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  Sudhir Sarma, Network Solutions Meeting Point (1999)  

Sudhir SarmaEverything was perfect. The appointment had been fixed. Anytime between 4.15 p.m. and 4.40 p.m. they had said. We landed there at 4.10 p.m., ahead of time, as is customary with us. If we attach value to our time, so must we for others. We were ushered in to his chambers at 4.15 p.m., introduced ourselves and having exchanged pleasantries, we got down to the purpose of being there - to interview Sudhir Sarma, MD of Network Solutions - NetSol in short - our IT Personality of the Month.

"Would you care for some Tea or Coffee?" he asked. Anything was fine with us, we said. And all this struck a chord. Prompt. Courteous. Modest. We considered ourselves very fortunate to be in the company of a person who started this company in a garage of his house in Koramangala's 4th block. Which is today targeting a turnover of 40 crores, or thereabouts. And not once, during those three-quarters of an hour we were with him, did he give the impression of a person wanting to rub that fact in.

Sudhir Sarma was brought up in Gujarat, although, he is from Andhra. With an engineering degree in pocket, he embarked on a career at ORG Systems, where he spent 2 years. Then, for 6 years he was with a UN organization called Asian & Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology. In 1989 he joined Hewlett Packard as Data Center Development Manager and then with Motorola's Software division. In 1993, he'd had "enough of MNC's" and quit. The urge to do something of his own became his next objective. "Something creative." With no business background to boot.

For a month he sat at home pondering on what he should do. Then it dawned on him. Everyone sold products. But there was shortage of companies providing services. His working experience had these credentials. So, Sudhir set up shop in his house garage and for the first 6 months, working alone, he started offering consultancy assignments. It was a tough grind. Yet, he didn't buckle. Soon enough, at the end of his first year he posted a turnover of 18 lakhs with 5 employees. 18 lakhs was big money for starters and somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he was on target. There was no looking back for Sudhir.

Sudhir SarmaIn the second year of operations, NetSol's turnover touched 2.5 crores. With the support of around 30 employees. A few decisions they took paid off. One was that NetSol would plough back profits always. Next, to always focus on solutions with multiple options and not on product or competition. To create a professional environment, by providing opportunities where people don't hesitate to innovate.

NetSol hasn't lost a customer in 6 years. In fact, people liked their concept so much that many a new customer has come to them for providing services and solutions in networking. Not only that. Employee loyalty has paid dividends. The normal attrition rate in the software industry is high. Where people leave for greener pastures, mostly abroad. However, at NetSol, it's around 3%. Speaks volumes of Sudhir and his team's man-management capabilities. He believes that people make the difference. Not their high flung degrees or the companies they work for. The "unpolished diamonds" as he puts it. Those who do not "look" capable in the eyes of others. Those who have it in them, but do not get the opportunity to prove their capability.

With Intel coming in as a strategic investor recently, NetSol is on a high. Focussed. They've always been focussed. Their customers will vouch for this. And for Sudhir, that month of pondering in his Koramangala home has paid dividends. His "team" delivers.

One comes across so many success stories. Start-ups in sheds, pavement shops. Homes. And how many in garages? Quite a few, perhaps. This one stands out. It had its origins in a Koramangala garage. And as Sudhir says, " The one place in Bangalore where you can still have a peaceful walk." That's Koramangala for you. Peaceful and calm. Concoction for success. Sudhir style.

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