FREMONT -- Prem Chand, founder and CEO of Fremont-based Milestone Technologies, got interested in logistics as a youth operating tractors and working the Chico farmland owned by his parents, who were immigrants from India.
In 1997, Chand founded Milestone, which offers technology services to corporations, in call and customer care centers, flexible mobile computing, wireless networks and cloud computing.
Milestone's top boss also is taking the unique approach of establishing customer care centers in California rather than outsourcing the jobs overseas, though it also has people working at customer locations around the world.
With annual sales that exceed $100 million, Milestone employs about 1,400 people worldwide. This newspaper recently interviewed Chand about his company. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.
Q What makes Milestone's approach different from other firms that take care of a company's technology requirements?
A If you walk into one of our facilities, you will see a lot of passion. You will see a lot of people excited to be there. When a customer is talking to someone on the phone who has that kind of passion, you feel it. You know they are different from the people at a typical solutions center.
Q What is the game changer you offer customers?
A Our people is one thing. We also design solutions that are going to be somewhat customized. A lot of our competitors have box solutions. They tell their clients here is what they do, how they do it and to come fit inside their box. We design solutions that think outside the box. By being creative, we can do things that change the way technology is supported.
Q What are the areas of geographic growth for you?
A The Bay Area is largely untapped for us. There are so many customers that we don't even touch here. We have a great opportunity here. We also have to think outside the Bay Area, of course.
Q Which industries will you pursue for expansion?
A We are not touching financial services that much. We're not touching retail. We do some work in medical, but it's not a large part of our business so far. The companies that we serve at present are primarily tech companies.
Q Why have you experienced success with tech companies?
A The tech companies we deal with want solutions that are outside the box. They challenge the status quo of how customer service should happen. And the scale and rate of growth of these tech organizations is pretty rapid.
Q How did you get into this business?
A On the farm, I learned about logistics at a very young age. Then I worked at a transportation company, but eventually I wanted to do more than to physically move desks and furniture. I took everything I had, $250,000 between my house, my credit cards, whatever I could hock, and poured it all into this company. Six months later I had no customers and only $30,000 left. Then we closed Blue Shield of California, which was our first deal. That put us on the map and after that it just grew.
Q What kind of sales growth do you have?
A After 2006, we were growing at 28 percent year over year. Last year we grew at 40 percent. This year we are going to grow by another 40 percent or 50 percent.
Q Why did you expand into Chico in 2013?
A Chico is where I came from. At first it was going to be 230 jobs at the customer contact center we set up there. Then we increased the head count to 370. We actually put a dent in their unemployment rate there. We became the third- or fourth-largest private employer in Chico.
Q What was your greatest disappointment?
A There were two occasions that were very disappointing. One was 9/11 and the other was the financial crisis of 2008. Those both impacted global economies. We had to let people go. It's tough to grow a business and then face the fact that the business isn't going to grow in those kinds of economic conditions.
Q What was the most satisfying situation from your business?
A Seeing people excited about our company and believing in the vision. Seeing customers who also believe in our vision.
Q The type of customer centers you have in Chico and Fremont are usually overseas. Why did you decide to operate them here?
A If we went overseas, the service wouldn't be there. We wouldn't be able to connect to people the way we can connect. The people in Chico and Fremont we have hired, they feel empowered.
Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.
Title: Founder and CEO of Milestone Technologies
Born: Yuba City
5 THINGS about prem chand
His first job was driving tractors on a pumpkin farm.
His favorite indulgence is auto racing.
His favorite pastime is personal fitness.
His favorite quote: "Failure is not an option," from the movie "Apollo 13."
His favorite celebrity or business leader is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, for taking risks, never giving up and revolutionizing entire industries.