Alumni Profile: Bala Sriraghavan (MBA ’16), Entrepreneur
“I thrive on challenges, continually setting ambitious goals for myself and providing a constant source of motivation. I am not content with settling; instead, I am perpetually seeking opportunities to surpass my previous achievements and strive for greatness.” says Bala Sriraghavan (MBA ’16), an alumnus of the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, when asked to describe himself. “I’m also a people person. I sometimes feel like an alien, but I like to get close to people.” Sriraghavan is the founder and CEO of Datanetiix Solutions Inc., a consulting and technology company headquartered in Irvine, California, that provides custom applications and enterprise solutions. He credits his signature friendliness—along with his communication skills and his willingness to “wear many hats”—with his success as an entrepreneur.
Born in Thanjavur, India, and raised in Trichy, South India, Sriraghavan came to the United States in 1999 to work in the technology industry. In 2001 he became a founding employee of Emantras, a software development company (now acquired by GP Strategies, an e-learning services and consulting company), where he served as an account manager, director, and vice president of marketing. “I was responsible for software development, sales, product management, and technical discussions with clients,” he says. “I did a little bit of everything. It was one of the most challenging times in my life, but I gained so much knowledge.”
In 2008 Sriraghavan co-founded Green Impex, a tech company, with two employees—“just myself and my wife.” In 2017 Green Impex rebranded itself as Datanetiix Solutions Inc, and the company now boasts 140 employees working in offices in the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, and India.
With more than 20 years of technology experience in technology services, product development, product life-cycle management, digital application, and enterprise management, Sriraghavan is a member of Forbes Councils, a professional growth and networking organization for successful entrepreneurs and business leaders worldwide. He also serves on the board of Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.
In honor of National Entrepreneurship Month, Pepperdine Newsroom sat down with Sriraghavan to discuss how his time at Pepperdine influenced his career.
Q: When you began the Executive MBA (EMBA) program at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School in 2014, you were already an established entrepreneur. What drew you to study business administration at Pepperdine? What did you learn?
A: I started my career as a technical guy and then moved into technical sales because my boss could see that my natural friendliness and communication skills would be an asset there. As an immigrant, sometimes people found it difficult to understand me because of my accent, but I was still a very good communicator. My boss appreciated that approach and kept promoting me, first to manager of software developer, then to director, then to vice president. But after a time, I saw that I needed something else.
In 2013 I started working for RJT Compuquest (now Apolis)—an information technology company in El Segundo, California—as the director of project management. I was asked to start a new team, and I expanded my team from zero to 40-plus members in India and the United States. I was succeeding in my career, but I knew that if I wanted to lead a technology company, I would have to develop my business management skills.
I started looking at MBA programs, and I had a friend who was enrolled in the Presidents and Key Executives MBA program at Graziadio. She was sharing so much knowledge with me, particularly about marketing, and when I asked her how she had learned so much, she told me it was Pepperdine. So in the fall of 2014, I started the EMBA program.
Q: What was your experience at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School?
A: At Pepperdine, people are easy to approach, even an administrator or the dean. Everyone is highly responsive to student questions. And the Graziadio program can be very flexible, which is important for those of us who are working full time, even running a company, while we’re going to school.
When I began the EMBA program, I had a lot of education on the technology side, but I was at zero on the management side. I got something useful out of each and every class; there was always a take-home lesson, something I could use in my work.
Everything I experienced was helpful to me. The classes, the books, the professors—they all opened my brain. I learned strategies that I could immediately apply to my company. I gained knowledge, applied it, and saw how it worked. Then I evaluated how things might need to change and applied new strategies to solve those problems. My business education at Pepperdine really transformed me as a manager. It took me to a different level.
Q: As an alumnus, you’ve stayed very involved with the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, including serving as a judge in the 2023 Most Fundable Companies competition, Pepperdine’s annual program designed to promote startup business development and pathways for startup funding. Why is mentorship so important to you?
A: Judging this year’s Most Fundable Companies was a wonderful opportunity, and I learned a lot from the CEOs of the startup companies in the competition. It really was a give and take.
Mentorship has been very important to me in my own business path. Early in my career, my boss was very open to discussion, and I learned a lot from him that allowed me to grow. In the same way, when I was building my team at RJT Compuquest, I acted as a mentor to my team members, giving them ideas on how to improve. Pepperdine has a great mentorship program, and those opportunities can really take students to the next level. It’s a very valuable asset of the MBA program. I want to share my knowledge with the next generation of students; I want to encourage entrepreneurship.
Q: What do you see as the future of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship is an area that I think everyone should explore. Entrepreneurship helps others to grow. Being in the technology industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work with companies that are innovating, making people’s lives easier, and helping the next generation. Smaller, entrepreneurial companies are making huge leaps forward in technology that will improve people’s lives. Many people, when they think about work, picture an 8-to-5 job, but I’d love for everyone to explore entrepreneurship. Take some management studies courses. Learn some new business strategies. See what the opportunities are.