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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

IT professional, serial entrepreneur, musician, singer, lyricist, composer, writer, brand advocate, business consultant, speaker - Ramana Gogula is all of this and more. At present, he is the Vice President of Clean Technology Innovation at Stanley Black & Decker, Venture Partner at AntHilll Ventures and founder - CEO Of Earthen Glow, a Clean Lighting Initiative For Off Grid Villages. He has the habit of taking the road less travelled, not knowing where the road will take him. When he fell down, he picked up himself and continued his journey. He was aggressive about what he believed in and kept changing career every five years or so. He was never intimidated to explore the opportunities life threw at him, 'crumbs', as he call it. This enthusiast never took no for an answer and has a knack of finding new doors to grow.

An engineer by training, Ramana is a renowned name in the South Indian film industry as a musician, singer, lyricist and composer. But that is just one of the roles he juggles. This social entrepreneur is passionate about solving challenges and problems of India through innovative social enterprises. With more than 20 years of Indian and international experience spanning across business strategy, sales, product marketing and pre-sales and post-sales technical support in the Information Technology space, he has been creating a social impact in India through start ups in the areas of eLearning, Entertainment and Clean Energy.

The employment hat...

Straight out of Louisiana State University, Ramana Gogula took up employment in San Francisco and spent a few years before moving to American MNC Sybase Inc. He joined as the Manager, Design Partner Program and rose through the company’s ranks. In 1997, he moved back to India after living in San Francisco for fourteen years and took up the position of Managing Director of Sybase, South East Asia, based in Bangalore. After successful implementation of projects and setting up sales offices for Sybase in North America, South America, Europe, and South East Asia, he left the company by the end of 1999. He was known for leading teams to great heights through employee empowerment and extreme customer satisfaction without losing the focus on organizational vision.

The entrepreneur hat...

By 2000, this engineer got tired of working for someone else and decided to build something on his own. Upon quitting his well-paying secured job at Sybase, he partnered with another US returned friend, Anand Adkoli and the two first generation entrepreneurs started their first entrepreneurial venture, Liqwid Krystal. It was an eLearning Company that integrated books, authors, learning institutions and software organizations on a singular platform. The idea was to make education more interactive. He built a strong team and was all set to take the company public. However, the Internet crashed and the investors wanted to go the BPO way, which Ramana was not in favour of. So he opted out of his hands-on role to pursue a career in film music.

The musician hat...

From June 2004, he took a sabbatical from the corporate world and dedicated four years to music, teaching, composing, reading, travelling, researching, film making and business consulting. Being born in a family with music background, music was in his blood. His mother is trained in classical music. But it was western music that fascinated Ramana. At 17, he started his own rock band called Smiles International at Vizag, his hometown, which was dissolved once he got into engineering college. But he kept music close to his heart.

After moving to US for his Masters, he started a reggae band and played at small gigs in bars and restaurants for four years. He collaborated with musicians in New Orleans and San Francisco and produced numerous world music albums. He played with Africans, Jamaicans, American Blues Musicians and Rock n Roll Funk Guitarists. Those days taught him a thing or two about music management. He came up with his first album called Mysty Rhythms when he was working in San Francisco. He has also performed at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

After coming back to India, he approached many music companies with his album, In Search of Souls, which he did in San Francisco. The English album was rejected by some famous record labels. Later, he changed his strategy and remade it in Hindi, Aye Laila, and Sony Music India distributed the album. The song "Aye Laila", a chart buster was #1 on MTV, Channel V and other leading music channels. This album took him to Tollywood and became a renowned name in the South Indian film industry later. He has done 25 films in Telugu, Tamil & Kannada, and composed music for 125+ songs. His famous albums are Thammudu, Premante Idera, and Yuvaraju.

Building social enterprises...

After a successful sabbatical stint in the entertainment industry, this idea generator set up his next venture in June 2009. He was once approached by a guy for business consulting, planning to sell solar lights imported from China to the Indian villagers. A closer look at the product revealed that it is a junk. This incident motivated Ramana to start his own company to light up villages in India and support the rural household, who has been living in darkness after the sunset.

Ramana travelled extensively over the length and breadth of over hundreds villages across South India for almost six months to conduct grass root research regarding the lighting needs and usage patterns of kerosene lamps in offgrid terrains. The intense research gave birth to Earthen Glow, a Clean Technology Start-Up to build sustainable indoor/outdoor lighting solutions for rural households spread across vast terrains to gradually bring down their dependence on kerosene. The company focuses on alleviating light poverty for a million people by 2018 using LED technology and solar energy in India, Africa and other parts of SE Asia. It has already lighted 13 villages in Manipur and some villages in Andra Pradesh.

The venture capitalist hat...

Ramana Gogula has donned the venture capitalist robe in Unitus Seed Fund and Anthill Ventures. The creative problem solver joined Unitus Seed Fund as it's Incubator Accelerator Program Manager in 2014 for building a platform where top-tier incubators and accelerators across India collaborate with the company to develop a framework for creating venture investable StartUps. It is a $20 million seed fund investment company that invests in start-ups innovating for low-income, undeserved masses. The company is also focused on finding innovative start-ups from the Andhra Pradesh & Telangana State region.

In August 2016, he joined Anthill Ventures as a Venture Partner focusing on brand building and assisting to build innovation bridges between corporations looking at futuristic initiatives, and, StartUps seeking "Speed Scaling" interventions.

Supporting clean energy...

From September 2016 onwards, Ramana is the Vice President of Clean Technology Innovation for Global Emerging Markets in Stanley Black & Decker. He is working on building a Solar Agricultural Platform for improving the livelihoods of farmers.

Personal life...

Ramana Gogula is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Andhra University. He is a double Master's holder too - first in Alternative Energy from IIT, Kharagpur and second in Computer Science from Louisiana State University.

Ramana is a great combination of art, technology and entrepreneurship. He was a guest speaker at the Global Entrepenuership Summit held at Hyderabad in 2017. He is a regular speaker in seminars and panel discussions promoting start ups and clean energy, always willing to share his experience and expertise. He is planning to write a book titled 'Re-engineer Yourself'. His other interests are travelling, writing, music composition, reading, watching movies and cooking. Ramana currently lives in Hyderabad with his wife Nicolette, who is also a musician and daughter Natasha. In between juggling multiple roles, he finds time to be with the family and takes a couple of vacations a year.

Associations and memberships...

Member of Governing Council for SAP-ISB Jumpstart Social Enterprise Accelerator Programme

Quotes

Pick up the crumbs along your life’s trail, you never know where they will lead you.
The entrepreneurial journey starts not knowing where you will end up. Entrepreneurs should look beyond the tip of the iceberg at the bigger picture; they should strive for excellence but not be obsessed with creating the ‘perfect’ product.
I wake up every day with the hope that I can do something excellent today.
It is an idea that starts the journey. An idea is not something that your mind posses. It is something that posses your mind – something that is stuck in your mind.
A journey of a social entrepreneur is difficult but the experience is very rewarding.

Hope readers caught up the spark …

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