Profile of the Month | Vibhu Sharma
You might mistake this soft spoken young gentleman to be the guy next door, but he will surely surprise you with his entrepreneurial skills. Not even forty and making a mark with Ingenious Inc., Vibhu Sharma speaks to Lights Camera Action host Ruchi Mukherjee.
Vibhu was born in India at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT-previously UDCT) staff housing, where his father was the director. He later followed the path to the same institute and studied chemical engineering. “It was an academically charged and competitive atmosphere that yielded the best out of all,” says Sharma. “In addition, there was a strong family connection to established business houses in the country, many of whom were alumni of ICT. This was the inspiration for me to be part of the entrepreneur community and build a business,” explains Sharma.
As we sip coffee at a local Starbucks Sharma tells how very impressed and so glad he is that this dream has been realized. Upon graduation he moved to the US to study for his Masters in Chemical Engineering and later moved to Houston, the Mecca of oil and gas and a haven for chemical engineers.
In the year 2003 Ingenious Inc. was established by three like minded folks: Bharat Kamdar, José Rodriguez and Vibhu Sharma. The journey started in a 100 sq feet office, self financed, with a goal to develop a technology company with cutting edge products and industry leading consulting practice. “It’s been an exciting journey, and we are just getting started,” says Vibhu. With now over fifty employees across four different countries and serving over 150 clients, the company is in the process of being one of the 6th fastest growing technology companies (FastTech 50) and 207th fastest private company in 2009 (INC 500). “Our core competency is to provide sophisticated simulation solutions—similar to flight simulators, along with e-learning, business intelligence and safety,” he explains.
Q. What does it take to establish and run a successful business?
A. Starting and successfully growing a business requires a unique set of skills. One needs a stomach to handle the wild roller coaster rides, deal with risks, cash flow issues and more. Each day is different. As an entrepreneur you have to realize that you are not just a boss but the President as well as the janitor. Don’t sweat all the small stuff. Realize your own strengths and weaknesses and build a team that compliments your capabilities. Like my father says, “There is no substitute for hard work,” so be prepared to put in the long hours and wait patiently for the fruits. Make sure you are passionate about whatever it is you choose to do.
Q. Anything that you would like to suggest to young budding business owners?
While I don’t consider myself old (he chuckles), I do recommend my younger friends to take their time to build their knowledge in their University programs. That experience is quite enriching. Having a technical degree with good grades gives you a big edge in an increasingly competitive space. Pick up some diverse skills other than simply touting GPA. Please don’t just pursue money. Make sure you get into something you really like. Decide whether you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a small pond. Also importantly—conduct yourself in a gracious and ethical manner. Your reputation stays with you forever.
Vibhu along with his very charming wife Shreela who is a Professor at UT School of Public Health is actively involved with Pratham. “It’s a great organization focusing on education to the poorest in India. Having had the privilege of education in the best of schools and an opportunity to live the dream in the US, it’s a strong desire of my wife and I to give back,” says Sharma with a smile.
Even though juggling high volumes of work, two kids, and charity duties the couple feels it is very emotionally satisfying to be able to contribute in some way. All work and no play is no good and so he does engage in a variety of hobbies to keep things interesting. Amidst few telephone interruptions, Vibhu shares how he enjoys singing and playing drums on a big Yamaha drum kit at home, cricket, table tennis, and tennis he’s got it all covered, but what he is most passionate about is cars both driving and talking about them.
A dreamer, a goal setter and a good friend. An inspiring story. Readers please share your thoughts and questions about Vibhu Sharma.