The Indian Economy Blog

March 3, 2008

The Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur

Filed under: Business — Arjun Swarup @ 5:16 pm

In an interesting article on Forbes titled ‘The Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur’ , Sramana Mitra profiles Sridhar Vembu, the founder and CEO of an Indian firm called AdventNet. The firm today, is a ’100%, bootstrapped, $40-millio-a-year revenue business that sends $ 1 million to the bank every month in profits’.

The whole piece is worth a detailed read, but two points stand out.

The first one is this:

“We hire young professionals whom others disregard,” Vembu says. “We don’t look at colleges, degrees or grades. Not everyone in India comes from a socio-economic background to get the opportunity to go to a top-ranking engineering school, but many are really smart regardless.

“We even go to poor high schools, and hire those kids who are bright but are not going to college due to pressure to start making money right away,” Vembu continues. “They need to support their families. We train them, and in nine months, they produce at the level of college grads. Their resumes are not as marketable, but I tell you, these kids can code just as well as the rest. Often, better.”

(Emphasis mine).

The second one is this:

Vembu has a very exciting opportunity ahead of him. What the Chinese have done in manufacturing, he is showing that the Indians can do in software: undercut U.S. and European software makers dramatically. Not in information technology services. Not by body shopping. Vembu has done something few Indian entrepreneurs have been able to achieve–build a true “product” company out of India. This is not a head count-based business model

(Emphasis mine).

The first point is interesting, as it shows that the skilled manpower shortage, which is an issue many entrepreneurs (including IEB founder Prashant Kothari) have written about, could have some solutions, although a nine month investment from an employer is significant.

The second one also shows that the general media meme of that all India is doing is capitalizing on low cost labour advantages to run body shops, and not building enough ‘brands’ or ‘product’ firms, might not be true(even if it were true to large extent till a few years back) .


  1. fascinating. thanks.

    Comment by Radman — March 3, 2008 @ 6:49 pm

  2. Arjun,
    Body shopping has been given a bad name for several years now – its a rather smart decision by companies like TCS, Infy who have used the talent pool available to create a cash cow while they have themselves invested in several products that are used all over Asia/Europe/Africa esp in the Banking Sector. Apart from these body shops, a few companies produce white label research for use by the largest Fin Svcs (Buy & Sell Side) companies around the world. Other product companies include M&A deal sheet companies that have created products to automate and deliver Deal Sheets (sans DCF/APV models) for IB’s to use in their banking activities. This is certainly fascinating and a proud achievement but not unique by a long shot.


    Comment by Piyush — March 3, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  3. [...] published in Forbes, ThinkChange India picked up the article from The Indian Economy Blog: In an interesting article on Forbes titled ‘The Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur’ , [...]

    Pingback by Great Story: The Smartest Unkown Indian Entrepreneur « ThinkChange India — March 4, 2008 @ 12:12 am

  4. Correct.An individual talent must not be judged by passing a single entrance examination that stamps IIM/IIT on their Marksheet.

    Comment by Ashish Sukhadeve — March 4, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

  5. thanks for the link…

    Comment by rahul — March 6, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  6. [...] for India’s software companies. But some entrepreneurs have found a solution to this issue.  Arjun points to an interesting article in Forbes about Sridhar Vembu, who has an interesting and unique business plan. The whole piece is [...]

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  7. [...] for instance,  articles like this and this. Why are such articles being linked? I think I will start copying articles from Pragati and [...]

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  8. [...] IE Blog points to the smartest Indian unknown [...]

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  9. yeah…. I will indeed say he is the smartest entrepreneur, coz he could see what most others overlooked, merit always doesn’t come with a certificate with Bill Gates to be the brightest of examples.

    Comment by Tara Prasad — March 12, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  10. Wow interesting indeed.

    Vyas, Anirudh
    Camp Hill, PA (U.S.)

    Comment by Anirudh Vyas — March 19, 2008 @ 9:20 am

  11. There many points i wish to clariffy.

    When it is claimed that the trained high students were performing at the level of the college grads, what work are they referring – programming?

    It seems that a 9 month course is not adequate enough to arm high school students with skills in math, software programming, algebra, logic and higher english reading comprehension and writing skills. It is mind boggling that he is able to claim parity with college graduates.

    His secret might be that he employs software that is easy to use but is proprietary and thus expensive but it enables his workers to produce good code. I wish to be enlightened.


    Comment by Travel Articles — March 26, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  12. That was fascinating! Though, formal education can not be completely dismissed; it’s a right way to save on cost by putting efforts into finding talent-without-stamps-on-resumes. It’s simple math, isn’t it? You can either save efforts finding competent candidates by relying on formal education qualifiers (but pay cost in money) or save on money and put more efforts in search.

    I have recently written about how good is pursue formal education for entrepreneurial expertise; may wanna have a look – Can business schools build entrepreneurs?

    Comment by ptc — April 8, 2008 @ 2:20 am

  13. The skills shortage issue is true, but also hyped by IT companies and media. Isn’t there perpetual IT skills shortage in US? Which is why they want skilled IT workers on H1B visa, and always want more of them!

    Indian companies (IT or others) never had to worry about people shortage earlier. What has changed in last few years is dilution of the skills level, and a broad growth in many sectors. So IT jobs may not be so fancied as earlier.

    In my own experience, I have seen people with actual programming and work skills much better than their resume would have told. In fact, that may work well in a product company, not so much in service where people are groomed eventually to be able to communicate with clients. Hence the emphasis on English speaking, communication skills, employability … none of which has anything to do with actual programming!

    Comment by Vivek Deveshwar — April 14, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

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    Pingback by Indian startup twitter | Indian Startups in News | Startups in Twitter — April 15, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  15. Hi Arjun,

    Its really interesting not only to the people who are excel in their own business but also for upcoming entreprenures……The talent should not be judged only on the stamp of IIMs or IITs , there is huge talent hidden in the rural villages which may be the future strength of India which can put India on competitive edge over the globe.

    With regards,

    Comment by Naresh — November 23, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

  16. [...] competitive in the global economy Via The Indian Economy blog, an article in Forbes details the success of an Indian entrepreneur named Sridhar Vembu, the [...]

    Pingback by Staying competitive in the global economy « Publius’ Napkin — February 27, 2009 @ 4:58 am

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