The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

March - 2010 - issue > In My Opinion

Incredible Journey

Saurabh Srivastava
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Saurabh Srivastava
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.

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