It is the classic, modern-day story of a middle class young man-turned-multi-millionaire.The story of K B Chandrasekhar, founder-CEO, Jamcracker Inc, is highly inspirational. Especially, for all the enterprising young Indian men who desire to be successful entrepreneurs.

This is his story.

The Early Years

I come from a classic middle-class family: my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother… all living together in a joint family. Family values were strongly embedded into me as a result of this.

I was born in Kumbakonam, but was in Trichy till 1968. I did my schooling at Ramakrishna School in Chennai and then joined the Vivekananda College to do my BSc in physics because I couldn’t get into engineering. In 1980, I got admission to the Madras Institute of Technology at Anna University.

I was not exposed to business of any sort, but my father, in those days, dabbled in shares. He encouraged me to have freewheeling discussions on various aspects of business. Those were the seventies, but I was given enough freedom to think freely. My parents were there all the time supporting me and encouraging me.

I didn’t realise the value of it all then, but later on I understood the kind of impact those discussions had upon my thinking. More importantly, they encouraged me to take risks. In the eighties, when working in a public sector was considered safe, I was encouraged to go into a field that was uncharted, like computers.

I entered the world of computers very early, way back in 1983 when I joined Wipro [ Get Quote ]. Wipro is an entrepreneurial company that gave me the opportunity to try out various things.

To the USA

In 1990, I moved to the US on a job assignment. Would I have the courage to start something on my own had I been in India . I think I would have done the same thing even if I was in India. Actually, I had packed my things to come back to India in 1992 because my wife and I decided we were going to do something on our own in Bangalore. It just happened that we got an opportunity to get started in the US itself.

What I mean is, the willingness to do something on my own has always been there. In 1983, I wrote a small business plan to create ‘Casio calculator-based ticket punching machines’ for bus conductors, and sent it to Casio. We even dabbled in starting companies by importing game kits from Korea and Taiwan for $1 a kit.

Somehow, those things did not click because of our middle-class background, not having the money, and also because of our inexperience.

I would have done business in India too, but probably not on the same scale. Indian companies had the benefit of time. If you look at some of the successful companies in India, you will see that it took them almost 20 years to reach the first $100 million. But when you are in the US, you don’t have that luxury; you have to grow fast. The willingness to take risks was more there, and that I got because I was in the US.

I would not have had that courage if I was in India because I would have been more concerned about safety.

First venture: Fouress

When we had packed and were ready to come back to India, one of my friends at Sun Microsystems told me that he had a project. However, he wanted me to stay back and do it in the US. That was where my real entrepreneurial spirit came into play.

At that time, BFL and Mastech had just started. B V Jagadeesh, who had started BFL, was my colleague at Wipro. Jagadeesh and Sundar — one of the founders of Mastech — told me: ‘Chandra, you do it. We will back you.’

I jumped at it with just $4,500 in my hand, and no capital. I leveraged on Jagadeesh and Sundar. We started Fouress, a software design company. I could do it because we had a great understanding, because we believed in each other and trusted each other.

We took the company from nothing to over a million dollars a year in the first two years.

I attribute my success mostly to my wife for her moral and physical support for standing by me and sacrificing everything. For several months, we used to live on basic food because we couldn’t afford anything else. I need not have done it because I had an $80,000 job in my hand at that time. That means it was a self-inflicted pain, and that you cannot go through unless you are in it together.

Secondly, we were leading a nomadic life; we didn’t have a car or a house. So, we were not stuck. I feel if I had gone to the US to study, I would not have done all this that quickly.

Starts Exodus Communications

By 1993-end, Jagadeesh joined me as a co-founder. We then started dreaming of building a bigger company, something that would be revolutionary. Internet had not started at that time but we started the Internet business in 1993 itself.

That means we were ahead of the times. Probably, we did not even realise the risk we were taking. By sheer chance, after we started, the Internet bloomed and we were in the right place at the right time.

Destiny and Kanwal Rekhi

I believe in destiny. Jagadeesh and I faced bankruptcy many a time; we borrowed money with no assets but we survived.

It was destiny which brought people like Kanwal Rekhi to us. He is one of the pioneer entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley. He started his first company in 1982 which went public in 1987.

By chance, I happened to go to a TiE (The IndUS Entrepreneurs) meeting and saw Kanwal Rekhi there. There were very few people there, so after the meeting I told him, ‘I want to send you a business plan.’ He wrote his fax number and gave it to me. I still remember it was in May 1995.

The very next day, I sent him a five-page executive summary of my business plan. There was no news from him for three months. One day, we get a voice mail from him saying that he wanted to come and see us. That was the biggest day of our life; somebody was willing to listen to us.

He came to our office and on the first day, he ripped us apart. Yes, our naivety showed in our business plan. But he saw that we were passionate, hungry, and willing to take all kinds of risks to make our idea successful.

Over the next two months, I used to talk to him at his house till late at night about my dreams; we were like Krishna and Arjuna. I still remember how I told him on a rainy day why he needed to support me. And he did. He gave us a cheque of $250,000.

Exodus Communications went public in 1998 and became one of the most successful IPOs (initial public offerings) of that year.

Jamcracker Inc

Jamcracker Inc is a continuation of Exodus Communications. Exodus created a utility for the infrastructure, while Jamcracker’s role was very simple; IT as a utility. With that simple dream, we (Chandra, along with two MBA graduates from Stanford, Herald Chen and Mark Terbeek) started Jamcracker Inc in 1999.

We struggled initially, but today Jamcracker has become a leader in on-demand IT as a utility.

“The amazing success story of K B Chandrasekhar”
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