EXECUTIVE PROFILE – PART 1 of 3
Anand Buch reflects on an eventful year and career
2021 has been an eventful year for NetSapiens co-founder Anand Buch. In addition to the milestones of turning 50 years old; the merger of his and co-founder David Wang’s “baby” with Crexendo; and the SNAPsolution platform reaching the two million user level; sadly, Anand’s father passed away at the age of 89.
The passing of one’s parents — Anand’s mother died about three years earlier — often compels one to pause and reflect on personal and professional lives and choices. So when the former NetSapiens CEO and now CSO (Chief Strategy Officer) of Crexendo, sat down for an interview — though no fan of self-promotion — Anand was ready to reminisce and go deep on his family life, his career, and the telecommunications industry.
The interview took place on a Friday afternoon on the patio of the Marriott’s Coronado Island Resort & Spa, which has a spectacular view across the San Diego Bay of downtown.
Just a week earlier, at this same location, NetSapiens held its first UGM (user group meeting) since the Crexendo merger and the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions were eased. 270 attendees (the largest NetSapiens’ UGM to date) from around the globe participated in 37 knowledge-sharing events over the course of three days.
Roots in India, Uganda, the UK, and the US
Casually dressed, Anand was wearing his Chicago Cubs baseball cap and his Arsenal windbreaker when he began sharing his successful immigrant story — one that is both classic in a general sense (overcoming discrimination, working hard, and taking risks) and unique in many others.
Anand’s heritage is Indian but he also has roots in African, Europe, and North America. The Buch ancestors were in the Nagar-Brahman caste and their migration to the West began when Anand’s grandfather moved as a young man from the state of Gujarat in Northwest India toTanzania — at the time, traveling from one British colony to another — seeking adventure and more opportunities.
Many years later, Anand’s parents Jogendra and Jyoti were teachers in Uganda when he was born in the capital city of Kampala. The third child and first son, Anand left Africa as an infant. Uganda — only 10 years after gaining independence from Britain — was under the control of the brutal military dictator Idi Amin.
In 1972, Amin ordered that all Asians be expelled from Uganda within 90 days. Anand and family were admitted into the United Kingdom as refugees with next-to-nothing because all their assets had to be left behind.
“My grandfather left India by choice. My mom and dad were forced out of Uganda. Near the tail end of their lives, I would often ask them, ‘What was your favorite place?’ They both said Kampala was their paradise.”
Anand would spend his “formative years” as a school boy in North London and for a time had an English Cockney accent. And though he found a group of friends and became a supporter of Arsenal, his brown skin was an invitation for discriminiaton by English racists and he and his family members were frequently called “the P-word” (a derogatory term for British Asians).
Jogendra found his credentials weren’t transferrable from Uganda. So instead of teaching, he worked a government clerical job. There he too experienced racial discrimination in the workplace — being passed over for promotions and more. At this point, Anand’s father began to ponder his children’s future in the UK.
Moving to the American Midwest
In 1983, after a decade in North London, Anand moved to Chicago with his family. His aunt sponsored them after convincing his parents that the US would offer a better future for their children. As an 11-year-old, Anand remembers being excited about moving to Illinois and his first impressions of his new home were that America was “big” and “glamorous.”
Besides extended family members, Anand would hang out with neighbors and play sports near their modest suburban apartment and later townhouse. “I was very fortunate to have grown up in Chicago during the Michael Jordan years and to watch the Bulls play. What I admired most about the guy was not the obvious things, but his ability to be so focused and ‘ON’ all the time—his work rate, work ethic, energy EVERYTIME OUT on the court.”
Becoming an American
“I really felt like an American. So when my parents asked if I was going to do something with an ‘American’ friend, I’d say, ‘Oh, you mean, my caucasian friend?’ I’m an American. I remember feeling so proud when I was naturalized and took the oath in downtown Chicago.”
Over the years, Anand demonstrated he was a good student and earned scholarships. He also excelled at soccer, playing on club teams and his middle school and high school squads. He even turned down a scholarship to play soccer at one college, choosing instead to attend the College of DuPage, where he earned four associated degrees before transferring to the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, where he got his B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering.
While in his last semester at the University of Illinois, Anand began interviewing with companies and early on received a job offer to work with 3M, the “American multinational conglomerate corporation operating in the fields of industry, worker safety, US health care, and consumer goods” based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Anand continued to interview and send query letters to other companies. During the winter holidays, he visited San Diego, where a couple of his cousins lived, and popped into several small tech companies in Sorrento Valley to drop off resumes. He also tried unsuccessfully to finagle an interview with Qualcomm’s recruiting team. No luck, but one San Diego company did exhibit a lot of interest during on campus interviews back at UI.
So during spring break ‘93, he was back in Southern California, interviewing with David Wang and others about a position with a small startup called PCSI. According to David, PCSI at that time was focused on using satellites for enterprise communications and the beginning of cellular communications.
At the time, Anand was not a newbie to the job market. He had held many jobs in the past, starting with delivering papers and stuffing weekly inserts as a young teenager in Chicago. Later, he worked in the shoe department for a store that later became part of the Kohl’s chain. His favorite job until he got out of college was working in a retail outfit called the Great Frame Up.
“It was a store that allowed you to build your own picture frames if you wanted to or we could do it for you. I started out in the back room and then moved to the front, working with customers. And then I began opening and closing the store. What I learned then is still applicable to what I’m doing with NetSapiens now. I’m talking about customer interaction, how to work with customers, training, fiduciary responsibility, and profit and loss. I was very intrigued by the costs of materials and what we were selling them for. I was very interested in margins.”
While in college, Anand had summer electrical engineering internships where he’d “build one piece of the puzzle” but had a deep desire to understand the bigger picture. “I’d get bored after a while. ‘Been there, done that.’ And I’d need to work on another piece of the puzzle. If I was writing software, I’d need to know what problem we were trying to solve, but I’d also need to know what the overall purpose was.”
As spring graduation rolled around, Anand had two solid offers and a dilemma to resolve. The offer from 3M was the exact same as the offer from PCSI. Of course, the cost of living was much higher in San Diego than St Paul, so the 3M salary would go a lot further than the PCSI one. “My father taught me to make decisions with intellect not emotions,” said Anand, but he was unable to decide which route to take until he got some advice from his cousins.
The consensus was: “Go with the smaller company. You’ll get to do more and learn more.” Anand followed this advice and called David Wang back to accept the offer with PCSI. He had one request: the summer off and to start in late August. PCSI agreed and that’s how Anand arrived in San Diego permanently almost 30 years ago.
Anand credits his mother for inspiring him to constantly try to make others happy, and in her own way, preparing him for his “play the game to change the game” mentality. He credits his father for his ability to discern emotion from objectivity and to always be introspective. He credits his two older sisters for protecting him and being “the other mothers” that he had growing up.
Clearly, the institution of family is important to Anand and a critical part of his successful professional and personal lives. Though there is a strong tradition of arranged marriages in Indian culture, Anand the American had no interest in such an arrangement. So a year into his professional career on a four-hour car drive, Jogendra broached the subject that perhaps now was the time to start looking for a wife. To his father, the time seemed right since he’d reached all the other young adult milestones of graduation from university and a solid professional career start.
Jogendra had a picture of a woman that he wanted his son to see, but Anand was having none of it. “I said, ‘I don’t want to look at a picture.’” I’m sure my father was thinking, ‘This guy is a lost cause.’ But he left me her number and encouraged me to call this woman who was a part of a family that were long-time friends with my family and was going to school in Baltimore.”
When he got back from the road trip, Anand found Mamta’s phone number that his father had left behind. “One night I came home and I don’t know why…It was not a drunk dial. I don’t really know why, but I called her. She didn’t answer, but I left a message. And then she called me back and we joked about being set-up. It was the beginning of a friendship. We had a good rapport,” said Anand.
The phone calls continued over the next few months until Mamta got a free airline ticket that she used for a trip to San Diego, where Anand met her for the first time. Their relationship blossomed after that and on their second in-person meeting, less than six months after the first call, Anand “formally proposed” to Mamta.
Their engagement was 18 months as they waited for Mamta to finish her graduate courses. In 1995, they had a traditional marriage in India.. This was followed by multiple wedding receptions around the world, including one in Mamta’s grandmother’s home town, the UK, and one in Chicago. “We did so many that we just celebrated our first anniversary at home (in San Diego),” says Anand.
In addition to being his partner in life, Mamta would later join NetSapiens as an employee at the insistence of co-founder David Wang and executive vice president Jim Murphy. Mamta’s role was originally to help as an operations analyst which she indirectly accomplished through her many roles ranging from customer support, to training/documentation writing, and pre-sales. All of this was possible in large part because of her Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
As you would expect, they had some initial challenges with boundaries between their work life and their personal life. “Mamta would want to vent about something happening at the office, and as the CEO, I wanted to fix the problem. Then she would say, ‘No, I don’t want you to fix it. I just want to vent.’”
“There were times when I used to joke with her, ‘Either I’m going to have to fire you as an employee or you’re going to have to fire me as a husband,’” says Anand with a laugh. Anand credits Mamta for being the spiritual catalyst and supportive force behind his constant pursuit of a purposeful life.
Married 26 years now, Anand and Mamta have two sons, Rohin and Sahir. Anand says he cherishes spending time with his sons. “They each have their own unique interests and personalities.” Rohin is currently attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He’s a polyglot, taking classes in modern history, Italian and International Relations. Sahir is a sophomore in high school and enjoys physics, graphic design, gaming, and playing soccer.”
In his free time, Anand enjoys watching and playing sports — especially soccer. He plays a couple of nights a week in a community league with a few other NetSapiens employees. Anand says, “I enjoy just about anything soccer related. Especially when it comes to Arsenal from the English Premier League.”
David talks about the camaraderie he and his co-founder share, “We run together sometimes. I’m usually in better shape and can run much further than Anand. But once, he kicked in his afterburner for a short distance, I could never catch up. However, on a bicycle going uphill, I totally dusted him!”
Goals on the pitch; and in the business world; in his personal life — those are what are important to Anand Buch. But not necessarily in that order.
In Part 2 of Anand Buch’s profile, he spills the tea about the beginnings of NetSapiens.
In Part 3 of Anand Buch’s profile, he offers leadership lessons and his opinion on the UC industry and its future.
Read NetSapiens’ co-founder David Wang’s profile “The Adventure of a Lifetime.”
Meet the Team profiles offer insights into the backgrounds, experiences, and lives of NetSapiens’ founders and company leaders. We are always focused on the NetSapiens mission, which is to become the best B2B provider of unified communications, video conferencing and collaboration, and contact center solutions for service providers.