Chaithanya (Chaitu) Sama is a serial entrepreneur, Founder, President, CEO and CTO of multiple highly profitable software companies with 20 years of experience in IT and business strategy, with more than 250 software engineers in multiple development centers in the United States and Asia. Chaitanya is an investor and advisor at Biller Genie. He is also the President & CEO at BPMLinks.
Recently, Chaitu sat down with Garima Shah, Biller Genie President, for a Q&A on the topic of entrepreneurship. Chaitu, a tech guru himself, had a lot to say to help entrepreneurs with development, strategy, and more.
Garima: What made you successful? What’s your advice for new entrepreneurs?
Chaitu: There are some few important things which made me successful. Basically, understand your core strengths and focus on one or two main core strengths and start small. When you’re starting ground up with nothing you need to start with something small and you need to start having that quick success and for it to snowball. Then you need to turn these successes around. With entrepreneurship, everything looks like an opportunity for you and you want to run after everything you see, but you have to be very careful because not every opportunity is a true opportunity. You need to take a step back and take some time to assess things to understand which are true opportunities and go only after those. That’s crucial. Once you get the rhythm going, once you get to a certain level, once you have your core team and you have some success and you need to achieve some goals then you can slowly start expanding into other areas, but my humble suggestion would be start with what you believe in.
Garima: It was amazing when I heard you went door-to-door and what you went through. Can you tell us why you partnered with Biller Genie and a bit about how you arrived at that decision?
Chaitu: In mid-2018 we pulled back and said, “We cannot change everything.” We had to be smart in what we were chasing. Then we decided on finance. Biller Genie is fintech and we can also go into mobile banking, such as what we built for Suntrust. When we uncover a new opportunity, I am the first one to go on the calls. If I find some opportunity, before I pull in my other partners, we filter it out. We need to understand what our core strengths are and we need to identify which client is at what stage. Sometimes they may need a solution but the timing has to be perfect.
Garima: That’s awesome. It does sound like a huge undertaking. You’ve talked before about the importance of finding partners who are different from you. Can you tell us why that’s important?
Chaitu: The best thing is to understand things from your potential partner’s point of view more than your own point of view. You need to first and foremost put yourself in their shoes and see what they’re saying. Not everything will turn out.
Garima: Biller Genie and BPMLinks have a very close connection. Not only do they handle so much of our development work, I would say the vast majority, but they also are a major investor and that’s a huge blessing. It’s great to be able to have someone we can talk to who can help us. In terms of development, Chaitu, what should a new company outsource and what should it keep in-house?
Chaitu: That’s a very good question. What you need to do is you need to keep your core competence with you and your business side of it and the production support of the house always has to stay on shore because your customers are here and you have to address them 24/7. So, what you can offshore is something like development where you have a proper architecture you already went through. You need to have a strong team offshore too. Most of the onshore option models fail because you don’t have the receiving side listening or understanding the nature of things, so you need to make sure you give that business knowledge as much as possible to your offshore team so that they can successfully understand. They must look at your customers as their own customers.
Garima: You’ve probably worked with companies at all parts of their succession. Some companies, like Biller Genie, which is very much a startup, then you’ve got other huge companies that have been around forever. I’m sure there are a lot of people who have great ideas. Maybe they’re looking to get into technology and they want to do more development. Perhaps they’re not really sure when the right time is to even have these conversations with companies like yours. When is a good time for a company to find a partner?
Chaitu: It depends. Every company is different. You want to look at matching core competencies. For example, a startup might say that, “BPMLinks’ strength is in digital transformation, mobile, or cloud, and we specialize in those areas.” That might be a good match then. For startups, the cost is very tight. You need to be very careful with your spending power. You need to balance your finances properly. We have to be profitable or else our business won’t survive. When needed, we come along. We bring all those things and we’re cost-effective, so we empower you to go after your investment. It’s the strategy that’s extremely helpful.
Garima: For all the startups that are thinking about development, I highly recommend talking to experts like Chaitu and other people who can help you with this. The Biller Genie + BPMLinks partnership isn’t just amazing because we have these fantastic developers, it’s also the strategic impact from people like Chaitu, who can come to the conversations at the management level and say, “Wait a second. You guys are doing this, but have you thought about trying it like this?” Those are great points as to why someone would have to outsource.
Chaitu is not just building companies, he’s also giving back. He’s investing and doing so much more. Chaitu, you came to American as an immigrant and you call it the land of opportunity. I can very much relate to that. My parents moved here from India as well, although I was born in London. There’s a lot of things that I’m sure people could relate to that are very specific to that journey and to that fight that you’ve had. For all of the people who may have had similar journeys who are immigrants who are coming who are asking themselves what they should do now that they’re here, what advice do you have for them?
Chaitu: First and foremost, people have to go through their green card so that’s the biggest challenge for an Indian company. You need to understand while you’re waiting for your green card to achieve, you need to build your technical knowledge and also look out in every area. Almost anywhere you look, there is a middle-man. The minute you can eliminate the middlemen with the technology, is the moment of opportunity.
Garima: Can you tell us more about that?
Chaitu: If you think about Uber or Netflix, you can see that. That’s where the world is moving towards with the cloud offerings. People who are coming here or even people who are in India or around the world should basically look at everything that Uber, Netflix, AirBnB, and the social media companies have done. Basically, they eliminated middlemen and they brought the technology to the consumer. There is still so much that can be done, especially with mobile. Everything’s at your fingertips. Remember the internet revolution and look out for new things. That’s what I would say.
Garima: So, what would you say is something people should be looking for, what’s the next big thing on the horizon?
Chaitu: We saw the internet boom. We saw the cloud boom. The future is cyber security and data. The new boom has already started and it is the data boom. Data is the new asset, it’s the new oil. Look to data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
Garima: Thank you so much. Chaitu has shared a lot for new entrepreneurs. Make sure that you focus on your core values and really hone in on those and get successes there. Build on those small successes until they snowball. Focus on finding great partners who are different than you and that challenge you — subject matter experts that you can trust and look to to have those conversations with. Then you’ve talked about the importance of having both expertise as well as cost-effective solutions for outsourcing IT and what that really means. And, of course look to the future and to data. Thanks, Chaitu.