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Billion-dollar dream

Ranganath ‘Rangu’ Salgame hit the headlines two years ago when, as the India head for Cisco, he persuaded his bosses to commit a massive $1.1 billion (Rs 4,400 crore) investment to the country’s operations.

Rahul Sachitanand | Print Edition: December 30, 2007

Teja's Salgame: Execution counts now
Teja's Salgame
Ranganath ‘Rangu’ Salgame hit the headlines two years ago when, as the India head for Cisco, he persuaded his bosses to commit a massive $1.1 billion (Rs 4,400 crore) investment to the country’s operations and announced large expansions for the networking equipment maker here.

Since putting in place that expansion, Salgame has moved on from Cisco; but rather than opt for the relative comforts of a multinational, he has opted to join a Bangalore-based optical networking start-up, Tejas Networks, as President and pointman for all the firm’s market and customer-facing roles.

Salgame, who’s worked across the globe—in established markets like the US and Western Europe as well as in developing geographies such as Latin America—now wants to use his wide and varied experience to take Tejas to the next level of growth. “We expect to cross $100 million (Rs 400 crore) in revenues this year and the challenge is to grow this to a sizeable scale of at least $1 billion (close to Rs 4,000 crore) in three or four years,” says Salgame.

While Tejas was born from the ruins of the tech slowdown in 2001, it encounters markedly different conditions today. The company has bucked the current trend and focussed on the local market for most of its revenues. “India is the thirdlargest spender on telecom equipment in the world after the US and China,” points out Salgame. “Mobile and wired broadband internet growth also has massive potential.” According to industry estimates, Indian telecom companies will spend over $50 billion (Rs 2 lakh crore) on their backbone and around five million new wireless connections are being added every month. “We built our products targeting the price-conscious Indian consumer who is also acutely technology-conscious and this has helped us expand globally too,” argues Salgame.

Running this strategy for the last six years may have helped Tejas grow rapidly, but Salgame and Co are aware that to sustain this growth, global markets will be a key part of the firm’s evolution. “The competition is intense globally; our rivals are larger, with well-recognised brands and larger budgets, but we believe that our India-led business model is compelling,” says Salgame. From being a company in start-up phase, he believes Tejas is now ready to be counted as India’s largest surviving software product company. “You can try several things at an early stage in evolution to see if they work, but at this stage, Tejas needs to firm up its strategy and focus on execution,” he adds.

The firm is a favourite of venture capitalists, attracting nearly $50 million (Rs 200 crore) in backing from the likes of Mayfield, Battery Ventures and most recently Goldman Sachs, as it seeks to continue its evolution into a global software products player. “We have long-term investors and they’re in no hurry to exit,” says Salgame.

Besides worrying about his own company’s strategy, Salgame will also keep a wary eye out on the fast-consolidating software products market, where marquee names such as IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and SAP are aggressively buying their way into new and fast-growing markets. “Tejas is not here to be acquired; we’re here for the long haul as an independent, stand-alone company,” says Salgame.

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