JADAVPUR UNIVERSITY EAST COAST ALUMNI (JUECA)
Sailesh Ranjan Chowdhury
A state of mind where discussion on 'success' is rather stale and depressing
Sailesh R. Chowdhury is the founder, President and CEO of Basic Commerce and Industries Inc. (BCI) (www.bcisse.com), headquartered at BCI Building, Moorestown, NJ 08057, a multi-million dollar high-tech firm that provides engineering, research and development, software, signal processing and technological support to the nation’s space and defense organizations.
I had the pleasure of speaking with this Electrical Engineering (EE) graduate (1967) from Jadavpur University (JU) who is not only a talented engineer and a smart entrepreneur, but also a poet, painter and philanthropist. To find out more about him, please read on.
After graduating from high school, contrary to the old tradition of following his grandfather, father and brother into the medical profession, Sailesh decided to follow his brother’s ‘cool’ Electrical Engineer father-in-law and started pursuing his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree from JU in 1963. Sailesh remembered it was a memorable year in the history of JU. The all India university soccer, east zone cricket, table tennis and debate championships had all been won by Jadavpur that year.
Besides studies, Sailesh was part of the JU cricket team, and also directed and staged several dramas. He became the founder member of the JU Cine Club and was actively involved in organizing annual cultural festival events. Back then known as the JU Social, Sailesh was the General Officer of Commanding for the event in 1967, during his final year at the University.
In pursuit of an exciting career, he changed jobs several times. He moved to Rochester, NY to work for General Dynamics as a circuit design engineer, then worked for the Defense Division of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) as a software engineer, following which he switched to United Technologies as a systems engineer. In 1979, he settled down for a while, with the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA to work on the AEGIS Combat System, an integrated Naval weapons system. During his tenure there, Sailesh published many technical papers and also received several awards from the U S Navy for engineering excellence.
After work, he along with a few of his colleagues started working on their own projects related to research and development of electronic devices, and incorporated Basic Commerce and Industries (BCI) as a systems and software engineering company in 1981. After nine years at RCA, Sailesh moved to RMS Technologies to accept another new challenge. Following a short 2 year stint there as the Director of Engineering and Chief Scientist, he and his wife Manidipa, an Electronics and Telecommunications engineer, also from JU, set up the office of BCI in Moorestown, NJ, in 1990.
BCI specializes in radar, command, control and communication, weather, weapons control, navy combat and air traffic control systems and provides engineering services to the US Army, Air Force and Navy, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Severe Storm Lab (NSSL), MIT, Applied Physics Lab of JHU, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics to name a few. A company that originally started with a $ 600,000 contract has now grown into a mid-sized firm with 9 offices spread across the US, employing over 220 engineers and programmers, and earning a revenue of over $ 35 million per year. BCI has won several awards. Some of those that deserve special mention are Inc. Magazine: 500 List for Fastest Growing U.S. Companies, Deloitte & Touche: Fast 50 of New Jersey, Ernst & Young: Fast 50 of New Jersey, Forbes Magazine: Fast 500 Growing Technology Companies in the U.S., Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) Outstanding Achievement, U.S. Navy Technical Excellence, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics (IEEE) Technical Innovation.
At BCI, Sailesh surrounds himself with six vice-Presidents, one for each business area to control a hierarchical business organization. Manidipa supports the business administration area. Their older son Shomrut, a Rutgers grad, who rode the corporate ladder at Navigant Consulting (NYSE: NAV) for 12 years is also now with BCI, and on his way to develop his own business. Younger son Shuvro, a graduate of NYU Stern, and University of Pennsylvania, worked for BCI and then founded Salido, funded by venture capital.
He collects art and owns over one hundred paintings that are on display in his private gallery, at his residence in Moorestown, NJ; notable creations in his collection include those by Jamini Roy, M. F. Hussain, and also sketches by Rabindranath Tagore. He hosts musical performances in an auditorium in his residence that have been graced by artists such as Ustad Rashid Khan, sarodist Ken Zukerman, and other notable Indian classical musicians.
Sailesh has published 3 books, each a collection of his poems. “Dharabahikota theke Commentary” was published in 1987 and “Shomoi Ebong Onnyo Shomoi” in 2002. His most recent collection, “Amra Achi Kothay Kakhon” was recently released at the 2013 Kolkata Book Fair.
Over the years, Sailesh has continued to keep in touch with his alma mater and has been a guest speaker at the EE Department of JU on several occasions. He has also funded projects on JU initiatives. Whenever he visits Kolkata, usually once a year, he takes a nostalgic walk in the JU engineering campus.
Through his Liberty Foundation, he built a school at Ramakrishna Sevashram, in his hometown Ghatal. Sailesh is on the board of trustees, and one of the major donors of the Indian Cultural Center in New Jersey (www.iccofsj.org).
Sailesh recognizes that ‘identity’ is a strong issue in his life, especially coming from India and working to establish himself in the US. Participation in the main stream of America is very important to him, and that helped him start BCI. Some of the ways in which he became a part of the community are as follows:
And finally, here are some thoughts about entrepreneurship from the man himself: “I feel that entrepreneurship is a very good sport in an uneven playing field. You need to play whether you win or loose. It originates from the urge of doing something, connecting the dots and going somewhere new. In contrast, in the mind of an entrepreneur, a discussion on success is rather stale and depressing. I believe entrepreneurship is a state of mind. It focuses on not what I have done, but what I do next.”