"I just want to make a point that it's not just great teachers who shape your life. Sometimes it's the absence of great teachers that shapes your life, and being ignored can be just as good for a person as being lauded," Julia Roberts.
For Varun Chandran life has been the biggest teacher, and the need to survive has been the biggest motivation.
He is today a millionaire who runs a tech firm out of Singapore and is spreading his wings across the globe. From being barely able to feed himself, to being able to create a global footprint is nearly impossible. But Varun has shown how it can be done.
Read his story to get a glimpse of a young India which is not apologetic of its humble background but is raring to make a difference in the world.
“I come from a small village in Kerala called Padam which is bordering a jungle in Kollam district. My father was a farmer and since childhood I learnt to work hard, helping him with his daily work. We did not have proper food to eat and managed to survive on the basic minimum. The need to live and survive defined my childhood. It pushed me to do better and be better. I learnt the value of labour,” says Varun Chandran, now 32 years old and Founder of Corporate 360, a firm which has operations in four continents today.
Born into a poor farmer’s family in Kerala, Varun strived for better. His parents had studied till class V but they wanted their sons to be educated. He was admitted to a school near his village in a small town called Pathanapuram. Hard physical labour came as an advantage since it gave him an edge to excel in sports. Soon, he started winning medals and prizes for his school, St.Stephens HSS.
After he finished class X, he was given a scholarship by the Kerala government to play football. “I would have had to leave studies if not for that scholarship.” He went on to make a significant mark in his football career by winning a gold medal for being the best youth footballer in Kerala. He captained Kerala Youth and Kerala University football teams.
When he was injured on the football field, he decided to take the biggest risk of his life: he quit football, left college, and moved to Bangalore to find a job.
And it was not easy.
Things were not smooth at home and there was pressure to support the family. “My grand-mother gave me her gold bangle to sell and told me to go somewhere to find my life. I packed my bag and left home,” Varun recalls a past that he can never forget.
In 2002, he came to Bangalore with a small bag and a little bundle of hope. Varun went on to learn everything about tech jobs and entrepreneurship at internet cafes. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, he also realized the need to speak good English. He bought a dictionary and spent a lot of time in public libraries devouring the novels of Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer and watched CNN to learn English.
”Reading a lot of books, I realised a whole wide world existed outside my village,” says Varun. Such was his hunger to learn that he was not content with reading fiction alone; he devoured non-fiction books too which not only became his guide but opened his eyes to the world of entrepreneurship as well.
“Footballer IM Vijayan has been my inspiration from my school days. He is like God to me. From living on the streets to selling soda and peanuts, he went on to become a top Indian footballer. I remember always thinking, if he can excel amidst so much hardship, then so can I,” says Varun.
“I worked in Bangalore, learnt about the internet by spending time in cyber-cafes and taught myself to be a programmer. I believe nothing is impossible. In fact, today with so much information available on the net, you can learn so much. Everything is available if we just want to learn.”
With this driving force, he worked in Bangalore for a couple of years and got himself a job offer in Singapore, where he moved in 2008. “Singapore was an eye-opener for me in terms of opportunities,” he reveals. He had to make things work in this new place. While he was working, he started coding a software tool for himself to make his job easier. Soon his colleagues found a lot of value in what he was doing. And that led to the birth of his venture Corporate360 (C360). “I saw people all around talking about Big Data and asked myself: how can we use all the data on the web to make companies grow and sell more?”
His company introduces innovative sales intelligence software for the tech industry. Some of the world’s largest IT-companies and tech startups are C360 clients. “A lot of companies talk about Big Data and Predictive Analytics for marketing methods, but they are not designed to be industry specific. Their algorithms are designed to grind transactional data and web behaviour hence providing generic data indicators,”says Varun. “We bring industry specific sales relevance to the customer, which enables them to create highly targeted sales campaigns to the right people at the right time with the right messaging,” informs Varun.
The flagship product, Tech SalesCloud is a cloud software, designed for IT marketers to avail comprehensive marketing campaign data services powered by Big Data, Patterns, Predictive Analytics, Competitive Intelligence, Contacts Intelligence, Web Analysis and IT research.
“Companies have made huge investments in CRM and Marketing Automation tools. But these tools are best efficient when fed with the right data sets. Our SalesCloud data platform helps to power-up marketing tools with the most qualified sales intelligence data thereby complementing your existing investments to get maximum ROI,” he says, adding, “We realised IT marketers are struggling to track constant changes happening in their target-base and a huge chunk of their marketing budget is spent on list purchases which has little ROI. So we decided to address this problem and introduced the first ever concept of ‘Data-as-a-Service’ for technology marketers. The SalesCloud IT marketing data platform is available as a subscription model with real-time data refresh and exclusive data maintenance support.”
The two-year-old company has recently crossed the million-dollar-mark and now has big plans ahead. The goal is to hit 5 million in revenues by 2015 and grow the team size to 30, expand data sets and open new offices in the US and Europe. “We have been approached by a few big players in our industry to buy us over with lucrative offers. But we decided against it. We love what we are doing and we decided to live our dreams.”
Varun branched off and opened an office in his hometown Pathanapuram in Kerala. “I want to create opportunities for people in my hometown. We do not lack talent but lack opportunities. There will be so many like me who have the drive to make things happen. I am going after them. We have built a proud and loyal team there,” he says.
Having come full circle in life, Varun shares his learnings: "Be curious, persevere and everything becomes possible. It’s a constant process but we need to learn every day to be positive."