He Engineered his Way to Highest Honor

P.B. Ram Reddy


The chairman of the board of Clique, a more-than-$1 billion software-development company with more than 20 million business users worldwide, is to receive the inaugural Alumnus of the Year award from Rutgers University's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The school said P.B. Ram Reddy, 75, will be presented with the honor on April 25 at the alumni networking event in the Busch Campus Student Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Dr. Narayan B. Mandayam, Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, department chair and associate director at the university's Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB), told India Abroad that the awards presentation honoring Reddy is part of a campus activity to return alumni to campus and increase engagement with them, He said such an activity had been his goal since he became department chair.

"It also allows us to showcase to our alumni the groundbreaking research being carried out in my department in the areas of signal and information processing, communications, security, privacy, cyber-physical systems, bioelectrical engineering, big data and high performance computing," he said.

He said the presentation to Reddy, who received his PhD in electrical engineering in 1973, recognizes his "inspiration leadership and contributions during the course of his career." He said Reddy's colloquium talk in 2015, in which he discussed "how to become your own boss" is still well-remembered on campus. Mandayam said Reddy is admired for his career path, from his time as a defense contractor at Dynamics Research Corporation to founding his own defense contracting company APEX. He became chairman of the board of CommuniClique, now known as Clique.

In an interview with India Abroad, Reddy, born in the town of Kovur in the Nellore District in Andhra Pradesh, called his alma mater "the springboard to be immensely successful in my work in the industry and also later my own entrepreneurial ventures, for which I will be eternally grateful....In a sense, it's coming full circle with my association and experience with Rutgers."

Reddy said that when he began his PhD at Rutgers in 1969, there were not many Indian-American students or faculty in its science and engineering departments.

After graduating from Rutgers, Reddy began work for Dynamics Research Corporation in Boston, which inspired a lifetime of work in defense contracting companies. At DRC, Reddy worked on laser gyroscopic and navigation systems for the Pentagon, focusing specifically on projects for the Navy, including submarine navigational systems. He was hired in 1978 by another defense contractor, Litton Industries' Guidance and Controls Division. There he worked on electronic intelligence and warfare. In 1984, he was awarded special access security clearances by the government, so that he could work on high-security government contracts. He was considered, at the time, to be the first Indian-American to hold such top security clearance from the National Security Agency.

In 1985, after a stint with Teledyne, Reddy started his own defense contracting company, Apex Technology Inc., which he headed for almost 20 years. In 2004, Apex partnered with Raytheon to work on a more than $200 million contract with the Indian Army, which Reddy said included "some of the most sophisticated weapons systems."

When that contract was finished, he said, he was able to retire "comfortably" on his investments.

He then became a marathon runner and has since run a total of 15: five in Chicago, five in Los Angeles and five Marine Corps marathons in Washington, D.C. He has also been a member and supporter of the Telugu Association of North America since its inception more than two decades ago.

In 2007, he became an angel investor for CommuniClique, which provides software development kits and APIs for businesses to be able to provide secure and efficient communications by integrating voice, messaging, and other technologies across multiple platforms and end points.

Reddy, the largest individual shareholder in the company, told India Abroad how from those early years, the company grew from making a few hundred thousand dollars a year to more than $25 million and expanded its base from about 200 customers to more than 30,000 paying customers "to more than a million free users in the space of four to five years."

Clique now has over 20 million users worldwide, and its chief executive officer Andy Powers has been quoted as saying that "we're a bootstrapped start-up, but we press into new opportunities and we have an aggressive leadership and innovation style and that's carried us through to being the billion-dollar company we are today. I believe we'll be worth well more than $100 billion as we take over the market."

Reddy told India Abroad how "we both grew the company from no income in 2007 to $166 million last year [2017] with a present pre-market valuation of more than $1 billion."

He said CommuniClique's conference-bridging technology orchestrated calls by using the software applications to call the participants of the call at the designated time, eliminating the need to wait for members of a call to connect individually. The result, he said, was that conference calls became easier and more efficient.

"We also continued to expand our customer base, and began partnering with companies such as FedEx, College Board, Google and Groupon to develop new applications for the technology," he said. U.S. lawmakers have also begun employing the software to reach constituents, he said.

The company has also invested in ride-sharing giant Uber's U.S. operation, secure mobile messaging service ArmorText and group text messaging startup GroupMe. He said it has expanded overseas to Singapore, Dubai and Australia, and exploring operations with Tata Consulting Services in Mumbai.

"We're looking for opportunities with start-ups that are in voice, video or messaging, that will drive value above and beyond connecting the call in a timely and efficient manner," said Powers.

"It will be things like transcription artificial intelligence, so the ability to take notes in real time during a call. Our vision is to connect conversations that matter. In banking, voice authentication is also interesting."

Reddy received his bachelor's degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the Sri Venkateshwara University College of Engineering in Tirupati in 1965. Before coming to the U.S., he received a master's degree in technology from IIT, Kharagpur and was a faculty member at the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in Pilani.

Clique's P.B. Ram Reddy is electrical and computer engineering grad of N.J. school

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