As IT entrepreneurs go, he is perhaps a senior citizen at 32, but then Kunal Nandwani is perhaps an example to follow for those who undergo adversity and then bounce back, and build a new business.
Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of a `3-crore-turnover company straddling IT and finance, uTrade Solutions, Nandwani has won the emerging Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Award by the Software Technology Park of India (STPI) this year.
His company supplies software for stock exchanges and functions from SAS Nagar.
An alumnus of the Punjab Engineering College (PEC) University of Technology and born and brought in the city, Nandwani was leading a life of a young investment banker in the US, when in 2008, his employer, the Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy. "Those were tough times. I worked with another investment bank for a while. Then, I realised that a job can only pay you well, but an enterprise creates real value."
He then came back to India and started scouting the market for products he could offer, a research period. After six months, he realised the stock exchanges were using a product that could be improved upon and bang! He had the idea and uTrade was born in 2011 from his home in the city.
"Selling is a real challenge. Here, I was knocking on doors and people would say, 'I already have the software' Who are you?' This was tough," he says.
When prodded on Chandigarh's future and whether or not IT could perhaps make it a more energy-efficient city and retain its pristine character, he says: "It is difficult to create smart (energy-efficient) buildings as it is and building bylaws are strict here. For this, the government's involvement is needed. This is a futuristic model, but has potential."
Now, 30% of business on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is done on his software and he plans to sell it to banks and other institutions in London.
The initial capital for his funding was his own, around `45 to 50 lakh, primarily on talent acquisition, which he says remains a challenge. "We scan 500 resumes, conduct 80 interviews and then hire only 1. This is how grave the talent problem is."
Nandwani's tip to entrepreneurs is: "Businesses that start for money do not make profits. Those who have an attitude to learn actually get the recall and make money."
He cautions that 90% of the start-ups fail and there can be pain involved.