At 52, Sanjay Nayak is not among the young, restless and “cool” breed of entrepreneurs in India’s startup ecosystem. But then, his telecom equipment startup, Tejas Networks, is not really a newbie either. Launched in the year 2000, Tejas Networks has been through at least three near-death experiences.
I have been tracking Tejas’ journey for well over a decade. I always thought India lost out on a massive opportunity to create a homegrown telecom equipment behemoth by not supporting Tejas against the likes of Huawei backed by the Chinese government. As I sit down with Nayak for this week’s Outliers, he shares many other battles, and how his team conquered them all to come this far.
The first one near-death experience came during 2009 when Tejas’ biggest customer, Canadian telecom equipment-maker Nortel, filed for bankruptcy.
“Our international revenues at that time were growing at 100% year on year, thanks to Nortel. But once it filed for bankruptcy, it was kind of a slow death for us and our revenues too collapsed with it” — Sanjay Nayak, founder, Tejas Networks
“Our international revenues at that time were growing at 100% year on year, thanks to Nortel. But once it filed for bankruptcy, it was kind of a slow death for us and our revenues too collapsed with it,” Nayak says.
Then, around 2010-2011, India’s famous ‘2G scam’ shook the country’s telecom sector and forced customers to shelve buying equipment for expansion. Tejas was right at the centre of all this. “Indian operators were not buying, international revenues collapsed, things weren’t good,” he says.
By 2011-2012, Tejas’ revenues took a massive dip — from over Rs 600 crore to around Rs 200 crore, one-third of what it was. “We were in a mess,” adds Nayak.
From there, Nayak and his team rebuilt Tejas based on the learnings during each crisis. Last week, the company launched its Rs 450 crore initial public offering, the first by an Indian telecom equipment maker.
Listen to this Outliers podcast to learn from Tejas’ battles.