“It’s all hard work, there’s no magic.” said Prasad Chittaluru, who started his company, EPIC Engineering & Consulting Group, out of his garage.
“My background is in civil engineering. I worked for about 15 years in the industry, serving many government entities. Public agencies have a tremendous impact on the quality of life in our communities. Over the years, my passion evolved from solving specific problems into trying to figure out how to help the public agencies in a holistic manner. Early in my career, I realized that technology is going to start playing an increasingly big role in how these organizations run effectively, so I started getting into computer modeling and creating database applications”.
“I was having a great time at my job. However, I realized that I need to do something with my passion and create an entity that can become a world leader in delivering technology and process optimization solutions for the public sector. I knew I couldn’t do my job or and my passion justice if I didn’t devote all of my energies to my dream. So I quit cold turkey and started EPIC in my garage,” he said. “The economy tanked the year I started EPIC, but luckily we survived because of the great support we received from our clients and kept growing.”
“The two most important goals for me when starting my business was to build a world-class team and to bring high-tech jobs to our community right here in central Florida,” Dr. Chittaluru explained. “That was a big dream starting in a small garage. It’s still a big dream, but not as far away as it once was.”
“One of our founding principles of EPIC is what can we do to make our clients run their business better? Our tagline is: “Your Work, Simplified®”. We come to work every day asking ourselves how can we help our clients reduce the time they’re spending on the more mundane, repetitive activities,” he said. “How do we simplify and streamline their business so that they can be the best they can be at serving their customers?”
EPIC is now a recognized central Florida-based developer of enterprise hybrid software solutions that enables our clients to simplify and optimize their business processes via intuitive, adaptable, and scalable solutions. Their solutions simplify workflow, improve efficiency, support decision making, and increase transparency in their client’s organizations. EPIC’s expertise ranges from needs assessment and business process optimization to designing, developing, and maintaining sustainable and expandable GIS, web, mobile, and cloud-based data management and enterprise business applications.
To explain their daily mission, Dr. Chittaluru used a typical City government’s needs as an example.
“The government does not work to make a profit, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be efficient. The focus for EPIC is to help them be as efficient as possible so that they can deliver high-quality services within their budget constraints,” he said. “We simplify their processes, help them provide more efficient service to their customers, and we help them not worry about the challenges that changing technology presents. We do the hard work of understanding their business needs, developing optimized workflows and creating solutions that adapt to their business processes. Then we take those solutions to the public agencies so that their implementation is easier and change management is successful.”
With major public sector clients such as Orlando International Airport, Orange County, the City of Orlando and the Florida Department of Transportation, Dr. Chittaluru said it was difficult to gain access to do business in the beginning.
“In the public sector business, the challenge is that they always want proof that you’ve done this before. It’s very difficult for out of the box thinking and innovative solutions to find a foot hold,” he said.
“Government agencies will inevitably ask, where have you done this before? Show me three clients. It’s the chicken and egg situation, so if you haven’t done a million-dollar project before, they’re very reluctant to be the first one to give it to you. It’s hard for these big agencies to put their eggs in a small business basket, it’s a leap of faith and leap of trust.” he said.
Dr. Chittaluru says that the lack of a large STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) talent pool in the central Florida area was also a challenge when trying to grow his business.
“It’s really hard to compete with the big boys in the technology domain to attract younger talent. What happens in our domain is an interesting phenomenon. The people that go out into the technology industry and work 10 to 15 years in large organizations see the benefits of working in a small business setting,” he said. “But the younger folks always want to go to the Silicon Valley or to large corporations with shiny offices, which is kind of a sad thing. We want the youngsters to experience the power of entrepreneurship.”
Fast forward almost 12 years, EPIC has acquired an admirable client list of major agencies and has 40 employees. For his team members, Dr. Chittaluru has a simple message - together, they are here to serve a greater good. “We all have to work for a living, but when we work for a living and make a positive impact on the communities we serve, there is no greater joy,” he said.
Dr. Chittaluru focuses on creating a company culture that promotes innovation, serves the community, and always finds a way to give back to the community.
“We had one employee who was going to get his driver’s license renewed and he was wearing his company shirt and the person helping him said, ‘Oh you’re from EPIC, thank you for helping our school district work more efficiently.’ He was really, really happy that someone noticed what he had been working on,” Dr. Chittaluru said.
“It’s one thing for me to drink my own Kool-Aid, but it’s me showing my team: look at the projects you’re working on; you’re not working on some project for a faceless organization somewhere - this is real,” he explained. “What you’re designing and building, helps the agencies in our communities work better and when they work better, they impact all of our lives in a positive manner.”
Keeping a competitive edge
“I think our competitive edge is that we have are focused on a specific domain with a specific objective. We have extensive knowledge of the infrastructure domain and the challenges, and we have a very deep technology expertise,” Dr. Chittaluru said.
Dr. Chittaluru also believes EPIC’s competitive edge lies in their devotion to customer satisfaction and their long-term relationships with their clients.
“Once our customers see what we’re doing and our team’s passion, they become long-term customers. Once we start helping them, it’s a win-win situation, as they speak highly of us to others and that helps us gain new customers,” he said.
“We have a passion and a deep knowledge of our client’s needs. We consider the clients success as our success. We work towards making our clients successful, and when they’re successful, we are successful.”
Goals for the future
“We started as a solutions consulting company and were expanding into the product market,” Dr. Chittaluru said when asked where he wanted to see EPIC in the next few years.
“We’re developing a product called Simplify i3®, which is a complete life cycle infrastructure data management solution,” he said. “Whether you’re Orlando International Airport or a small town, your infrastructure management requirements are similar but your resources are less when you’re smaller.”
“The solution we are developing is designed to provide the tools to the infrastructure agencies that have a barrier of entry for leveraging technology; we break that barrier for them through our simple, powerful and sustainable solution,” Dr. Chittaluru said. “We want to make technology solutions accessible and affordable for agencies of all sizes. We’re really excited about transitioning into the product market.”
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs
For Dr. Chittaluru, the advice he shared for aspiring entrepreneurs on a journey similar to his, stems from one concept: have a purpose.
“Everyone has a passion, but why do you want to do it? What is the purpose? What is the end goal and how are you going to make a positive impact on society while you’re doing it? If you have the passion to be an entrepreneur, find out and clearly articulate the purpose for yourself, your target clients and your future employees,” he said.
“Overall, have a focused goal and a focused purpose that’s not too broad, and then you can grow,” he said. “And perseverance, of course. You have to believe in yourself. Fall down but get up every single time.”
What it means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
Looking back on the journey of chasing his dream from his garage to now, Dr. Chittaluru said being nominated for Florida Companies to Watch is an absolute honor. This event showcases and honors second stage companies in Florida who have demonstrated impressive growth and innovation.
“I see so many entrepreneurial companies in Florida and around the country and all of them aspire to do great things,” he said. “So, for our story to resonate with the GrowFL team and for them to consider us for this recognition is a big honor.”
“I look around in our office today and see how far we have come over the years. I never forget where we started from, with our very humble roots. Now, years later, for us to be recognized as a Florida Company to Watch, it’s a true honor. We are grateful to all our amazing clients who have given us a chance to serve them”, Said Dr. Chittaluru.
Notable community involvement
EPIC gives back to their community in a few different of ways. This includes volunteering at UCF incubator events, Teach-In days in Central Florida public schools, supporting STEM programs and providing technology services to support community mental health initiatives.
One of their proudest achievements, however, is mentoring and supporting a community-based robotics team, 7477 Super 7. Team Super 7 became the first team from Florida to win the Inspire Award at the FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) World Championship, which is the highest award given to a team in this competition.
Dr. Chittaluru wanted to be sure he thanked the support system that got him this far.
“I truly attribute our growth and success to the people who put their faith in us,” he said. “Our clients of course are number one, they trusted us to solve their problems. Then our team members, they put their faith in our vision and that EPIC will give them opportunities to grow.”
“Lastly, my family members, who endured a lot of hardships over the years. I’ve been away from them a lot and my wife had to take on additional job responsibilities to provide the financial resources needed to sustain our family, so that I can pursue this dream,” he said.
“It really takes small and big contributions from multiple people. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart for their continued support and their show of faith in my dream.”