After four years at chipmaker behemoth Qualcomm Inc, Jayesh Bajaj, M.S. CS ’04, felt ready to strike out on his own.
However, the USC Viterbi alumnus had little in the way of capital to start a new software development company. What he did have was something much more valuable: the Trojan Family.
“Coming to USC and becoming part of the Viterbi School was really a gamechanger for me,” said Bajaj, who in 2008 founded Mumbai-based Volga Infotech, which builds products for the healthcare, education, social media and entertainment industries, including multinationals such as Microsoft and General Electric and startups. “Trojans take care of one another. Big time.”
Today, the Trojan network accounts for about three-quarters of Volga’s sales, which last year totaled $1.5 million. Silicon India magazine has named Volga as one of the country’s “20 Most Promising Software Development Companies,” while CIO Review called the nine-year-old firm a “leading mobile app development company.”
USC connections helped Bajaj launch Volga and later transform it into a thriving company. Those crimson-and-gold ties, he said, paid off almost immediately.
Mayur Doshi, M.S. CS ’04, a friend from graduate school, helped Volga land its first client. After learning that HyperTrends Global Inc. wanted to outsource mobile app development to India, Doshi called Bajaj, who successfully pursued the lead. Doshi subsequently asked Bajaj to help redesign the website of his family’s business, Indian Hume Pipe Co.
“Jayesh did a really good job, so I knew he had the capability to go off and do bigger and better projects,” Doshi said. “He’s fearless and makes things happen.”
Similarly, in 2010, former USC Viterbi classmate, Ashish Agarwal, M.S. CS ’03, helped Bajaj’s burgeoning company land work.
Agarwal, then the vice president of offshore operations at Neudesic, which offers a suite of technological business services, convinced company executives to give Volga some work. That relationship continues to this day.
“I’ve been so pleased with what he’s done for us that I’ve actively referred Jayesh to friends who were starting companies in the U.S. and India,” Agarwal said.
So powerful is the USC network that Tom Donahue, a 1985 USC grad, contacted Bajaj on LinkedIn about a possible software project, even though they didn’t know each other. Bajaj’s Trojan pedigree sufficed, Donahue said.
Donahue, the chief executive of True North Companies, a full-service financial firm in Scottsdale, Arizona, eventually hired Bajaj’s Volga to build an online financial platform with a strong emphasis on real estate.
“You know you’re going to get smart, innovative individuals if you go with a Trojan,” Donahue said. “We speak the same Trojan language. We drink the same Trojan Kool-Aid.”
Bajaj said USC Viterbi has provided him more than just a Rolodex of contacts.
The school, he said, gave him lifelong friendships and the academic foundation that helped him land a job at Qualcomm and later start his own business. Unlike other engineering schools, Bajaj added, USC Viterbi teaches more than just theory; the school equips students with real-world skills that companies value.
Bajaj landed a job with the famed designer of wireless telecommunications products soon after earning his USC degree. He said a course he took with Professor Parag Havaldar on multimedia systems design amply prepared him for his Qualcomm interview and the job itself.
It didn’t hurt that Havaldar, Ph.D. CS ’96, a 2017 Academy Award winner in technological achievement who worked on such films as “The Polar Express,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “The Amazing Spiderman” series, wrote Bajaj a glowing letter of recommendation.
“I remember Jayesh not only because he was good at understanding complex concepts, but also because he was so outgoing,” said Havaldar, whose daughter, Shreya, attends USC Viterbi.
Bajaj counts his decision to attend USC Viterbi among the best of his life.
“USC holds your hand from the day you join and won’t let go of you, even after you graduate,” he said. “And the alumni network will help you for life.”