Just 2 weeks in the US was a game-changer. A startup that is worth USD 2.5 M with 100+employees.
"Dream big and fail big. When you have that burning desire in you, you will find ways to improve and get there.”
These words are not from a book of quotes but from a book of experiences. These experiences were of Saravanan Nagaraj who started off with a monthly income of Rs.750, worked seven days a week and then went on to become a job-giver heading around 130 employees across India and the United States. This man is from the remote part of Tamilnadu, India. From having no knowledge of the English language to becoming a successful entrepreneur in the USA, the journey of Saravanan is truly an inspiring one.
Saravanan was born in Virudhachalam, a small town in Tamilnadu. His father did many small businesses including a cycle rental shop to cater to the family of four. His mother, on the other hand, was a homemaker who took care of Saravanan and his younger sister Priya. Saravanan's childhood continued in that small town where people "just lived" their lives, thinking about how to cater to their next meal with no specific purpose or ambition. There wasn't even much exposure to what the outside world is like. But young Saravanan always had the support of his family in whatever he wanted to do. His parents neither dragged him back nor questioned his choices. All they wanted was their children to rise and shine.
"Luckily there wasn’t any pressure from the family in terms of what I needed to do in life. Whatever pressure came my way was all external and did not really shape the way I lived my life. For that I am eternally grateful,” he says.
When He Met "Computers", It All Changed:
When Saravanan was in 11th standard, the government had made computer education mandatory and thus young Saravanan was introduced to computers which later opened doors for him to do something big. In his eleventh and twelfth grades, he was taught computers in his school. He became so deeply interested in the subject that he wanted to do further courses in computer science. He enrolled at NIIT for a follow-up course. His curiosity to learn more impressed his teacher, Mr.Venkatesh who took out extra time to train and explain things to Saravanan. This fuelled his interest further.
"I knew I wanted to work with computers in some way, at that time, I wanted to become a programmer,” he says.
“It was like candy for a kid. Everything about it was alluring and I used to dream about it.”, Saravanan details his feeling while working with the computers. He then took up a job to support his family. It was for Rs.750 per month at NIIT. He worked for seven days a week and this young teenager taught computer languages to engineering graduates, MCA students and professionals. “I found that being around computers and teaching it made me the happiest,” he says.
To Chennai, In Search Of Opportunities:
In 2003, Saravanan moved to Chennai with big dreams and nothing else. There, he realised how backward he is with respect to the English language knowledge and communication skills. Not knowing English turned into a hurdle to his journey. "I remember the interviewer asked me to introduce myself and beyond giving him my name I could not utter a word.”, he recounts one of his interviews. He was so used to the language at Virudhachalam where even the English teacher never spoke a full sentence in English that he couldn't utter a single sentence eloquently in English. "I sat in the reception and heard people around me talk in English, it was like an alien experience for me", recounts Saravanan. Every interview Saravanan attended landed him on the same page.
"I decided that learning English would be the obvious next step towards realising my dreams.", he said.
He then enrolled in a two-month English speaking course to develop his communication skills.
"There were so many moments when I thought of giving up. I am very thankful to the ‘Saravanan’ who decided to not give up. That gruelling phase is what has helped me become the person I am today.”, says Saravanan with pride. He used to go to the classes early every day so he could watch a bunch of kids who played outside speak in English.
Meanwhile, his family also moved to Chennai and they landed in a very bad financial position. Days came where Saravanan had to borrow money from friends so they could afford at least one meal for the day. When things got, even more, worse, they also sold their mother's jewellery. “Those were truly distressing times,” he says.
Finally, he secured his first job in Chennai at Mobilink for Rs. 1700. The company paid Rs.20 extra if he had worked night shifts and Saravanan did. He continued there for a few months until he got an opportunity to work with Airtel which paid him Rs.4500. He then landed on his next job at Sutherland, a job that gave him financial stability, a better house and far good living conditions. Securing promotions quite quickly at Sutherland also gave him confidence and in five years, an opportunity to go to Fredericksburg, Virginia for 15 days was in his hands.
In 2010, Saravanan who spent 15 days in America says that it was a dream come true moment for him. Irrespective of whether they belonged to his team or not, Saravanan communicated with every single person there. During this socialising, he met a colleague from a different team, Kristiana Beard who told Saravanan that he could start his own enterprise with the amazing skills he had. Saravanan absorbed her words, came back to Chennai, quit his high-paying job at Sutherland and decided to start his venture in the U.S.
“I knew the worst that could happen was me failing. I was willing to take that risk, rather than live with the regret of never having tried.”, he recollects.
Thus in 2010, in his 26, Saravanan founded Vanan Innovative Services (VIS), a data transcription company in Chennai, and left for the U.S. to bring back projects for his company. With a B1/B2 Visa, he had to shuttle between the two countries. With the business slowly picking up, Saravanan moved his office from Gummidipoondi to Chennai in 2013. Later, he moved to a bigger office in Chennai’s Ambattur area in 2015. He gives credits for his success to his sister, Priya who managed the business back in Chennai while he travelled to get projects. As he had no job, he worked various odd jobs to keep his savings. His dedication didn't go in vain when in 2016, he got a big project that lead many other clients also to sign up for his company's services. In 2016, he started Vanan Online Services in Virginia with 12 employees. Saravanan left for the US in 2017 and now, he has a team of 130 employees across India and the United States, the company making around Rs.1.5 crore every month with an annual turnover of USD 2.5 million.
What started with no money to cater to their plates, what started with zero communication skills and what started as a rejection in various job interviews, now ended up in witnessing a successful job generator. Are you a person who cribs about lack of facilities and lack of resources? Then you must read Saravanan and get your feet going.
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