The World's Richest Indian-American's 5 Lessons For Success

Jay Chaudhry, the founder and CEO of Zscaler, is a notable figure in the tech industry. Hailing from a remote village in the Himalayas, Chaudhry has gone on to become the world’s richest Indian American billionaire.

Background: Chaudhry was born and raised in a small village in the Himalayas, where basic amenities such as running water and electricity were scarce.

His parents were farmers, and from them, he learned the values of hard work, honesty and integrity, he said in a TED Talk in 2018. These core values shaped his early years and guided him throughout his life. Despite the lack of resources, Chaudhry excelled in his studies, which eventually led him to pursue higher education in India and then in the United States.

Chaudhry attended the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Varanasi, where he earned a degree in electronics engineering. Seeking further education, he moved to the United States, where he obtained three master’s degrees from the University of Cincinnati. He soon transitioned to sales and marketing positions at IBM and NCR, which provided him with a diverse skill set and a comprehensive understanding of the business world.

In 1996, Chaudhry took a significant risk by venturing into entrepreneurship. Despite initial challenges in securing venture capital, he and his wife invested their life savings into his first startup, SecureIT. This decision proved successful when Verisign acquired SecureIT, bringing substantial financial rewards.

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Buoyed by this success, Chaudhry founded several other companies, including CoreHarbor, CipherTrust and AirDefense, all of which achieved significant success and were acquired by larger firms.

In 2008, Chaudhry founded Zscaler, a cloud security company, with a vision to transform the way businesses approach internet security. Zscaler’s innovative approach quickly gained traction, establishing Chaudhry as a leader in the tech industry.

His rise to prominence involved overcoming significant challenges and making bold decisions, which he discussed in the TED Talk. Chaudhry's experiences provide invaluable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Here are five key takeaways from his speech.

1. Embrace Core Values

Chaudhry's early life in a small Himalayan village instilled in him essential values that have guided his career. Growing up in an environment without basic amenities like running water and electricity, he said he learned the importance of hard work, honesty, and integrity from his parents, who were farmers.

“The main thing I learned in my village from my parents, who were farmers, was hard work, honesty and integrity,” he said. These values have been the bedrock of his professional journey, helping him navigate challenges and make ethical decisions.

2. Take Calculated Risks

Risk-taking is a fundamental aspect of Chaudhry’s success, he explained. After facing initial setbacks in securing venture capital for his first startup, SecureIT, Chaudhry decided to invest his life savings into the venture.

“Talk to my wife, she’s very supportive, and we said let’s put our life savings on the line. If it works, it’s great; if it doesn’t work, we can always find a job,” he shared.

This bold move paid off as SecureIT was eventually acquired by Verisign, leading to significant financial rewards for Chaudhry and his team. His willingness to take calculated risks set the stage for his future successes.

3. Build Serious Technology

Chaudhry emphasises the importance of developing innovative and robust technology rather than relying on outdated solutions.

“If you’re doing a serious startup, build some serious technology. Don’t try to take the old stuff and try to stretch it and say it’s good,” he advised.

This principle was central to the success of Zscaler, which revolutionized cloud security with a modern, multi-tenant architecture designed to meet the demands of contemporary digital environments. By focusing on building cutting-edge technology, Chaudhry ensured that Zscaler stayed ahead of the competition and addressed the evolving needs of its clients.

4. Prioritize Customer Engagement

Chaudhry believes that a strong focus on customer engagement and effective sales strategies is crucial for a company’s success.

He said he spends a significant amount of time interacting with customers to understand their needs and preferences. “As a CEO, spend at least a third of your time with customers out there learning, figuring out and building convictions,” he recommended.

This hands-on approach helps align the company’s innovations with market demands, ensuring that their products and services remain relevant and valuable to their customers. By prioritising customer feedback and engagement, Chaudhry said he has been able to build strong, lasting relationships with clients and drive Zscaler's growth.

5. Build a Passionate Team

Assembling a team of passionate and driven individuals is key to building a successful company. Chaudhry values passion and drive over mere experience.

“If you’re starting a company and you don’t have passion and drive, don’t do it. If you’re doing it for money, you’ll be disappointed. Do it because you enjoy it, you really love it and money follows,” he stated.

This focus on passion ensures that the team is committed to the company's mission and willing to go the extra mile to achieve success. Chaudhry also prefers hiring rising stars over seasoned professionals, believing that those with hunger and drive are more likely to contribute to the company's dynamic growth.

Jay Chaudhry's journey from a village in the Himalayas to leading a billion-dollar company offers essential lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. Embracing core values, taking calculated risks, building innovative technology, focusing on customer engagement and fostering a passionate team are all critical components of his success.

These lessons provide a roadmap for anyone looking to achieve similar success in the business world, demonstrating that with the right approach and mindset, significant achievements are within reach.

Disclaimer: Artificial intelligence was used as a secondary aid in the writing of this article.

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Posted In: OpinionJay ChaudhryZscaler