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NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Startup 14: Anil Kaul, CEO and Co-Founder, AbsolutData

Team YS
13th Apr 2010
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Dr. Anil Kaul is a well-known expert in the industry with over 16 years of experience in marketing research, strategic consulting. and quantitative modeling. He has consulted over 20 Fortune 500 companies during the 4 years he spent with McKinsey & Co. in New York. Thereafter, he joined Anubis Inc., an innovative data warehousing start-up in San Francisco Bay Area, as a part of the four-member top management team. The company was acquired by Personify.

He then co-founded AbsolutData in 2001.

Anil is a PhD and MS in marketing from Cornell University. He is also a voracious reader and an intuitive writer. He has published many articles in leading management and academic journals such as McKinsey Quarterly, Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing Research, and International Journal of Research in Marketing. One of his papers was nominated for “Paul Green Award” by the American Marketing Association.

He has also been an invited speaker at McKinsey & Co., Dartmouth College, Cornell University, Yale University, Columbia University, Wharton, UC Berkeley, New York University, IIFT, IMT Ghaziabad, and IIM Lucknow.

Anil recently hiked Mount Whitney, the highest peak in continental United States in one day. Next year, he plans to hike to the base camp for Mount Everest.

AbsolutData has been ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 India program and Deloitte Technology Fast 500 Asia Pacific program in the year 2009. AbsolutData has been ranked as the #2 Market Global Research Outsourcing Vendor in The Black Book of Outsourcing for the year 2006.

An academically inclined Anil shares his views on entrepreneurship with Indian startup NASSCOM EMERGEOUT initiative.

1. Why did you take up entrepreneurship journey?


Anil Kaul: I have always enjoyed the process of creating new things—the challenge, the problem solving, the creativity, the broad and diverse range of issues one faces and finally, the satisfaction of getting to the outcome. I particularly like the fact that success is in my own hands, I can make it or break it. Moreover, I really value the freedom and the responsibility that one gets as an entrepreneur. It pushes me to give my best. In fact, ever since I graduated from college, I wanted to start my own company and fortunately, I was joined in this dream by my wife Sudeshna Datta. When both of us were students, we used to dream that one day we will start our own company. And fortunately, we have been able to get to this dream with our co?founder Suhale Kapoor who shared our dream and the AbsolutData team.

2. What keeps you going (how and where do you find your motivation levels)?


Anil Kaul: I have found the continuing journey of building AbsolutData a very rewarding experience. Each day brings a new set of challenges and a new opportunity to make a difference. As we moved from being a 3-person company to a 150-person company, the set of challenges has always been interesting and many times tougher than I would like it to be but that is what pushes me to get moving. Moreover, having a great team at AbsolutData means that it is always fun to be working with everyone and many times it is the energy and enthusiasm that everyone around me has that keeps my motivation level high.

3. What is your advice to wannabe entrepreneurs in India?

Anil Kaul: There is a lot of advice available for wannabe entrepreneurs; so I won’t repeat the obvious ones. Here is my advice. First, make sure that after every key milestone, you take some time to think about what you have achieved and what the next level should be. It is very easy to get lost in the day?to?day details and you might lose the picture of what you set to achieve when you started the company. Second, while hard work is a must for building the company, it can never be a substitute for smart thinking. A single idea can take you from an also?ran to a winner. Never underestimate the value of ideas. Finally, make sure that you are having fun doing what ever you are doing. If you are not enjoying it, why should you be doing it – wasn’t that one of the reasons for being an entrepreneur.

4. What success means to you and your organization?

Anil Kaul: While success is very important to me and to my company, I tend to define success in a broad way. Revenue and profit are an important measure of success but I think there is a lot more to success than these metrics. Success to me means enjoying what I am doing, working with a team that I am proud of, developing a strong company culture, recognition from clients that we are among the best in what we do and last but not the least—a peace of mind.

5. What are your learnings from the failures?

Anil Kaul: I have learnt a lot from failures—each failure has been a great learning opportunity. In the first few years of AbsolutData, we did not grow as fast I would have liked. Once, I realized why we had not been able to grow fast, I took a step back and realized that I had made two crucial mistakes—one was regarding the business model we were following and second had to do with my role in the organization. Realizing this, we modified our business model and I changed my role from focus on operations to focus on building the company. As a result of this learning, we have been able to grow fast in the last 4–5 years. We made it to Deloitte Fast 50 in 2008 and 2009 and won the BPO Emerging Company of the Year award from Indiatimes in 2008. All of this would not have happened if I had not learnt from what was not working in our early years.


Dr. Anil Kaul’s wisdom lies in learning from failures and having the right focus to build a great organization.

As part of the Indian startup NASSCOM EMERGEOUT initiative, 12 entrepreneurs have shared their views. To know what they are, please visit the links given below.

1. Kishore Mandyam of PK4 Software

2. Anil Pagar of Spadeworx

3. Ajay Sharma of Shristi Software

4. Pallav Nadhani of InfoSoft Global (FusionCharts)

5. Manoj Srivatsava of Hanu Software

6. Sriram Raghavan of Comat

7. Sushil Chaudary of Mann-India

8. Manav Garg of Eka

9. R. Swaminathan of Matrix Business Solution

10. Suresh Sambandam of OrangeScape

11. Ajay Mian of Alletech

12. Prasad Guntupalli of Attra

13. Varun Khurana of Wirkle

NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave, Chennai, April 30, 2010

NASSCOM EMERGEOUT conclave comes to Chennai on 30 April 2010. With “Nurturing the IT DNA in India’s growth sectors” as its theme, the conclave focuses on sectors that hold relevance to Chennai such as the automotive sector, in addition to opportunities that exist in the UID space, and workshops on marketing, product design, and many others.

Mr. Bharat Goenka, founder, Tally Software is the keynote speaker. It is a no-brainer right now that if you walk to anyone and ask them to cite you an example of an Indian product, Tally ranks among the top list, and it has been that way for a while. Mr. Goenka is without doubt one of the most prolific icons of the Indian product software industry. Talk to him about product positioning, understanding user behaviour, pricing, marketing and building a brand that is as big as Microsoft in terms of training and development centers, and you are sure to walk away in awe. Would you miss hearing him?

To wrap up the conclave, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman, Cognizant, is going to engage in rather inquisitive conversation with Prasanto Roy from CyberMedia. He has been a technology industry leader for over 30 years. As a founding member of Cognizant, he was been responsible for the company’s high-touch customer relationship and delivery excellence model. Under his leadership, Cognizant became the youngest IT services company to reach the $1 billion revenue milestone. He is also the part of NASSCOM Chairmen Council and under his leadership, some new initiatives in the EMERGE Forum were started.

To find the speaker list, please visit http://bit.ly/dvMYqq.

Jessie Paul, MD, Paul Writer Strategic Services, author of No Money Marketing, and formerly Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro, is holding a workshop on “Frugal Marketing—What Works, What's Trendy, What's Hype.” Besides great product or service and innovation, marketing right is crucial to build a brand. Jessie is going to demystify the art of brand building using a frugal budget. Visit her blog post at the EMERGE blog http://bit.ly/ahqdqO for details.

The complete program agenda is available and is waiting to be updated: http://bit.ly/9on2ci

Please register for the conference here.

Contributed by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist, YourStory

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