After studying mining engineering, Manoj Pipersania left the profession behind to work in the IT sector in Nepal, and then in the US with corporate firms. For the past few years, Manoj has been running his own software firm called SoftServ, which has opened its first international office in Brisbane, Australia.
When did you realise you wanted to found SoftServ?
I first thought about creating my own company back in 1998. I was studying mining engineering but when I graduated I had the same dilemma as every young person: what should I do now? I’d spent four years completing a degree that I wasn’t interested in.
Then came IT which welcomes everyone who has a logical and analytical skillset. In 2001 I got my first IT job as a software engineer in Nepal. I lived there for three years before moving to US Fortune 500 corporations like Electronic Data Systems and United Health Group. I eventually left this career behind during Christmas 2013 and began to work full-time on SoftServ.
If I’d started SoftServ six years earlier, it would have definitely failed because I lacked experience in running a business. I needed to know how to acquire customers, hire talent and manage stress – I learned all of that in my corporate career.
How did your corporate experience help you start SoftServ?
In previous jobs, I always dreamt of starting my own company. Whatever I was learning in my day-job – like coding or software development – I was also thinking of how I could sell it as a freelancer to potential clients.
I was very loyal to my employers, and devoted 14 to 15 hours a day to them before going home and working for five hours on freelance projects. I was fortunate in that I started laying the foundation 14 years ago by developing my skills – better planning worked for me.
What drove the growth of SoftServ during the early years?
I lived in the US for close to six years working with corporates. During this, I got an international contract with an Australian company and began thinking it was time to quit my day job.
I arranged for finances to cover my own expenses for one year, keeping in mind that for the first couple of months I wouldn’t have any business and I didn’t want my family to struggle. I took funds from my savings to cover the first year.
On the last day with my employer, my close friend and mentor, Abhishek Malhotra, gave me a fly swatter and said: “You may need this for a couple of months – or maybe a couple of years – when you won’t have any business, so be ready for that. Use this swatter to kill your time, but don’t dare come back because this is a step you must take.” I still have the swatter as a reminder that I was fortunate enough to never have to kill time.
How did you develop your company philosophy of business automation?
SoftServ’s logo is a pie chart with three segments and the fourth is missing. My philosophy is to tell clients about everything they currently have in their business. One segment can represent their core business, another their finances and then the third their processes. The missing segment is to show the productivity that can be improved by IT automation. Every business has a missing piece, so that’s where SoftServ can fit in.
Which sectors are your clients from?
I’ve served the healthcare industry for many years and we work with a couple of Canadian oil and gas companies – one is called Occupational Hazard and Safety (OHS). We also work with an Australian mining company with a capacity of 900 million tonnes of coal production in Brisbane.
Were there other reasons in choosing Brisbane for your first international office?
After working in America, I realised its outsourcing market was saturated, so I decided not to settle. After working with my long-time Australian client and friend, Nicholas Manolis, I discovered that Australia was a growing market.
Australian businesses were still using older technologies, so I thought we should establish a local presence there. Nicholas then offered to represent SoftServ in Australia and helped me set up the Brisbane office – now he’s taking care of all my Australian clients.
How have your office needs changed since starting SoftServ?
In 2013, I had my own 800 sq. ft. office where I set up seven cubicles and I thought it would take seven years to fill them. Just six months later, all seven were full and there was still space. So, I set up six more cubicles and filled those in another six months. Then, we expanded from that office and now I’m in a Regus centre based in Jaipur.
In my own office, I was responsible for everything: cleaning, water, electricity, air conditioning, parking – there were so many problems. As an entrepreneur, I used to do so many things that were unproductive, but I realised I couldn’t spend my time thinking about them.
When we moved offices to a Regus centre, we celebrated for 45 minutes and then we were already working in the new office. After plugging in our laptops, we were ready to go – the plug-and-play setup was a great reason for moving.
Manoj is based in a Regus office located in Jaipur, India. Learn more about his innovative software solutions by visiting SoftServ.in.
Top tips from Manoj:
1. Don’t buy premises: your money is locked in and cannot be used for anything else. Instead, you should rent premises and save the money to hire people and increase your capacity.
2. Identify niche markets: look for markets with less manpower to find better opportunities. Going into busy markets will only make it tougher for you to stand out.
3. There are no secrets to success: preparation, hard work and learning from failure are crucial if you want to succeed in business.