NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Startup 19: Raj Hajela, Founder and Managing Director, Estel

Team YS
19th Apr 2010
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Raj Hajela is a serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience in starting and managing successful technology businesses in fields of software, systems integration, IT services, Internet, and cable TV. With a keen focus on innovation, each of the businesses he started and nurtured have been early adopters and leaders in their chosen technology domains.

Over the years, Raj has played many roles at Estel; since 2004 as its CEO, he is responsible for business and product strategy, strategic alliances, new customer acquisition, evangelizing our innovative m-Commerce solutions, and leading innovation at Estel.

Raj served as Joint Secretary of ISP Association of India in 2001.

Estel Technologies, founded in 1997, has its corporate office in India, and provides software solutions and managed services to telecom operators, banks, utilities and service providers. Estel’s R&D facilities, product development, support centre & corporate functions are located in Gurgaon (a suburb of Delhi) in India. Its offices in India, Sri Lanka, UAE, and Kenya, and other geographies are served via distribution partners. Estel’s staff have excellent domain experience and expertise in telecom, payments, banking, and IT services. The company focuses on Asia, Middle East, and Africa. Estel is a profitable and financially stable company with an excellent track record of delivering complex projects within time and budget.


Serial entrepreneurs have an enormous risk appetite and craving for new ventures and new ideas. We are eager to know if Raj is different. Hear what he has got to say about entrepreneurship to Indian startup EMERGEOUT initiative by NASSCOM.1. Why did you take up entrepreneurship journey?

Raj: During my MBA, I was encouraged by my father to think about entrepreneurship as a career option instead of working for someone. Consequently, I took a elective course on entrepreneurship in the second year of my MBA and a professor inspired me so greatly that I made up my mind by the end of that semester that becoming an entrepreneur is the only way forward for me!

The professor managed to open up my mind to think differently, to think about creating something which may outlast me and to pursue a career where whatever I do would make a big difference to the fortunes of my company, my team, and to my life. At this time I was neither attracted by, nor did I really understand the possibility of entrepreneurs creating huge wealth—this realization dawned much later, as I started experiencing success.

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

Raj: Different people are motivated by different things. My motivation has always come from:

-         Trying to create products and a business which will make a massive difference in people’s lives, not just in India but across the world.

-         Trying to win global recognition in these areas in which my company operates.

-         Trying to be one of the early birds globally in a new emerging area & then to make it a success.

-         Competing with and beating larger (big brand) competitors is extremely satisfying

-         In summary, the possibility to earn name, fame, and recognition is what really drives me.

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

Raj: Entrepreneurship is not easy, its extremely tough. Chances of failure are high. But, in the end its all worth it!!!

Persistence is key, as most entrepreneurs succeed after many failed attempts. You need to have a very strong instinct for survival, an extremely strong gut feel and trust in your own abilities, and above all, you need to play for the long term. Creating a team of people with complementary skills is critical for success, do not hire clones of yourself; recognize your weaknesses and limitations and recruit people who are skilled in those areas.

Entrepreneurship is not about short-term success, in fact you will only get failures and very slow forward movement in the short term. You should not lose heart in initial years when your friends (who are working in other companies) prosper, get large salary raises and promotions, have an active social life, and you are struggling for survival with no time for anything else other than your business. But, remember in the long term (if you are successful), you will be the one with all the name, fame, recognition, and it is you who will be laughing all the way to the bank, whereas, your friends will simply get a nice retirement gift from their company!

4. What success means to you and your organization?

Raj: Success to us means creating new, world beating products, and then selling them globally to make a major difference in lives of the people who use them. Success means doing this again and again, year after year! Success means creating an organization which will continue to do this, without overly relying on the entrepreneur. Success means creating a business which will outlast the entrepreneur.

5. What are your learnings from the failures?

Raj: Each failure teaches you something. Early stage failures give you maturity, humbleness, realism. Later on failures give you specific management lessons!

Inspired by his professor in the college, Raj took to entrepreneurship and his addiction for entrepreneurship did not stop with one venture. With his heart and mind in the right place, it is not difficult to guess why he is successful.

As part of the Indian Startup EMERGEOUT initiative by NASSCOM, 18 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

14. Anil Kaul of AbsolutData

15. Amit Sadana of PharmARC

16. Yadu and Naresh or Robust Designs

17. Ananth Seshan of Fifth Generation

18. Shoma Bakre of EmPower Research

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.

On April 19, we will feature a conversation with Chair of the EMERGEOUT Forum, Mr. Krishnakumar Natarajan. He has spoken to YourStory on a range of topics related to EMERGE forum.

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.

Kiruba Shankar, CEO Business Blogging, is holding an “unconference” at the conclave.

The e-governance projects like the Unique ID scheme of the government present huge opportunities for SMEs. One of the sessions at the conclave will explore this opportunity.

The complete program agenda is available: http://bit.ly/9on2ci Many speakers and impressive lineup of programs await participants. Don’t miss all the action! Join the bandwagon of the emerging opportunities in India!!

Please register for the conference here.

Contributed by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist, YourStory

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