Himanshu Sareen, CEO, Icreon Communications Pvt. Ltd
The Harvard Business School defines entrepreneurship as the relentless pursuit of opportunity with complete disregard for the resources currently available. These words describe Himanshu Sareen’s foray into the world of software development with Icreon Communications Pvt Ltd.
Sareen entered the field towards the end of the dotcom boom, but had to cope with the challenge of the ensuing crash, which saw hundreds of start-ups fold for a lack of funding. At a time when bad debts amounted to nearly half the turnover, the consistent shortage of funds taught the team at Icreon to maintain low operational costs with high efficiency levels. While refusing to accept equity from clients in exchange for development services, Sareen had a team that he trusted and believed in their vision, which stood by when he could not offer high salaries or large increments, never shying away from working well into the night.
Never discouraged by the lack of resources, Sareen made the most of his opportunities as he went ahead and built a successful business, which has now received the ISO 9001:2008 certification. The initial days were the hardest, as it was difficult to retain or recruit good talent, who were often poached by companies with deeper pockets.
Since its inception, Icreon has developed consistently, registering an average of 50 per cent year-on-year growth throughout. It now has nearly 200 employees as well as offices in the US and UK. With capabilities from open source software, Microsoft, Java, Flash/Flex as well as design and internet marketing, Icreon is now well-positioned to handle the needs of its customers on a turnkey basis. As Sareen puts it, “We help businesses leverage technology to meet their business objectives.”
With a business model being that of a typical offshore development centre, Icreon ensures that its clients continue to approach it from the point of view of not only saving costs, but also delivering high value addition to the experienced resources it offers.
An area of focus for Icreon is establishing a stronger presence in its most important markets, a point emphasised by the success of its partial equity acquisition in its key outsourcing partner in the UK in October 2007. The company is planning similar moves in the US, with extensive green-field operations being an alternative in case such equity acquisitions do not materialise.
The firm currently has more than 150 customers, who fall basically into three segments: web entrepreneurs with business ideas seeking a technology partner to take their ventures online within the shortest possible time, with maximum value for their investment; small and medium enterprises that are in the growth phase and need flexible, scalable and affordable technology to drive business efficiencies; and large enterprises seeking to maximise their return on IT investment.
What has paid off for Icreon is its long-term view of relationships with customers, investing in their vision right from the time the company had just five employees, generating lasting business associations. It was also a frontrunner in adapting technology, proving cutting-edge solutions; Sareen spoke on the Microsoft.NET framework as early as 2001, at a conference in Mauritius.
Sareen’s view is to create entirely new business units that will each work on aggressive targets and focus on customer satisfaction, while the company is being partitioned into independent profit centres.
This drive to achieve was evident in Sareen ever since he unconsciously delved into entrepreneurship as a 12-year old, when he set up a comic rental business in school. This lasted for only a year, but taught him the fundamentals that would help him with Icreon. In college, Sareen became part of international student organisation AIESEC, becoming the first vice-president of the IIT, Delhi chapter of a new exchange programme called YDEP. This exposed him to a corporate environment and further cemented his path on to entrepreneurship.
After graduation, he yearned to create something new, something to provide the satisfaction he desired, as he worked in a corporate setup. Then, with Rs 30,000 that he saved from previous jobs, he launched Indicom, which went on to become Icreon, as a proprietorship in the basement of his parents’ home.
Over the first few years, Sareen would lose sleep over certain matters, worrying about salaries and at times considering the reasons for his undertaking such an endeavour. But not once in these nine years has he missed or even delayed payments to his employees or vendors.
And not once did he imagine himself doing anything else: his efforts have resulted in two main achievements, the first being Icreon’s ability to glean new clients and build lasting relationships with them. The perfect example of this is a contract with the National Geographic channel that was signed when the company worked out of a small flat at Lajpat Nagar and had just 15 employees. Seven years hence, having retained that client, Icreon offers the same level of personalised service despite growing to more than 200 employees.
The second big achievement is the ability to identify, grow and retain key people within the organisation.
Driven by a desire to leave behind a footprint, to build a business that will continue to create value even without his presence, Sareen consistently raises the bar for himself and his team, motivated by the uncertainties of doing something new. “I cannot imagine myself doing anything else,” he says.
For 2010, Icreon has envisioned a stronger ground presence in the US and aims to register a growth of at least 50 per cent over the April 2009 revenue levels. Also, a consulting subdivision will be launched even as Icreon aims to be the partner of choice for web entrepreneurs.
As Icreon maintains its ‘never say die’ attitude, YourStory wishes Sareen and all its employees the best as they persevere to bring better services to their customers and make the most of the opportunities that come along.
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