From a soldier to an entrepreneur, an adventurous and inspiring journey, Col Sunil Prem, Managing Director of Navyug Infosolutions Pvt Ltd an established software company. Providing unique solutions & services, through wisdom, integrity, technology. Ensuring quality to the customers, value stakeholders, and growth to their employees. Striving to be among the top three producers of unique technology solutions, services, and talent in India.
Incubees: Tell us about your journey from being a Soldier to an Entrepreneur & Author.
Col Sunil Prem: Doing what you love is the cornerstone to true abundance in life and loving what you do is equally important because everything can never be in your control. Those twin credos have guided all my decisions in life. So I joined the Army at age 16, against the wishes of my parents at that point in time, because I was 15th rank in Prep (equivalent to 11th class) in Panjab (Punjab) University, among 295 or so colleges, and was headed for an engineering degree but the charm of the services was too alluring, with their simple values of honesty, integrity, discipline, and service before self. My spectacles ruled me out of the Air Force, so I joined the Army and 4 years later, I went on to become an Army officer in the Corps of Engineers, also winning the President’s Gold Medal for standing first in my commissioning batch. So my parents too were happy then, as all parents want, is to see their children doing well.
What followed was a 23 and half years long adventure beyond description, during which I roamed most of India including doing three tenures in the North East and two in the North, served with the United Nations in Congo (DRC) and Zambia, did a course in Australia, took part in diverse operations ranging from counter-insurgency in Punjab and the North East, Operation Parakram in the West, the aftermath of the Kargil war in the North and as an observer in rebel-controlled areas in Congo. I was also privileged to be an instructor in the National Defence Academy, commanded my unit, the CHAK DE Regiment, and was also Colonel General Staff of an offensive division as part of an elite strike corps of the Indian Army. Apart from that, I also did my B Tech from JNU and M Tech from IIT Kanpur, both of which I topped, and did a lot of amazing military courses like the Commandos, Platoon Weapons, NBC SO (Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Staff Officer), the Staff College course in India and Australia, and various other leadership and management related courses.
My inclination has always been to be a field soldier, on the ground, with my men and I was finding the desk-bound senior levels, though those are exciting too, not matching my personal preferences. So I took premature retirement and landed up in the corporate world. I immediately jumped into a partnership, which did now work, but I also did a job for two years, in parallel, and both these experiences taught me a lot about corporate. So in 2010, I co-founded Navyug Info solutions Pvt Ltd, with a partner and with support from a lot of many friends, most of them from the Army.
I also formed another company, Arnima Ventures LLP, with two military buddies, and in 2019, I founded Brisk Olive Business Solutions Pvt Ltd, to target my lifelong passion of transforming the country through the values of the military veterans community, while also helping veterans create amazing second lives for and yes, I have just completed a book, “Soldier 2.0: The 19 Steps to a Soldier’s Most Amazing Second Life”, which goes for publication within this month. The book aims to help transition soldiers and spouses to build amazing second lives after they move out of the military.
On the family front, I am equally blessed, with Archana as my better half, a successful home baker, and someone with the warmest and the largest heart that I have known. My son Abhinav is a Ph.D., and a researcher at Princeton, and my daughter Shreya, is a product designer with Electrolux, at Stockholm. The best part is that they are all following their own hearts, and therefore excelling.
I love traveling, reading, writing, and adventure, in equal measure.
I would also like to add that when I left the Army, my parents and other near and dear ones, including my wife, were not happy. I guess, as per them, leaving a settled profession where I was doing quite well was not a wise decision. But then, I am like that curious dog who has to follow his nose, to see what is around the next corner. That is what drives me and keeps me happy too. And that is what I would like to die doing, curious and on the move, for as long as I can, and in the end, I think parents, wives, and friends want you to turn out well. That has happened, so eventually, I guess that they too are happy now, till I go after something ‘stupid’ again.
Incubees: Tell us about ‘Navyug’ and the range of services you offer.
Col Sunil Prem: We have tried to build Navyug into one of India’s top Web & Mobile Applications, IoT, and AI Companies in Noida, Delhi, NCR, Gurgaon (India’s capital region). We have about 100 employees, mostly software developers, and we have developed 100s of applications for clients in the USA, Europe, Singapore, the Middle East, and India.
- Our Services include:
- Web and Mobile Application development.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Solutions.
- Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions.
- Technology migration.
- DevOps as a Service.
- Software Testing Services.
Our clients include NCR (USA), Prime Revenue (USA), Genability (USA), Wipro, L&T, Snapbac, Bytecurve, CarDekho, TyresnMore, CrediHealth, and the Indian Army, to name a few.
Clients & testimony:
We are ISO 9001 Certified, and a member of the ESC (Electronics and Computer Software Export Promotion Council of India). Clutch and Good firms, both respected companies who rate software firms based upon client feedback, rate us over 4.5 on a total of 5. Some of the reviews which we have gathered along the way include:
“Top 30 IoT Development Companies in 2019” – TechReviewer.com
“36 of the Best Outsourcing Companies in India” – TimeDoctor.com
“The 30 Best Start-up Companies April 2017” – Insight Success
“50 Best Start-ups to Work For in 2015” – Silicon India
Another feather in Navyug’s cap is that we are building a Friend or Foe Identification System (IFF) for the Indian Army under a funded IDEX Project (Innovation for Defence Excellence) with funding from the Ministry of Defence Production. We have also 84% of people at Glassdoor say that they would recommend Navyug to a friend.
Incubees: Looking at the tremendous competition among the Artificial Intelligence industry, what makes your start-up unique?
Col Sunil Prem: Navyug is unique for the range of domains and technologies that we tackle, despite still being a small company. Like we are working in finance – for NCR (US) and Prime Revenue (US), for funded US start-up on a cutting edge security application, for Genability (US) on an application for consumers of electricity, for the Sujata Group on an ERP and on industrial automation solutions, for a client on an IoT solution for children, and so on. We are also making IoT solutions for the Indian Army in the form of our products – the Tactical Engagement Trainer and Software Controlled Counter-IED Training Ranges. We are also making Counter-IED Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). And we are providing machine learning solutions to various companies, like predicting future purchases for a financial start-up and matching job vacancies to resumes for an HR Saas solution. And I have named just a few domains and technologies that we work in.
We strongly believe that India needs companies that build products for India. So, as I mentioned earlier, we are also making a critical solution for the Indian Army’s mechanized forces, to help them identify friends from enemies during a mechanized battle. That is not an easy solution at all and it involves both hardware and software.
I would say that these are still early days. Being an organically growing company, we are raising our own funds for doing whatever we do. And we feel that now we are at an inflection point, where a lot of our past work and efforts are coming together. So, if you ask me, I would say that we are just about getting started.
Incubees: Artificial Intelligence that has spawned an entire race of machines, tell us your thought process behind getting into this concept.
Col Sunil Prem: AI, as everybody knows, is nothing but a much more intelligent and ‘human’ way of solving existing problems. Naturally, there is no limit to what all AI is getting applied to. It is fundamentally changing how we use all other machines and technologies, as we try to make everything artificially intelligent. The coming world is going to be much stranger than any of the sci-fi movies that we have seen because as we use AI, we are becoming more aware of the power of this technology.
I believe we are merely at the beginning of the AI revolution.
At Navyug, we understand this, and we are doing all that we can, to equip ourselves to contribute to this.
Incubees: Has COVID-19 impacted Navyug? What are the initiatives (if there are any) ‘Navyug’ took to build a better Health Infrastructure via Artificial intelligence?
Col Sunil Prem: Covid has impacted every business whether positively or negatively. Initially, the impact upon Navyug was negative, as companies across the board cut projects and reduced resources, as they waited and watched to see how things turned out. However, thereafter, the impact has been mostly positive, in many ways.
First, as every crisis does, Covid has speeded up the process of change and the adoption of new technologies. You can see that happening all around, where companies like Zomato, Amazon, PayTM, and Zoom are booming. This has impacted us positively, as we are currently hiring and taking on interns with both hands, as we have more work than we can handle. I see this trend as continuing well into the near future.
Secondly, Covid has changed the way companies work. Working from home has become the norm. Our employees too are working from home too, which means that we can now have, and also hire people from across the country, and probably even across the world. This has huge positive implications, and, as I said, the story is just opening up.
About the medical domain, while we have built applications like CrediHealth, Surgivisors and PatientNextDoor, we are currently not engaged in building solutions related to health infrastructure. But that is inevitable, as we do work in this domain. It is only a matter of time.
Incubees: What are the challenges a Soldier faces while moving to the Entrepreneurial world?
Col Sunil Prem: A soldier’s biggest challenge upon entering the civilian world is the psychological one. Not surprisingly, a soldier initially finds the civilian world very different from the military one, because the two worlds are actually different. The military world is structured around certain idealized values and processes, like honesty, integrity, discipline, loyalty and military professionalism, and so on. They form the basis of leadership and they help militaries win wars. So they are rigorously preached and practiced. Over time, these get into soldiers’ genes and shape what they perceive and do. The civilian world, by contrast, is an ocean, where values and processes vary from one organization to another. Nor are these as rigorously preached and enforced, like in the military. To a soldier, this is a ‘culture shock’ and is hugely disconcerting.
On top of this, the corporate and civilian world jargon is completely foreign to the soldier. So despite having many unique values and capabilities, soldiers struggle initially to make sense of the civilian world, and they need to struggle, till they adapt and move on.
My recipe for soldiers to get over this is for them to prepare for their well in advance, and thoroughly so that they are ready when they come out. That is extremely important, because, with today’s life expectancies, their second life and career might well be as long or longer than their first one.
This was what prompted me to write the book, Soldier 2.0.
Incubees: Tell us about your team. Also, what keeps them motivated?
Col Sunil Prem: We have a young and amazing team at Navyug. Even those who are a little older are ever young at heart. I think that is because of the kind of work that they do. They are all building solutions that are helping shape the world around them, even as they work. Not everybody gets to do that in life. Besides, our culture in Navyug is about an intense focus on technology and processes. We select the best people, in terms of their aptitudes, and then we train them in-house. So our employees either grow with us or they move on to grow with other companies, and that makes up proud too.
Having served both in the military and outside, I must say that people and teams everywhere are the same. They are people. How they shape up depends upon their own aspirations, upon the environment in which they develop in and especially upon the kinds of leaders and mentors that they encounter. That is why, in Navyug we have an environment that is non-hierarchical, caring, and helpful, but also demanding. We do not like to handhold people. We like them to fall and learn to pick themselves up. There can be no better learning than that.
So yes, I would say that we are blessed to have a great team in Navyug. They are the ones who do the actual work.
As to motivation, I feel what every human being needs is to be assured of the basics like security, salary, perks, and good environment to work in, so on. Besides that, however, every human being aspires to achieve something extraordinary that defines his or her journey through life. In the professional context, that means that one must be engaged in work that gives one a sense of achievement. So as a company, we try to do good work, provide a good working environment, and take care of the basics. That I think motivates our people.
Besides, we are very careful while hiring people, and so we are blessed to have a great team. I believe that anybody who has ever worked in Navyug is at the least, above the ordinary.
Incubees: What would you like to address to the budding Entrepreneurs?
Col Sunil Prem: Entrepreneurship, as against running a traditional business, is about creating something new by relooking at the way things happen. It involves a lot of curiosity, exploration, and forging into new territories. So in that sense, an entrepreneur is out on an adventure. For example, you would have called Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus as entrepreneurs, their own days.
So my advice would be to get into entrepreneurship if such dreams drive you and compel you to remain awake at night. Then your entrepreneurship journey becomes a self-fuelled adventure, which gives you the high that you are seeking.
Secondly, while the journey might be an adventure, you also owe it to yourself and to your fellow travellers – the employees, customers, vendors, etc that you take along with you on your ship of adventure – to have the hard-headed common sense to take them safely through those new waters. So must also become an astute businessman, by learning about every aspect of business, while never losing your sense of curiosity and adventure.
Visit to know more: https://navyuginfo.com/