[Built to last] The story of a small town entrepreneur who has built a 2000 member outsourcing companyChaitanya Ramalingegowda
Vara Prasad Rongala’s family members have always been running their own businesses for the past 60 years. Hailing from the town of Nidadavole in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, he too joined the business of managing petrol pumps, cryogenic gases and rice mills back in 1981. As the young Vara Prasad grew to see the world and saw the opportunities in technology, he relocated to Bangalore along with his young family in 1996.
Building a business
The late 90s saw a lot of traction in the business world in India because of the economic liberalization initiated by Manmohan Singh in the early part of the decade. The outsourcing and offshoring method of working was in full swing and India was building its capability in the technology. Vara Prasad started Invensis Technologies in 1998 with an American Partner who was an architect. The firm started with offices in Bangalore and Chicago. The low hanging fruit was the standardized work of CAD/CAM drawings from the civil engineering and architectural firms.
From this starting point, Invensis moved into document management, contact center, finance & accounting and digital imaging domains and gradually built an impressive roster of clients. The company boasts of over 300 clients including Sprint telecom, Wyndham hotels and Groupon across the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. Logistics, customs brokerage, finance and accounting form a major section of the revenue generated. While the initial contracts came via the partner in the US, as the person moved on, most of the business has been through excellent word of mouth and the usage of key reference clients whose testimonials got them through the door.
“Since we handle core financial transactions for our clients across industries, if we do not complete the day’s transactions our clients cannot open for business the next day. It is as simple as that”, says Vara Prasad Rongala about the core business processes that the firm handles. This sense of responsibility is central to the company’s continued existence and the goodwill it has generated in the market. “Of our 300+ clients, at least 35-40 have been with us for over five years and our USP is being dependable”, he adds by way of explaining the long-term relationships they focus on. The firm now has ~700 people in BPO, ~1500 in the Government sector work for Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh governments and ~20 in the newly launched Learning division.
The next frontier – Learning solutions
Globally, the corporate training market is pegged at $250-300 billion, of which e-learning is estimated to form 35% in the US and ~20% in the rest of the world. Invensis has not started ‘Invensis Learning’ division to target this market specifically.
“In the first wave, there was NIIT and Aptech to build technical capability as there were not enough engineering colleges. But now the number of colleges has gone up and the basics are covered in colleges. The gap now is in professional teaching and certifications, running into the millions”, says Vara Prasad Rongala about the reason for incubating this new business.
The company has been putting together processes to build depth of training content and ensuring quality of trainers. Strict evaluation criteria based on in-depth interviews have been put together to select, evaluate and on-board trainers from different parts of the world. They only focus on getting good quality trainers with years of experience and also have an experienced trainer with over 15 years domain expertise to help in selection. “The chain is only as strong as the weakest link – so the quality of trainers is that much more important”, says Vara Prasad Rongala. Adds his son Arvind Rongala, who is currently working on the Learning division, “We ensure certified trainers and we never say no irrespective of the batch size. We once trained a single person in his hotel room in Azarbaijan, because our aim is to deliver quality content wherever the customer may be”. Training solutions are already being delivered across countries including the Middle East.
What makes an entrepreneur?
Invensis has a smaller 200 center in Rajahmundry of East Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh that is so process oriented that there was no need felt for a dedicated site manager and it is managed from Bangalore and regular visits. As they have grown, they have taken on dumb and deaf applicants as full time employees, and say that they are absolutely on par or even better compared to other colleagues. They have expanded their recruiting pool from graduates to looking ITI graduates and even those with no formal degree as long as they are able to pick up the skills.
Having been incorporated in 1998, the firm has weathered two recessions – the dot com bust of 2000 and the financial crisis of 2008 and the founder has a surprising take on this. “What we do is core to our clients’ business. So we had no impact on our business during these two recessions. Our growth might have been slower during this period, but our core business went on steadily.”
Simple, uncomplicated, and focusing on the basics of business, while persisting through thick and thin. That has been the success mantra of Invensis.
[Note: “Built to last” is a series about entrepreneurs who have sustained and grown their companies for over 10 years and are successful businesses in their own right. Others in the series – PAMAC http://yourstory.com/2014/09/pamac-built-to-last/]
Do you have any such companies that have grown on their own and survived for over 10 years? Share their details so that we can cover their story too!