Contributed by Nikhil Kotta | Lebanon Trail High School DECA, TX
Sagar Pelaprolu has spent the last two decades here as an entrepreneur. He has launched several successful businesses, from manufacturing to IT, with his latest endeavor being Sage IT. In this interview, I talked with Sagar to learn more about his career journey, tips for success, and future goals.
1. Describe your career journey. How did it start and develop?
I'm the first-generation immigrant in my family, and my journey in the United States started about 25 years ago when I was 25 years old. Like any other immigrant, we came here to do something we could not achieve back in our country. My journey as an entrepreneur did not start in the United States. I was lucky to start my business after graduating from college in India.
My IT career started over an ice cream conversation with a friend. He figured out I could do something better in IT because we could solve a complex problem he faced in his IT job. That was when we both started the company back in India. We named the company Athene Softek. Athene is the name of a Greek goddess, Athena. Since then, I have used Greek names whenever I started a company. That is how SAGE IT came in. It’s been a wonderful journey of 25 years, and I plan to continue for the next 50 years.
2. Do you believe that your previous entrepreneurial journey has helped you with your IT companies now? If it weren't for that, would this have been successful?
I would say yes and no. My manufacturing and other small companies, where I spent a few years, gave me resilience and the habit of hard work. I had to get the unit at 5:00 in the morning for some of those manufacturing units. Working 18 and 20 hours in that initial startup gave me that resilience, which helped me in the later part of the business.
Like any other business, the IT company back in India was a great success initially, but we eventually failed in that because of my inexperience.
Inexperience is about more than just running the business. It’s about managing it. Making a product or offering a service is only part of a successful business story. Managing your operations, finances and administration is equally important. Many fail not because the product could be better but because they cannot manage the business, which is why we saw a big downfall in our initial IT company.
3. When you came to the U.S., did you simultaneously work on the job and all these entrepreneurial things? At what point did you decide to put in your effort to those entrepreneurial experiences fully?
There was not a point where I decided to put my whole heart into the business; instead, my mindset was that managing my business was a non-negotiable term for me. During this time, I took a job because we needed to ensure we were still financially afloat while working as an entrepreneur so we could reach our IT goals. So, I took a small detour and then came back right away.
4. What advice do you have for high school and college students to achieve the same level of success as you?
There is a misconception that everything can be done. It cannot all be done at first; we need to understand the non-negotiable contract we are making so it helps determine your priorities. We all have the same time; we are using it, negotiating it with it and picking up the priorities.
For example, did I have extra time for this interview? No, but I made a non-negotiable agreement with myself: I will be available for you guys today. Once you make that contract with yourself, you automatically find the time. Where do you find the time? What are the areas where your presence is optional? Find a time when things will still happen, whether you are there or not, and that time becomes available automatically. Once we decide to do involuntary work, that becomes a non-negotiable contract.