A masterclass from Sridhar Vembu in building a successful company without VC money

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In today’s fast paced, startup-frenzied world, Zoho cofounder Sridhar Vembu is clearly an Outlier — he believes in “slow laddering” or building a company slowly, one step at a time. And to top that, he’s even shunned the venture capital monies and said “no” to an over $25 million acquisition offer from Salesforce.com during the early days of Zoho. Zoho offers a cloud software suite and SaaS applications for businesses.

With estimated revenues of over $300 million and more than 30 million users of its products, if Zoho were to be valued today, it would be over $1 billion dollars without any doubt. But Vembu believes in building institutions such as Honda, learning from Japan’s biggest, long-lasting companies.

After nearly a couple of years of chasing him, I finally managed to sit down with Vembu on Tuesday in Chennai for the Outliers podcast. It’s a long — nearly an hour — conversation that can as well be termed “a masterclass” in building a globally successful enterprise without any venture money.

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Lessons in bootstrapping, failing and rebooting from Pallav Nadhani

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In this week’s Outliers Podcast, I sat down with Pallav Nadhani, founder of bootstrapped startup FusionCharts (which offers JavaScript charts for web and mobile) for a chat.

Nadhani, who became an entrepreneur when he was only 16, talks about building his startup without VC money, reaching revenue milestones, and then failing. He’s now building a new business while keeping FusionCharts alive. Tune into listen to his story.

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This teenager is using tech to manage diabetes, and is laughing her way through life

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“Stay confident through it all, because everyone is gonna ask you 10 billion questions like ‘are you gonna die?’… Don’t take it personally. Laugh at their face, do it for me,” says Adya Satapathy, a teenager who’s been battling Type 1 diabetes since birth.

When Adya was born 15 years ago, her blood sugar level, according to the records, was a whopping 600 or so (anything above 180 is considered dangerous).

While talking with Adya for this special episode of Outliers — it’s the 25th — I was amazed to learn how she manages her life using everything from sensors to apps. These are essential to her well-being, even to keep her alive. I also used the opportunity to get inside the mind of an Indian teenaged girl and tried to understand what social media means to this generation.

She also talks about her dream IoT device that she wants to be able to manage her life even better.

Having fought a lifelong battle with the disease, Satapathy is leading a Change.org petition asking the Indian Prime Minister to include Type 1 diabetes among the list of disabilities. Do find time to support the petition.

Finally, thank you for listening in to the Outliers podcast series. Keep tuning in.

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Young engineers should be ‘very worried’ about future of Indian IT, says Vineet Nayar

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Doomsday predictions about India’s nearly $100 billion technology sector are nothing new. And Vineet Nayar, the former CEO of the country’s fourth-largest software company, HCL Technologies, has been ringing the warning bells ever since he was a top executive in the industry. Nayar, who now spends time leading Sampark Foundation, a philanthropic organisation working to help millions of school kids in India get smarter at math and languages, met me in Delhi for this episode of Outliers.

“If you’re a young engineer listening to this podcast, I would say you should be very worried,” he tells me. “I do not buy this argument of all will be well.”

As we flagged in October last year, Indian IT may not be on its deathbed yet, but the threat of disruption is clear and present.

In a freewheeling chat with Nayar, we try and find answers to questions about the future of Indian IT, ill-timed activism on the part of some founders, and discuss why those working in the sector need to take charge of their careers, urgently.

Listen in, and do share feedback.

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