Incredible Journey

Author: Saurabh Srivastava
Chairman, CA India
What an amazing journey my life has been. And it doesn't stop. Even today I feel I am just starting out because there is still so much more that I want to do. But, in the midst of this frenetic pace, whenever I do get a moment to reflect, I am humbled by the fact that I have got more out of life than I ever expected and never cease to thank God for how kind he has been to me.

Life may have been different had I followed our family routine and joined the IAS but I opted for IIT and stood 2nd at the All India Entrance Exam, which helped overcome my parents? opposition. IIT redefined my life. At the beginning it was humbling. 200 entrants, used to being top of their class, competed ferociously till everyone found their place in the sun. Averaging close to 10 points didn?t get me top of the class but allowed me to expand my vision beyond academics. I restarted my school going activities of debating and dramatics and got elected as Literary Secretary. I then realized that IIT Kanpur had no newspaper and created a core team, raised angel funding from our seniors and founded the campus newspaper "The Spark". It took us a year of losses and more ?angel funding? to realize that our ?business model? of subscription based revenues alone was flawed so we approached the IIT authorities, got an intro to their vendors, advertising revenues commenced, we even got IIT to outsource to us the entire publications at Convocation time and we never looked back. Without realizing it, we created a 40 strong institution that survived after we had left. Then IIT got gifted a TV station, a batchmate took on the technical part and I took on the programming. Pretty soon we had another organization of 40 odd people and were doing more hours of programming per day than the only other TV broadcaster in India - DD I. So when I left IIT I had already learnt how to compete and cooperate with the best of breed, had already done 2 successful "start ups", realized that there was life beyond academics and that if you were willing to take the plunge and lead, anything was possible.

My next stop was Harvard and there was no better time to be in America. Joan Biaz, Janice Joplin and Pete Seeger performed free at 'Vietnam war protest' concerts, girlfriends were plenty in the era of hippies, flower children and 'make love not war'. I grew marijuana on my window sill, went to Woodstock, and even campaigned for Eugene McCarthy for President.

Much as I enjoyed America, I continued to feel I could make more of an impact in India and after years of working there, returned with IBM. IBM however, decided to leave India, which proved to be a blessing in disguise as I moved from selling hardware domestically to exporting software services from India, one of the best moves I ever made.

In 1989 however, when I was running the software operations of Tata Unisys, (accounting for 30 percent of the Indian software industry) I realized that I was only 40, couldn?t see myself continuing the same way for the next few decades and decided to become an entrepreneur. IIS Infotech quickly became one of the top 20 software companies and set many trends, including being the first to get ISO9001. Within a decade we acquired companies in the UK and Singapore, bought and sold one in the U.S., merged with one in India and then with one in the UK, which listed as Xansa on the LSE as a $800 mill. company.

Xansa was acquired by the French giant, Steria, I stepped off the board, became a serial entrepreneur but realized that what I truly enjoyed was not so much running an existing company but creating a new one. So I started angel investing and, in 2000, founded, with some friends, India's first angel venture capital fund - Infinity, which succeeded in creating some great companies like Indiabulls, India Games, Avendus, Brainvisa and Epicenter. To institutionalise angel investing in India, three years ago I co founded the Indian Angel Network (IAN) which has now become the largest business angel group in the country, operating in Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, with over 100 members comprising the who's who of successful entrepreneurs and CEOs. And, to support these angel investments, we are now launching the Indian Angel Fund. Between Infinity, IAN, some of the government funds on whose investment committees I serve and some purely personal investments, I must have been involved in the creation of over 50 companies, covering diverse sectors such as IT, BPO, Real Estate, Hospitality, Robotics, Education, Pharmaceuticals, Retail and even Media and Entertainment. I have learnt a great deal from all the passionate entrepreneurs that I have been involved in funding and I am convinced that entrepreneurship is the engine that will drive India's economic growth. This is why I have been involved in the Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE), which has now become the world?s largest organisation devoted to entrepreneurship. I founded the Delhi chapter of TiE and continue to remain actively involved as Chairman Emeritus. The focus on the entrepreneurial eco system is rounded off with my deep involvement with the VC/ PE industry through the Indian Venture Capital Association, which I chair.

In 1988, a handful of us (myself, the late Prem Shivdasani, F C Kohli, Harish Mehta, Narayanmurthy, Nandan Nilekani, KV Ramani, Ashank Desai), convinced that the fledgling software industry had great potential, founded NASSCOM, which has played a vital role in building the industry of today. My stint as Chairman of NASSCOM taught me that leading such a group requires even more teamwork, collaboration and vision than running a company because the only authority you have is what your peers are willing to give you.

I have learnt a lot as well with my engagement with the academic sector, being on the Imperial College Business School's Advisory Board, adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at IIT Mumbai, Management Board at Indraprastha University, Delhi and equally from serving on various government committees and task forces on IT, Venture Capital, Innovation, Railways, development of some states and the Indo EU Round Table. I have also tried to apply my learnings to community service through the NASSCOM Foundation, America India Foundation and the India Sponsor Foundation.

My biggest takeaway from life is that anything is possible - you need to dream big, assemble a team of people better than yourself, sell them your vision, persevere through thick and thin, and stick with the old adage - if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

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Reader's comments(7)
1: From: Mrs. Mary David

This mail may be a surprise to you because you did not give me the permission to do so and neither do you know me but before I tell you about myself I want you to please forgive me for sending this mail without your permission. I am writing this letter in confidence believing that if it is the will of God for you to help me and my family, God almighty will bless and reward you abundantly. I need an honest and trust worthy person like you to entrust this huge transfer project unto.

My name is Mrs. Mary David, The Branch Manager of a Financial Institution. I am a Ghanaian married with 3 kids. I am writing to solicit your assistance in the transfer of US$7,500,000.00 Dollars. This fund is the excess of what my branch in which I am the manager made as profit last year (i.e. 2010 financial year). I have already submitted an annual report for that year to my head office in Accra-Ghana as I have watched with keen interest as they will never know of this excess. I have since, placed this amount of US$7,500,000.00 Dollars on an Escrow Coded account without a beneficiary (Anonymous) to avoid trace.

As an officer of the bank, I cannot be directly connected to this money thus I am impelled to request for your assistance to receive this money into your bank account on my behalf. I agree that 40% of this money will be for you as a foreign partner, in respect to the provision of a foreign account, and 60% would be for me. I do need to stress that there are practically no risk involved in this. It's going to be a bank-to-bank transfer. All I need from you is to stand as the original depositor of this fund so that the fund can be transferred to your account.

If you accept this offer, I will appreciate your timely response to me. This is why and only reason why I contacted you, I am willing to go into partnership investment with you owing to your wealth of experience, So please if you are interested to assist on this venture kindly contact me back for a brief discussion on how to proceed.

All correspondence must be via my private E-mail ( for obvious security reasons.

Best regards,
Mrs. Mary David.
Posted by: mary lovely david - Monday 26th, September 2011
2: Hi my dear,
My name is Mounace, i would like to establish a true relationship with you in one love. please send email to me at ( i will reply to you with my picture and tell you more about myself. thanks and remain blessed for me,
Your new friend Mounace
Posted by: mounace love love - Thursday 09th, June 2011
3: Interesting write up. You have got the foresight in your student days itself what the nation required.

Best wishes for your entrepreneurship.
Posted by: Ramachandran Vayamkara - Friday 07th, January 2011
4: Dear Sir,
A powerful, inspiring | motivating life fact, which will definitely help all aspiring people. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: John Babu Raj - Wednesday 07th, July 2010
5: Sir this is truly inspirational and more than that is a torch for all of us never to tire and know for sure that the moment to come will be truly worthy of and give us the benefit of making us more holistic and with a far bigger outreach to our millions here and elsewhere.

I am with Forever Living Products and would love to have you grace our portals from where you are through my ID: 910-002-247475. I am also working with a CEO in Bangalore Mr Hari Prasad. I would love to be one of the companies with the Venture Capital Fund, since Mr Hari Prasad and his team have a turnover of more than a billion annually in sales.

Do you mentor? If yes we would love to learn and be there with FLP where we cater to the nutritional needs with our Aloe based products which complement and supplement the diet splendidly, taking care of eventualities which chronological events happen to throw in our wake.

I am available at the following numbers and would love to interact and be with your wisdom Sir.

mobile: 9900208406
FLP ID: 910-002-247475

My journey this far has truly found a niche where I know I will be reaching out with an extended reach to enable and ennoble the errant , needy and the unemployment

I am ,with your blessings Sir
yours sincerely
I am a niece of Dr CVRaman, Dr Chandrashekar and am presently with my daughter in Bangalore.
Posted by: Nayanika Jayaram Romanyuk - Sunday 23rd, May 2010
6: Sir, Very you mentor ? I am willing to learn and put all the efforts it needs...thanks a lot
Posted by: shakila noormohamed - Saturday 22nd, May 2010
7: Very inspirational. Thanks for sharing.
Posted by: Naveen Thalanki - Thursday 06th, May 2010
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