Atal Bansal is president and CEO at Chetu, a U.S.-based software development company that provides businesses worldwide with custom technology solutions. As an application development company with over 1,500 skilled software developers, Chetu combines technological expertise, specific domain experience, and passion for excellence to deliver enterprise-grade solutions.
How did the concept for Chetu come about?
Chetu was born at the tail-end of the dot-com boom. I noticed a growing and insatiable need for development expertise. The development outsourcing landscape, at the time, was exacerbating the issue – enticing businesses desperate for a digital presence with price models they could not resist. Low prices only produced mediocre, unsustainable code that those companies would need to throw out a few years down the line.
There was a loud, unanimous call for quality programmers capable of producing software that would last and not break the bank in the process. We analyzed the pain points of traditional outsourcing – communication barriers, time zone discrepancies, IP ownership – and assuaged them with logic.
Chetu was conceived on the dream that there can be an institution that incorporates higher standards of excellence and self-improvement without making the working environment difficult for employees. We are dedicated to growing our industry-specific knowledge alongside industry trends and allowing that knowledge to propel more sustainable development efforts. Our dynamism guides our own sustainability as well; we built Chetu to last – to forever be a guiding platform that encourages innovation and creativity by converting concepts to world-class code.
Chetu was set out to be a company that maintained a high employee retention rate so we could attract and keep the best talent in the software development industry. Furthermore, cost-effective IT solutions did not need to come at the expense of quality. As a result, we created an environment where employees are encouraged to learn from one another and perfect their skills in multiple areas to better serve clients.
How was the first year in business?
We opened our doors on April 1, 2000 from an office in Miami, FL. We were offering custom software solutions for businesses of all kind – startups, SMBs, Fortune 500’s – where there was a software need, Chetu was there to answer.
In terms of market penetration, we experienced zero roadblocks. In fact, the first year was challenging only because of the sheer volume of business we were doing. It was clear our need-based analysis and our business proposition was highly sought after. Everyone needed development and they needed it done well.
After the first year’s end, we knew we needed to increase our bandwidth to match the market demands, an understanding that led to our first wave of company growth.
What was your marketing strategy?
We leveraged trade shows heavily. We went in, set up our booth, and listened to attending business owners discuss their development road maps. This is where we really dug our heels into the industry-specific side of development. All of our trade shows were vertical specific; the more trade shows we attended, the greater the depth of knowledge we were able to exhibit within the corresponding vertical.
Soon enough, we were able to promise our clients a development team with experience in their niche field of interest. Say they needed a CRM and operated within the event planning space; we would match them with developers who not only were experts in customer relationship management systems, but also familiar with the nuances of the relationship between CRM and events planning.
Chetu’s digital marketing presence is a fairly-new initiative. In the beginning, we used freelance sites and marketplaces to address channel-marketing. Now, we have an in-house marketing team of over thirty individuals, all highly-skilled in their prospective areas.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our growth was monumental. In the first three years, our employee base grew within the United States at an average rate of 50% per year. The next ten years were characterized by exponential expansion, and eighteen years later, we are still continuously-growing internally and in terms of revenue.
How do you define success?
I gauge success by growth – how well are you evolving and how have you monetized that evolution? Also, what steps are you taking to propel forward to new heights? In my experience, companies become complacent when they finally tap into a revenue stream they are happy with. This is not success.
Success is incremental improvements made to achieve a state of enlightenment; a state more refined than where you are in the present. From the onset, we have set our goals high at Chetu because the more audacious the better. Unambitious goal-setting leads to perpetual mediocrity, while audacity breeds excellence.
What is the key to success?
The key to success is persistence, learning from missteps, and taking the necessary steps to not repeat the same mistake twice. The key to success is prying back the surface and fine-tuning the micro-processes that come together to support the machine. It’s hiring creative and driven individuals who are hungry and passionate about what they do.
We ignite tenacity within our staff by outlining the expectations for them and encouraging them to reach beyond their current achievements toward something greater. I do not believe in caveats; we believe in doing whatever makes sense in the context of the situation. Sometimes, this requires us to create new practices and rules to accommodate. Remaining dynamic in the face of adversity or unfavorable conditions is the number-one predictor of success.
Simply put, the key to success is doing whatever it takes. We go to any length to make things more efficient for our customers and our team. I do not tolerate inefficiency because inefficiency is the adversary of success.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The onus of entrepreneurialism falls on no one other than the entrepreneur – meaning we cannot attribute failures to any force outside of our own ability to adapt. There is another part of this though – success is something that must be shared.
It is the culmination of many moving parts coming together to achieve a unified goal. Yes, I set Chetu into motion and I’ve nurtured it along the way, but it has grown beyond me. Our success is now a testament to a strong and agile team, rather than the work of a single individual.
The heart of Chetu is our teamwork, dismantling the silos between us and taking risks together.
What are some of your favorite books?
Chetu was inspired by the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, a remarkable piece of literature that examines visionary companies. There are many great quotes throughout the text that have fueled my ambition.
However, at Chetu, we live by the simple quote, “Good enough never is.” It is a continuous reminder to never settle for anything less than extraordinary.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Chetu has never found it difficult to push forward in the face of adversity, primarily because adversity fuels a fire – the fire to self-improve and overcome. If I had to choose a motivating factor to continue on, it would be my team at Chetu.
My team is the engine. Where we meet rivers, we build bridges. Anytime we find we are at a deficit, we pivot. We have built a well-oiled machine where each piece is equally as important as the next.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I would say this – you don’t always need to believe in yourself, but you must have the unwavering resolve to see your idea through. Once you decide to move forward with your idea, never question it again. Be persistent, be hungry, and never, ever close yourself off to a new perspective. We can always learn something.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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