October 01, 2019

MEET 1901 GROUP: Sonu Singh

Founder, President and CEO of 1901 Group

“I really enjoy working with our people and our customers, and I like how we took a highly contrarian approach to the traditional IT services business model and, as a result, are working to change how IT is delivered and consumed.”

– Sonu Singh 

Why did you start 1901 Group and what was the path you took to get where you are today?

I started my career in management consulting in the manufacturing sector then moved to ERP system implementation in commercial and federal clients. It always felt like there was a better way to solve problems – I felt that the classic IT services model of selling a labor hour to a customer at their site provided inconsistent quality and unpredictable costs. In fact, over the last 30 years everything in IT changed – except how customers bought and consumed it, so I figured we should change the model. And now, after 10 years and with the advent and scaled adoption of the cloud, customers are willing to accept consumption based, off-site, managed services models that leverage technology, processes, and great people in different, non – traditional IT areas such as Blacksburg.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of 1901 Group right now?

Definitely our people. I know it’s a cliché – but I have tangible evidence! When we started the business, there were three (3) core components: 1 – a Blacksburg location, 2 – a centralized technology and automation platform, 3 – consumption-based pricing. No business model like this existed at any scale in the Federal space. Since then, our people have built a multi-tenant, automated, FedRamp technology platform; they’ve figured out how to identify, hire, train, and retain people in Blacksburg and the greater Southwest Virginia area; they’ve developed out many unique IT consumption models; and finally, and perhaps most importantly, they’ve worked with customers in the public sector space to understand and adopt this new delivery model. It’s a rare group of people that didn’t get discouraged in the early days and then worked diligently to scale the company as there was no previous template for this kind of business. So, yes, it’s 100% our people.

How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

I believe the company will continue to grow over the next few years, and the best thing is our people are driving the growth in the company. We’ve thought about our business model in detail over the last 10 years and our team understands the nuances of the market and how to address them. I’m here to provide support and remove any internal obstacles and promote our value proposition externally.

How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

We encourage people experimenting and figuring out new ways to solve problems. I’m personally fine with very off the wall ideas, in fact I encourage them. It shows that people are thinking about the problem. However, I always say that “ideas are a dime a dozen, but execution is really difficult”.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

That’s easy – humility. Humility allows leaders to listen, encourages people to take risks (since we don’t know all the answers), and allows organizations to be flexible and agile as opposed to hierarchical and brittle.

Sonu is the founder of 1901 Group and corporate leader responsible for the overall direction of 1901 Group and the well-being of the entire 1901 Group team. After childhood in Blacksburg, Virginia and an engineering degree from Virginia Tech, Sonu knew that there was tremendous untapped talent in rural areas such as Southwest Virginia. So in 2009 he founded 1901 Group based on three major components:  1– establishing an Enterprise Operations/Development Center in Blacksburg, 2 – leveraging technology, automation, and processes in a common platform to increase quality and consistency in IT management, and 3 – utilizing consumption models for IT as opposed to standard labor hour billings. Since then 1901 Group has grown to employ over 350 people and become a leader in public sector managed services, cloud migration/operations, software development, and cyber engineering.

Sonu sits on the Virginia Tech National Capital Region Presidents Advisory Board and the Virginia Tech APEX Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Board.

 Follow Sonu on LinkedIn



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