Optimism is her forte
At an age, when most women reassess their career goals with many retiring from work, Sarada Ramani forayed into entrepreneurship with nothing but optimism as capital. The story of the housewife-turned-CEO at 35 is quite inspiring, given the fact that Sarada had no prior knowledge of computer or programming. She learnt programming just two years before starting the company – Computers International.
Sarada Ramani ventured into her “second innings” – business, 14 years after marriage, when her elder daughter was 12 years old. “That is the time when women undergo an identity crisis and start looking inwards. The children grow up, their dependency on you reduces and you will have plenty of time, which you feel, should be wasted,” points out Ms. Sarada Ramani.
Sarada returned to books and during her free time did diploma courses in computer science. Sarada was apprehensive about embracing technology as she was not tech savvy. “But after the course, I realised that it was never too late to familiarise with computers,” she says adding, “I just wanted to prove myself that I could learn new things,” she adds.
When she applied for a software profession, she was sent back because “she was too old for it.” An undeterred Sarada joined the faculty of a computer centre, where she voluntarily took up many responsibilities and executed them with élan. The CEO of the centre, Shravan Sharma, remarked that she had much more potential than was being tapped.
This was the spark that fired Sarada into becoming an entrepreneur. “I should thank two men for what I am today. First my husband, Ramani Ramachandran, who helped me realise my ability and encouraged me in all my endeavours and second Mr. Shravan Sharma who saw me as an entrepreneur,” says Ms. Sarada.
Sarada started a computer training centre – LearnSoft School of Information Technology in 1996 at Besant Nagar offering flexible courses. But she met with failure in her first attempt.
“Due to our inexperience in business and marketing, we could not withstand the competition from the mushrooming computer institutions in the city. We had to close down the training centre in 1997,” Sarada notes. But her hardwork paid dividends in a different way. She got orders for software projects.
An enterprising Sarada took this as a cue and started Computers International (CI), an IT company, in 1998 with six employees. “I did not have the passion to succeed then. I was only worried about the six employees who were on board with us,” recollects Sarada.
World class entity
With hardwork and perseverance, Sarada made the company a world class entity with 150 employees and clients spread over USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia. The company has been self-funded and earning a steady revenue. The company has a branch in New Jersey too. “A supportive family and a dedicated team are the reasons behind the success of Computers International,” says Sarada showering praise on her employees.
Sarada has won many awards over the years. She received the ‘Best Woman Entrepreneur of the Country – 2004' award from the then President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, ‘Special Awards SSI for Outstanding Women Entrepreneur for 2004-2005' from Export Promotion Council of India (ESC), etc. Her latest was the MMA Award for Managerial Excellence 2010 at the 54th Year of Madras Management Association. The company has so far received nine awards.
Having started without a business background, Sarada says entrepreneurship does not warrant any financial or technology background. “If you want to do it, you can do it with perseverance, hardwork and a belief that you will succeed. Ultimately, you should love what you do,” she asserts.
Sarada is also actively involved in NASSCOM, FICCI, eWIT, IT SME, etc, and has participated in various entrepreneur forums to spread the mission for empowerment of women.
“Women empowerment is not about external achievement but internal attainment. A farmer's wife striving to educate her children despite her poverty is no less equal to a woman CEO. Both of them are chasing their dreams. You should be happy for what you are,” Sarada notes.
“Of course, society associates success and leadership to men. It is still a man's world out there. We still have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality,” adds Sarada.
Sarada sees herself as a mentor for the company in another ten years. “The company is now in a comfort zone of a cocoon. In another ten years, it will spread its wings and fly,” says Sarada, positive about setting footprints in Europe.
My Personal take :
To me personally, Sarada akka, as I fondly call her, is my strong inspiration. Motivation and co-blogger where blogging made us friends. Ewit made us associates and bonded over the years. Inner Wheel and Rotary made us members of the same movement. Sarada personally impacts a lot in my life without her knowledge. My experience of editing her book made me realize what a beautiful writer she can be. In the era, when people are so conscious about the outward appearances, Sarada is a beautiful woman with a big smile and a gentle heart. If you know her, you are just lucky and if not, you are missing out knowing a beautiful soul. I keep following her and enjoying my friendship with her all the time. Thank you Sarada akka for the wonderful bonding we have.