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Ex-ISRO scientist & prodigy from small town now owns a taxi startup

Entrepreneur Ramabhadran Sundaram booked an Uber cab. The driver was Uthaya Kumar, a small-town prodigy who quit his dream ISRO job to launch a driver-first taxi startup. Its revenue hit ₹2 Cr last year.

By Rashaad Ather
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Uthaya Kumar - Founder At S T Cabs

Uthaya Kumar - Founder At S T Cabs

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IMAGINE having a rocket scientist as your Uber driver!

IMAGINE the person driving you to your office having a “PhD in Statistics.”

Yes, you read that one right!

Entrepreneur Ramabhadran Sundaram ordered a cab recently, and the next thing he knew, an ex-ISRO scientist picked him up from his house.

That's the incredible story of Uthaya Kumar, a man who defied expectations and carved his path.

He inspired me with leadership lessons”: wrote Sundaram as he shared the story on Linkedin.

Origin Story:

Uthaya Kumar used to work with ISRO - Indian Space Research Organization.

He hails from the beautiful coastal town of Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. After all those years of studying hard, he landed his dream job at ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Here, his expertise in statistics played a vital role – his calculations ensured the precise density of liquid fuels, a critical factor in launching satellites into space. 

Talk about high-pressure work!

He later worked as an assistant professor at an engineering college.

But even with all the prestige and challenges of ISRO, Uthaya felt a different kind of pull – the pull of entrepreneurship. 

He wasn't done making a difference, he just wanted to do it differently. So, in 2017, with the support of his friends, Uthaya took a leap of faith and launched S T Cabs. 

The name, by the way, is a sweet tribute to his parents, Sukumaran and Thulasi.

Here's the thing, S T Cabs is not a typical taxi service business.

Sure, the taxi startup has a fleet of 37 cars and a thriving business bringing in over ₹2 crore annually, but that's just part of the story. 

Uthaya runs things differently. He believes his drivers are partners, not just employees. That's why they get a whopping 70% share of the revenue, which has not only motivated them but also led them to bring clients on their own.

Uthaya's leadership goes beyond making money. He genuinely cares about his startup team. He provides migrant drivers with comfortable housing and even sets aside funds to support the education of children in his hometown. 

Now that's someone who walks the talk!

Of course, the road to financial and creative independence has been wobbly, as is for every startup founder. 

The pandemic threw a curveball, but Uthaya's never one to back down. 

Talk about dedication, he donned a hazmat suit and personally took on long-distance fares to keep the business afloat. 

Uthaya Kumar's startup story is more than just a career change. It's a masterclass for anyone, especially the highly paid professionals dissatisfied with their lives, on mastering one’s life.

It’s a testament to the power of self-mastery.

It's about building a business with a heart, where success is shared and everyone benefits. So, the next time you hail a cab, you never know – you might just be getting a ride from a former rocket scientist with a big heart for his community.

Learnings About Leadership:

Entrepreneur Sundaram wrote that he learnt a great deal about startup leadership from Uthaya Kumar.

"➡ Start with a niche, then diversify
A market opportunity in IT/ITES companies helped him grow to 3 pick-ups and drop-offs every day (at ₹2500 per trip) making them cash-flow positive very early. He's now testing Uber and exploring the Film industry too.

➡ Treat your employees as partners
He doesn't pay his drivers a salary, instead, it's a 70-30 revenue-sharing partnership. So much so that some of his drivers have taken ownership of growing the fleet by adding new cars (that would be a 30-70 split)

➡ Invest in sustainable growth
He sets aside 1.5L a month for living expenses and saves to build accommodation facilities for a few of his migrant driver-partners and then pays for the education expenses of 4 children back in his hometown too.": Sundaram wrote on Linkedin.