Ragu Bhargava Featured in CEO Today Magazine
Inside Global Upside CEO’s journey to success and his plans to reinvent how companies grow
Ragu Bhargava is not only a successful serial entrepreneur, he is probably the most optimistic one. In his view, there is no problem that cannot be solved. Ragu’s driving idea – the idea that animates his life, that guides his business and makes him show up to work at 4:00 am – is that there is always a way. Whether it is people, process or technology – everything can be made better with the right skills and the right tools. This month we caught up with Ragu who told CEO Today about his journey from India, to Alaska, to the Silicon Valley, and his prescient take on the limitless potential of saying ‘yes’.
Yours is not the typical Indian American Dream story – a nerdy Indian starts a computer company in a Silicon Valley garage and makes it big. Your road to Silicon Valley came via Alaska – tell us about your journey.
Yes, Alaska is an unlikely choice for someone who grew up in the hot desert region of India. I came to Alaska as I had family there and felt that there would be some support structure for me, though in reality, we were pretty much on our own from very early on. I came to the US with my wife and mother – got into school, worked multiple jobs and so began my journey to where I am today. I chose to study accounting and worked very hard to do well in school. I came to Alaska with mere $5 in my pocket due to strict currency controls. I had to support my mother and wife, very quickly realizing that it wouldn’t be an easy ride.
It’s interesting you chose this route even though you were born to a very privileged family. Tell us why?
I was indeed born with a silver spoon – having everything I needed, but as luck would have it, I was given a chance to come to the US. I didn’t have to come here but I did – it was a huge risk, yet something in me told me to take it. Once I was here – it’s wasn’t easy but I knew that I wanted to give it my best shot. It meant working hard and working smart, so I focused on getting a good education and doing jobs that allowed me to stay focused. I eventually got a job at Deloitte where I quickly moved up the ranks. After 10 years in Alaska and Silicon Valley with Deloitte, I transfered to corporate life and became Controller and then CFO of public companies; in these roles, I handled complex M&As and IPOs and even more complex finance and accounting challenges.
In hindsight, I was lucky enough to be exposed to some very challenging situations and was smart enough to say yes to take them on. It laid the foundation of what’s been the driving force for me – in the words of Thomas Jefferson: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
How did Global Upside happen?
Gita, my wife who was also working in accounting, and I saw a challenge in the market. There was a lot of work as companies were growing at an explosive pace – they needed back office support with knowledgeable people who could run their accounting and finance operations efficiently, while they focus on their core business – and there was a tremendous shortage of qualified personnel. We quickly moved to fill this gap. We put together a small but highly talented team, led by Gita, and built our own technology solution to help us work fast and efficiently; internet connections in those days were not as reliable.
What truly differentiated us is our can-do attitude and ability to think out of the box. We were a brand new company, so winning client trust was difficult, but our technology was a real game changer. It allowed us to work on client data overnight without being at their site and have everything ready for them when they came to work in the morning.
A large Silicon Valley company asked us why they should hire us. Gita’s response was to ask to visit their office. She went on site, reviewed their accounting process, and interviewed key stakeholders. She gave the client a simple list of what was wrong, how we can fix it, and how quickly. No frills, no big spiel. We won that client.
Are you an accidental entrepreneur then?
I am an opportunist – Gita and I share that same spirit. We saw an opportunity and decided to go for it.
Immigrants don’t leave their home country to necessarily run a company; they leave their safety net to really succeed and make something for themselves and their families. Life gave me an opportunity and brought me to a point where I could choose the comfort of my home and a very successful family business or take a risk and start from scratch. I chose the latter – to take a chance at making a better life for myself and my family. The rest is history.
You are very successful in your own right but also married to an equal maverick. Tell us what it is like to be a power couple.
Yes, I am married to an incredible lady. Gita is a talented professional and a very dedicated wife and mother. She is the one who ran the company while I was busy being a CFO, all the while raising our three kids and taking care of my aging mother. She is the COO of Global Upside today and personally manages all aspects of our client…