Hotel, for instance, is a five-star ecotel, consistently rated as one of the best in the world. Lotus Suites, on the other hand, is a four-star budget hotel in Mumbai, which will be extended to tier II and III cities such as Nagpur, Raipur (located in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh), Amboli and Aronde (both are located in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra).
Orchid itself will be taken to places such as Raipur, even as the group contemplates getting into the luxury heritage and resort segments. None of this would have been possible if Kamat did not take those first tentative steps in that direction in the 1980s.
He began by acquiring loss-making properties in places such as Vapi in Gujarat and Khandala in Maharashtra. This gave him the confidence to go for larger acquisitions such as the Plaza
Hotel in Mumbai. With Orchid coming on board in 1997, however, there has been no looking back for the group. Kamat Hotels India was publicly listed in 1996 and has just completed an $18-million foreign currency convertible bond
(FCCB) issue.
In the midst of all this, though, Kamat never fails to thank a few people who came into his life and made that crucial difference. If Oberoi was the man, Kamat looked up to professionally, the late Behram Contractor, a renowned journalist and columnist, was a personal friend and guide to him. “He was amazing. The grip on language he had was too good. I learnt to appreciate the finer things in life from him,” says Kamat.
This appreciation for the finer things in life can be found in his varied interests, be it writing, collecting antiques, books or running a museum. “I am not finished yet,” he says. “For me, this is only the beginning.”

Regards and thanks,
Dream is not what you see in sleep
is the thing which does not let you sleep

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Top 10 Strategic technologies of 2008

-- Gartner Inc. research firm has recently released 2008’s TOP 10 strategic technology. A strategic technology is something that may have an impact on a business. And impact could mean driving an investment or posing a threat. It would mean if one of your competitors adopts it, it might make your company in soup or lands in a competitive advantage. Only market of 2008 decides this factor.

Market goyango.
Samples from leaders

Green IT.
Yaaweh! That’s y people roam around carbon credit…
Look around all the releases of energy efficient laptops. Anyways, good gain from green.

Unified communications
e-mail, instant messaging, desktop and advanced business applications, Internet Protocol (IP)-PBX, voice over IP (VoIP), presence, voice-mail, fax, audio video and web conferencing, unified messaging, unified voicemail, and whiteboarding into a single environment

Business process management.
intersection between management and information technology,
Numerous tools are already rocking in the market.

Metadata management
Don’t dream that I will tell everything.. go and search.

All technological Disaster recovery approaches,

Mashup tools allow users to take things from multiple Web sites and combine them together to create a Web-centric composite application
Visit to get full idea about various mashup tools and SaaS services. And is one of the best

The Web platform
Its new wine for those who have interest in computing vast amount of data – next stage of Grid, cluster computing.



Computing fabric
The simplest way to think about it is the next-generation architecture for enterprise servers. Fabric computing combines powerful server capabilities and advanced networking features into a single server structure.

Real World Web
All web 2.0 features. Not sufficient to comment.

Social software
Social networking sites turn to softwares to used to build advanced features in them.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Story of various entrepreneurs

The Fab Story
In this interview with Niranjan Mudholkar, K Vaitheeswaran, Chief Operating Officer (COO),, illustrates his company's progress
Please tell us something about the origin of (the concept), its history and the people was set up in 1999 (called then) by a group of six co-founders, all with an IT background. The co-founders were from and Wipro, and I am one of them. We started the company with the concept that in future, the Internet will become a very popular medium in India and retailing on the Internet will also grow into a significant business. When we began, we realised that our business was at least five years ahead of the times. But we wanted to invest into it at an early stage so that when the concept became popular, we were well placed to take advantage of our early experience. Fabmart underwent a metamorphosis to become Fabmall with an online strategy that aimed at leveraging on its physical and corporate business. How successful has this objective been?It did serve its purpose when we made the change from Fabmart to Fabmall in 2003. But since then we have felt that while there are certain advantages, there are also some disadvantages in carrying the same brand offline and online. This is especially true when the product ranges are dissimilar. Customers were expecting to buy the same items from the outlets as well as online and got confused. We are now evaluating whether we should launch a new brand name online to avoid this confusion. Logistics is a critical factor when it comes to e-tailing, more so when you cater to customers across the country (and even overseas). How is managing it? is the only e-commerce company in India that focused on logistics as such. We have our own warehouse and employ a big team of logistics professionals. Other e-commerce companies avoid getting involved in logistics. They leave it to their vendors to take care of shipments. has its own warehouse not just in India, but also in the US, which helps us ship orders worldwide.

A start-up venture’s CEO must adapt to changing times
India's performance in the current ICC cricket World Cup throws up several important lessons for entrepreneurs. The most notable of these is the criticality of planning: not just for the next few games but for the next several years. In turn, this planning requires the ability to see trends, visualise how these trends evolve over time and consequently impact the venture, if not now, then in the foreseeable future. Let me explain.
From a leisurely 5-day game with a rest day in-between, the game is today being played in a rapid 20-20 format. Fielding, that used to be at best equivalent to a stroll in the park, now requires supreme athleticism and anticipation. Technology that used to be non-existent has now become an integral part of the game. From a gentleman’s game it has become a multi-billion dollar brutally competitive—and I’m not talking of just the BCCI elections—sport with intense pressure from various quarters.

From playing a few days a year to playing around the year and where multiple players are groomed for every position rather than have positions of sinecure based on reputation. And so on. These throw up challenges of planning to those at the helm of the game to ensure that the performance of the team remains consistently high. To do effective planning, there must be the ability to visualise impending changes and make requisite changes—changes that are systemic and organisational. It is obvious that the Indian cricket system has a 19th century mindset in the 21st century.
As the CEO of a startup venture, it will be suicidal to have a similar mindset. You must, therefore, not only plan on how the market and customers are likely to behave in the coming years but also look at competition, the impact of technology on your company and its products, the challenges of attracting, grooming and retaining talent, and consequently what changes need to be made within your company to take best advantage of the situation. Changes include issues like transparency, accountability, empowerment, clear and consistent communication, creating a non-political environment, valuing professionalism, understanding that loyalty and competence are not substitutes, setting up systems to track and reward performance while driving efficiency. Investments in technology and training are necessary. Having the right person on the bus—as Jim Collins so eloquently describes in his book Good to Great—is of paramount importance. Having the right people in the right jobs has a cascading impact on the organisation’s competence and abilities because as the old saying goes, “First-grade people hire first-grade people. Second-grade people hire third-grade people.” Over time, without a meritocracy, only the third-grade people are left behind. One look at the Indian system of sports, among other areas, is enough to convince anyone that all of the above are conspicuously absent. A look at the tragic decline (demise?) of Indian hockey is illustrative of what happens when ignorance of trends in the game converges with corruption, politics, and incompetence. On the other hand, as the CEO of your venture, there’s another important learning from the world of cricket. How does one create a large number of maniacally obsessed, fanatic customers who will keep buying your products in ever larger numbers independent of the quality of their performance such that you generate incredibly high cash surpluses year on year? This too requires a great degree of understanding of the psyche of your customers, of the need to keep them constantly entertained with events and attracting newer market segments such as children with newer gimmicks.
In this light, it is important to keep in mind the US president Abraham Lincoln’s famous comment to a visitor to the White House in 1865: “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
And we all know what happened to Indian hockey, not to mention all other team sports, over the past 50 years.

‘Wanting freedom to execute my ideas, I became an entrepreneur’
Pradeep Kar, Chairman and Founder, Microland
Acknowledged as a “serial entrepreneur,” Kar is known for his mysterious charm for luring investors. He tells Pankaj Mishra that wooing investors is more about a convincing business plan than inter-personal relationships
“I wanted the freedom to execute my business ideas and enhance my earning capabilities. This prompted me to become an entrepreneur,” says a beaming Kar. After finishing his Bachelor of Engineering and Post Graduate Diploma in Management, Kar joined Wipro in the early eighties. “Wipro at that time was an organisation of 80 people with a turnover of Rs 4 crore,” says Kar. He left Wipro in 1984 to join Computer Point, a retail chain selling computer products. Kar honed his skills across functions like finance, human resources and administration before launching Sonata Software’s US operations in 1987.
Kar returned to India in 1989, for fulfilling his dream of launching a computer company. He, along with Anand Sudarshan and Jawahar Bekay, launched Microland, which is focused on the networking business. They got an early investment of Rs 20 lakh from the State Bank of India. In the late 90s, Kar decided to join the Internet bandwagon by launching “Planetasia was the first Indian company to have .com in its name. There were hundreds of companies listed on BSE and NSE looking to build their websites. Through Planetasia, we wanted to tap that potential market.”
Around that time he also launched and When Kar sold to Star, people started describing his ventures as futile. “I think we don’t have enough maturity in the country to understand the dynamics of starting a venture and selling it off. Just because I sold Indya doesn’t mean the venture was a flop,” he argues. In its first round, Indya raised $53 million. Kar says that the investors made a happy exit, because they got a good RoI (Return on Investment). When the dotcom bust happened, Kar was left with no choice, but to exit from the Internet space. “We could either continue to be in the dotcom business, or make a complete exit. Fortunately for us, ‘Uncle Murdoch’ came in the right time and offered to buy out Indya. Now the group has been restructured with two entities Microland and Planetasia.”
Kar’s passion for launching new ventures is well acknowledged amongst the CEOs of Bangalore, who also know him as the founder of Beer Drinkers Association of IT (BAIT). “On July 1st 1994, MAIT was having its annual convention in Bangalore. We got some time off and I, along with a few friends, decided to have a gathering at PubWorld. Around 35 CEOs turned up, including Ashok Soota of Mindtree. In those days the hardware industry was witnessing cutthroat competition because of the limited number of clients. We needed a platform to ensure that camaraderie is not lost amongst the industry players. One of the goals of BAIT was to ‘Drown Our Sorrows’ (DOS).” BAIT still has 40 member CEOs who meet at least twice a year to network with each other.
Kar is an avid reader and he takes time out to read books on management, especially those which talk about building companies. ‘Tornado’ by Jeffrey Moore and ‘Crossing fault lines’ are two of his favourite reads. “I also enjoy reading books written by Bill Gates. I read at least one book every month,” he adds. Since his college days, Kar had the urge to become an entrepreneur.
From three professionals in the late nineties to managing a team of over a thousand professionals, Kar has definitely come a long way. “I have always believed in hiring good people and delegating work to them. So far, we have managed to develop a work culture which is devoid of any politics.” Entrepreneurs, according to Kar, are the key to Indian success in the field of IT. “If we look at the period between 1999-2000, we will realise that the industry churned out more CEOs during that period than in the ten years before that. This is because at that time VCs were not apprehensive about investing in start-ups. Today, after the bloodbath in the Internet space, it is difficult for start-ups to woo a VC.”
Kar is a member of the Chief Minister’s Task Force on IT in Karnataka and a Charter member of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE), Bangalore Chapter. He is also on the Listing Committee of the National Stock Exchange.

The amazing success story of K B Chandrasekhar
K B ''Chandra'' Chandrasekhar, founder-CEO of Jamcracker Inc. Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj

July 26, 2006The story of K B Chandrasekhar, founder-CEO, Jamcracker Inc, is highly inspirational. Especially, for all the enterprising young Indian men who desire to be successful entrepreneurs.
Chandra's journey started at Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu where he was born, moving on to Trichy where he spent his early years, and then to Chennai where he did his school and college education, and finally to Silicon Valley in the United States.
It was at Silicon Valley that he struck gold. That too in a big way. It is the classic, modern-day story of a middle class young man-turned-multi-millionaire.
Chandra describes himself as "a serial entrepreneur and risk-taker who empowers others to accomplish their dream."
This is his story.
The Early Years
I come from a classic middle-class family: my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother... all living together in a joint family. Family values were strongly embedded into me as a result of this.
I was born in Kumbakonam, but was in Trichy till 1968. I did my schooling at Ramakrishna School in Chennai and then joined the Vivekananda College to do my BSc in physics because I couldn't get into engineering. In 1980, I got admission to the Madras Institute of Technology at Anna University.
I was not exposed to business of any sort, but my father, in those days, dabbled in shares. He encouraged me to have freewheeling discussions on various aspects of business. Those were the seventies, but I was given enough freedom to think freely. My parents were there all the time supporting me and encouraging me.
I didn't realise the value of it all then, but later on I understood the kind of impact those discussions had upon my thinking. More importantly, they encouraged me to take risks. In the eighties, when working in a public sector was considered safe, I was encouraged to go into a field that was uncharted, like computers.
I entered the world of computers very early, way back in 1983 when I joined Wipro. Wipro is an entrepreneurial company that gave me the opportunity to try out various things.
To the USA
In 1990, I moved to the US on a job assignment. Would I have the courage to start something on my own had I been in India? I think I would have done the same thing even if I was in India. Actually, I had packed my things to come back to India in 1992 because my wife and I decided we were going to do something on our own in Bangalore. It just happened that we got an opportunity to get started in the US itself.
What I mean is, the willingness to do something on my own has always been there. In 1983, I wrote a small business plan to create 'Casio calculator-based ticket punching machines' for bus conductors, and sent it to Casio. We even dabbled in starting companies by importing game kits from Korea and Taiwan for $1 a kit.
Somehow, those things did not click because of our middle-class background, not having the money, and also because of our inexperience.
I would have done business in India too, but probably not on the same scale. Indian companies had the benefit of time. If you look at some of the successful companies in India, you will see that it took them almost 20 years to reach the first $100 million. But when you are in the US, you don't have that luxury; you have to grow fast. The willingness to take risks was more there, and that I got because I was in the US.
I would not have had that courage if I was in India because I would have been more concerned about safety.
First venture: Fouress
When we had packed and were ready to come back to India, one of my friends at Sun Microsystems told me that he had a project. However, he wanted me to stay back and do it in the US. That was where my real entrepreneurial spirit came into play.
At that time, BFL and Mastech had just started. B V Jagadeesh, who had started BFL, was my colleague at Wipro. Jagadeesh and Sundar -- one of the founders of Mastech -- told me: 'Chandra, you do it. We will back you.'
I jumped at it with just $4,500 in my hand, and no capital. I leveraged on Jagadeesh and Sundar. We started Fouress, a software design company. I could do it because we had a great understanding, because we believed in each other and trusted each other.
We took the company from nothing to over a million dollars a year in the first two years.
I attribute my success mostly to my wife for her moral and physical support for standing by me and sacrificing everything. For several months, we used to live on basic food because we couldn't afford anything else. I need not have done it because I had an $80,000 job in my hand at that time. That means it was a self-inflicted pain, and that you cannot go through unless you are in it together.
Secondly, we were leading a nomadic life; we didn't have a car or a house. So, we were not stuck. I feel if I had gone to the US to study, I would not have done all this that quickly.
Starts Exodus Communications
By 1993-end, Jagadeesh joined me as a co-founder. We then started dreaming of building a bigger company, something that would be revolutionary. Internet had not started at that time but we started the Internet business in 1993 itself.
That means we were ahead of the times. Probably, we did not even realise the risk we were taking. By sheer chance, after we started, the Internet bloomed and we were in the right place at the right time.
Destiny and Kanwal Rekhi
I believe in destiny. Jagadeesh and I faced bankruptcy many a time; we borrowed money with no assets but we survived.
It was destiny which brought people like Kanwal Rekhi to us. He is one of the pioneer entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. He started his first company in 1982 which went public in 1987.
By chance, I happened to go to a TiE (The IndUS Entrepreneurs) meeting and saw Kanwal Rekhi there. There were very few people there, so after the meeting I told him, 'I want to send you a business plan.' He wrote his fax number and gave it to me. I still remember it was in May 1995.
The very next day, I sent him a five-page executive summary of my business plan. There was no news from him for three months. One day, we get a voice mail from him saying that he wanted to come and see us. That was the biggest day of our life; somebody was willing to listen to us.
He came to our office and on the first day, he ripped us apart. Yes, our naivety showed in our business plan. But he saw that we were passionate, hungry, and willing to take all kinds of risks to make our idea successful.
Over the next two months, I used to talk to him at his house till late at night about my dreams; we were like Krishna and Arjuna. I still remember how I told him on a rainy day why he needed to support me. And he did. He gave us a cheque of $250,000.
Exodus Communications went public in 1998 and became one of the most successful IPOs (initial public offerings) of that year.
Jamcracker Inc
Jamcracker Inc is a continuation of Exodus Communications. Exodus created a utility for the infrastructure, while Jamcracker's role was very simple; IT as a utility. With that simple dream, we (Chandra, along with two MBA graduates from Stanford, Herald Chen and Mark Terbeek) started Jamcracker Inc in 1999.
We struggled initially, but today Jamcracker has become a leader in on-demand IT as a utility.
For rural India
I started doing something for rural India with n-Logue because I saw a big divide between urban and rural India. The question was 'how do we ensure that the masses are able to get the benefits of IT?' I was not doing it as charity because I don't believe in charity for charity's sake.
Our 1-year-old company Akshaya -- which is doubling every quarter -- was created as a combination of communication and people on the ground. The biggest satisfaction to me is that I have been able to establish some innovative methods in how we settle payments between transactions in rural set-ups, the way we are able to aggregate smaller volumes into larger volumes, how we do branding and create a larger distribution system. We are slowly telling the farmers, 'why don't you do it this way? We can do a lot more in productivity.' My role in this is that of a fulfiller.
Indians, crabs?
Indians were referred to as 'crabs' because we were not known for helping each other. People always said two Indians would never help each other. But today whatever I am, is because of an Indian. I have been helped globally also. My first $200,000 loan was given by a Pakistani.
I always tell budding entrepreneurs; 'Don't think if you don't have money, you cannot do anything. All you need is a big dream! And the willingness to give up everything in the pursuit of that dream. Others will take a risk with you only if you are totally committed to your dream.'
Indians, cautious?
In our upbringing, we are always told, 'be careful, be careful.' Rather than, 'go, try and let there be failure.' We are a savings-oriented economy, not a spending-oriented economy. We are always worried about tomorrow. That maybe because opportunities were limited for us.
Indians, innovators?
Absolutely. Innovations were pulled back because of the system that prevented us from taking the risk. That is why when Indians go to other places they are willing to take risks. It has nothing to do with our nature; it is the environment. But it is changing quite a bit now, especially in the past five years.
I set up the Anna University-K B Chandrasekhar Research Centre and also an incubator -- at the Chrompet-based Anna University campus which is not at all flashy -- just to prove that the best brains are available here, and we are capable of producing world-beaters. The name of the incubator translating technology to commercial products is svapas (
I want to prove that Indian innovation can be marketed globally. We have a great future. My motto is, 'you be the thinker of what the world needs and not do what others tell you to do.'
Why a research centre at Anna University?
I believe that India will become the knowledge capital of the world. If that has to happen, we need world-class research. India had research but it was done within the four walls of various institutes.
Another reason why I started the centre is because of my love for my alma mater. I want to set an example that your alma mater matters and educational institutions have a larger role beyond churning out students into becoming centres of excellence for future.
And I was willing to show that with my cheque book, my time, commitment and willingness to plough through it during tough times.
We are launching the first two start-ups in the next few weeks.
I believe this country needs strong roots in marketing for it to become a global leader. That is why I have started -- along with Dr Bala V Balachandran -- the Great Lakes Institute of Management in Chennai.
I am establishing a chair for marketing at the Institute and as the first step, we have Dr Philip Kotler, the guru of marketing, on a one week visit to India (See: India is on a roll: An exclusive chat with Philip Kotler).
So, I am looking at everything as an ecosystem. Doing one thing and not having the follow-up will only destroy what you have done before. Everything -- education, research, marketing -- is interlinked.
Asia, a giant in IT
I believe Asia will soon be the giant in the field of IT, but at the same time we can't be complacent because you have got regions like Eastern Europe from where great innovations like Skype are coming. You will see that in the future, innovations will come not from the US alone but outside of the US also.
And, India will become a very important place for innovation.
China and India
Together, India and China will become major global players. China and India also will become competitive and also increasingly collaborative.
You will see three ecosystems developing in the future: the Asian Ecosystem, the European Ecosystem and the American Ecosystem (not North America alone, but South America too). These three ecosystems will compete and collaborate.