An interview with a PSG Tech alumnus who turned into a successful entrepreneur with a bucketload of experience in getting the right composition in a start-up.
By Priyankha J (M.Sc Theoretical Computer Science, 2015-2020)
Photos by Suthier (M.Sc Theoretical Computer Science, 2014-2019)
Have you ever had a ‘voilà’ moment in your life? The one idea that randomly pops into your mind either while taking a bath or when flying into ‘la-la land’, sitting in class!
“Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who invent them are priceless”
This saying by Mary Kay Ash, perfectly summarizes that ideas, when not implemented, go in vain, but ideas when transformed, produce great entrepreneurs.
On the eve of the Silver Jubilee Reunion (`91 `92 batch), 2016, THE BRIDGE had an opportunity to interact with one of the alumni present, Mr.LEELA KAZA (B.E Mechanical(SW), 1987-1992), CEO, Accolite Inc.
How does it feel to be back in campus after 25 years?
It is certainly nostalgic coming back to the campus after a huge gap. Fortunately, some of our friends have remained connected. We are a class of 42 students out of which about 30 are still connected through WhatsApp. We meet regularly if time permits, but it’s definitely not comparable to this reunion. The reunion is an amalgamation of all disciplines and people who haven’t visited the campus for a long period. The warm interaction with the professors is also a thing to remember. Since ours is a hybrid programme, our reunion should traditionally be held next year, but we are close with BE regular(Mech) and hence, the tradition of BE (SW) participating along with the regular programmes. When we entered PSG Tech, we were very raw just out of 12th grade and it was the institution that moulded us to who we are today. Firstly, we want to mark our respect for the institution and secondly, we want to pay our due respect to our faculty at the first opportunity. A rather short answer to your question: It’s very nostalgic and I am glad to be back in the campus.
Can you tell us about Accolite?
Accolite is a company that I founded in 2007.It is an enterprise software services’ company and we started it with $37,000 of seed capital, the only capital the company has ever taken. Last year, by the end of December of 2015 we had Rs.315 crores turnover with just a starting capital of $37,000 which was roughly 16-17 lakh rupees at that time; we were able to make Rs.315 crores which took us about 9 years. We have no external stake holders.
We predominantly focus on two segments of business: First and foremost, large enterprises companies in specific verticals like banking and financial service (BFS), healthcare, telecommunication, aviation and e-commerce. We have market clients in each of those segments – Morgan Stanley in banking sector and similarly FedEx, eBay and other big clients. We have been fortunate to attract some of the best companies in the industry and have been able to provide high end technological services predominantly in the application development sides. In terms of text stack, we focus on Java, .Net, C#, mobility and a little bit of data science. On the other hand, we also have a large amount of product engineering services and several metier product companies engaging Accolite to build their product for them. These are the commercial products that they release to the customers.
They give the requirements to Accolite; We build the product and deliver it to them. The final testing and release is done by the firm itself. In India, we have three centres- Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi. We have a very aggressive target to increase the Indian headcount to 2000 in the course of the next two years.
Which was the moment that made you want to be an entrepreneur?
The bug has always been there from the very beginning and Accolite was my third attempt in terms of starting a company. Prior to that, I have initiated two different companies. Fortunately, we never lost money; but they didn’t take off either. I think that there are multiple ways in which entrepreneurs try to experiment with their approach and one of them is to go in a full-fledged mode and give your 200 per cent to the idea that you believe in and see what comes out of it. There is a lot of faith and belief in it and unless you are doing it full time, you cannot produce the result that is required. We didn’t succeed in the first two attempts because of our full-time jobs; we only wanted to dabble with it and see how it worked. We got profits but it didn’t take off.
Even for Accolite, I repeated the same experiment but I brought in a third person, a fresh graduate from the University of Texas, Dallas and he was running the company full time (at least in the initial stage) though the employee head count was zero. Then I started spending a lot more time and started to move it to the next level. The journey has been for 10 years till now and the Indian operation started in late 2000’s. Nothing goes without a glitch; every entrepreneur does his/her learning through initial experimentation. Accolite has had enough experience to make sure that we have got the right composition.
On a lighter note, how was your life at PSG tech?
My college life at PSG institution has been invaluable in shaping me to the person I am today. On the fun side, as I come from Andhra Pradesh, I was new to Tamil. Ironically one of my first cousins also enrolled at PSG Tech under the same programme. Both of us didn’t know Tamil and another friend, Ilango who was from Tamil medium, didn’t know English. As the three of us lived in the same room without a common means of communication, we brought in the aid of sign language. By the end of the 2nd year I was fluent in Tamil. Even now I watch a lot of Tamil movies and have a huge appreciation for them. Movies were a big part of learning the Tamil language. It was really fun – all the memories that we had here. The campus provides enormous opportunities for students to thrive in different fields like photography, music, and all the clubs provided us an opportunity to interact with people from other branches and also in improving our skills.
Words of Inspiration for the youngsters.
I have three key messages
* Believe in yourself – If you look into any entrepreneur’s success story, they have always had strong convictions of their accomplishments. It might be the first, second or even tenth attempt, but you need to believe in who you are and what you want; that self-confidence is extremely important to sustain through the good and bad times.
* Never give up.
* Be patient and wait for your turn. A lot of people want to achieve success overnight; but you never know when success actually hits you. If you are true to your commitments and hold on to what you believe in while giving your 200 per cent, then success will follow you. You might not see that at the start, but it will definitely come.
“To accomplish great things we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan but also believe”.
THE BRIDGE wishes him many more years of success for all his future endeavours.
Priyankha J (M.sc Theoretical Computer Science, 2015-2020) is an avid book reader who likes to explore, and learn from anything to everything. She is also a passionate dancer.
SUTHIER (M.Sc Theoretical Computer Science, 2014-2019) is passionate about photography and music. He loves to explore places and is an avid gastronaut.
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