Friday, November 7, 2008

Straight from the Gut: A rags to riches story of two techie brothers

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bangalore: From the humble environs of the village in which they were born to the sophisticated corporate world, successfully breaking the shackles of poverty that ruined the mirth of their boyhood, the two brothers - Kumar Srinivasan as the General Manager, Vice President of Technology and Head of Amazon Bangalore Center and Kalyan Raman as the CEO of Global Scholar - today reign the corporate world.

The Cost of Being Poor
On Diwali morning in 1987 Kumar Srinivasan woke up just as he did every day. His biggest Diwali gift was waiting for him. "My brother gave me Rs. 10 and he was budgeting this for the last 3 months," r ecalls Kumar.

With no breakfast, he used to walk 10-12 kms everyday to go to school. Luckily for him, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu M.G. Ramachandran had introduced Midday Meal Scheme for school children in the state. "That's why my mom always voted for MGR's party," quips Kumar. While he looked forward to the much-needed meal-sambar bath with a few pieces of carrot and tomato, Kumar would stay back after all students had left to wash the vessels. This would earn him an extra plate of meal, which he promptly packed and brought home. Sometime he would give it to his younger brother in whose school the scheme was yet to be introduced, and sometimes the morsel of food would be lunch for his sister next day. His childhood memories still bear the imprints of a household bonded by the pressures of poverty.

Kumar's family lived in such abject poverty that they reached a point when they had nothing left in the house that could be sold to meet the next day's expenses. It was then that his mother decided to sell the only ceiling fan left in the house. Selling the fan would buy them food for another one full week. "The situation was so miserable that I remember my mother selling our stainless steel plates, in which we would eat, for 50 paise," narrates Kumar.

"I still remember passing down the clothes to my younger brothers. The trousers that the youngest one used to wear to go to school had more white patches on it than its original blue color because of the stitches," nostalgically says Kumar's elder brother Kalyan Raman (Kal). His energy and passion are very obvious in his words. And it is this energy and passion that were a common trait amongst all the siblings. He says, "We never felt we were poor. Even though we weren't all that happy, we were peaceful because we always lived on hope. The beauty of hope is that when you have nothing else left to lean upon, you get used to be peaceful. You wait for miracles to happen. Waiting for miracles helps remain hopeful," says Kal.

Their mother made a bold call early on saying, "I want every kid to be educated to the best of their abilities. Nobody is going to discontinue education and take a job for a short term gain. If we have to suffer for a few years, so be it." Many of their relatives thought otherwise. They saw no need for all the kids to go to school. Her stubbornness to send children to school only meant that relatives would stop helping. It didn't matter much to her.

Later on in life, Kal steps into Anna University. Best students from elite schools across the state used to come there to study, and here was a kid from the village trying to compete with them. "It was not daunting, but it was excitin
g to me," says Kal. However, it was not a happy sign to see his classmates coming to college on bicycles, bikes, or cars. Some were wearing double bull shirts and the latest branded jeans or shoes out in the market. Kal couldn't get the money to buy or do whatever he wanted. "I struggled," he notes.

While he was in Anna University, like other hostel students, he would need money for his basic expenses. A postman would come to the hostel block during lunch break, sit in a prominent place and read out names of students who had received money orders from their parents. "Senthil...Rs 500; Arasu...Rs 200; Chandra...Rs 1,000; Selvam; and so on." The students would walk up, collect the money, and tip the postman with Rs 5 or 10, as they pleased. The postman would never ever call out 'Kalyan Raman'. After the roll call, as the happy students dispersed, the postman would silently walk up to Kal and handover the Rs. 2.50 money order his mother would have sent with love. "Receiving such a meager amount would look bad for an engineering student. The postman was so thoughtful that he would not call my name as it would hurt my self respect. Even if I offered 25 paise as a friendly tip he would not accept it," recalls Kal. The thoughtful postman would only pat on his back and say, "Kalyan, study well." But the money order his mother sent him reminded Kal of a number of things and kindled his spirits, and perhaps was one of the main reasons behind what Kal has achieved today.

With almost zero money, Kal became the biggest defaulter for not paying the mess fees. The cook in the kitchen had learnt about Kal's poor condition. He would say, "I know I am not supposed to give you food but come after everyone is done with." There were several days when Kal had no food to eat. He would be eagerly waiting to grab food when day scholars at college offered him a portion of the food that they had brought from home. "It was a survival game," says Kal.

Kal is today the CEO of, which offers an online tutoring platform, where parents and students can safely connect with trusted educators who provide one-on-one tutoring, homework help, or self-paced learning.

Kumar Follows Kal
Meanwhile Kumar completed his B.Sc. in Physics, and on his brother's advice he landed in Chennai and joined SSI for Diploma in Computers. He then went to the U.S. to join his brother. He is currently is the General Manager and Vice President responsible for a business unit, while being the head of the India center. However, Kumar doesn't agree to the fact that he has achieved a lot in a short span of 10 years of his professional life. "Go, look at the Facebook CEO, he is just 23. I am 13 years behind already. Everyday I think I am very much behind and need to catch up with the rest of the world," he says. In Kumar's spirit and daring attitude to perform you cannot fail to see a mirror image of Kal.

Kal remarks, as he narrates couplets in Tamil: Kodithu Kodithy Varumai Kodithu Athaninum Kodithu Illamayil Varumai. It says: Poverty is very cruel; more cruel is the poverty in youth. "Poverty and richness can either be a catalyst or
could be a burden to get better. It all depends on the mindset. It has everything to do with the fire in the belly or having the wings of fire. There are examples of people getting repressed and depressed by poverty and unable to get anywhere. Willing to do whatever it takes and wanting to prove a point, wanting to make a difference, wanting to be known for something that's what differentiates. Poverty just pushes the goals farther and makes the struggle to achieve interesting, from the view point of others. It creates its own challenges. I don't think, it either hurts or helps if the person doesn't have that fire within him."

When Kal's dad passed away, he used to tell his mother, "Don't worry mother. Some day we (children) will make so much of money that you wouldn't even know what to do with." She did believe in his words. "Neither of us had any clue as to how it will come to pass," quips Kal. And he definitely kept his promise.

To read the full story, please check

Monday, November 3, 2008

Many NRIs think of return, but see no prospect

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Delhi: Ajit Singh, an investment adviser in Boston working for one of Europe's largest commercial banks, had it all good a year ago. Engaged to be married later this year, he now finds that his big fat Indian wedding has been called off, while his great American dream has come crashing down.

"The girl's parents called off the wedding when they heard about people losing jobs in the US. They were no longer sure about the stability of my job," Singh told IANS over phone from Boston.

His situation, perhaps, isn't as bad as it was for Karthik Rajaram, a Los Angeles-based financial adviser, who recently killed five members of his family and himself after his finances were wiped out in the stock market crash.

There is no place like home - this is a cliche that is appealing to a host of non-resident Indians in the US and Europe these days as they look for prospects back home, fearing large-scale job losses in the lands of their dreams.

But the opportunities in India are no brighter.

Kunal Banerjee, chief executive of headhunting firm Absolute HR Services, says cases like that of Ajit Singh were not isolated, as the number of jobless people in the US touched 9.77 million in September, the highest in 16 years, and has been worsening with each passing day.

"The number of resumes from people wanting to come back has doubled. The hardest hit are the ones employed in financial and IT services," Banerjee told IANS.

"It is too early to comment on whether we will witness a mass exodus. The actual picture, I guess, will get clearer by mid-November or so when companies start to gauge the real impact of the meltdown."

Kris Lakshmikanth, chief executive and managing director of the Bangalore-based staffing agency Head Hunters India, also feels that non-resident Indians will start coming back to India in droves.

"We have seen a more than 100 percent jump in NRI resumes since July," he said.

"The US and other Western economies are in bad shape and jobs will continue to disappear. The US unemployment rate, which is around six percent currently, could reach double digits by the first quarter of 2009."

Top executives at headhunting firms said the type of visa, especially to the US, was also a determinant of how quickly or in what desperation people will make that trip back home.

"A lot of them to the US, for example, have gone on H1-B or L-1 visas. Software companies typically sponsor these visas. But since their margins are under severe pressure, they have started laying off people," he said.

"For H1-B cases, the visas stand null and void and the person would have to come back un"

Among the Indians expected to return are students. Typically, they are allowed a year-long period to work in the US or Britain once they finish their graduate or postgraduate studies. But with no jobs around, they may not have much of an alternative.

Yet, there are many who still favour the US over their homeland as they have bought houses, raised families and have come to believe in the American dream - like the New Jersey-based T.K. Sebastian, an executive in the finance department of a medium enterprise.

"There are no takers for my house. I can't sell it for less than what I bought it for. I still have loans to repay. Going back to India doesn't make sense to me, anyway. I hope the crisis will not last for ever."

But the situation is no better in India. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), in fact, said seven key industries, including banking and IT, would see companies shed as much as 25 percent of the workforce.

Although the chamber later retracted the analysis, it clearly reflected what the underlying sentiment was in the country's corporate sector which has been reeling under a liquidity crisis and a lack of demand.

"There is a clear danger of fresh investments, incremental employment and additional exports getting affected in the months ahead," Rajeev Chandrasekhar, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), had warned.

"Companies do not want to admit yet. A lot of them who had hired staff in large numbers are asking candidates not to join," said Banerjee. "This is especially true for IT firms that earned considerable revenues from financial services."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Aliens Group bags Green Platinum Pre-certification

Rated by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)

Hyderabad, October 22, 2008: Aliens Group, leading Real Estate Company in Hyderabad, just added another feather to its cap. It has become the only Real Estate Company in Andhra Pradesh to be pre-certified with a Platinum Rating by Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in the Residential Townships category. This makes it one of the most Eco-Friendly Properties to live in and the First Platinum pre-certified Green Township in Hyderabad. This comes after Aliens Group being the only Real Estate Company to get the HUDA approval for a 30 Storied High Rise in Hyderabad.

IGBC is a not-for-profit organization and also the certifying body for Green Buildings in India. It follows a series of studies and does extensive review after which these ratings are given to the developments. There are very few developments that are accredited with these ratings in India and Aliens Group is one of them.

Speaking on the occasion Mr. Hari Challa, MD Aliens Group said, "It is a matter of great pride that the award recognizes our Eco- Friendly initiatives. We believe in self governance and are aware about our responsibility towards the society and environment. What makes me proud is - what we are building today is not at the cost of tomorrow."

Mr S Srinivas, Principal Counsellor of IGBC said, "We are happy to see Aliens Group contributing towards building a Green India. We are delighted to review their designs, which we found to be the best in class. It surely is a giant leap for the industry."

Aliens Group strives on their Intelligent Living Concept and this is a Silver Lining for them. It boasts about the use of the most Eco-Friendly concepts in Aliens Space Station-1. Healthy Environment, Energy Efficiency and Water Conservation are the main 'green' features of the development. They are contemplating to develop more 'green townships' in the coming future.

As the thought leaders of the 'Intelligent living' concept, they apply the new age phenomenon of 'maximised spaces and minimised hassles' to satisfy the most conscientious buyers of today's generation.

About Aliens group:

Aliens Group ( a construction and infrastructure company headquartered in Hitech City, Hyderabad. Aliens group consists of Aliens Developers, Aliens Infratech and Aliens Infra. The company was founded by the visionary brother duo - Hari Challa and Venkat Challa and is committed to revolutionize the urban landscape of Modern India. Today, Aliens group is executing projects worth INR 5000 crores with an unparalleled growth rate of 300% in the year 2007-08. Since inception in 2004 the company has grown to a 500+ strong organization. The group is steadfastly becoming one of the prime players in Hyderabad's real estate market, with a land bank of over 800 acres and mega projects in prime zones.

They are Young, They Dream Big. In a short span of four years, Aliens Group is amongst the Top Real Estate Players in Hyderabad, given the price value they command and the brand enrichment they enjoy. Such impetus of growth and progress drives them towards the vision of becoming the Top 5 Infrastructure Companies of India by 2015.

In their endeavor towards achieving the vision of 'urban revolution', Aliens Group is creating an institution that thrives in a 'leading by speed' environment with a passion for growth through customer delight.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


October 17, 2008: Aliens Group, one of the leading Real Estate Companies in Hyderabad is participating at the prestigious India Aviation 2008, International Exhibition and Conference, from October 15-18, 2008 in Hyderabad.

Aliens Group will display its acclaimed ventures Space Station –I, Space Station –II and Aliens HUB at the event exhibition, at Booth C-48a, Hall C.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Hari Challa, MD, Aliens Group said, “Aliens Group is delighted to be a part of the prestigious India Aviation 2008 Exhibition and Conference. We have participated in Aviation exhibition as we strongly believe that Aviation and luxury living go hand in hand.”

HUB would be developed in two phases, ranging from a completion span of 3 yrs to 10 yrs, and it would eventually sprawl to an expanse of 1200 to 2000 acres and beyond, with an estimated investment return of at least 13 times the initial investment in a span of 10 years.

The amenities that we would provide in Aliens HUB, both in Phase 1 and Phase 2 are Golf resort, City retreat sports resorts, internationally certified Gym & Health club, Aviation club with airstrip, Fixed Based Operation: Maintenance, Service & re-fuelling of Aircrafts, Aero-modelling club, Helipad, Off-site corporate training centres, and Business centres.

About Aliens:

Aliens Group is a construction and infrastructure company headquartered in Hitech City, Hyderabad. Aliens group consists of Aliens Developers, Aliens Infratech and Aliens Infra. The company was founded by the visionary brother duo - Hari Challa and Venkat Challa and is committed to revolutionizing the urban landscape of Modern India. Today, Aliens group is executing projects worth INR 5000 crores with an unparalleled growth rate of 300% in the year 2007-08. Since inception in 2004 the company has grown to a 500+ strong organization. The group is steadfastly becoming one of the prime players in Hyderabad’s real estate market, with a land bank of over 800 acres and mega projects in prime zones.

We are Young, We Dream Big. In a short span of four years, Aliens group is amongst the Top Tier Real Estate Players in Hyderabad, given the price value we command and the brand enrichment we enjoy. This is a far cry from our competition wherein decades are spent to gain such momentum. Such impetus of growth and progress drives us towards the vision of becoming the Top 5 Infrastructure Companies of India by 2015.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Prashant

Aliens Group

Mobile: 9177229944

Phone No.: +91 - 40 - 40336666

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fired Jet Airways employees protest lay-off

(Reuters): About 200 employees fired by top Indian private carrier Jet Airways staged a noisy protest on Thursday, while politicians weighed in on their side, demanding an inquiry into job losses in the struggling industry. Jet Airways said on Wednesday it would lay off 1,100 staff in the next few days, on top of the 800 flight attendants already retrenched, as part of efforts to cope with slowing demand, high fuel prices and the global credit crunch.
The job losses and protests have struck in an industry at the heart of India’s economic modernisation, with millions of middle-class Indians taking to the skies and carriers employing thousands of young men and women in glamorous jobs. The airlines are asking for the government to bail them out, but the government, already facing a fiscal squeeze, has so far done nothing to help.
Nevertheless, Petroleum Minister Murli Deora said it was the wrong time for Jet to be laying off employees, while Labour and Employment Minister Oscar Fernandes asked for a urgent report. A spokeswoman for Jet Airways, which had a total staff of around 13,000 people, declined comment. “We want our jobs back,” shouted Jet employees, dressed in the airline’s canary yellow and navy blue uniform, pumping their fists in the air, outside the office in Mumbai.
Analysts and activists said the sudden layoffs left the employees, who were mostly on contract or probation, with few options. “They have been terminated without notice, and they have little by way of legal recourse now,” said Vinod Shetty, a lawyer and consumer activist. They have found support from local party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which reported by local media to be in talks with Jet officials for the reinstatement of employees from the state.
An analyst said job cuts were necessary, as airlines bloated by recent expansion adjust to the new reality of falling demand. “When the industry is going through a tough time and the airline is posting losses and has no access to capital, it needs to do everything possible to cut costs,” said Kapil Kaul, chief executive in India for the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation. Archaic labour laws that make it hard to lay off employees have led to a policy of hiring more contract workers in India, which has sparked protests at the Indian units of Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co in recent years. Last month, sacked employees beat to death the India head of an Italian industrial gear manufacturing company near Delhi.
The Indian aviation industry, which had grown at an average annual pace of more than 25 percent in the past few years in a booming economy, is forecast to post combined losses of nearly $2 billion in the year to March 2009. That would be the biggest loss outside the United States, the International Air Transport Association has said. Jet Airways is expected to break even in the full year to March 2010.

Govt washes hands off sacking employees

New Delhi, October 16 (PTI): Ministers criticised it, sought a report on it and sympathised with those at the receiving end of it, but hinted there was little the government could do about Jet Airways decision to sack 1,900 employees. “There is no responsibility of the government in this case. Our responsibility is only to ensure that the economy is functioning well,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said at a briefing on decisions taken by the Union Cabinet.
He said the Cabinet did not discuss Jet’s sack order at its meeting, although Petroleum Minister Murli Deora separately criticised the timing of the decision - right in the middle of the festival season. “I appeal to (Jet Chairman Naresh) Goyal not to retrench people and try to find some solution. We have supported Goyal several times (but) this is not the right time to retrench people, particularly before Diwali,” he said.
Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes said he had asked the Chief Labour Commissioner to submit a report (on Jet Airways sacking workers). Jet handed out the pink slips to its probationary staff, who were recruited for expansion purposes, following an unexpected downturn in the industry. The retrenchment would result in savings of USD one million for the airline. “There is a problem in the aviation industry, particularly in Jet Airways. Definitely, I am looking into it,” he said.
“When our airlines are not profitable, then they will have to take their own decision as to how will they remain efficient and competitive,” Sibal said. Similar views were expressed by Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath who said: “Jet is a commercial organisation and it has to take its own commercial decisions.”