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Satya Prabh Kathooria On Sailing Kays Harbor Technologies Through Indian IT Ocean

Satya Prabh Kathooria comes from a family who always had a strong emphasis on academic education, lateral thinking and problem solving. From very young days, his life used to spin around science projects, gadgets and sports. His grandfather and father were both engineers, while his mother was a doctor. Satya's paternal uncle was a Laser scientist and a PhD from Germany. He was a role model for almost everyone in his clan. All these impressive personalities had a strong influence in giving direction to Satya's life. Recalling his childhood days, Satya notes,
My grandfather had the greatest influence on me. He used to challenge me with engineering problems every now and then. I used to take his challenges as do-or-die exercises and would go crazy solving those unknown problems.
Satya completed his B.Tech from CCS HAU from Hisar in Haryana and also did his MS in Software Systems from BITS. He worked at Infosys for about 12 years working on multiple projects. Kays Technologies was the brain child of Satya's wife Manisha Kathooria and Vikas. They started this company in the year 2010. Satya left his job to bring in his expertise in January 2012.

Now called Kays Harbor Technologies, the IT consulting and services company which is dedicated to help businesses become more agile, efficient and responsive through technology led innovation, has grown to be a huge organisation. They cater to enterprises, small businesses and startups for helping them in leveraging full potential of IT.

In this exclusive interview with us, we got Satya to talk about his initial steps into the startup world,​
Satya-Prabh- Kathooria-CrazyEngineers
Satya Prabh Kathooria
CE: Tell us about your biggest passions from your growing up years. Are you a first generation entrepreneur?

Satya Prabh Kathooria:
I had the strongest passion towards engines; I still remember tinkering with a 1.5 cc compression engine of a remote controlled glider that I would spend hours honing its combustion chamber; rebuilding its broken connecting-rod with aluminum alloy which would break down after every few hours of running.

I had another passion in sports - roller skating. I was quite enthusiastic about it and had put my heart and soul into it. Won many medals; went up to National level but couldn’t pursue it to next level due to academic pressure.

I had no formal or informal coaching in entrepreneurship when we started. Just had the engineering and management skill I had acquired at Infosys. Now when I look back, it appears to be a bit scary on how we got started but at the same time gives excitement on what all learnings have come our way during this period.

CE: You are certified PMP Professional. Our readers will love to read your thoughts about this industry- recognised certification. Tell us more about your work experience at Infosys.


SSatya Prabh Kathooria: PMP is a widely recognized industry certification. Because the qualifying criteria are very stringent, there is lot of phobia around its preparation. But if one focuses on concepts one is using in day to day Project Management, clearing PMP won’t be that difficult. It’s a good tool to get yourself acquainted to few unknowns and get due recognition in the industry. Typically when one is working on large assignments, then PMO (Project Management Office) is setup where basic qualification required is PMP. So the certification comes quite handy when taking up such responsibilities.
Starting my career with Infosys and witnessing Infosys’ growth has been an experience of lifetime. Infosys is known to build solid foundation for processes, values and ethos. If someone takes a closer look, one would find quite a bit of traces of Infosys in Kays Harbor Culture. Like Infosys, we have a strong focus on honesty, transparency and brotherhood.
It’s quite rightly said, once an Infoscion, always an Infoscion. And I would like to give all the credit to Mr. Narayan Murthi who has always been an epitome of values; he touched and changed so many lives.
CE: What was the motivation behind starting a software development company?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: "Making a difference to the lives of people around me". For me, Kays Harbor is a means to achieve this objective. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing happy Clients and being a growth partner in their journey, at the same time witnessing a motivated and engaged work force which is with us to make a career rather than just complete a job.

It has been almost 5 years since we started, and still the motivation remains the same. How we can strengthen our expertise and increase the knowledge base to bring more value to our clients? What we can do further to create a world class workplace and a work culture that promotes more than just a transactional relationship, a culture where people respect each other, share ideas and work towards the shared vision.

CE: What research/preparation went behind building Kays Harbor? How did you meet your co-founder Manisha Kathooria?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: It was the other 2 co-founders, Manisha and Vikas, who had actually sown the seeds of Kays Harbor (formerly Kays Technologies when it started). I came into picture little later. Manisha created the blue print of the company and got started after doing the due diligence and competitive analysis. Both Manisha and Vikas are great at networking and I bring in the execution and process expertise. Manisha happens to be my better half and I am blessed to have her as my wife, friend and a business partner.

Vikas was my buddy and roommate since college days. He is one of the most resilient entities in Kays Harbor and both me and Manisha drive our energies from him.

CE: What important problem does Kays Harbor solve? Could you walk us through the various services Kays Harbor offers?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: For any business, it’s always a challenge to make a choice between opting for an off the shelf software solution vs custom software development. While an off the shelf software solution can get you started quickly and at a lower cost, these are not scalable as per growing business needs and are mostly generic which means a business ends up tuning their business to align with the software just because they have made an investment. It’s should be the software which has to follow business practices, and not the other way round.

Kays Harbor, as a software consultancy firm, helps clients translate their specific needs to custom technology solutions, which are flexible, scalable and match their business needs. In short, we help our clients adopt the right technology and scale it as they grow.
Kays Harbor started with Healthcare as the focus industry, and soon ventured out across industries, domains and technologies. Our expertise lies in developing custom built enterprise solutions (like ERP, SCM, CRM, web portals etc.), BI/analytics solutions, mobile solutions and software consulting.
From telemedicine solution to vehicle dispatch solutions to B2B commerce portals, we have done some very exciting work.

CE: What is the revenue model for Kays Harbor?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: We partner with our clients to help them adopt right technology solutions, and scale the technology as they grow. We have worked with entrepreneurs, small businesses and large enterprises alike and tuned our services for their specific needs. We generally operate as an extended organization of our clients. Thanks to our commitment to quality and transparency, we have 85% client retention rate and 100% client satisfaction score.

We primarily being a service oriented company, we work on Time and Material basis (T&M) and on Fixed Price basis (FP) for the solutions we build for our clients.

CE: What was the major turning point in the journey of Kays Harbor?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: Things turned around for us when we started focusing on long term engagements and let go off the short term engagements that we have picked along the way. As the organization matures, it is more about choosing the right opportunities that would work well and leaving out the rest. One would be initially uncomfortable with the fact that you are rejecting more than you are selecting; in fact it’s scary but it is what reaped huge benefits for us in the long run.

CE: How difficult was it to bag your first big client? How did you go about cracking that deal?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: It was a Herculean task for us to get our first client, since that was the very first time ever in our lives when we were involved in selling something. But when the first cheque arrived, it was a moment of joy; the sense of confidence and satisfaction that prevailed was unparalleled.

When you start up, the most difficult part that comes across is the sales (if you don’t have prior experience). But with time, and with few successes and failures, you learn the process. I now realize how important it is for any individual to have a sales experience some time in their life, especially during the growing up years; no matter how small or big that exposure is. What matters is the sales attitude and mindset that one learns, an attitude to accept failure with stride and again go for another deal with equal zest and zeal. It is a zone of go getters.

CE: Who are your immediate competitors? How is Kays Harbor different from other similar companies? What sets it apart?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: While there are number of offshore IT service providers, what sets us apart is probably our business philosophy which is centered on trust and transparency. We believe in maintaining open and clear communication with our clients and employees. We believe opportunities will chase us, if we do the right things for our clients and for our teams. Thanks to this mantra, we have our very initial clients and our very initial employees still with us.

CE: What is the best feedback you have received from a customer?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: One of our clients in the US for whom we are conceptualizing and developing a healthcare telemedicine solution to be launched in the US sometime soon, mentioned – “I wish people I am working with here in the US were as good as your people. You guys are in the other part of the world and are so responsive; it feels like you are working next door. I don’t get this experience with my vendors here in the US.” It feels great 😀.

CE: What is the hiring process at Kays Harbor? What do you look for in a candidate applying to Kays Harbor?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: When it comes to hiring, we have a very stringent recruitment process. We expect our prospective employees to have an innovative bent of mind and sound technical skills but we lay a deep emphasis on cultural fitment.

We have always been keen to nurture a culture of honesty, integrity, ethics and deep moral values; and most importantly sustaining it. Only people who have similar kind of fitment can absorb themselves in the culture and act as catalysts to pass it on to the next levels.

For us, it is very important that the candidate’s values are in harmony with the values of the organisation. Therefore, a good cultural fit is an absolute must as we believe that skills can be acquired if the attitude is right. When employees consistently practice the values they share, they feel more harmony at work. This provides an experience which our clients look for; satisfaction & quality.

CE: How big is Kays Harbor at the moment? How big a market is it that you are targeting and how do you plan to expand?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: We are a team of 50+ people at the moment and planning to scale to 150+ by the end of 2016. The driving thought has always been to scale Kays Harbor further up the value chain, strengthen our expertise and increase the knowledge base to bring more value to our clients. At the same time, we are on a mission to create a world class workplace and a work culture that promotes more than just a transactional relationship. The idea of building and sustaining such a culture is our fundamental motivation on an everyday basis.

KaysHarbor-Team-CrazyEngineers
Kays Harbor Team

CE: What advice would you give about leadership to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: I don’t have a single advice but a set of 4 thoughts which are closely interrelated and are a must for your long term success.
  • Lead by example. You have a huge responsibility on your shoulders. Unfortunately, your decisions won’t have an undo button. So think before you speak, think before you act. Don’t act in haste and never leave the consequences to chance. You won’t be lucky every time. There is no shortcut to success so focus on building your organization in rightful ways. Build it up on trust and transparency. You might face adversities when following the correct course but in the long run, you’ll be a winner and much more satisfied with what you did.
  • Clients are the fuel to your business, employees are the engines. Both are equally important. Genuinely invest in your existing clients. See what needs to be done to make them successful. It is much cheaper to keep your existing clients happy and getting the repeat business than to onboard a new one. Being transparent and honest in your operations increases your chances on having long term relationships, as long as your other performance parameters are good.
  • Treat your employees well. Give them their due respect and acknowledge them as rightful partners to your success. Always remember that you won’t be able to build great organization alone and you would need a great team to write a success story. So don’t forget your employees as you progress in your journey.
  • Never ever shy away from hiring people better than you. And don’t suppress someone who has the potential to grow. Give them space and nurture their talent. You’ll be surprised to see the difference they make around you.
CE: What is your one tip for entrepreneurs who want to stay motivated always?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: “Acknowledge the fact that Entrepreneurship is not a race but a journey. And never ever forget to enjoy this journey.”

As an entrepreneur, you need to take tough decisions and bear the brunt of many of your decisions. But stop fearing failures because when you have chosen to be an entrepreneur, you’ve practically embraced adversities. Failures are bound to come and they would give learnings that successes will never give you; so treat failures as your best teachers. After you are through with your troubled phase, you’d have matured and grown to next level without even planning for it at the first place.

CE: Any message for young engineers?

Satya Prabh Kathooria: Folks, you are one of the brightest corners of any organization. Your knowledge and expertise has not only got a direct correlation to the success of the organization, but also to your own long term success.So never ever stop investing in yourself.

Knowledge is a treasure that no one can ever take away from you. It will not only give you confidence but will also help you command respect. This investment will give you dividends throughout your life. God bless you.

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Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare • Dec 3, 2015
Radhika
Folks, you are one of the brightest corners of any organization. Your knowledge and expertise has not only got a direct correlation to the success of the organization, but also to your own long term success.So never ever stop investing in yourself.
That, I admit, is TRUE! I really wish a lot of people really understood this. For many engineers the learning literally stops the moment they are assigned on the project that uses technology they're familiar with. Really amazing interview. Congrats, @Radhika .

Looking forward to many more such interviews on Founders Circuit! 😀

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