Sid Mookerji 04MEMBA was the global CEO and founder of Software Paradigms International (SPI), a provider of IT and back office services to retailers across the world. He has since founded Silver Spirit Global where he serves as CEO and Silicon Road where he is a managing parnter. Mookerji spoke with Emory Business about differentiation, networking, and lifelong learning.
EB: What was the genesis of SPI?
Mookerji: After graduating as an electrical engineer from BITS [one of India’s premier tech schools], I worked in technical consulting roles helping corporations solve business challenges using technology. In 1994 my wife and I founded SPI to address the specific needs of large retailers, using an outsourced technology services model. They were facing a desperate shortage of business savvy, high-quality software programmers. The primary requirement was reliable delivery, but lowering costs was also a goal.
EB: How did you get funding for SPI? Any advice for those seeking funding for their fledgling business?
Mookerji: I bootstrapped the company. We have zero debt and no external investors. Depending on the kind of business, it’s smart to seek angel investors or private equity funding if cash is available and leveraging capacity is not sufficient.
EB: You earned an undergraduate electrical engineering degree in 1988, worked in industry, and started and had success with SPI before you decided to pursue an Executive MBA in 2002. What spurred you to return to school in the middle of a successful career?
Mookerji: It goes without saying that networking is key to success, even if—like me—you are not a natural networker. Goizueta provided a great networking opportunity. Some of my Goizueta professors and classmates are my best friends and advisors. Jag Sheth is a valued advisor and is on SPI’s advisory board. I’ve sought out assistance from many other professors, including Rick Gilkey, and gained tremendously from the association. Many of my 04MEMBA cohorts are good friends, and some of them also became clients. In addition, I learned more about running a business in aspects I didn’t know even existed. It shows in the results: we are more focused on our differentiators, using M&A as a tool to emphasize our success and to stay laser-focused on retail.
EB: You are a seasoned entrepreneur and an innovator in your field; what are the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the years?
Mookerji: First, it’s important to have a product or service that a customer wants and is different from what the competition offers. Differentiation that is tangible in the eyes of a prospective client requires declaring what you will not do, particularly in the services space. Second, use diversity as a tool for success. It’s easiest to surround yourself with people who look and talk like you, but who said that success is easy? Third, give back to those elements that made you successful: employees, leadership, and the world that you, your clients, and employees come from. This is not just about being a nice person; it’s a sound business strategy.