Shyamal Kumar, Co-Founder & CEO, Lavelle Networks

Shyamal Kumar, Co-Founder & CEO of Lavelle Networks, is a software engineer turned entrepreneur with over 18 years of experience in the data networking space. He is passionate about embracing SDN and cloud technologies to bring simplicity and performance to data networks.

Over the years, Shyamal has donned numerous hats of a software product leader, CEO and entrepreneur and continues to excel in all of them. His success story is indeed an inspiration to many.

Early Experiences Moulded into a Leader

Shyamal graduated from BITS, Pilani, one of India’s best engineering institutes. For him, those were some of the most remarkable days that transformed him as a person. Shyamal had the freedom to choose his curriculum, schedules, and coursework, in addition to the opportunities to participate in the widest variety of inter-varsity programs. “I also got excellent leadership training opportunities at school and college, and that helped me when I started to work as a software product leader,” mentions Shyamal.

Most importantly, Shyamal learned from his foundational years that people are inherently interested in contributing to a cause as long as they can get the right leadership. At its core, leadership is about driving change to make this world a better place. “Whether you are building a team, a product or a company – you are driving change, and you need to compel your customers, investors, and team members into believing in the change,” shares Shyamal.

A Software Engineer by Accident to Leading an Award-winning Software Company

Shyamal was preparing to do an MBA after engineering. However, as part of the degree program, he interned at a networking software company. After that, he was hooked on software engineering and never looked back. “The passion for building great software and solving problems in modern internet communication were two things that brought me to this field,” reveals Shyamal. He then worked with leading companies such as Tata Elxsi, Juniper Networks, Inkra Networks, Telsima Communications, Riverstone Networks, NetContinuum, and Versa Networks.

In his current role as the Co-Founder & CEO of Lavelle Networks, Shyamal is spearheading his team to bring SD-WAN products that solve the biggest challenges in the WAN for distributed enterprises. “The desire to excel from learning and growing is the fundamental seed for success in this role,” says Shyamal. “I have seen all areas of my life – spiritual, personal, social and professional –changing significantly because of my experience of building the company.”

Lavelle Networks: Accelerating Networks for Digital Economy

In 2015, Shyamal and his co-founding team witnessed massive growth in public cloud services in enterprises. They felt that a substantial underserved need in enterprise networks connecting to the cloud would open up opportunities for challengers like them to ride the tailwinds of the market inflexion point, which they now call SD-WAN. Taking inspiration from the Café Coffee Day on Lavelle Road, in the heart of Bangalore, which they visited frequently, Shyamal and his co-founding team decided to name their company—Lavelle Networks.

“We built our software on the cloud, way ahead of our industry peers, and today that has made us the best multi-cloud solution for SD-WAN,” reveals the proud Co-Founder & CEO of the company.

What Makes Lavelle Networks Standout from its Competitors?

Lavelle Networks offers network-as-a-service, where its software seamlessly manages, optimises, and secures the customer networks across their branch offices, data centres and cloud locations. Moreover, customers can interface with the team of Lavelle Networks by using standard help desk tools rather than spending their time on enterprise network configurations, tools, and troubleshooting. “We let the customer focus on their core business applications, leaving their networks to us to manage for them using our cloud,” asserts Shyamal.

Therefore, together with high calibre technology, brilliant networking software, and exceptional customer experience, Lavelle Networks stands out and delivers the best enterprise network experience for every user, device, application, or cloud.

Growth by Leaps and Bounds

Lavelle Networks won its first 10 customers between 2017 – 2018, within a year of launching its beta software version, which is an incredible feat achieved since enterprises rarely adopt young products immediately. “We realised we were at the cusp of disrupting the enterprise network services market and accelerated our growth by raising capital from investors like Ideaspring Capital, YourNest, KAAJ Ventures, ASM Technologies, and other business partners, and raced away to 100+ customers from 2019 – 2021, despite the COVID slowdown,” reveals Shyamal. He further says that the company’s revenue has grown more than 10X in the last few years, thereby emerging as one of the Top 3 solutions in the market.

Today, leading global enterprise brands in retail, eCommerce, insurance, financial institutions, government networks, law and order, manufacturing, and healthcare are using Lavelle Networks SD-WAN Platform for upgrading their infrastructure to next-generation WAN and Hybrid WAN Solutions. For Shyamal and his co-founding team, it has been an exhilarating experience to see the growth and acceptance of their products by enterprise customers across the nation.

Tackling Challenges

As a young start-up, there are innumerable demands on the product from every quarter – sales, engineers, customers, and investors. But caught in the middle are the entrepreneurs who have to decide what’s correct and essential for their product and then focus on those decisions. Therefore, Shyamal feels that the most significant challenge for start-up entrepreneurs is building the skill to focus on what matters and learning to let the rest take its course.

“The way to overcome these challenges is to have a balanced method of prioritising between the demands on your attention and then giving a lot of your energy towards a few chosen priorities,” reveals Shyamal. “It takes discipline to say no effectively and staying focused on the long-term vision while making the necessary choices for the near-term pressures.”

Efficiently Balancing Cost with ROI

According to Shyamal, technology investments need to balance the needs for revenue growth, customer satisfaction, engineering success, keeping total cost of ownership economical, and rock-solid product security. He further explains, “At times, the business might need more focus on revenue growth and product security – those are pressing demands that are seasonal at times, urgent at times, and constant at times. However, by picking open-source software without diligence, you must balance all areas of the product so that you are not building too much technical debt causing instabilities or leaving too many vulnerabilities.” Therefore, he calls building world-class software with reasonable investments an art and science.

Mantras to Motivate Team Members

From a leader’s perspective, Shyamal feels that empowering team members to solve the key challenges facing customers is the right way to motivate an organisation. He further adds, “We exist to serve customers and building this into our company’s culture is key to success in today’s red ocean markets of hyper-competitiveness.”

Moreover, it is also imperative to have clear and consistent communication with the team to be aware of changing priorities, needs, and market demands. When everyone is empowered to act and resolve the priorities and given constant, precise, and regular feedback on how their work is making a difference – it always motivates people to give their best. “More than money or resources – the key driver for human performance is ownership of the goal that you are chasing,” shares Shyamal.

Celebrating the Milestones

The first milestone for Shyamal and his team was locking Lavelle Networks’ first 10 customers. This was followed by finding the right investors for the company who would support their vision for growth and then back to finding more customers. “We have done this very well, and with a growing customer base of 100+ customers, we are set to gain the top spot in our space – SD-WAN in our home market – India,” mentions Shyamal.

A Typical Day in the Life of an Entrepreneur

Being an early riser, Shyamal gets a head start on the day for communicating or processing task lists without the pressure of constant communication. Most of his time also goes towards finalising priorities in the near term while checking the preferences and the resources or plans to execute those priorities.

“I am always strong in my faith, which helps me stay grounded and humble,” shares Shyamal. However, sometimes he gets stressed under pressure but is agile in nature. He quickly reflects, learns, and gets back on track. Shyamal’s perfect idea to unwind and unplug from work is to spend time with his family and read up on topics he is trying to understand, learn, and excel at.

Racing Ahead

Lavelle Networks is racing towards its next 10X growth, with customers backing the company all the way. In February 2022, Airtel invested in Lavelle Networks and also formed a global partnership which is an unprecedented testimony to the ability of its team, technology, and the depth of its Founders’ vision. “We plan to continue our laser focus on world-class software and using that bedrock to migrate into higher and higher stratospheres in enterprise networking,” concludes Shyamal.

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