From the file
Company: PERI•Software Solutions
Position: President, Chief Executive Officer
Education: Bachelor's degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Madras; master's degree in computer science from New Jersey Science & Technology Institute.
NEWARK, N.J. — If you were to meet Sarav Periasamy on the street you might think the 35-year-old was a bit too young to sound like the savvy and experienced technology entrepreneur that he comes across as. But in this case, first impressions are on the money because the PERI Software Solutions president and chief executive officer started the company more than a decade ago and it has been steadily on the rise from day one.
The technology product and services company is headquartered in Newark, N.J., with offices in Los Angeles, San Jose and Chennai, India. It has more than 700 employees and has raked in over $50 million in revenue since being started in 1999.
PERI's most recent move was opening its Los Angeles office in March, which Periasamy has tabbed as a way to tap into the region's technology services market.
The company has four main product lines: software, hardware, intelligent hardware/embedded software and software services. Through these lines, PERI focuses on a number of areas including: advanced metering infrastructure, business intelligence, enterprise data warehousing, geographic information systems, identity management, portal and content management, SAP, supervisory control and data acquisition and security services.
In the software realm, PERI has developed 14 products and scored with customers such as Toyota and Blue Cross Blue Shield. Its hardware products have flourished in India in the desktop PC and wireless devices markets. On the intelligent hardware/embedded software front, PERI has developed iSystem, a product that integrates voice, video and data into one communication system.
While some executives preach a narrow focus on specific markets, Periasamy prescribes to the diversification philosophy and has embraced the challenges of running a business with its hands in many different tills.
"My goal as CEO of the company is to make sure we grow in all phases so that one supports the other," said Periasamy. "Basically, it is complementary phases."
Periasamy professes that it took about five years from the company's start to really develop the upper management and firmly entrench the goals for each division. He admits that it was a steep learning curve for him as a young executive and that it was a real challenge coordinating between divisions to keep them "aligned on the same interest." One of the ways PERI has been successful in continuing to do this is to have the top execs from the different divisions meet every quarter, examine the challenges the company faces overall and get on the same page about how to address them.
Still, 11 years in, keeping the different business lines working together remains job one from a leadership perspective. "It is definitely a task that is easier said than done and we are working very hard to do that," Periasamy said.
Successful enough to stay afloat, despite the early years of maturity and adaptation, PERI — which has never received any outside funding and grown entirely on its own revenue — has provided Periasamy with the perfect proving ground for his entrepreneurial instincts. If anything, he looks back on prior mistakes as the catalyst that provided him the knowledge to stabilize the company as it moved forward.
According to Periasamy, his greatest realization is that a company must be founded around strong research and development above all else. And for that he lavishes praise on his technology staff. "The success of the growth and the success of our technology should be dedicated to our R&D team," he said.
He also says that the growth of the company broadening of the product portfolio stems from an acute attention to customer needs and market fluctuations. "All the adjustments we made the last 10 years is because of how the market has been and what the clients have been doing with their technology," said Periasamy.
Currently the area that has Periasamy excited on the technology front, more than any other, is advanced metering infrastructure and specifically what is known as smart grids. Tied in with utility companies and also the business world's push to "go green," smart grids allow electric companies, for example, to collect customer usage information from electric meters over a wireless system and then integrate that data into an information system for monitoring and management. The efficiency and speed of the system goes a long way toward reducing the waste or misusage of power. PERI has been developing its own smart grid technology for two years.
With California spending an estimated $6 billion a year on managing utilities and the U.S. market as high as $500 billion, by some estimates, Periasamy believes a foot in the door of servicing this industry is a valuable step. As such PERI has been in touch with California's main utility companies and working with some on developing its smart grid products.
"It is a huge thing and it is part of a federal initiative this year to go green," Periasamy said. "Smart grid is going to be on of the flagships for us."
As Periasamy points out, California is really one of the first states to move hard on the smart grid technology for utilities and many other states are watching California to see how things develop before following suit. The potential of smart grid technology in California is part of what triggered PERI to open an office in California and has Periasamy commuting back and forth from the company's Newark headquarters to the new LA office on a weekly basis.
He also sees a massive market for smart grids in countries, like India, that struggle mightily with their utility infrastructure.
"We feel like we are an early starter in the smart grid area and since we started early we should have some advantage," Periasamy said.
Periasamy came to the United States in the early 1990s after graduating from the University of Madras with a bachelor's degree in electrical and electronics engineering. He went on to graduate from New Jersey Science & Technology Institute with a master's degree in computer science.
Initially Periasamy put his technology background to work in the financial industry working in a number of roles from architect to senior consultant in the technology division of companies such as Prudential, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase.
When he first started PERI in 1999, the company's focus was only on software services. After the dotcom burst the company switched to a more niche focus developing technology for financial services and banking companies, which fell back on the professional experience Periasamy had previously. He was able to nab business with former employers Citibank and JP Morgan Chase, as well as other such as Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.
PERI opened its Chennai office in 2001 to support technology development. Several years of good growth from 2003 to 2005 prompted the company's expansion into new areas of business. In 2005, PERI opened an office in San Francisco, which it later moved to San Jose. In 2006, PERI started to focus on India as a market and expanded its reach in the country beyond a back-end technology support hub.
For Periasamy entering the startup world was in little doubt from the get go. "My goal was to start a business as soon as I got some experience in IT," he said.
Looking back he has no regrets about making the startup jump so quickly. "I am very happy that I made that decision early in my career," he said. "It gave me a lot of energy [to get through the early bumpy years.]"