For a great software engineer, computer science only pertains to a computer. But then not every good software engineer is capable in building a successful company to compete headon with giants as big as Nokia and Huawei. Mohan Kumar Sundaram, Founder & CEO, Plintron is one such smart techie who understood that it is important to focus on the benefit that an industry that can derive from technology. With an indepth understanding of the nerves of the industry he built Plintron, the world's largest multi-country cloud-based telecom infrastructure for MNO, MVNO & Enterprises. Started in 2008, – Mohan has aided the company in spreading its expanse to almost 17 nations in a very short span of time.
Experience is the Best Teacher
Born and brought up in Chennai, Mohan took his time to take the plunge into the enterprise mobile convergence space. He worked hard to imbibe in him the requisites of a chiseled entrepreneur. Working in different settings and across industry verticals taught him valuable lessons which he could later implement while scripting Plintron. Mohan’s international business exposure while developing business for HCL in France gave him the insight to build a niche player in the segment of enterprise mobile convergence.
Apart from the technological and industry insight he also imbibed the required management skills from the various experiences. One among them was his experience with Ashok Leyland Finance when it was at a startup point. The eight years spent as the IT Head expected him to run nationwide business operations aided with technology. This experience taught this astute entrepreneur the fundamentals of corporate governance and the basics of running massive distributor business operations. Building a large corporate from the ground up honed Mohan's managerial and leadership qualities, which are an integral requisite for a successful entrepreneur.
Working for different companies gave him the understanding of financial, supply chain and human management. He gave importance to making fresh start towards excellence. This attitude brought him to the world of IT services. He joined another enterprise while it was being formulated and was part of the initial team. “I wanted to move from an enterprise with a corporate culture to a startup where things are not defined and uncertain. It is a high risk situation but it also yields higher rewards,” explains Mohan.
While working with the founders of the French startup, Upaid which was working with Satyam, Mohan understood that getting a new service to the market could be the game changer. The seed of innovation was strongly sowed in his conscious.
Roads Leading towards Telecom Industry
The Satyam and Upaid joint venture brought Mohan to the telecom industry. "As my interest in telecom grew I learnt the building blocks of the field. That was a part of my culture of learning, understanding new things and seeing how it can create value. Telecom was one area where I started from ground zero and learnt how we can be useful for the end services," says Mohan. He worked in the virtual network operator market where there are several licensed operators. However, other enterprises without the direct license to provide telecom service also want to ride on the existing license providers such as mobile operators.
The segment was also not easy to step in. Out of almost 600 companies that ventured in this segment in the U.S., only 10 were successful in the long run. Mohan spent time to understand the reason behind these businesses’ failing. He had the foresight to see that 'mobile' and 'smart devices' were the future of the telecom industry. He gauged the opportunity to start a new business which would help large groups to move away from calling cards to mobile. Mohan explains, "We wanted to be part of the larger market share of the future, which is the smart devices or virtual networks and associated services."
He started from scratch while building Plintron with the initial team. "We slowly understood how to build the organization. Our focus was on being innovative and creating real value for our customers," adds a proud Mohan Kumar Sundaram. His hard work and deep understanding of the market resulted in Plintron being a runaway success in its initial years itself. Within the first 4-5 years the company achieved the maturity level of an established organization.
Today this 650 person strong company has telecom industry's most comprehensive roll-outs and it manufactures and provides Managed services for Mobile, Fixed network infrastructure in the area of Network Sub System and Business Support System.
But this journey was not as easy and Plintron had to face a fair share of challenges. A product developing company goes through the initial period where they can comfortably focus on research to develop and conceptualize their products and to do market testing. Such companies enjoy lavish budgets for R&D. Mohan did not have this luxury while building Plintron. "We had to do it right in the first shot. Even though we were a startup we had to compete with the larger players in the telecom sector which are multibillion dollar companies that have been around for decades," reminisces Mohan. Being equivalent to these companies in terms of deliveries and quality was a big challenge. But Mohan's hard work and persistence paid off and Plintron successfully developed solution after solution and grew its expanse to several countries.
The prolific entrepreneur believes that challenges come in different forms such as competition, corporate politics or financial terms. Battling them all by employing risk mitigation, a tactic he learnt while working with the Anderson Consulting, he believes in being pro active and in mitigating risk which help a lot while facing challenges. "Try to identify what road block is going to hit you in the days to come, that becomes the first step to handle challenges efficiently," advices Mohan.
Requisites for Excellence
Having mastered the art of facing complex challenges, Mohan is also acquainted with the requirements of the industry. "It is important to be flexible to the industry and to the customer demands," says Mohan. He believes that even though in the technology business line, it is 'technology' that drives revenue but one must strive to develop technology solutions which make sense to the business and customer’s needs. Adaptability to the customer’s business needs is very critical.
Mohan's other Mantra to success is the art of handling employees. "The development of any company depends on the people who bring their skill and build the company's technology, culture and processes," Mohan says. He believes that a professional setup does not work well in a startup scenario as the expectations of an employee are different from a startup company.
It also becomes increasingly crucial to integrate people who have together from different walks of life. He works hard to keep people together and still give them the freedom to work in an independent environment.
Drawing inspiration from innovators who drive the market, Mohan believes that an entrepreneur must also give back to the society. His experiences have honed his skills as an entrepreneur and today Plintron is touching new heights of success in the mobile convergence space. His vision and clear headed focus did the trick that catapulted Plintron to a pedestal similar to the big wigs of the telecom industry.