India’s entrepreneurs throb in the heart of the country. Pushing it upwards, one day at a time so that it can achieve its maximum potential. This is the story of one such self-made entrepreneur, Yaswanth Vepachadu, who has a proven track record of more than 15 years in different horizons. From sowing the idea-like seed of a company to nurturing that sapling into a successful fruit-bearing tree, Yaswanth’s innovative business models are unparalleled.
When asked how the thought of becoming an entrepreneur first came to his mind, he shared an inspiring anecdote from his school days. He said, “In the 8th grade, I was asked to create a business proposal by my social studies teacher. I said I want to do something in the dairy industry, set-up a 30-acre dairy farm as the demand for that is always high and when it is about feeding a person and a person’s stomach, it is always a hit. And then I added, I want to also start an old age home along, as a part of the same idea. She was shocked to hear that. How are these two related, she asked! I explained that I wanted to serve the society and do business — that is my success mantra. I knew that our elders don’t have anyone to take care of them. And while I wanted to do something to help them, I didn’t want to go around asking for funds. So I had to figure out a way to help them and that help would come from the revenue generated from the dairy farm. That was my first idea and then ideas never stopped.”
Yaswanth continues to believe that entrepreneurship and philanthropy go hand-in-hand. Doing things for a cause is important. His mantra is ‘GROWING WITH LIFE’.
Coming from a family of bureaucrats and public servants, Yaswanth pursued a path that no one in his family had thought of. Nobody he knew well had entered the world of business. He had to carve his own path and that’s why this journey is worth reading about; full of insights and learnings.
“I used to hang out with people who were doing BBA and MBA when I was in school. That’s when the thought of doing business crossed my mind. But then I was focusing on my education then and entrepreneurship took a backseat. Sports and education was a priority for my family. I played basketball, was a ranker in academics and life went on…”, he says and adds, “What hit my brain was AKAI TV. It would be right to say that the pagalpanti to start a venture of my own was when I heard about how AKAI TV was functioning, offering television broadcasting in your home for just ₹1 a day! That’s when the keeda for entrepreneurship started.”
Yaswanth was born in Khammam, 200kms from Hyderabad and did his schooling there. Later on, he moved to Hyderabad and studied engineering at one of the topmost colleges in Telangana (then Andhra Pradesh). During these college years, Yaswanth’s dad gave him pocket money of ₹2000 every month. In this money, he had to manage all his expenses – right from staying in a hostel to paying for food. For a young lad who is 19-29 years old, managing in just this much money was not enough. He started thinking of ways to earn more and stand on his feet. To generate an income, Yaswanth started home coaching for kids from a nearby Marwadi neighbourhood in the second year of his engineering. He started with few kids as his students and taught them well. Word caught on and soon he was getting offers from various teaching institutes to take up a job as a teacher. That’s when he thought of starting his own coaching institute and was not only able to support himself but earned a lot of money for someone who was only 19-20 years old, earning the tag of a ‘young achiever’.
But the catch was, his parents had no idea that he was doing this! He was expected to study and do nothing else in his student years. That was tradition. One day in the final years of his engineering, his father got to know about his ‘adventures’ via the HOD of his college because Yaswanth was lagging behind in his studies. The HOD’s son worked with Yaswanth’s dad and during one conversation this fact was revealed to his father. This was a shock for his family because he had always been a star student. While his father never interfered in his life, trusting him to do what’s right, this time he came down as a ‘surprise visit’ and had a tough talk. “I still remember that day. Dad was like who are you, are you my son? I was expecting so much from you, you were a top ranker and what are you doing with your life? I became very emotional after that talk. I had to move back in with my family, leaving my friends behind and there was a constant watch on me — was I going to college? What was I doing? It was like a Bollywood movie,” Yaswanth reminisces and laughs.
Once Yaswanth cleared his academic backlog, his father asked him to take up a campus placement. He had no hope of landing a job because of his academic history of the last few years but he promised his dad that he will make it work come what may. But because of an academic project that Yaswanth and his friend Rahul did at L&T, researching concrete mechanics, and the consequential paper presentation which stood second in Asia, under the guidance of his other friend Srikant, things changed and he got a placement at Aditya Birla Group in Pune. While working there, his manager, Ravi Valekar, encouraged him to pursue an MBA. Despite some reluctance, he applied at NMIMS, Mumbai to study actuarial science and got in without preparation. This was a jump that was once again not expected out of him. He was worried about what his family would say. To make matters worse, it was a very difficult time for Yaswanth because his dad was undergoing bypass surgery in Hyderabad. “When my dad was in the ICU, I told my dad I had joined at NMIMS. I was a little afraid about how he would react but when I told him he was happy. I quit my job at Aditya Birla and started studying again. I learnt the art of networking while I was at NMIMS and met a few companies, inviting them for placement at my college. One of the companies I got in touch with, offered me a role without an interview and the starting date for that job was three months before my course was about to complete. Things started from there…I kept getting lucrative job offers,” shares Yaswanth.
After a few years of working with different companies (it’s interesting to note that Yaswanth has never given an interview for all the job roles that he was offered), during which he was sent to countries like UK and US, in 2011, Yaswanth decided he was done with jobs, he wanted to start something of his own. He started a company called Sagi Sol. He had savings, he opened an office in the US, recruited people and kept scouting for projects for three months. But things were very slow for a new company in the US. He was criticised for his choices by everyone because he left a high-paying job and was now constantly incurring losses. During this time, the person who stood by him through thick and thin was his wife, Prashanthi. She understood his dreams and was always there with him offering all the support he needed. It would be true to say that behind this man’s success, is a woman who kept giving selflessly, without expecting much in return.
“My family has always been there for me. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. They are constant source of motivation and I am grateful for that,” Yaswanth said.
It took a while for Yaswanth’s parents to understand what he wanted to do with his life. Eventually, his dad understood his enterepreneurial spirit and came around. Until then Yaswanth’s wife was the only strong pillar for him to lean on in times of need.
“My dad gave me a piece of advice that worked for me. He said, first grow the tree at home, then try to grow it somewhere else. He told me to do research. During my research, I understand that there was a lot of demand in the power sector — and got into feeder segregation. I approached different industrial companies — I had to start from scratch, without any help. After much persistence, a friend helped me out and gave me a small project in Madhya Pradesh. I had no knowledge about what had to be done but I learnt on the way. I have also made losses that ultimately amounted to a treasure trove of learning,” he shares.
He got into the nitty-gritty of feeder segregation and because there wasn’t much competition, the company grew multi-fold. His clients base kept increasing. Investors started to get interested in his venture. But then, things changed. Yaswanth’s company started incurring heavy losses because of payments not being made on time and increasing expenditures. There came a time when things were so bad for him that he had to sell off all his assets, including his house and car and move into a rental home with his wife.
“I remember those days — can never forget them. There was a time when I had only seven rupees in my pocket and I didn’t want to take money from my wife. I was skipping lunch and endlessly working at the office. One day my wife and I went out for buying groceries. She asked me to get a milk packet…and I had no money in my pocket. I cried inconsolably then…that’s when I told her I had no money. She gave me her card and told me that come what may, she will support me, she told me she loved me and that love has kept me going,” he expresses and adds, “Prashanthi was managing the household expenditures, the education of my kids. When I was in heavy debts, she sold off her gold for me. For an Indian woman, to sell off her jewellery, takes a great amount of strength and selflessness. I can never thank her enough for that. I started from zero, went on to become a millionnaire and then dropped again to zero. But she was always there, like a strong rock. It might sound a little filmy, but without her I am nothing. She is my inspiration.”
From then on with dreams in his eyes and his wife’s support, there was no stopping him. He took his company to great heights once again. He also started another office for Sagi Sol in Canada and went on to diversify in multiple fields like infrastructure, cybersecurity, transport, metals, real estate etc.
With companies like Sagi Sol, Taxi on Mobile, Owner and Tenant (his latest venture in Hyderabad which offers innovative property management services) among the bouquet of the companies Yaswanth has invested and is involved in, he has achieved phenomenal success. His ventures have also been acquired by top companies around the globe like Facebook and Deloitte, solely because of the potential they held and the scope they promised.
Having seen uber-success in life, Yaswanth continues to be a down-to-Earth person who wants to do good in the world. His journey has not been easy, but he kept rowing on. “There is a Telegu saying that I used to often remember. The saying says that if there is a monkey on a tree and if your family wants that monkey, you should be able to get it for them, even if it is beyond your capacity. I used to follow this religiously at the start. Nothing is impossible,” he shares and adds, “I have confidence in what I do. I have seen failures but I never stop. I never give up, whether it is in personal or professional life. I make my own destiny.”
Signing off with a message for the upcoming entrepreneurs with big dreams and high hopes, he says, “Everything is an opportunity. Keep believing in your ideas and if an idea is not successful that is not the end of the story. It’s all about how you look at things. There is always a challenge to address, a problem to solve that can be turned into an entrepreneurial venture.”