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Let Me Upgrade You

Emory grad takes consumers into the future with 5G technology.

By Kanchana Raman as told to Elizabeth Cobb Durel

Kanchana Raman (blue blazer) interviews with Rose Scott of WABE radio for the youth entrepreneurship program TiE Young Entrepreneurs

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Each year the Emory Entrepreneur Network honors and recognizes outstanding alumni entrepreneurs who excel in their fields by demonstrating the highest caliber of innovations. Eleven nominees were chosen in categories as varied as Business to Business, Media and Entertainment, and Healthcare. The eleven winners were honored last month, and going forward, EmoryWire will be introducing you to each one. We’ll talk about their motivations, the future, the best advice they received. We hope you’ll come back to meet them.

We’re launching our series with Kanchana V. Raman 12MBA, the founder of Avion Networks, Inc. She took top honors in the Technology category, with her global telecom technology firm currently working on building the 5G network, the next level in communications. This technology would allow robotic surgeries in remote villages, smart cars to make our roads safer, and support FirstNet, a Government initiative for first responders.


Why this industry?
I come from a telecom background, so everything I know is communication. I grew up in it and I am also very passionate about it. To me, it's not just being a subject matter expert but loving what I do.

What does Avion Networks, Inc. do?
I’ve had several companies, but this particular one launched in November 2014. Avion Networks, Inc. offers engineering services to companies transforming their networks to a virtualized, cloud-enabled and open-systems driven network like 5G and beyond.

2014 was a big year. One of my Fortune 100 Customers introduced me to my investor, Tech Mahindra, part of the $19 billion Mahindra group. That introduction validated who I am as a person and validated my work. It was an honor to be recognized by a Fortune 500 company and then introduced to another listed company.

Why is 5G revolutionary?
The two big takeaways from 5G are higher data speeds and lower, zero latency. There are so many applications. For example, if you have a robotic arm in a modest part of Africa and you have a surgeon in Emory Hospital, that surgeon could use a virtual reality/augmented reality over 5G to perform robotic surgery in real-time. 5G has promised to bring that to the consumer but they don't have it yet. But the mature 5G, which could be in the next three to five years, brings in so many new applications in just about every field you could think about: smart cities, connected cars, smart buildings, across every industry, every platform. In fact, some of the compelling use cases are yet to be imagined.

On failure:
I've had several major setbacks along the way. There are some things you think are going to happen this year that don't, and sometimes it's not even your fault. It could just be the market around you, it could just be the economy around you. So things don't go as planned. But winners don't quit. That's why you're an entrepreneur.

On giving back:
In 2009, I co-founded a high school entrepreneurship program TYE High School. I take high school students from 9th through 12th grade and it’s like a crash course MBA. We teach them about ideation, business plan, finances, communication skills and VC funding, capital, raising capital everything. It starts in September and goes through the school year, ending in April with a local competition. We graduated 300 students so far.

I also work with AT&T, one of my customers. They work with inner city students and have an entrepreneurial class once a year. I do the program keynote, telling the kids about my journey. It's a great way to connect back with the community.

Kanchana Raman at AT&T

Kanchana Raman keynotes the AT&T entrepreneurs program with inner city high schoolers as part of DECA Inc. and ASPIRE.

On drive and motivation:
For me work is therapeutic. I don't look at it as work, and whatever I do for the community, I'm passionate about it. I don't really distinguish between personal, professional, and giving back. It's all what comes in life in a day.

My dad is a Harvard-educated management professor. He taught a part-time MBA class until he was 84 years old, just one mortal working hard because he wanted to. And he used his position to fight for the underprivileged. He used his power in such a positive way to bring about changes to so many people. These are things that we just grew up with.

Growing up in that environment, my dad was always talking to people. “Step outside your comfort zone and reach,” he would tell us. “Reach for the stars in the sky you'll get to the top of the tree.”

Question and Answer

Describe yourself in one sentence.
I celebrate everything, myself included, and everything around me.

What is your secret talent?
I write poetry. From age 7 to age 20 I wrote 144 poems. I haven't written since then, but that's something I want to do when I get off my technical track.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Live in the present. Don't look back. Look forward.

What's the worst piece of advice you've received?
Success is a journey, not a destination, smell the roses.

Editor's Note: Kanchana Raman is the President and CEO of Avion Networks, Inc. If you would like to keep up with her, please follow @kanchana_raman on Twitter. For more information about the Emory Entrepreneur Award honorees, visit alumni.emory.edu/eenawards.