The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Tech business benefited by being ahead of curve on cyber-security
Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Jai Aenugu, managing director of Aberdeen-based firm The TechForce
How and why did you start in business?
I always dreamt of having my own business and creating an impact on the wider community. Winning an Elevator Award (entrepreneurial supporter of the year, 2016) gave me the confidence boost to quit my IT job with an oil services firm and establish The TechForce.
As well as helping to create jobs in the local economy, I wanted to show that you can build a potentially global business from Aberdeen that would prove the city isn’t just about oil and gas.
How did you get to where you are today?
Hard work and never giving up. I was fortunate that we were early adopters of cyber-security at a time when many businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, didn’t see it as a genuine threat, or something that could happen to them.
It’s early days for the business but we have supported over 100 different clients across a wide range of sectors.
I genuinely care about helping our customers, so the most important thing I can do is listen then come up with solutions that protect and empower their businesses against external threats.
Who helped you?
Too many people to mention individually, as well as organisations such as ScotlandIS, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, Business Gateway and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry.
I’ve been a member of the Federation of Small Businesses for two years and, as well as providing an opportunity to network with like-minded people, it’s a relief to have a wide range of support – from legal to employment advice – should the need arise.
It’s vital to have a strong support network you can lean on for guidance and learn from.
In turn, I’ve dedicated time to support others who aspire to start their own business or develop a career in cyber security.
What has been your biggest mistake?
At least in the first year, thinking like a small business. We can all be guilty at times of limiting our options; for example, by only selling your product/ service to customers locally or targeting only smaller businesses as clients.
We can work with any UK-based company, which creates significant growth opportunities.
What is your greatest achievement?
It has to be survival, especially in the wake of the last oil and gas downturn. Last year we made the decision to pivot the company and focus exclusively on cybersecurity services.
Education is something I’m extremely passionate about, so I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to “pay it forward” by giving back to schools, colleges and universities throughout the north-east.
If you were in power in government, what would you change?
The UK Government deserves credit for the recent steps taken to protect businesses of all sizes, but a big challenge lies ahead in attracting the right talent to live and work in the UK. After completing my master’s at Edinburgh Napier University I secured a work visa and later citizenship, but there were plenty of hoops to jump through first.
The country would benefit from a change to the immigration system, where we can open doors to the world’s best and brightest and help fill skills gaps where they exist.
What do you still hope to achieve?
We’re just getting started and I feel we have only begun to scratch the surface.
We expect to grow the team from four to 10 people this year and look forward to growing our client base and developing existing industry partnerships
The impact of cyberattacks has resulted in many businesses closing temporarily or suffering significant revenue losses. We are well-placed to make a significant contribution by empowering businesses to take the necessary precautions to keep critical data safe.
What do you do to relax?
I’m a keen runner and have raised money for several north-east charities, including Charlie House, Clan and the Gathimba Edwards Foundation, by taking part in various longdistance races.
I find it’s a useful stressreliever and helps focus my mind on the business, as well as keeping me fit. I also enjoy cooking traditional Indian dishes, such as chicken biryani and kaddu ki kheer and spending time playing with my two-yearold daughter Shikha.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?
I enjoy audiobooks, especially while running or driving to visit clients, that give me pointers about business or the latest technology. I’m currently listening to Gap Selling by Keenan and Sandworm by Andy Greenberg. The next book on my list is about parenting, by Joanna Faber and Julie King.
I don’t watch too much TV, but do enjoy watching the odd Indian movie – usually the more underrated, cult classic films that don’t come from the big Bollywood production studios.
What do you waste your money on?
I’m always looking for the next must-have gadget or technology innovation. I’m a big fan of Apple products and wear an Apple Watch to stay in contact with clients and business contacts.
Steve Jobs (Apple’s cofounder) was someone I looked up to when starting my own business. I read his biography and was amazed by his passion and vision.
How would your friends describe you?
Ambitious, outgoing, honest and helpful.
What would your enemies say about you?
I’m very competitive and have a reputation for being very active on social media.
It’s something I’ve done deliberately to try to differentiate my business, but also appreciate it’s not to everyone’s taste.
“A big challenge lies ahead in attracting the righttalentto live in the UK”