Manohar Reddy – Founder of Feuji, A successful Serial Entrepreneur

Manohar Reddy – founder of Feuji, is a successful serial entrepreneur with global presence. With his cheerful presence, he readily connects with employees, customers, partners and communities alike. He believes in empowering teams and giving them enough ammunition to fire all the cylinders.

Before finding his sweet spot in the business of IT services, Manohar experimented his luck with mushroom farming, solar lanterns and film distribution. His real turning point in his entrepreneurial journey happened when he helped Sekhar Kammula in post-production and distribution of his first movie, “Dollar Dreams” in 2000, right after he landed in the US in search of his own dollar dreams.

Manohar’s empire: Founder of Feuji || 200+ employees || 20 clients || 5 countries || Goal:   $50 million company in 5 years.

Manohar’s family:
Wife: Lakshmi || Pillar of his family
Daughter: Sindhu || 11th Grade || Visual Arts
Son: Sashank|| Student at Manchester University, UK || Football player

My First venture
After my engineering, I started my career as an R&D engineer in a solar photovoltaics company. After 1.5 years, I quit that job and started mushroom farming in 1993 with Rs. 25,000 as my capital. My happiest moment was when I saw the first bloom of mushrooms. Back in 1993, mushroom farming was the ‘in thing’. But these mushrooms were premium priced and we couldn’t sell them. There wasn’t a market in those days hence we shut the business down.

Second Venture
Then I joined another solar firm as a Customer Support engineer and travelled south India installing and commissioning solar power plants. After working for one year as an employee, I got back to my entrepreneurial journey in 1995 and started Solensys – a solar lantern trading company. I used to make Rs.300 per lantern. I didn’t have much financial but still sold about 150 lanterns. That’s when I met Harish Hande – a social impact leader. I merged my business with his social startup , Selco and took their franchise for AP.

We did try-buy installs of solar lighting. Syndicate bank supported us with the necessary loans. I realized, I got very little returns after putting in lots of efforts. I took personal loans for the franchise business and came to a realization that solar wouldn’t cut which paved my way out of Selco.

Third venture with Sekhar Kammula
I had co-produced Dollar Dreams along with Sekhar Kammula earlier hence we took this project forward. The shooting finished in just 15 days in March 1997. I helped Shekar with the post-production and distribution. I took the movie to Bombay and promoted the movie to all the studios. 20th Century Fox released the movie and channel V partnered with us to promote our movie pan India.

Back to employment
During 1997-2000, I dabbled with IT and worked briefly with Center for Energy Technology, Osmania University.

Off to USA
I went to USA as an engagement manager in 2000 for a small boutique IT consulting firm in Dallas.  The company got acquired in 3 years and I declined the offer from the buyer company.

Gallop Technologies
I started Gallop Technologies in November 2003. Gallop got acquired in 2013.  By then, we had become the largest automation testing partner for HP. We launched TAAS, Testing as a service. At one point, we developed a tool called WinQuick – a migration platform from Winrunner to QTP. We had an exclusive global contract with HP. HP sold our migration platform to their large enterprise customers. The idea was to align with a market leader and create a need for this partner to sell our product in order to increase their market share. Our tool converted 92% of the Winrunner code automatically. We had outsmarted several large IT players in those days.  CSS Corp, that had 2000 employees was one of our implementation partners.  We were probably, the largest boutique testing services company in USA

We got acquired by a public listed entity in 2013. One of the conditions that I had ensured during the acquisition, was to be relieved from the transition within 60 days.

Back to India

  • I took a break for two years from 2013 to 2015. During this time,
  • I built a beautiful farm house inspired from Kerala’s architecture where I plan to retire.
  • I went to my home town, adopted my village S.Uppalapadu under the Smart Village Program and built a state of the art skill development center, education center and health care center.  We took up several initiatives under the Smart village program including 20 non-negotiable development aspects defined by Govt. of India.
  • These included creating a database of the village population, clean water, un interrupted power supply, internal and external roads, drainage, building lavatories for all, greenery in the village, creating a public grievance address system, soil testing for the cultivated lands, solid waste management system, education for all children under 15, addressing malnutrition, women empowerment, skill development programs for youth, awareness campaigns about swach Bharat, helping micro enterprises with bank loans, a fully functional primary health center and e-seva center with digital connectivity.
  • I created a seed fund worth $1 million and utilized Govt. schemes to match these funds.  The whole village came together and contributed Rs 50 lakhs for the development fund and that made them true partners in the development process. Till date we spent 13 crores (With Govt, Public and Private partnership) in transforming the village into probably the first smart village in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Story of Feuji
Key team members from Gallop started a new company and brought me in. That is Feuji. It had already been three years now and I was more of an enabler and cheer leader than a CEO. I believed my job was to set the direction, support with resources and empower the team so that they can operate with freedom and unleash their potential. We are into cloud CRM, bid management and supply chain management services.

I leverage startups in India who are specialized in niche areas and leverage their IP globally. It is a win-win for both the parties as these startups don’t have the ability to reach out to the US and the European markets. I invested in few startups of which one dealt with the Supply chain space. Today Feuji works with large enterprises across the globe. We are head quartered in Dallas, Texas with global teams working in Sofia, Chennai and Costa Rica. We partnered with Shipley Associates to create world class bid management and proposal writing teams in Bucharest, Costa Rica and Hyderabad. We intend to build/ acquire IP in supply chain space.

Circle of life
I was born in S.Uppalapadu a village in Kadapa district. As a tribute to my parents I wanted to do something for this village and the region. I started with building a children’s park, burial ground and funding a temple.

As we came up with the comprehensive development charter for the village, Our Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi started the smart village scheme. We grabbed on the opportunity as the government was our ally. We formed a passionate village development committee of 10 youngsters. We even included the naysayers.

How we got the buy-in from my villagers
We got the buy-in slowly. When we were ready to inaugurate the skill development center and dedicate it to the public, the village head asked me to invite all the 720 families (population of 3000).  It was a life changing experience.  I realized, 90% of the people are good at heart, live a simple life and try their best for their kids. I can’t forget the warmth they had shown when I explained that the building was built for them. I got hooked on!

Rest is history:
We adopted a local school, appointed teachers from Teach for India. The school strength went up from 55 to 138. We trained several B.Tech graduates from the region and placed them in multinational companies.

How I got government on board
I requested and convinced my college senior Mr. K. Vijayanand, IAS now Principal Secretary, Information Technology, AP Govt. to adopt my village as a partner. I sought his support as I knew people might treat me as an NRI and may not take me seriously, especially in the govt. offices.  For example, If say I tried to reach out to our collector for help, there would be a chance that he might not respond but when Mr. Vijayanand called things moved fast.  Funding is only one part of the story, we needed participation from the govt. officials, villagers, and private people who could fund.  We created and documented a successful PPP model for adoption and development of a model village that could be replicated.

We even created cost models for different aspects of transformation of a village. We started organized festivals and events in the village to bring people together. Vijayanand was the partner in the forefront along with a great team on the ground who made it possible. I was mostly in the backend. We invited all the local leaders and politicians to launch any new programs. This is how we made them feel inclusive. They liked being in the forefront and became our ambassadors for the mission.

This was the first time, the village populous contributed to anything other than temples. They took ownership in the development and hence we moved on from earning their trust to the populous championing these initiatives on their own. After all it belonged to them.

Summary: S.Uppalapadu is now ready to be declared as the first Smart village in Andhra Pradesh. My secret sauce is building CXO relationships with large companies.

Bhat) Where did you learn business strategy?
Manohar) Bootstrapping taught me how to prioritize. I brought in big guys on board to scale the business faster.

Bhat) How did you take care of your core team?
Manohar) I shared good portion of my wealth with my team members during Gallop exit. I have to give a lot of credit to my team for all the wins we had during our journey. Our Core values define our culture.

Wow the customer | Simpler is better | Walk the talk | Spread the cheer | Pay it forward

Bhat) What transformed you to be a giver?
Manohar) I was an ignorant and pampered as the eldest kid in the family. I realized and valued the hardship my parents went through when I started earning.  We had hard times growing up, as much as my grandfather was well off and was head of several villages at one point.

Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey and Napoleon Hill’s books influenced me during my colleage days. I used to listen ‘I believe, I can fly’ song by R.Kelly during my early days of entrepreneurship.

Rapid fire
Bhat) Describe yourself in three words
Manohar) James Dean’s quote “Dream as if you live forever and live as if you die today.” is my mantra.

Bhat) What would be your lifelong dream?
Manohar) Impact 100,000 lives during my life time.

Bhat) If you are stranded in an island, what are the two things do you want with you?
Manohar) Music instrument and a knife.

Bhat) What compliments people give you?
Manohar) I am a fun guy to be around and people around me are happy.

Bhat) What are you most proud of?
Manohar) my kids

Bhat) Leader or follower?
Manohar) Leader

Bhat) Happiness?
Manohar) Living in the moment.

Bhat) Four things I want to change about myself
Manohar) 1) Procrastination 2) Sleeping 3) Diet 4) Financial discipline

Bhat) If you were to do it all over, what do you do?
Manohar) I have no complaints with my current life, so I’ll do the same, probably spend more time with family this time. I wish, I spent more time as my kids were growing up.

Bhat) What will you never do?
Manohar) Compromising on principles for material gains.

Bhat) What do you fear the most?
Manohar) I don’t know. May be, Losing close people.

Bhat) What’s the next big thing?
Manohar) Artificial Intelligence. I wonder, what would this world become cause of the possibilities attached with AI?

Bhat) What frustrates you?
Manohar) Nothing much besides matters at business sometimes. Otherwise, I count my blessings and thank god for the wonderful family, the journey and the opportunity to participate and experience the joy in making a difference in the community.

Bhat) What do you do off work?
Manohar) Poker, Beer, Golf, Travel, good time with friends and family.

Bhat) What would you like to do more?
Manohar) Spend quality time with family. Drive with kids. Walk with wife.

Bhat) Secret sauce of entrepreneurial success?
Manohar) Empowering teams. Trusting them. Equip them with resources. I love to be a mentor than a driver.

Bhat) What is TiE for you?
Manohar) Fostering entrepreneurship fits well with my philosophy. I made good friends and I have learnt many things from fellow TiE charter members.  We formed a fun group that celebrates with no specific reason.

Bhat) Message to a budding entrepreneur?
Manohar) Go all out and give your best. In the end, every bit of the journey is worthwhile.

Create wealth. Share some of it with the family, team and community as what you give will give you more joy than what you keep. Written by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Manohar Reddy Mayaluri” on 15 March 2018 as part of TiE Today Series, a TiE Hyderabad initiative

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