Born into a middle-class family, the son of a police officer and grandson of a farmer, B.V.R. Mohan Reddy is a first-generation entrepreneur. “The middle class dream in the 1960s was to make at least one child a medical doctor and one, an engineer. My parents decided that my elder sister should become a doctor, so I had to become an engineer. Once I became an engineer, I wanted to do something on my own and that was the seed of my entrepreneurial journey. Experience was important to become an entrepreneur, so I worked as an intrapreneur for about 18 years before I turned an entrepreneur,” says B.V.R. Mohan Reddy, founder and executive chairman, Cyient and former chairman, NASSCOM.
An average student till class VII, he was given an ultimatum by his mother to either do well in school or go to the village and join his grandfather in farming. She had a tremendous influence on his upbringing and success. “She said that if my sister could come first in class, I had no reason to be an average student. That was the turning point in my life. My mother’s comments always rang in my ears. There was no looking back for me thereafter. I then started to do better year after year,” says Mohan Reddy, who did his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from College of Engineering, Kakinada. “I became the President of the Mechanical Engineering Association of the college and represented my college in tennis,” he adds.
A highly analytical and extremely logical person, engineering is part of his DNA. “In 1991, when India embarked on the strategy of liberalisation and globalisation, I saw an opportunity for exporting engineering services. Outsourcing of engineering was still in a very nascent stage and customers in the western world were concerned about intellectual property laws in India. I saw an opportunity in an adjacency — Geographic Information Systems (GIS), for converting paper-based maps to digital databases which actually is the forerunner for today’s in-car navigation. GIS gave us the first foothold in businesses. In 2000, Pratt and Whitney, one of the three largest aero-engine manufacturers in the world gave us a major breakthrough by choosing Cyient as a partner for engineering services. Over the years, we graduated from services to sub-system design to providing innovative solutions. We further enhanced our abilities by moving into manufacturing of electronic systems designed by us.” Mohan Reddy went on to do two Masters degrees — from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (M.Tech) and from University of Michigan, USA (M.S).
His family was supportive. “Never did my wife complain that I risked my highly successful professional career to start my own enterprise. Since my work pressure was so high, the attention to family was obviously low my wife never gave me an opportunity to feel that I was not giving enough attention to our two young children.” says Mohan Reddy, who incorporated Cyient (then known as Infotech Enterprises) in 1991 but started off actual operations in 1992.
Though he started the business with a amount, he built a business empire through determination and hard work. “My initial equity into the company was `25 lakhs. I approached IDBI venture capital for assistance, they provided me with `97 lakhs as debt with draconian terms. I was so much in a hurry to start the business that I accepted them. But, our success ensured that we returned the principle, the interest, the royalty and the equity which appreciated many times over,” he says. All businesses have initial challenges and his was no different. But his never-say-die attitude helped him grow. “Our initial service offering of engineering services took seven years to find acceptance in global markets. To find alternative ad agencies was the first challenge. We had to make large investments in training and development to ensure consistently high quality. Two large customers of ours went bankrupt in the first seven years of our existence. We had to absorb the losses and still continue as a viable business,” he recalls.
My passion is education. We live in a knowledge economy. Knowledge is power. So people have to gain as much knowledge as possible. In a digital information age, working hard to get knowledge doesn’t make you tired but makes you smart. The girl child population is as low as 15 percent in government schools. However, in the 25 schools my company has adopted, we now have over 50 percent girl students
I have very few hobbies. When I have free time, I listen to light music. Business took me to many parts of the world. In my leisure time, I saw many countries in every continent — Machu Picchu, Peru; Siem Reap, Cambodia; Reykjavik, Iceland; Bagan, Myanmar; Queenstown, New Zealand. Travel makes your personality a lot more rounded. Travel has been my favourite hobby.
The person who touched me first was a woman, my mother. I went to school and was taught by a woman, my teacher. As I grew up, I played with a woman, my sister. When I sought a partner, I chose a woman, my wife. As I get old, I know I will be cared for by a woman, my daughter. And as I finally disappear, I will go into the lap of a woman, my motherland. So if you are a woman, be proud of yourself....