Bootstrapping with service, then building two products, then splitting up the company into two, and finally, scaling a sizable product company – not the kind of stories we hear often from Indian entrepreneurs. This story is a rare window into the journey of a group of entrepreneurs who have achieved amazing feats.
Sramana: Let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from and what kind of family do you come from?
Ajay Sharma: I was brought up in a village in Bihar. My father was a college professor in a rural college. It was actually rather common at that time for professors to pass through rural areas at some point of their career to help bolster those smaller, rural colleges. I attended rural schools until the tenth class. I then moved to another small, sleepy agricultural town for the eleventh and twelfth classes.
When the time to go to college came, I went to the National Institute of Technology, Trichy. I earned a degree in computer science and engineering. After I graduated, I worked for Novell in Bangalore. After working there for three months, I decided that I would rather work on my own, and I founded a services company.
Sramana: What year was this?
Ajay Sharma: This was in 1996.
Sramana: What kind of services company did you establish?
Ajay Sharma: I set up a software services company. I ran that company from 1997 to 2005.
Sramana: Let’s talk a bit more about that services business. What types of services did you offer and how did you get that business off the ground?
Ajay Sharma: Initially, I tried to do everything under the sun. Then I realized that we were a small company with limited bandwidth and we decided to focus on enterprise application integration. We stopped chasing any type of work that we heard about and began to focus on this one area.
Sramana: Where were your clients?
Ajay Sharma: We started with Indian clients and gradually earned business from the US and the UK. That was during the software boom so it was a lot easier to get business from those areas back then. Deutsche Bank UK and Citibank UK became our largest clients. We then had a few media companies in New York, one of which was acquired by CBS. We really focused only on application integration. You could say we were software plumbers.