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The first thing you notice when you meet Dharani Ramamoorthy is that he is nearly always smiling. Words flow forth feverishly from the smile that’s permanently affixed to Ramamoorthy’s visage—whether he’s talking about how he ended up settling in the Upper Midwest, or how he cherishes the opportunities that he’s been afforded in the United States.
Ramamoorthy has a lot to smile about. He serves as the chief executive of Xylo Technologies, the consultancy he founded that counts prestigious organizations like the Mayo Clinic among its many clients. Leveraging his own experience working in information technology (IT) consulting, Ramamoorthy has helped the company grow exponentially since 2000, when he launched the then-fledgling business. Indeed, he’s been such a successful entrepreneur that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce selected Xylo as a finalist for its 2014 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award.
Yet, along the way, Ramamoorthy has contended with his fair share of challenges. Finding qualified job candidates, for example, remains one of the most pressing problems facing Xylo, he says. In his struggle to find qualified workers, Ramamoorthy has been forced to look far outside of Rochester, Minnesota, where his company is based—something that comes with its own set of legal and regulatory obstacles.
Nevertheless, Ramamoorthy remains optimistic about the future of his company. With his enthusiastic love of the U.S. and its entrepreneurial spirit, he is confident that Xylo will continue to grow over the coming decade, and beyond.
Last month at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Summit, Free Enterprise sat down with Ramamoorthy to talk about his unique story, his company, and the state of U.S. business.
FE: Can you talk about your background and how you ended up in the U.S.?
I was born and raised in an agricultural family in India. I was the first generation who received a college degree in my family. I came as a student to pursue my master’s degree in computer science in Fargo, North Dakota. I graduated in 1994, and since then I’ve been in the U.S. workforce. U.S. citizenship was very important to me to pursue my dream of becoming a true American, and I’m really honored to be one of the first groups of citizens to be naturalized after September 11th.
Even though we can get a similar education in India, I wanted a U.S. experience because the U.S. fascinated me. I said, I’m going to go to the United States to pursue my dream of getting a higher education, and to see what opportunities are there.
FE: How did you end up starting your own company in the U.S.?
I started my company in 2000. At that time, I [was working] for two consulting companies, at IBM and at Mayo Clinic. At that point, I found that these two consulting companies were not providing the right talent that the client [needed]. They would send some talent, but it was not the right [match].
Because of my background, I understood what my clients needed—not just the technology portion, but also the cultural [aspect]. Knowing those two things made me very successful and helped me fill that gap. We’ve grown like crazy since.
FE: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced running your own business?
Technology talent is not available here [in Rochester, Minnesota]. There is a very, very big gap [that exists]. I’ve tried to find people who have the talent, but I couldn’t find [them].
It’s primarily the skills. Some clients are willing to accept [candidates who] only have some college, but they need to have specific skills, including programming skills. These days, it’s all about web development skills. Since 2010, everyone wants a mobile site. They contract agencies like us to fill the gap, because they can get the talent through us. I’m always looking for that niche talent, but when I go and look for it, I can’t find it. Given that gap, and that I couldn’t find people [in the U.S.] willing to move here, we naturally go look for people who are willing to move from [outside of the] U.S.
FE: What would you say sets U.S. businesses apart from those in other countries?
Innovation. All U.S. companies are innovating, and they want to develop new products. We could go to India, and we can start a company there, but the workplace is not free like in the United States. People there are not willing to take risks. Here, people are willing to take risks, and they can be successful.
FE: What can be done to help foster and promote education and training in the U.S., especially in parts where the skills gap is most pronounced?
Every company wants to give something back to the community. We need to plant the seeds in high school, so with Xylo, I partnered with the local Chambers of Commerce to help promote science and technology education in our schools. Our company sponsors these kinds of programs. I go to high school students and ask them to look at this field and tell them that demand is only going to go up for these kinds of workers. It’s so important that the U.S. become more competitive in the sciences.