How Sunil Ohri built an IT company with a turnover of INR 18 cr. from small-town Ambala in Haryana
Sunil Ohri had a dream of becoming a programmer. Growing up in Ambala, Haryana, Sunil pursued a distance education course and managed to get a post graduate degree in computer science from Kurukshetra University. He started his career with a teaching job at a local computer institute and it took him a year and a half to get hired as an application programmer. He worked as one for more than four years. A couple of years into his job, he started freelancing as well. He successfully completed a few projects as a freelancer and also hired services of a small company based in Hyderabad to work on projects based on specific technologies. The workflow increased and soon, in 2005, he decided to quit the job and start his own venture, Xportsoft. The company clocked revenues of Rs 18 crore this year. YourStory got in touch with Sunil to know more about his journey:
YS: When did you start and how did you crack your first deal?
Sunil: Along with my full-time engagement, I started freelancing in 2003 for some foreign companies/individuals. I started bidding on a freelancing website and the first project I got was for US 10. Within a year I had successfully completed projects worth over US 10,000. I used to work as a programmer all day and took up freelancing projects in the evening. (current portfolio)
YS: Tell us about the growth in terms of team, revenue and customers over the years.
Sunil: I decided to walk alone in July 2005 and appointed the first person in my team in 2006. I worked on different projects for most part of that year and managed to appoint my second employee in the same year. In 2007, I applied for the STPI (Software Technology Parks of India) registration with a team of six and got it in late 2007. In the first financial year of our working as an STPI unit the turnover was Rs 84 lakh. In the second financial year it was Rs 1.69 crore. The revenue crossed Rs three crore the next year And Rs nine crore in 2011-12. The next financial year gave us the all-important acceleration as we managed to double our earnings, grossing at Rs 18 crore. We have a customer base of seven lakh spread around the world for the Windows utilities that we have been selling for the last eight years.
Apart from an STPI Fast Trackers Award, Xportsoft Technologies has thrice consecutively bagged the STPI Highest Software Export Award (SME) Haryana. To go with it, our products have garnered over 100 prestigious awards.
We keep a close eye on the hot and happening things in the IT world, attending conferences and summits across the globe, which obviously means exciting foreign trips for my colleagues and I.
YS: What is your core competence?
Sunil: Being a product-focussed enterprise, we soon understood the importance of entertaining marquee customers. The hard work about what works and what doesn’t, thankfully, had already been done by giant enterprises. I had a quick shake in my core leadership team to deploy customer-centric vision. ‘Don’t work with me, don’t work for me. Work with the customers, work for the customers,’ is what I tell my employees. Establishing a 24x7 customer support division was part of my marquee client benefit programme. We ensure they are never alone. We make the most of regular surveys, feedback and social media interactions to manage, maintain and improve our customer satisfaction index.
YS: How did you manage to build a tech team in Haryana?
Sunil: Building a tech team in Haryana, and that too in the outskirts of Ambala, was a challenge. More challenging was retaining the right blend of talent in an era where professionals switch jobs often. Location was not the only trouble though - electricity, infrastructure, public transport - and there was a lot we didn’t have.
However, I was pretty sure that Xportsoft Technologies has to keep growing and we together took on all the challenges. People kept jumping on the bandwagon and today we are a close-knit team of 90 with offices at three different locations. Our main office is still at Ambala Cantonment, others being at Hyderabad and New Delhi. I was confident that we will get skilled manpower in Ambala because I’d noticed while I was working earlier that Chandigarh had a steady stream of tech guys coming in. I realised the importance of retaining talent and gave it a good strategy. And I’ve done well I believe; more when compared to other companies in the region.
YS: Some of the lessons from your journey as an entrepreneur.
Sunil: The journey to start up after quitting a job is never easy. But tougher challenges start once you’re done with setting up something after all the hard work and dedication. Micro-discipline kills. You can deliver quality products and services without actually wearing a suit. Building concrete relationships with your employees and customers, of course, is vital.
From the word ‘go’ I took in my team as my family and kept working with them as part of the team and not like a boss. I kept myself involved in every activity and occasion and I think being a team member is way better than being a boss, although it has some serious difficulties and challenges tagged to it as well. Today, we are a team of 90 and my approach is still the same.
Managing the complete show single-handedly was also not so easy; but I feel I have been successfully at it. Starting from a small rented office, after doing all the housekeeping myself, today we have a well-furnished infrastructure in Ambala Cantonment.
YS: Tell us a bit more about the tech scene in Haryana.
Sunil: Just like any other State, Haryana is full of talent. I never doubted getting the required talent here. Yes, there are difficulties whilst hire resources having expertise in core technologies, but it was never impossible. Today, I am glad to say that there are many employees commuting to Xportsoft from Chandigarh, although the Tricity [Chandigarh-Panchkula-Mohali] is having three IT parks and hundreds of IT companies. We are proud that numerous professionals from IT giants like IBM, Dell and Accenture have joined us.
Ambala is away from the IT hub in Tricity, way away from the core zone in NCR, and evidently the scheme of things are different. Not many IT companies surround us and a heavy portion of the locality has no concept of what an IT company actually is. Ambala is a scientific instrument hub and majority of people around us actually believe that we are making microscopes or providing some computer training inside our lavish infrastructure. Being a product-based company with processes and a user-base mostly in the US, Canada and Australia, local recognition and reach is surely the last thing we care about. But we do contribute a bit to the society by having in place a well-managed CSR plan to support the environment and the underprivileged.
YS: What is the vision Xportsoft is building towards?
Sunil: Our vision is to touch one million lives by 2020 by products and services for Mac, Windows and mobile platforms. At the same time, we focus on building strong business relationships that can be sustained on a long-term basis. Customer satisfaction has forever been our priority and we do care about employee welfare.