Meet Tel K. Ganesan, Founder and Executive Chairman of Kyyba.
Kyyba Inc. is a global company that originally started as a staffing and outsourcing firm. Today Kyyba has close to 900 employees globally and Kyyba’s portfolio of companies includes Staffing, Emerging Technologies, R&D to advance innovation, Health & Wellness, and Entertainment (Kyyba Film & Kyyba Music); as well as a non-profit foundation.
Tel Ganesan is a testament to faith in entrepreneurialism and the American dream, and he’s looking to spread that message. Ganesan is the Chairman of Kyyba, a Michigan headquartered global IT, engineering services, and software product company focusing on multiple industries including the healthcare, education, and manufacturing domains. He earned an Executive MBA degree from the University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business (2014).
Ganesan came to Detroit in 1989, from India, to study engineering at Wayne State University, and shortly after graduation got a job at Chrysler. By 2005, he followed a dream of starting his company Kyyba Inc., a staffing services firm. Just as the company was getting started, the Great Recession hit, which hammered the automotive industry, a large chunk of Kyyba’s business. Kyyba responded by diversifying into other industries, setting the stage for growth.
Today, Kyyba has close to 900 employees, and Ganesan has used it as a springboard for other business ventures, Kyyba Innovations, Kyyba Wellness, Kyyba Music, and has even expanded into movie productions through his venture Kyyba Films. Tel is also the Founder of Kyyba Kidz Foundation which promotes education and provides job skills for the most deprived group of children.
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Table of Contents
Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Tel K. Ganesan: I came to Detroit in 1989, from India, to study engineering at Wayne State University. I always loved cars and the automotive industry and shortly after I graduated I got a job at Chrysler. By 2005, I was ready to leave Chrysler and pursue my dream of starting my own company. I started Kyyba Inc., as a staffing services firm. I bootstrapped the start of the company and we were just getting going, having landed a large client in the automotive industry that was making up the bulk of our earnings.
Just as the company was really getting started, the Great Recession hit, which hammered the automotive industry, which, as I mentioned was a large chunk of Kyyba’s business. We got hit hard. that was a major lesson for me and the company, we had to diversify and not be too dependent on any one industry. I responded by diversifying into other industries, setting the stage for Kyyba’s growth. My entrepreneurial journey continues to evolve. As Kyyba’s core business grew and matured, it led to my being able to launch and follow my other business passions including Kyyba Innovations, Kyyba Wellness, Kyyba Music, and Kyyba Films.
It has even allowed me to give back in multiple ways such as my founding the Kyyba Kidz Foundation which promotes education and provides job skills for the most deprived group of children; as well as devoting time to mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs. Today this is where I am and if you ask me tomorrow or next week or next year, I will tell you that it’s a journey that is constantly changing and evolving.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Tel K. Ganesan: My current focus is the upcoming Kyyba Films feature Trapp City which is in post-production. I am putting my energy and time into the steps to get the film finished and ready for release into the marketplace. I am extremely hands-on and view that any job that needs to be done, gets done – so, for example, if I need to be in LA I go there, If I need to pick up the trash I will do so. I do each task based on what the project needs and how quickly I can bring it to the finish line so that the audience can see and enjoy the movie.
We have global and domestic distribution for the film and I remain focused on the steps we need to be taking to ready Trapp City for the distributor, film festivals, its release, and distribution. It’s an exhilarating project, fast-paced, deadline-oriented, and full of personal and professional tangible and intangible rewards.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Tel K. Ganesan: I feel punctuality is a strength. When someone isn’t punctual it makes me question whether they can or have the discipline to manage their own time, As an entrepreneur, as an employee, in your personal and professional life, if you can’t manage your own time, get things done on time, how can you manage a project and get it on time? For me, punctuality is a hallmark of entrepreneurial, business, personal and professional success.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Tel K. Ganesan: I believe that it’s all about timing, as well as time and place. As cliche as it may sound, you have got to strike the iron when it is hot, you can’t strike the iron when cold. In the businesses I’m in, at the right moment, you can disrupt and capitalize on the situation. but timing, time, and place are relevant in all business ventures, look at Henry Ford trying to launch a car when there were only horses and buggy.
Or, look at Elon Musk with Tesla and EVs. It’s the same with Uber and Airbnb. The sun comes at a certain time, and night comes at a certain time. If you don’t follow the timing, you will be out of sync. Nature teaches us that everything has a time and you just need to listen to nature.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Tel K. Ganesan: I truly believe that timing is everything. It’s how I live my life and run my companies and it allows me to do both to their fullest potential.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Tel K. Ganesan: For me, there’s certain intuitiveness and energy that I feel and know and when those times come you must take action. If you allow yourself to go into analysis paralysis, you lose the opportunity. When the time comes you have to push the pedal to the metal and you have to accelerate when there is an opportunity. Too many people fall into analysis paralysis and freeze. I know, because I made the mistake of allowing that to happen. Lesson learned and you need to follow your intuition and the energy and if you do, your company will enjoy the true growth it deserves.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Tel K. Ganesan: I think of it much like when you realize you have to charge your iPhone, you need to charge it and take a break. It’s all about energy and when you are burnt out and low energy you have to replenish your energy. You shouldn’t be driving ahead if you’re feeling the energy dragging. In an entrepreneurial journey, you have to know when to take a break. You need to be fully present and fully energized to be successful – this journey, and that of a CEO and leader is not for half-baked people, you won’t be successful.
So, when you’re feeling you’re just going through the motions, you’re feeling stuck or rudderless, take a break, refocus and recharge and then go out there and own the industry – or, at least your part of it.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Tel K. Ganesan: I knew when I was at Chrysler that I was losing my mojo and that it was time to leave and begin my entrepreneurial journey. I believe a mind needs variety to keep it sharp and work hard. To keep things fresh, you need to keep doing new things. When I started Kyyba, it was time. We had immediate success and then the recession hit. Again, that was timing. It was showing me that there was an importance to diversification to cement the success of the company.
Each time we expanded and grew, it was about timing. That’s why I moved into film making, it is timing and it challenges me and helps keep my mind fresh and creative. Timing and knowing when you need to feed the mind with the good stuff – I think too many of us aren’t recognizing that and aren’t doing what we need to do to balance and take advantage of the timing of things.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Tel K. Ganesan: I also ask myself, am I leaving a legacy behind for not only the time I live but also after I am gone. How am I impacting and leaving a legacy? What are you doing to realize your true potential? For me, I find it’s important that I mentor people and do things that will also help lots of people, like with my launching Kyyba Health to impact people. It goes deeper than making money. It’s about the time and energy and how am I sharing. Will I leave a lasting legacy and how many people will I be able to serve because of this business?
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Tel K. Ganesan: The pandemic is actually an incredible time to do a lot of experimentation, try new ideas, and look at your operation, philosophies, mission, and culture. It has also proven to be a great time when people aren’t in the office to disrupt you, to spend the time on the things you would normally neglect you to have the time to do them. It’s good to take advantage of this time to do an exam of your business.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Tel K. Ganesan: So many fictional worlds have become at least a fraction of reality. If it were in a fictional world like Star Wars, I would sell my wellness and my passion and maybe some lightsabers and flying saucers. And, I would be selling R2D2, or at least replacement parts. But now R2D2 is like a prehistoric version of the robots we see today – it was a fantasy and now it’s a reality.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Tel K. Ganesan: I like to do a lot of meditation – I do it daily and it helps ground and focuses me personally and professionally. I wish I could spend more time doing yoga, kayaking, boating, and reading books — all of which recharge me.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Tel K. Ganesan for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Tel K. Ganesan or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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