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September 7, 1999
Big Byte Success
Radhika R Shankar in Houston
Starting small is the best way to begin according to Siva Tayi. "Even a giant oak starts from a small seed," said the founder of Sai Software Consulting Inc who started his company as a one-man enterprise in 1984 and nurtured it into one of Houston's fastest growing companies.
"We have come from nowhere to being recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies and a quality company in the Texas region," said President and CEO Tayi.
The 49-year old enterpreneur practised his success mantra, "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success," to build his information technology solutions firm into a $ 30 million company with 425 employees, making it one of the eight fastest growing Houston companies by 1997. Tayi is determined to take its $ 60 million annual earning to $ 100 million.
Winning the Texas Regional Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1997 marked an important step in gaining recognition in the ocean of information technology companies mushrooming across the United States. The award, founded over a decade ago by the accounting firm Ernst & Young, recognizes business owners in US cities who have shown a strong commitment to their business and community, and have innovative approaches which have resulted in a sound financial performance.
When Tayi left Madras in 1978 with his family, and five dollars in his pocket, all he hoped for was a decent livelihood. As a new immigrant in Chicago, Tayi scoured classifieds for a job that would support him, his wife, and son. He shelved his master's degree in chemistry and began his education in computers.
"In those days it was a lot easier to learn a little bit and become a programmer, unlike today," says Tayi.
Within four years Tayi progressed from a data processing professional to a project leader for major oil companies in Houston. But when he saw an even bigger potential in information solutions, he quit his job to start his business.
Tayi advocates adaptability, ability to quickly assess the potentials, and steer in the direction of maximum benefit for success in the IT industry.
Sai Software had its share of growing pains. Finding the first major client seemed elusive until Tayi's quick-thinking secretary had a brainwave.
"When the company asked for the linear programming department, something we didn't have, she quickly said she would transfer the call and passed it me," said Tayi.
That call in 1984 launched Sai Software into the league with major consulting companies.
Sitting back on success is a prelude to the failure of any business, specially in the IT industry, warns Tayi. "Many of my friends who started when I did are not in the business because the industry is such that you have got to be on top, you have got to be on the leading edge, and if you reach a status quo you are gone."
Sometimes being successful means making unpleasant decisions or sounding like an autocrat. "Only those who can keep up with my changing vision have room in my team," he says. "I find it rewarding to make clones of myself, to train managers so that they understand my vision and start working towards a unified vision while being able to trust each other."
Anyone who ventures into Sai has to know and work with Tayi's founding principles. "I built an employee team based on my CORE values -- Challenge, Opportunity, Remuneration, and Education," he says.
With 12 branch offices across the United States and one in India, a projected annual revenue of $ 60 million, Sai believes his focus on providing excellence in quality and cost effective solutions to problems is his utmost concern.
Sai caters to clients in diverse areas like banking, finance, manufacturing, engineering, and telecommunication industries and mobilizes its staff to work on short- and long-term projects. The increased quota of H1 visas for computer professionals was an added blessing for Sai, which works with its Madras office to recruit technical professionals from India, southeast Asia, South America, Mexico, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The hyper-energetic entrepreneur does take time off to enjoy boating in the Gulf of Mexico but even while drifting on a yacht, Tayi says, he is usually charting his next journey.
"My vision is to navigate Sai to reach the goal of a $ 100 million company by 2000." His goal is to open offices in Cleveland, Lincoln, Memphis, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, Salt Lake City, St Louis, and Tulsa.
At the end of the day Tayi says he reminds himself, "The computer industry is going to keep growing and if you ever think you've made it, you are going to go down because you've never really made it, you are continuously striving for newer heights."
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