Piyush Somani

Dynamic founder & CEO of ESDS - a leading Data Center Services and Cloud Hosting provider. ESDS currently powers 2% of the internet traffic and is growing the share every day.

Let’s start by telling us a little about your background, parents, family, where were you born, and where do you live?

I was born in Buldhana District of Maharashtra, India and spent my childhood in Rajasthan. My banker father decided to move the family to Nashik when I was 11 years old.

I completed my Electronics Engineering in the year 2002 and then joined a meter manufacturing company in Mumbai as a Purchase In charge. Soon I left the organization and joined a software company in Jan 2003. I started www.eTechsSupport.net with some of my friends in November 2003 and that’s how my journey as an Entrepreneur began. We all got 1 computer from our home and started our business in a single room which we got free of lease for 1 year. Business survived initially on the basis of internal accruals and then it flourished after 1 year of start from the internal accruals only.

What did you want to become growing up? And what did you go to school for? (They don’t have to be the same, they hardly ever are).

Since childhood I had a dream to become a Pilot, but only during Engineering, I realized that it was a nonsense childhood dream. I went to school, because everyone went to the school!

In one word (okay, one sentence), who/what are you?

A better human

Tell us a little more about ESDS.

We are one of the World’s leading Managed Data Center Services and Cloud hosting service provider. ESDS has been in business for more than a decade and has assisted thousands of organizations in transforming their presence online. We have been hosting more than 2 Million Websites and supporting a customer base of more than 35,000 from each and every country connected to the internet. We have our own Tier 3 Uptime Certified DC at Mumbai and Tier 3 DC at Nashik, along with multiple leased facilities in US, UK & other cities of India.

With a total staff of more than 390, supporting more than 15,000 servers globally, our customers are rest assured that they are in safe hands.

Our most recent project is eNlight 360°, patented from USPTO. This is built on a unique concept of vertical + horizontal auto scaling of resources allocated to VM’s. The intelligent virtual machine controller senses the loads on virtual machines in real time and scales them appropriately without any human intervention or reboot.

ESDS has so far raised PE funding of INR 25 crores (approximately USD $4 mn) from CanBank Venture Capital Ltd. ESDS is currently valued at USD 175 million.

How did you get started in the industry/ this startup/company/ project?

I come from a non-entrepreneurial background. No one in my family had done any business in the last 60 years. There were two main incidents that kickstarted my entrepreneurial journey.
My dad and maternal uncle were my primary inspiration and influence. They had both worked for the same bank for 30+ years and instead of being rewarded for their hard work and loyalty, both of them were taken advantage of by their respective employers. Their poor experience made my dad and uncle insist that I start my own business, even if it meant I was not going to make any income for the first 3-4 years. My other source of inspiration were my classmates at Amrutvahini College. I had made friends with some full-time MBA students while I was at engineering school. These business students provided me access to self-help, motivational books. You Can Win, authored by Shiv Khera was the most inspirational book for me and had a lasting impact in shaping my early career days.
My parents wanted me to quit my job at the meter manufacturing company and start my own business. The IT industry had just gone through the dot-com bust but IT was still growing and important. Because I didn’t have any background in the industry, I decided to take up a job offer at Aress Software. While I was working at Aress, I saw the need for a business around outsourced hosting support.

What according to you are the most important life lessons you’ve learned that have made you better at what you do?

Every new customer I got for my outsourced hosting support business gave me enough boost to work hard for 18 hours a day. I also get to learn many things from my staff members. There’s a new learning every day, I always keep doors of my mind open to grab any new learning opportunity that comes towards me. But the most important lessons I have learned are:

Honesty is the best Policy Always be as honest as you can while communicating with the potential customers or your existing customers. Successful people never trust dishonest people.

Pain of Discipline is nothing like the Pain of disappointment It is painful to work for hours and hours without moving from your computer or to prepare an important Presentation for your potential customer/alliance partner or answer a 30 pre-sales question sheet sent by a potential customer; but the benefits you will reap after putting the efforts will make you forget all the pain you had to take.

99% people fail when they are 99% close to the Target - Giving up when the going gets tough is the easiest option preferred by common people. You either choose to compete like Rafa and Federer did against each other for many years and especially in the 2008 Wimbledon championship; or give-up and live a common man’s life. Finishing skill and winning a tough match in the end is the common skill amongst the most successful people.

Make Mistakes, but don’t repeat - Learn from Mistakes, but never repeat those mistakes. Allow yourself and others to experiment and make mistakes, but be firm on not repeating the same mistake. Promoting innovative thinking has risks involved, but it is worth taking such risks to come up with never-seen-before outcomes. It was a risk to hire Fresh Engineers from the University in the year 2009 to build a virtualization platform, but what we got in return was an auto-scaling cloud platform which has got American patent for 20 years.

Sailing in the Dead Sea will never make you a good Sailor - Every person has to go through multiple bad patches during his journey to success, so give your best during such bad times to sustain and also to continue with the growth. Always cherish the lessons you learn during such bad times.

Share some of the growing pains in the industry and any failures, setbacks. And how you dealt with or overcame them.

I remember the first two years were full of 18-hour days. Customer attrition was also very high because the industry here was immature, and so was our business and processes. And just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, we were on the verge of a bankruptcy. We had lost our entire working capital between March-October of 2006. We had decided to diversify our business into a web hosting company and were building a data center in Nashik (a tier III city), and the customers were slow to transition. The existing customers were also late on their payments causing our funds to dry up pretty quickly.
The transition to a web hosting company was met with resistance not only by our customers but also my friends, relatives, and staff. They did not see the point in rocking the boat that was sailing smoothly. I marched on without fearing failure and resistance, and with the continued moral support and blessings of my parents and maternal uncle.

We managed to bootstrap our way out of a near bankruptcy and steered back in the black over the next few months. The biggest lesson was overcoming the fear of failure. If I had not persisted, I wouldn’t have existed as entrepreneur beyond the year 2006.

Any lessons learnt from these setbacks that you can share with our readers?

Every Entrepreneur has to go through multiple bad patches during his Entrepreneurship, so give your best during such bad times to sustain and also to continue with the growth.

Do not let the mistakes you have made in your business in the past dictate your future course of action. Learn from your mistakes, and let them be the stepping stones to your future, instead. Brooding over the bitter past will only reduce your productivity by taking away your precious time. Lessons which you will learn during the bad times will help you to reap fruits when the sun shines. So, never ever give up on your dreams. No one else can teach you better than the tough times you go through during initial years of the Entrepreneurship. Reading good books is extremely important and you should read at least 1 good book every 3 months. Couple of my friends failed in their Entrepreneurship journey, as they had no interest in the Finance and Accounts subject. I am yet to see any successful Entrepreneur who has no knowledge of Finance.

How has being a Desi inspired, motivated, or positively or negatively impacted you-professionally and personally?

I personally believe in building honest & lifetime relationships with my customers and my staff members. Indian market is more relationship based, where customer relationship plays an integral part and referrals are backbone of business. So, that has helped me immensely.

Besides that, I am proud to be an Indian. India has a lot to offer to the world. Indian workforce is the most skilled and dedicated workforce across the world.

This is the biggest advantage of having business in India as there is ready pool of talent which is imperative for running a successful business.

Indian economy is growing and with new IT dreams and programs like Make in India, Digital India planned by government, it is expected for a phenomenal growth. If we take advantage of it, we can change the face of the world. Cloud Computing will ultimately be an enabler of ITaaS (IT as a Service). Indian Datacenters would no longer be limited to infrastructure and space providers. Customers would be inclined towards getting a one-stop solution which would comprise of all managed IT services. Such Government initiatives and technology trends puts Desipreneurs such as me at a great advantage.

What drives you? Approval of somebody/ anyone you are trying to impress (consciously or subconsciously)?

Passion for customer service makes me leave everything else aside.

My driving force has always been - offering world class service to the customers and coming up with something innovative to impress the customers and project my company as a leader in innovative products/services/technology.

My Goal was to make a Global IT brand which would be recognized for its top quality service and innovative technology. I never bothered about my personal requirements, as I was committed towards serving my customers.

And of course, I am what am because of my father. I strictly follow everything that I learnt from him and maintain a character and discipline similar to him. Subconsciously I live my dreams with him in my heart and mind.

What next? Where do you go from here? (1/3/5 years out)

After the recent grand launch of our Tier III Uptime Certified Datacenter in Mumbai, we have plans to start a new Data Center in Bengaluru, India and another one in UK. We have no immediate plans for any large acquisitions as of now. We are reinvesting our profits and working with minimal debt. Our R&D team has worked on a unique product eNlight 360° which was launched recently and this product will make ESDS the #1 cloud service provider in the world.

Any practical and philosophical advice you would like to share?

Become a person of value, than of success. Become a better human.

Be optimistic even in the worst of situations. Be curious to learn and do something different from others, Honesty and transparency with customers and staff works wonders in building trust. Motivational and inspirational books guide you and help you decide which opportunities should be taken and which ones to be dropped.

Lead a down to earth lifestyle. Believe in Simple Living, High Thinking.

Please list any charity or non-profit you support that you would like readers to know about?

We have adopted a village near Nashik called Ramshej in the year 2010 and supported panchayat with many different developmental projects including better infrastructure, education and awareness programs, addressing health issues etc. ESDS team is well connected with the schools in this village and also helps the district Collectorate with software implementation projects under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan initiative taken by the government. Our Tree Plantation drive is frequently repeated every year with the ESDS team planting a number of trees in and around Nashik to help maintain the fast depleting green cover due to urbanization. ESDS family donates more than 100 bottles of blood every year. We understand the importance and the need to constantly maintain a healthy and reliable blood supply. ESDS has sponsored Food & nutrition initiatives for the blind for the National Association for Blind (NAB).

Rapid Fire:

Favorite City/Cities - Nashik & Durham

Favorite Movie - Gladiator

Favorite Song(s) - Haan hasi ban gaye, Ye Kaisi Jagah le aaye ho tum, Rimjhim Gire Saawan, Kitne Dafey dil ne kaha dil ki suni kitne dafey

Favorite time of day - Night Time

Weirdest thing you have ever done that the world can know about? Called for a 2-day strike during my 1st year of Engineering