Happiness: The entire life’s purpose is built on happiness, whether in work, home, or the community you live in. When you find it in one sector, you can find it almost anywhere. I try to encourage those who are unhappy to ease up on self-criticism. The fear of doing something wrong might stop someone from embarking on the first step, let alone completing it. In the recovery community, the most repeated phrase is, “let go and let God.” Believe that a spiritual force can help you when you tremble and can help you regain your strengths.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tel K. Ganesan, Managing Director of Kyyba Innovations and Chairman of Kyyba Inc.
Tel Ganesan is a testament to faith in entrepreneurialism and the American dream, and he’s looking to spread that message.
Ganesan is the Chairman of Kyyba, a Michigan headquartered global IT, engineering services, and software product company focusing on multiple industries including the healthcare, education, and manufacturing domains. He has an Executive MBA degree from the University of Michigan — Stephen M. Ross School of Business (2014).
Ganesan came to Detroit in 1989, from India, to study engineering at Wayne State University, and shortly after graduation got a job at Chrysler. By 2005, he followed a dream of starting his company Kyyba Inc., a staffing services firm. Just as the company was getting started, the Great Recession hit, which hammered the automotive industry, a large chunk of Kyyba’s business. Kyyba responded by diversifying into other industries, setting the stage for growth.
Today, Kyyba has close to 900 employees, and Ganesan has used it as a springboard for other business ventures, Kyyba Innovations, Kyyba Wellness, Kyyba Music, and has even expanded into movie productions through his venture Kyyba Films. Tel is also the Founder of Kyyba Kidz Foundation which promotes education and provides job skills for the most deprived group of children.
In 2016, Ganesan stepped back to the chairman role at Kyyba and made helping other entrepreneurs a priority. Since 2009, Ganesan has been president of TiE Detroit, an organization founded to promote U.S.-Indian trade. He also founded Kyyba Innovations which runs competitions like the Pitch Club MI and Detroit Fintech Challenge competitions to drive and foster the future of innovation in the latest disruptive technologies.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I had a very happy upbringing in the city of Tiruchirapalli, India which is renowned as the Holy City, with a lot of ancient temples dating back over 1500 years. It was also a tourist destination, often frequented by people from various places. It had many Temples, as well as a significant number of Churches and Mosques, and there was a feeling of unity in diversity. It had once been a British colony, so my city had good hospitals and educational institutions, that had been built by the missionaries. As a result, we had easy access to good health and education. Holidays were always a special time, when I would spend countless hours with my cousins and friends. I used to wander around the long corridors and prayer halls in the temples, marveling at the fitted carved stone pillars. During my childhood, I also remember gazing at the tourists, imaging where they had traveled from. There were many festivals, temple carnivals, and celebrations, and I remember where everyone in my family would assemble to celebrate. My mother was a happy woman and there were always a lot of guests. She spread her positivity to everyone who visited our house. She was keen on sending us to Catholic schools that emphasized discipline and language training. My father worked at a well-known bank, and I always remember him as a courageous, fearless man. I share a lot of good memories with my younger brother and my sister. Today, we all work together at Kyyba, where I feel extremely gratified and happy to be around the people with whom I can love, trust, and share my knowledge.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
It was there very early on that I experienced a trigger point that made me emigrate to the United States. I was a little boy maybe around 1 years old and my mom used to show me airplanes in the sky, and she would say “that is how you go to America.” My mom was sowing the seed for what would eventually become my reality. My entire life, my mom had been instilling this desire of coming to America since I was a baby. My mom was a great dreamer, she imagined me being coming to the United States, well before I could even imagine it for myself. She once told me “it is me and your father’s job is to get you to America, but it is your job to get Admission.” So, this ideal of emigrating to the United States was embedded in my head and in my heart without me consciously knowing it. It would take decades later to fully understood the power of my mom and her words and to see it manifest and became a physical reality. I like to say that the power of positive words and positive thoughts are powerful. With them you can accomplish nearly anything.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I came the United States to pursue to a master’s in Automotive Engineering at the age of 21. I was able to come to the US on a student visa to attend Oklahoma State University. My passion for cars and desire to study about the makeup of cars was one of the motivating factors that led me to pursue higher levels of education here in the United States. After a semester at Oklahoma State University, I transferred to Wayne State University in Detroit where I feel that the true beginning of my studying in the US started. Living in India and then coming to the United States was an immediate culture shock. 30 years ago, India was a very poor country so living in those conditions for 21 years then coming to the United States seeing the tall buildings, large glass windows and expansive freeways was a phenomenon to me. Simple things like grabbing a pop meant grabbing a soda or coca cola, those are language barriers that I did not comprehend! And even the Holidays like Halloween at the time were mind blowing. I had never experienced seeing people dress up like skeletons and ghost, so initially I didn’t know if I was dreaming or if that was my reality. These are things now that as I look back on them seem so silly but at the time there were a significant cultural shift for me. In 1992, I stepped into Chrysler Corporation’s brand-new headquarters and technology center. I got assigned to the “Fit and Finish Department” that analyzed the new model Jeeps. I could drive the dream I’ve savored since childhood.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
I would attribute my success to several people, who believed, motivated, and even stood with me both during my good and tougher times. My mother’s inspiration and constant persuasion have pushed me to earn my MS degree in the US. She has also taught me to be strong, confident, and at the same time, being thoughtful towards other’s feelings. My greatest strength is my siblings, who are currently with me in Kyyba. My brother has an enormous acumen towards finance and smooth organizational functioning. My sister’s emotional stability has helped me gain balance in both my professional and personnel life. I am gifted to be surrounded by good friends, who shouldered me, and for being, the pillar of my support when I needed it the most. They supported me financially, and also emotionally as the great recession back then in the US had hit me hard, and my business faced heavy turbulence.
So how are things going today?
I am nourishing my adrenaline rush through numerous ventures, and under this Kyyba umbrella, around 900 employees are working with us. I have a strong team of leadership supporting my diverse projects, through which everything works in tandem. I have a dedicated company, focusing on Digital transformation, recruitment, and software development. Through Kyyba Innovations, we are scaling several startups, and driving entrepreneurship. I have been producing several Hollywood movies under the banner Kyyba Movies. My focus on bettering the health of the people has initiated me to start Kyyba Healthcare. I strongly believe that Wholesome wellness should be available to every human being.” I believe that success is the reward for the risk taken, and I leave no stone unturned.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My eastern philosophy taught me to do things that bring good results to many people. I’ve always been a job incubator across my businesses, nurturing the career of many people. involve me in a lot of activities to help deprived and deserving people to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am assisting orphaned children and underprivileged individuals by providing job training for job placement resulting in a gainful long-term career through my Kyyba Kidz Foundation. I am currently working towards attracting foreign direct investment in the region, helping immigrants in Metro Detroit, and supporting STEM education in the Michigan region.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
America truly is a nation of immigrants. It should increase the number of immigrants every year, as newly emerging fields need a lot of experts and enthusiasts who progressively partake the nation-building. Inwardly, it helps in promoting the economy of the nation. This would pave a way for a lot of immigrants with knowledge, skills, and hard work to highly benefit. Several other challenges faced by the immigrants are those unpredictable and lengthy case processing timelines, especially to get their green card and permanent residence. Currently, only a limited number of spouses of foreign workers. Whereas, countries like Australia and Canada, have higher employment opportunities for the spouse.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
Despite being the 11th wealthiest nation and having access to almost 25% of the world’s resources, the happiness index is constantly dipping. According to the World Health Organization, one out of five people has some degree of mental illness, and most often depression. What can we do better? How can we better our lives? As I ponder on these issues, I bring my Eastern roots to solve these.
- Values: Ideologies like trust, friendliness, and mutual respect are highly important both for an individual and the organization. As the coordination among the team members raises, there would be a common focus to support their team members, and win as a team. I have learned it all through trial and error, having been the aggressive leader at one point and the bored team member at another. Learning does not come overnight. I was advised to stay awake and seek the yogi’s sense of balance, which can instill a deep calmness even though it requires intense, and unwavering alertness.
- Empowerment: Empowerment is the art of serendipity. People in all walks of life need permission to fail sometimes. That is the only way to discover something new and unpredictable. It also empowers them to do their best, and to see beyond the norm. Common sense would have had me stick to information technology as the prime way to keep my business going through any economic cycle. I had studied the process intensely, worked in it for 20 years, and hired capable people to conduct business in the USA and India. But I wanted a new risk. As an Indian movie maker, Bollywood became a worldwide phenomenon. I chose to produce several movies in America with the help of Indian technology. I also added business streams in the health and wellness market, and published magazines.
- Excellence: Excellence is a value that is being prized in any business or life situation. In my company, we have a saying called “Best of the Best”. The world needs only the best of the best, where there should always be an improvement at every step. I strongly believe that excellence is perfection. Strive for incremental improvement constantly, which is the key to becoming a creative genius in your field of enterprise. When you feel as though you have mastered your craft, you try even harder, as life is a journey.
- Passion: Passion is a positive and inspiring force, and when maneuvering appropriately, it becomes one of the inherent forces of motivation. At Kyyba, we have a process called “Follow up to Follow up.” We check in with people often to see how they relate to their assignments and how they complete them. It is a leader’s job to convey the excitement or find another placement where this same person might thrive. In a big company, there are multiple opportunities. If you give up and harshly judge, you might miss that chance of utilizing a good talent.
- Happiness: The entire life’s purpose is built on happiness, whether in work, home, or the community you live in. When you find it in one sector, you can find it almost anywhere. I try to encourage those who are unhappy to ease up on self-criticism. The fear of doing something wrong might stop someone from embarking on the first step, let alone completing it. In the recovery community, the most repeated phrase is, “let go and let God.” Believe that a spiritual force can help you when you tremble and can help you regain your strengths.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
First off, The United States is the most entrepreneurial nation on the planet earth. I remain extremely optimistic despite needing improvement in other areas whether they be social, political or otherwise.
Secondly, the foundations and fundamental are rich to continue to foster a robust business climate and create avenues for continual innovation.
Lastly, political and macroeconomics conditions are favorable for the United States future. Furthermore, the US has withstood the test of time will continue to do so. This is the nation that has reinvented itself over and over again. I am optimistic that this nation will continue to lead innovation and discovery and will continue to lead and stay ahead.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
In Business I would be honored to meet Elon Musk. He’s the only person in history that has taken knowledge in one industry and transported into other industries that are not similar. His investment into PayPal led to him birthing Telsa. Telsa has propelled him into the galaxies of space. There is no one that has started in the Financial Services Industry, then moved into the Automotive Industry and is now in the realm of Space and Space Travel.
In VC Funding I would like to meet Mark Cuban. I like his approach to investments and funding and I also like his energy.
In Sports it would be fantastic to meet Lebron James. I like his mindset; he is a big believer in the power of the mind. And he applies it to the way he approach’s his sport. I too believe that I can also apply the power of mind to my business.
In Entertainment it would be great to meet Jennifer Anniston. Her presence, her swag, and the way she carries herself exhibits the right kind of energy for a star. she has the star power and meeting her I would get to feel that power.
I believe if I get a chance to meet any of the individuals mentioned above, it will transform me to a higher level of consciousness.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
On Facebook I can be found at https://www.facebook.com/telkg
On Instagram I can be found at https://www.instagram.com/telkganesan/
On Linked In, connect with me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/telkganesan/
On Twitter, you can follow me at @Telganesan
My website: http://www.telkganesan.com/
Kyyba Films website: https://www.kyybafilms.com/
Kyyba Films on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kyybafilms/
Kyyba Films on Instagram: @kyybafilms
Kyyba website: https://kyyba.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!