From $1 A Day To CEO: A Remarkable Entrepreneurial Journey
Jeet Kumar, In Time Tec
October 05, 2021
I was born in a small town in Northern India, about 100 miles from Delhi. I lost my father when I was two-and-a-half, and my mother raised myself and my four sisters on her own from that point forward. She put what she could on the table through sewing work and rent from a small shop my father had owned, and we survived on about $1 a day.
From my earliest memories, I was well aware that as the only male child in our family, it would be my responsibility to provide for my mother and my sisters. Any hopes of rising up from poverty were on my shoulders. When I reflect on my experience, I see the childhood that was lost to me. I see the challenge into which I was born. But at the time, I just put my head down and did what I had to do. Aware of my need to be the breadwinner, by the time I was about 10, I became focused on that role. I thought to myself, okay, if that's how my life is going to be, then I need to perform. I need to produce results so that my family can survive.
The sometimes painful and challenging years that followed, as I made my way through childhood, pursued my education, entered into the professional world, and ultimately founded a company of my own, taught me that when you go through difficult times, you can become revengeful, or you can become resourceful. I always had the awareness in my heart and in my mind, that though I was enduring challenge life could be better.
From that awareness grew a commitment to create abundance—for my family and for others. I understood that people who experience scarcity, who don’t have enough food on the table, struggle not just for practical survival but to be kind and to experience joy and peace. And so, from childhood, I moved toward opportunity with one question in mind: How can I elevate others? This Purpose has steered me through pivotal choices and experiences in my life’s journey and now guides my Evergreen® company.
The first step toward opportunity—for me and for my family—was my realization that to move up and out, I needed an inroad to acceptance by my peers and my community. I was bullied at school and had few friends, and I was intensely aware of the need to overcome that isolation and become valued if I was going to make my way in the world.
The game of cricket offered me my first lessons in earning respect—and how that respect would create opportunity to elevate myself and others. Initially, I had no skills, and no equipment of my own, and other kids wouldn’t let me play. But I persevered, improved, and produced great results for the team. We won championships, and I won respect. With that respect came the opportunity to carry people along with me, to raise others up.
Success on the cricket field, alongside academic honors that led to tutoring work and brought income to our family, helped propel me forward in my small community, but I faced other challenges when I left home. At 15, I left our town and spent two years at a junior college that was unaccredited, wasting time and incurring debt that was a burden on my family. I hadn’t done the research to understand the system, and I returned home feeling defeated.
That was a dark period, but it offered an important lesson: falling short is a part of life; keeping that shortfall from becoming a failure is the only way to survive. As I had on the playground, on the cricket field, and in the classroom, I said to myself: I’ll do better next time. If I don’t try harder, I won’t get a chance to play. If I don't get a good score on this test, people will not respect me. I knew I had to make things happen for myself to be able to fulfill my dream of creating abundance for others. Failure was not an option.
I left home for a second time at 17 and spent three years at a different junior college. I worked incredibly hard and earned entrance to the most prestigious engineering university in India—National Institute of Technology. I also met my wife, Vijju, the love of my life, in those years.
Having spent what added up to five years in junior college, I entered into university a couple of years older than most of my peers. While I had considered those early years wasted, I realized in that setting that the challenge and life experience I had lived through had in fact offered me a gift of hard-earned wisdom. In the university setting, I had the opportunity to share that gift as a mentor to younger students. I had entirely lacked mentors in my own life, and I was happy to have the opportunity to provide support and guidance to others who might feel alone.
With my degree in hand, I left university intent on finally fulfilling my responsibility to my family and my commitment to helping others. I took my first job with the intent to pay off my family’s debts, marry, and move toward the possibility of entrepreneurship. It was always in my mind that starting my own business would provide the path to creating jobs, and thereby abundance, for others, and the potential to take that step drove me forward.
With that goal in mind, I initially had no intention of moving to the U.S., but three years after I graduated, a recruiter offered me the opportunity to come to the U.S. I saw the offer as a chance to learn and grow, to gain knowledge that could potentially expedite my entrepreneurial dream.
In March 1999, I landed in L.A. with a suitcase and $120 in my pocket and was hired by HP in Boise, Idaho a month later. I spent six years in Boise, honing my skills and developing technology. Vijju joined me shortly after I was hired by HP, and we built a nice life. But I kept thinking that while I had achieved my goal of lifting my family up and creating abundance for myself, I hadn’t yet given back to others in the way I had always envisioned. To do that, I needed managerial experience to move further ahead, to understand how to develop people and create more opportunity.
I took a position leading an HP team in India, learning key lessons around developing people—and affirming some aspects of management I knew to be true. Specifically, my time in India confirmed my understanding that people don’t leave companies, they leave people. As a leader, I committed to showing up for my team and to taking a deep interest in their work, their lives, and their families. I knew that if people understand that you genuinely care for them, they will follow you. If you use them as a commodity, they will stay as long as they have no choice, but they will leave as soon as they have a better offer.
In 2009, the time was right to take those lessons and my long-held passion for entrepreneurship and build a business. Together with a few former HP colleagues and a long-time friend, we founded In Time Tec, a software development company headquartered in Boise. Our shared expertise in software products and services offers clients meaningful software solutions, but from day one the business was created first and foremost as a platform for developing people and contributing to the world. Our Purpose, from the beginning, has been creating abundance; we just happen to build software.
Today, In Time Tec employs 650 people in the U.S. and India, and we continue to grow through our own profits for the purpose of creating jobs and developing people. We bring people together to serve clients with a shared value system based on trust, transparency, integrity, and leadership. What excites me as we grow is the opportunity that growth provides to help people find peace and happiness, joy, and self-expression.
As I look ahead, I’m more focused than ever on developing people. I spend significant time mentoring our team and educating myself in business and personal development to continue to build our culture of learning and offer opportunity to our team. I’m moving toward becoming more of a “Chief Mentoring Officer,” rather than Chief Executive Officer, but I'm not in a hurry, and I am not working on a set timeline. I want to ensure our longevity by developing other leaders who will uphold our legacy and embrace the opportunity to lift more people up.
It’s a gift now to reflect back on the arc of my journey. The abiding sense of opportunity and abundance that I felt beneath the surface of my life, even in the darkest and most challenging times, propelled me always forward toward this entrepreneurial dream that I’m living now. My goal, as ever, is to continue to use the gifts of my experience to create abundance for others.