In 1979, Shiv Krishnan came to the United States from India with $500 and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Madras. 13 years later, after courses at Clarkson University and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Krishnan founded INDUS, an IT solutions provider to the US government.
A leader in the DC regional business community, Krishnan has received numerous accolades, ranging from being named “One of the 20 People We Admire In Washington Business” by Smart CEO Magazine to being a three-time finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Krishnan answered a few questions for WashingtonExec about his work at INDUS and his new business ventures:
WashingtonExec: What is the latest with INDUS?
Shiv Krishnan: INDUS had a banner year in 2010 and is heading into 2011 with several growth opportunities in front of us. 2010 was a big year in terms of long term GWAC bids for INDUS to help position the company for strategic growth for the next decade. Several GWACs we had been tracking for the past 3 or 4 years all hit around the same time – Air Force Netcents-2, NIH CIO-SP3, and DHS EAGLE-II. Due to the incredibly talented and hard working team, which I have the good fortune of working with at INDUS, we were able to submit great bids on all of these critical contracts. Think about the growth potential of these contracts – NetCents-2 AFNETOPS is upto $15 Billion, CIO-SP3 could be upto $40 Billion, and EAGLE-II is at least a $20 Billion contract. INDUS already won GSA Alliant twice, once in the initial award of 2007 as the smallest and only privately held company and then again on re-award in 2009, as a $50 Billion 10-year IT GWAC. Combining all of these critical IT vehicles to grow Defense, Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Civilian Agency business, INDUS will potentially have upto $125 Billion worth of contracts on which we can bid and win Task Orders over the next 10 years to keep growing. Even a 1% market share on these contracts is worth $1.25 Billion.
2011 will be challenging because of the Budget battles with Continuing Resolution and the looming Debt Ceiling battles. However, the government’s IT spending is still growing from $85 Billion in 2010 to $120 Billion by 2015. We remain positive because of the technology support we provide our customers with and the recent addition of experienced talent at INDUS. Terry Fitzpatrick, a 30-year industry veteran joined us from SAIC to run our BD Organization; Justin Brown, who managed CIO-SP2 at SAIC, joined us to grow our Health-IT practice; Mark Tanner, former Deputy CIO and the Director of Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force at FBI, joined us to spearhead our foray into Digital Forensics and Critical Infrastructure Protection; Nino Milanese, a senior manager at Social Security and Center for Medicare Services and an expert on Fraud Detection technologies joined us to grow that line of business.
We were also pleased to win three significant recompletes in the first quarter of 2011. With technology being the enabler to achieve Government efficiencies, INDUS is in a great position to continue to serve our country well.
WashingtonExec: What are the growth areas for INDUS over the next 12 to 18 months?
Shiv Krishnan: I see INDUS growing our business base leveraging our enabling IT service capabilities in Secure IT Infrastructure, Software Applications Management, Actionable Intelligence, and Enterprise IT in helping solve the critical problems our customers are trying to grapple with.
These challenging areas for our customers where INDUS offers solutions are National Critical Infrastructure Protection (Safeguarding water, industrial facilities, bridges, roads, borders related information assets), Lifecycle IT Support, Information Transport Systems and Network Defense, Open Government, Digital Forensics and Fraud Detection, and Health IT.
The markets which we focus on where there is tremendous need for these services are (1) Cyber Protection and Security, (2) IT Modernization, and (3) Actionable Intelligence.
WashingtonExec: It is a tough climate for mid-tier companies like INDUS. What is your strategy to deal with these challenges?
Shiv Krishnan: Mid-tier companies like INDUS are constantly squeezed from both sides – the very large businesses competing hard for smaller contracts and the growing number of small businesses fighting for more contracts to be set-aside. However, challenges also create opportunities. I am a firm believer that mid-tiers offer the depth and breadth in terms of capabilities and resources to our customers and we can be very agile, responsive, and quickly apply resources to help solve customer problems. In this environment, INDUS is bidding aggressively on larger GWACs to win our fair share of vehicles where more and more of customers’ work is going to. In addition, we also strategically partner with both large and small companies to bid on the right opportunities where INDUS can visibly add value to our partners and the customers.
WashingtonExec: You recently hired Sid Fuchs. Why did you hire him and what is he going to do for INDUS?
Shiv Krishnan: Being able to bring someone who is so incredibly talented as Sid Fuchs as a Senior Advisor is a real coup for INDUS. Sid’s focus as a Senior Advisor at INDUS is to help us increase our presence in the Intelligence Community (IC). INDUS already has some presence in some of the three-letter agencies, but with Sid’s years of experience working for the IC within the Government and his subsequent insight in helping grow a $ Billion firm in TASC with a huge focus on the IC will be very beneficial in navigating the IC contracting world for INDUS. It is not just about winning contracts, but it is also about being able to hire trusted professionals to deliver excellence within that community, where Sid is being very helpful.
WashingtonExec: You are the Chairman of SECAF which recently held their 3rd annual gala. Tell us more about SECAF and why you are involved?
Shiv Krishnan: The Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum (SECAF) is an organization primarily focused on providing education, resources, and advocacy for small and emerging government contractors trying to navigate the Federal contracting landscape to grow their businesses. SECAF is celebrating its 10th year anniversary this year and has grown rapidly to include almost 400 members, most of whom are small government contractor companies. I have been involved with SECAF almost from its inception and have been their Chairman for the past three years. Being involved with SECAF gives me the satisfaction of giving back to the community where I grew up, being a small business, before achieving success in being a mid-tier firm. With the government increasing its support and spending on small business contracts and requiring larger companies like INDUS to subcontract to small contractors, my being part of SECAF and developing relationships with several strong and high quality small businesses is, in fact, great for business. It is a win-win-win for INDUS, our small business partners, and the government!
We started the Awards Gala three years ago primarily to celebrate the achievements and successes of small companies, because I felt that there was no other awards celebration in our community which is focused on the smaller companies. The pride and joy that these companies feel when they are recognized for their success due to their hard work from an early stage business is palpable.
WashingtonExec: You are known as a great connector in the business community. How will that help you or INDUS in the future?
Shiv Krishnan: The simple fact to the matter is that business is all about people, especially if you are in the business of delivering technology solutions deploying your intellectual capital. As our friend Sid Jaffe used to say, “People buy from people they know and trust!” To be successful in business you need to make connections with other businesses and customers through the people who work for those organizations. In our law abiding society and especially government contracting where you need to comply with all the various rules and regulations, knowing people will not automatically get you a contract; however, you can talk to people to understand what their needs are which will enable you to offer your solutions to help meet those needs thus increasing your chances of winning that big contract.
Another benefit of developing your business connections by investing your personal time over the years is your ability to receive good, honest advice from the people you know on many aspects of growing your business.
WashingtonExec: What is the best piece of advice you ever been given?
Shiv Krishnan: The best advice I ever got was from my grandfather, who was an educator, at a very young age. His advice was that “you focus on what you need to do and do that exceptionally well, and the results will follow.” In my business experience, this simply has translated into focusing on your core competencies and differentiating your business by doing that exceptionally well, which keeps your customers coming back to you. As INDUS has grown over the years, I have adapted that core principle of focus to the key technology areas where we excel at.