Harman Singh has put up a heroic effort to build a global education SaaS company from Chandigarh, India. Now, many years since his journey began, the company has started finding its stride. As the cliché goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Harman Singh: I was born and raised in a small town in North India, which was known as the Manchester of India because of its small manufacturing businesses. My father was one of those small business owners manufacturing electrical goods during the boom time in the ’70s and the ’80s. Bicycle parts were a big business here and some kind of a manufacturing ecosystem was created. I grew up in a joint family typical in those days in India where we would talk about business all day long. My father had this factory manufacturing firm. He had to deal with workers and engineers and I was involved in all that. Technology became my passion in those days.
However, terrorism was at its peak in this part of the country in those days. While we were growing up, there were a lot of security issues. I grew up in a good neighborhood and went to a very good convent school. I was always impressed with technology businesses. I always knew that it was what I wanted to do.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do for college?
Harman Singh: I went to a local college. Computer Science was new in those days, so that’s what I took. Everybody was talking about the future of computers. When I graduated from there, the whole idea was to go deeper into technology. A bunch of my friends were preparing to go to the US for their masters, and so did I. I got admitted into North Carolina State University in their Computer Science program.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking about?
Harman Singh: I went to the US in 2000 and graduated in 2002.
Sramana Mitra: Computer Science was not new in 2000.
Harman Singh: It was 1995 when I got admitted into college. In India, that was upcoming and new. Internet was right at the peak and by the time I graduated, it had already crashed. I had seen the boom and the crash. More than academic education, the real benefit I got was the exposure of being in the US. It’s something that a small town guy couldn’t have had in India. That was an eye-opener.
Then, I was an intern at ABB in Raleigh, North Carolina and worked there for a couple of years. I graduated in 2002. I got into building the business right then. I was fascinated by how technology can impact education. That’s where I started my first business. My university was my first customer. We were building different custom technologies to deliver education online. It was a customized solution that I started building.
Sramana Mitra: You were based in North Carolina when you were doing this?
Harman Singh: I was based out of Raleigh.
Sramana Mitra: There was something that your university wanted that you decided to build for them. That’s the story at this point.
Harman Singh: Yes.