Some children dream of being doctors. Others dream of being astronauts. But, as a child, Kiran Chelluri (M.S. '01) dreamed of being an entrepreneur.
Born and raised in India, Chelluri learned early on about fierce competition and work ethic.
“India is the second most populous country in the world. I was born into a society where if you don’t compete, you don’t make it in life,” he says.
Chelluri says that competition can be found even in kindergarten where children are forced to compete with 300 other children for each seat in the classroom.
Even at home, Chelluri watched his parents compete. They worked 18-hour days to feed and support their family. It was also at home that Chelluri’s desire to be an entrepreneur was planted. When he was five years old, his mother, a gynecologist, started her own medical practice in the family’s home in India. A neighbor also started a clothing store in their own home. Chelluri watched firsthand as each business grew. As his neighbors became more successful, Chelluri witnessed them investing in charities and supporting families in need, and this philanthropy inspired him.
“That is where the seed for entrepreneurship was born in me. I felt that entrepreneurs have the ability to impact the community and help change the world,” he says.
Chelluri came to the United States toting his dream of being an entrepreneur along with him. He moved to Kansas City from Arizona because of his brother who worked at Black and Veatch. After completing his master’s degree in Computer Science at the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering, he took a job with Sprint.
“The School of Computing and Engineering gave me the foundation to launch my life and career,” he says.
Over a period of time, Chelluri discovered his niche, uncovering a gap in quality IT resources in the software market. In 2010, in the middle of the recession, he founded Chelsoft Solutions Co., a global IT service company that offers consulting and staffing solutions. Following the family tradition, the business was run out of Chelluri’s basement.
“Chelsoft Solutions Co. was founded to provide quality IT resources and support local graduates struggling to find employment,” he says.
After the business was established, the truly hard work began.
Chelluri likens the first year of starting a business to walking through a minefield. Like many entrepreneurs, he didn't go it alone.
"I want to credit my wife for supporting me in building Chelsoft Solutions Co. She is a 50% partner and has worked harder than I have to get the company where it is," he says. "We also thank our parents and extended family as well for their support throughout.”
Chelluri and his partners worked 15 to 18 hours a day, six days a week. Chelluris says he faced many challenges along the way, but he was willing to learn.
“My previous work experience gave me the subject matter expertise required. I also attend a lot of leadership seminars and read a lot of books. I read three books a month. This helped me develop my skills as a leader and to start my company,” he says.
All the time and effort has paid off.
Today, Chelsoft Solutions Co. has a commercial office location in Olathe and an office in Hyderabad, India. The organization has enjoyed a meteoric rise, winning local and national awards and expanding at a quick pace. In 2014, Chelsoft Solutions was named Kansas Minority-Owned Business of the Year in the Professional Service category. In 2015, it was named the number one IT company in the state of Kansas, number five over all business types in the state and number 638 over all industries in the United States by Inc. Chelsoft Solutions also received the MED Week Award from the Kansas Department of Commerce. The Minority Enterprise Development Week Awards was established in 1983 to recognize outstanding achievements of minority businesses.
2014 MED Week Winners
The success of Chelsoft Solutions has allowed Chelluri to fulfill his other dream of helping the community. Through his company, Chelluri has founded numerous scholarships including the Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship Fund for Ph.D. students at UMKC. The organization also offers free software training and invests in new college graduates by hiring people just entering the work force. Chelluri’s company also donates to aid education in third world countries. Chelluri himself serves on the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering Alumni Board. Chelluri’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “If you’re getting into business, you have to get in there and put your heart and soul into it. You have to have determination and persistence to succeed. Don’t give up. Keep moving. Every time you fall down you have to get back up and keep walking. It’s not easy but it’s beautiful on the other side.”