Raju Reddy is the founder & CEO of Sierra Atlantic, a global business & IT services solutions provider, which was acquired by Hitachi Consulting in 2011. At the time of acquisition, Sierra Atlantic employed 2500 people with offices in India, US and China among 12 country operations. Raju Reddy, after his grand success as an entrepreneur is now helping young entrepreneurs realize their dreams by sharing his experiences through the years. Being one of the torch bearers in the field of entrepreneurship in India, he feels the current times to be the most exciting ones for entrepreneurs in India.
Raju Reddy got into Intel after graduation and was one of the founding members of SIPA (Silicon Valley Indian Professionals Association). Raju recalls, “The primary charter of SIPA was to promote business between India and the US and SIPA founded in 1987 was a precursor to TiE which is widely known for nurturing entrepreneurs”. He adds, “When I came out of college, I was in a confused state of mind with the idea of doing something in India, for India and with India.” This drive gave birth to SIPA. Subsequently Raju was an early charter member of TiE Silicon Valley which now has almost 50 chapters around the world with active Indian chapters in Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. Through SIPA, Raju Reddy touched base with Godrej and Wipro. He facilitated the first R&D outsourcing deal between Intel and Wipro and at a stage when, “the entire offshore outsourcing industry was less than 100 million dollars,” he recalls. Sensing opportunity, he founded Sierra Atlantic along with another classmate from BITS, Pilani, Sarath Sura, who was then based in India.
He has placed emphasis on core values and retaining talent as his mantra to run a profitable business for 18 years. “If you can attract, nurture and retain great talent, you have a significant advantage over any competitor”. He goes on to say, “In today’s environment where the industry is going through such rapid cycles of innovation, it becomes even more important to have a management team which adapts well, to essentially build a successful company.” Finally, “by and large it comes down to the quality of the people and your ability to nurture and develop great talent within the organization,” he points out.
His biggest asset was the people who had a sense of ownership that matched the founders and top management team. Fearing risk of integration due to different corporate cultures, Sierra Atlantic did not go in for acquisitions for 12 years but in the last six years, has gone ahead with four acquisitions as scale is important to win big deals.
Sierra Atlantic Acquisition
When Hitachi acquired Sierra Atlantic in 2011, it was already present in 12 countries, besides acquisitions in UK and China. He says with pride, “When you look at the top 12 people in the company at the time of acquisition by Hitachi, four are actually new college grads who joined us and grew through the ranks.” Why did he accede to acquisition? “Like any high quality company, we had some very good options. We had investors, we also had substantial number of employees with equity, so at some point creating liquidity for employees and shareholders is an important responsibility for me as a CEO.” In this case, I felt “Hitachi can also be a great home for my employees”.
“I was also very actively involved in starting the TiE chapter in Hyderabad, roughly about 8 years ago. We started with what is called the TiE ISB Connect, which was in a way, TiE’s flagship event in Hyderabad. I was the chairman for the global support network (GSN), which was set up to establish early chapters in India.”
Raju, also the Chairman of BITSAA, the alumni association of BITS, Pilani, says, “One of the first things that we launched within BITSAA ( Raju’s Alma mater ) is BITSSpark. MIT in a report about their alumni impact on global economy claim 20,000 companies started by their alumni. If they were an independent country, they would be in the top 10 economies of the world with over 2 trillion dollars enterprise value. If Indian economy is going to be one of top 3 in the world and 10 times as large as today, some University from India can claim a similar impact 30 years from now. Why not BITS Pilani which is India’s #1 ranked private University today?”.
BITS Spark initiative led by Raju aims to make BITS Pilani, one of the top three institutes for entrepreneurship in Asia. This is possible through “extraordinarily talented team in BITS alumni, based both here and the US and elsewhere in the world.”
Mentoring being one of the crucial aspects in an entrepreneurial journey, Raju feels, “Mentoring is really a two-way street. It’s not all about the mentor imparting his or her wisdom to the mentee. It’s a very enriching experience working with young people with creative ideas and energy. A good mentor is one who recognizes that but is also willing to make the mentee successful. The mentor does not have to have the answer to every question that the mentee comes up with. They should have the time or network or other resources to bring the right people into the fray. So, as an entrepreneur, I always felt money is almost never the reason most entrepreneurs pursue that path”. The same way he feels mentoring is not just about financial rewards.
Trends in the Indian market and what kind of businesses people can build now
“Bus transport makes up about 70 percent of transportation in India and is a very fragmented market with multiple operators who’ve been known to be highly inefficient in the past. What redBus team has done, is just extraordinary. They are still in the very early stages of this opportunity. This is a business which is not only a good commercial opportunity, but it also has significant social impact,” says Raju. Talking about the times, he adds, “Personally for me, this is a very exciting time, to see an ecosystem of entrepreneurs and venture capitals form in India, not as many mentors as you would like to see, but it is robust than what it was 5 years ago.”
What does it take to build a global product company being based out of India?
“Increasingly with many of these products, people look at the markets as being global. We have had a few successful examples. It’s a bigger hurdle to cross when you don’t have a domestic market for the products that these people have built. These things are however changing fast and the increasing supply of young and talented entrepreneurs in India represent the best hope for building the next generation of product companies that can compete on a global scale,” signs off Raju.
We at YourStory.in thank Raju for sharing learnings from his journey with us, and we hope more and more successful Indian entrepreneurs support and give back to the Indian entrepreneurial community like Raju!
Note: YourStory.in is an online media partner for the BITS Sparks initiative.