Who would have thought that a high school rebel would become a Founder and C-level executive of a multi-million dollar company by the age of 25 in the late 90’s? Certainly not me.
When I walked into Dr. Kumar’s conference room, he was at the tail end of one meeting, while at the same time going over some important information for another meeting with someone else. I stepped in and waited, a bit apprehensively, until he had a chance to acknowledge my presence, which he did immediately. One of the first things I learned in the business world was to pay attention to unspoken gestures. He not only made eye contact with me, be he also gestured for me to find a chair. I sat as he wrapped up the side conversation with one of this team members and then continued on with the rest of the meeting that he was bringing to a close.
Once the room was empty, we began our interview. I went in trying to be very formal, while he on the other hand, preferred it to be more casual. He took a look at my prepared questions and told me to put them away, opting for an informal chat. He felt that would be a more enjoyable interview. So I put my questions aside and took notes instead. He asked me what I wanted to know. I told him I wanted to know the “wow” factor of Dr. Kumar, not only as an entrepreneur, but as a person. He looked at me and asked, “What do you mean?” I told him I had just read the biography of another incredibly successful venture capitalist, and what “wowed” me the most about that man wasn’t all his entrepreneurial successes, although there were many and all were notable achievements. What had really put the icing on the cake for me was that in addition to being one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, he was also a family man and a normal person, with normal hobbies, like singing and playing in a band.
So, Kumar said, “Leave a legacy. Don’t just come and go.” He repeated it two more times I was taken aback by it because I didn’t understand where this quote was coming from. Then he told me. “You wanted to know the “wow’ factor about me, right? Well, this is where it starts. My dad passed away when I was in the seventh grade, but there are a few things that he taught me that have always stayed with me.” I made sure to underline the quote – it was powerful in essence, and the value it carried for him. One of my original questions asked who Dr. Kumar looked up to as a role model. He said he didn’t really have any role model per se, no one in particular, but his dad has always been his “virtual mentor” because he lives with him even today.
In addition, he told me that he wouldn’t be who he is today if it hadn’t been for his mom and his sister. They are two of the strongest and most dedicated women in his life and have shaped him into who he has become through their love, support, education, and guidance. Speaking of women in his life, he goes on to tell me that he is one of the most fortunate men in the world to have a wife like his. “She’s so unassuming, caring, understanding, devoted, very helpful and loving“, he said. I asked if he has any children or if he wants a family and say, “very proactive.” I asked him to explain. “My son…I tell him to do something and he’s already done it before I can even ask him.”
Even though Dr. Kumar shared all this personal information, I still wasn’t “wowed.” So I steered the conversation toward his professional life. I figured that in order for the wow factor to kick in, I had to know him as a whole person, his childhood and professional achievements. Dr. Kumar has a diverse background of interest and experiences. With his spiffed-up image, no one would ever think that Dr. Kumar was anything other than IT and business. Boy, wouldn’t everyone be wrong. He’s got a performing arts side that he keeps tucked away. Dr. Kumar told me that when he was younger, he used to play in a band called, Emmanuel, as the lead guitarist. He was also the choreographer for a break dancing crew known as “Rink Stormers”. While telling me of his younger years as a break dancer, he broke out with his shoulders to give me a quick move. It took some time for Dr. Kumar to tell me of this educational and professional history. When he got to it, he just kept on going.
It was too much to absorb, but I tried to put together the pieces that really resonated. Dr. Kumar was one of those students in high school that every teacher dreaded having in class. He told me that his principal offered to return the tuition fees his mom had paid for him, if she would be willing to just enroll him in another school. That’s how bad it was. But when he started college, things changed. He aced all of his classes with highest honors and finished his MBA by the age of twenty-two. Obviously, not the norm in America.
In 1996, he started his first company in networking and systems integrations, AmphorTech. Following this initial success, he started his second company, EdNET Global Consulting and EdNet Solutions and Technology, while still in graduate school. In 1998 he had more than three thousand IT professionals working for him in the United States in Asia Pacific. He went from having the first IT training school in 1997 to having more than one hundred fifty education network systems world-wide by 2000. Dr. Kumar expanded operations in over ten countries in three years and offered IT certification to more than one hundred thousand IT professionals. While he was doing all that, he also managed to launch one of the first browser-based ERM systems for retail and distribution, built on JAVA and pro.fit technologies, in 1999. At that time, web browsers usage was not as common as it is today, but Dr. Kumar put it together ahead of his time.
Among his other startups have been iMail2me, eVisions, Bizfinity, Benchmark, NETed, and the California Intercontinental University. His goal is to grant one hundred thousand degrees worldwide to qualifying students worldwide, building on his philosophy, “Education for anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.” As Dr. Kumar put it, “Entrepreneurs play to win, while business people play to not lose.” He continued developing the idea, “To be an entrepreneur of the 21st century, you must have a disruptive idea or technology, and have a plan to make it global. 21st Century entrepreneurs are people that think universal and know that their market is global. A 21st century entrepreneur finds a blue ocean out of a red ocean. The 21st century entrepreneur must be a jack of all trades and master of few.” He told me that people always ask him, “Dr. Kumar, how did you learn?” and he says, “You learn by doing. That way you learn faster.” Dr. Kumar has gone from being a young rebel, to a dot.com technoprenuer, and now a global iWorld entrepreneur.
Even with all this information, I still wanted to know about his greatest achievement in life. Instead of giving me an elaborate story of some giant accomplishment, he was very modest, and humbly said, “I haven’t reached where I’m going, yet, so I can’t count my accomplishments as achievements.” Wow, I thought. Someone so driven, so experienced, so knowledgeable in the field of global entrepreneurship, sitting in a top level position could be so down to earth. The wow factor kicked in. It’s amazing to see such an ambitious and successful man express such humility. That is impressive. To sum it all up, Dr. Kumar is a mentor, a leader, a partner, and a supporter of everyone and anyone that has an entrepreneurial spirit.