How this Chennai-based start-up grew to become a market leader in SAP consulting

ByFathima Ashraf

Published Nov 17, 2023 | 9:00 AMUpdatedNov 17, 2023 | 2:56 PM

Naagarajan Maran and friends Selvakumar M, Ratnakumar N and Gaurdian George founded Kaar Tech in 2006. (Supplied)

India is witnessing a new generation of start-ups who are making their presence felt not just in the domestic sphere, but across the world. For most of them, it isn’t a straight path to success. Their journeys often highlight stories of courage, resilience and in some cases, a stroke of luck.

Maran Nagarajan, Selvakumar M, Ratnakumar N and Gaurdian George shared a dream — to start a company of their own in their hometown. The four friends, who spent over a decade working abroad, saw their collective aspiration take shape in 2006.

The four co-founders were driven by their dream to start a company in their hometown. (Supplied)

The four co-founders were driven by their dream to start a company in their hometown. (Supplied)

Together they started Kaar Technologies, a global SAP (Systems Application and Products) consulting organisation. A market leader in SAP consulting, the Chennai-based company has grown to become one among the top Indian companies collaborating with SAP in digital transformation, implementation of ERP and automation of core business processes using SAP’s native On-Prem and Cloud technologies. 

“Ever since college, we have nurtured our vision to become entrepreneurs. We stayed in touch over the years. All of us were having our cushy corporate jobs abroad. But we decided to leave it behind and come back to India to pursue our entrepreneurial journey,” shares Maran, who drives a workforce of 2000+ professionals in 10+ countries.

Also Read: Dealing with the double-edged sword of deepfake technology

Choosing the right field

Coming from middle-class families and modest backgrounds, they were driven by the passion to be back in India, their homeland, Maran tells South First.

Having discovered the potential of IT services early on, Maran and team knew what their niche should be from the beginning.

“Back in 2005-06, the IT sector was in its ascendance phase. We foresaw this boom happening and decided that our company should be in IT services. But there were too many generic players at the time and we didn’t want to be one of them,” Maran shares. 

Hence, they decided to focus on business applications. 

Also Read: Third Wave Coffee brews another outlet in Bengaluru

Starting small

“Our seed funding was hardly anything,” Maran recalls.

“We were bootstrapped. The four of us had pooled in our savings and that wasn’t much. It would be around 30-40 lakh, not more than that,” he says, adding that their intention was never to make money on a short run.

“We are always fired up by the passion of building a lasting institution like Tata or Infosys. When we started in 2006, this culture of raising venture capital was not our principle. We wanted to build companies that last for a lifetime. That was the philosophy. Even today, that is what drives us.”

Also Read: Kerala’s anime fans unite in Kochi for the city’s biggest anime meet!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by KaarTech (@kaar_tech)

A journey of ups and downs

Like for most start-ups, Kaar Tech’s journey was also studded with all kinds of challenges.

Maran explains, “We remained a bootstrap company for the first 16 years. If it is a bootstrap company trying to be fiscally prudent, month on month, you need to generate surplus cash. If you did not generate that, you don’t have a sustainable entity at all.”

The most important learning in the process was the need for fiscal discipline. And the team learned it the hard way, Maran recalls.

Nararajan Maran. (Supplied)

Maran Nagarajan. (Supplied)

“When the going gets good, it tends to create a hubris mindset. You start complimenting yourself for all the good things happening around. That’s human mentality. And that happened to us as well.”

He adds, “In 2015, we hit a financial catastrophe and we couldn’t manage our resources. At that point, surviving was a huge challenge. It took every ounce of stamina to withstand that kind of storm. We had to stay put and correct the system.”

Resilience is not built in one day. Only the negative experience that you go through in life builds it for you, he shares.

To face the challenges the team had to put in a lot of guardrails including building fiscal discipline, contractual, managerial, hiring discipline, among others.

“We had to correct so many factors within the system to create a robust system which could withstand more assaults in the future. Since we went through a difficult time once, when COVID hit, Kaar Tech defied the trend and we grew against it. So a good resilient company can withstand market cycles and external assaults.”

Also Read: ‘The F Word’, a sensitive take on dysfunctional family dynamics

Key for growth 

To make one’s vision into reality, what one needs first is a compatible founder mindset. Maran recommends pursuing an entrepreneurship journey with a co-founding team of at least two or three others because that creates complementary skills.

“It also creates a cohesive unit which can energise each other,” he adds.

The second most important part is to pick a direction that you are well versed in. The third is the market. 

He adds, “Irrespective of the excellence of the individuals, if the market does not respond, no one can succeed. It’s not always about the excellence of the founders. The market should be ready, and you should be able to time it. All your skill sets should align with the direction you are pursuing.”

Does luck also play a part? Maran believes everyone in the world has got an equal share of luck. 

“There are external factors beyond your control which need to fall in place for you to be successful. Until that alignment happens, you need to work towards creating that moment. It takes a lot of mental strength, stamina and endurance to get there.”

Also Read: Ronan Keating set to recreate ‘90s magic as he returns to Bengaluru 

Challenges of a first gen entrepreneur

Being a first-generation entrepreneur comes with its own set of challenges. 

Maran explains, “If you are a second or third-gen entrepreneur, you inherit a lot of family wisdom. When you grow up watching the entrepreneurial journey of your parents or grandparents, that’ll give you an idea about what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Whereas a first-gen business owner has to build their own experience.

He adds, “There is a starting point disadvantage. But because of that, the effort you put will also be more. Second-gen entrepreneurs tend to take many things for granted — the connections, access to capital, access to advice. However, when it comes to breaking orbits, the challenge is the same. If you are staying in the same orbit as a second-gen entrepreneur instead of scaling new orbits one after the other, you are not getting much done.”

Also Read: Chennai Art Theatre transforms weekdays into theatre nights 

Future is bright

Kaar Tech recently acquired a US-based company for USD 10mn, with a huge round of private equity funds. 

And the future plans don’t stop there. Maran shares, “As an organisation, we intend to list in public markets after FY 2026. So hitting the public markets is the most important milestone. The organization is looking forward and working forward to that.”

He concludes with one piece of advice for aspiring start-up owners.

“Don’t build to sell, build to last. If you keep that as your motive, everything else will fall in place. That will answer many questions and those decisions will guide your journey.”