When Chaya Pamula, CEO of PamTen, a technology services company, emigrated from India with her husband and young daughter, she expected that they would only be in the United States for only a few years. She had an undergraduate degree in commerce and accounting and he was an IT professional. “We were looking for a challenge outside of the country,” she says.
Pamula took a job on Wall Street and soon decided that the move would be permanent. “I saw so many opportunities for my child,” she says. “I saw the exposure a child can have. Everything I could not do, she can do. She is a black belt in karate. She flew a Cessna plane at the age of 16.” Anusha, her daughter, also completed college in three years, and is now working for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and will enroll in Harvard Law School in the fall.
While Pamula, a South Brunswick resident, found New Jersey to be a fine place to raise a child, she also found it fertile ground for growing a career, and later, a business of her own. After only 15 months on Wall Street, Pamula took a job at Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she spent 14 years and rose to become associate director of IT, working mostly from the company’s Nassau Park offices.
In 2007 she founded PamTen in her basement with a partner, Prasad Tenjerla, a friend she and her husband, Satya, have known for many years. The company began by building websites and offering graphic design. Tenjerla handled operations, some coding work was outsourced, and Pamula did the marketing to early customers — start-ups and mid-size businesses.
In 2010 she left Bristol-Myers Squibb to devote all of her time to the business, which more than doubled its number of employees in the last year and is expecting to do the same this year. Pamten now has 25 employees at its headquarters, 45 employees on-site at clients’ offices, nearly 50 employees in India, and a new office in Canada. Revenue in 2012 was $5 million, a threefold increase from the previous year. Pamula projects another threefold increase for this year.
“It was a tough decision,” she says of leaving big pharma to run her own business. “But you’re always looking for something more interesting, more challenging. It’s more than being successful at your job. I wanted the freedom of time to fulfill other commitments — social, charity. I wanted to balance work and life.”
PamTen’s services have grown, one complementing another. Consulting was a natural outgrowth of web design. As Pamula, a green belt in Six Sigma, a management program, explains, “clients would come saying ‘I’m not getting traffic. How do I get attention?’ We try to understand. We take 100 steps back. We ask: Why do you need an online presence? Where do sales come from?” The website is analyzed. Is it attractive? Does it show passion? Does it give all the details that potential customers need?
In addition to consulting on online issues, PamTen gives clients advice on consolidating and optimizing their use of technology. Pamula explains that as companies grow and go global, different divisions in different countries can mean needless duplication of projects and technologies. Her company works with clients to put the whole chain of operations down on paper, highlighting where value is added and where cost is added. The result can be streamlined technology and significant cost savings.
Another of PamTen’s businesses is recruiting. “We started recruiting from the beginning,” says Pamula. “As we approached clients, they mentioned recruiting.” The company works mostly with experienced IT and business management professionals and places them in a range of industries, including hospitality, banking, retail, and insurance.
Recruiting is about 60 percent of PamTen’s business and, says Pamula, is essential for “continuous cash flow.” Consulting and web design projects take a long time. Even landing a project is generally a long-term affair. But, she says, “recruiting is quick. It gives us flexibility.”
A new niche for PamTen is called “onshoring.” Pamula explains that companies in expensive cities like New York are looking for less expensive locales for teams of back office workers, but in some cases they don’t want the time zone differences and language problems that can occur when they place these teams on different continents. Pamula is planning to grow an onshoring business in Canada, where costs are lower than they are in the most expensive U.S. cities.
Another reason for the company’s new Toronto office, she says, is that her company wants to go global and sees Canada as a good place to start.
Pamula, who says she wishes there were 48 hours in each day, sees the next five to six years as a time when her company will see a tremendous growth spurt. She is driven to succeed by a need to secure a future for the 24 children who call her mom — and to add to their number.
She explains that she was orphaned at a young age. Her father, a mechanical engineer and the eldest of 17 children, and her mother, a homemaker, died before she finished her education, when she was “at an age when you need your parents.” She and her husband had originally wanted to adopt a child when they came to America, but she decided that it might be better to provide homes for street children in India.
“When I was settled down in the U.S., I realized that I could afford to do something else,” she says. She realized that it would cost more to raise one child here than to create homes for 10 children in India. She began by sponsoring street children through Maher (www.maherashram.org), where she is currently sponsoring 40 youngsters, and then formed her own charity.
“We house mothers to take care of the children,” Pamula says. “They go through rehabilitation, get medical care.” The charity she started in 2004, Sofkin (www.sofkin.org), began by housing three children in Hyderabad, India. There are now 24. Pamula talks to the children each morning and visits them at least three times a year. They are a big reason that she left a substantial corporate job to start her own business.
“I took a break while I was at Bristol-Myers Squibb to establish an orphanage,” she says. “I needed to be there more than I expected. I needed to be able to set my own schedule, but I couldn’t give up work.” She now blends the two, taking the three to four hours a day she needs to run her charity out of her schedule as PamTen’s CEO and working from her Hyderabad office on her frequent visits to her children.
Giving herself this flexibility by taking the leap from corporate security to an entrepreneurial life, she says, was “the best decision of my life.”
PamTen Inc., 5 Independence Way, Suite 180, Princeton 08540; 732-419-2911; fax, 732-230-2756. www.pamten.com