Dr. Vinod Chachra, Ph.D. is the Founder of VTLS Inc. a library automation company that did business in 43 countries. Beginning in 1975, Chachra designed the original software that in 1980 became Virginia Tech Library System and in 1985 became VTLS Inc. All the products of VTLS Inc. were made in Blacksburg VA. VTLS Inc. was the first spinoff corporation from Virginia Tech (VT) and the first tenant of the VT-Corporate Research Center. Dr. Chachra ran the company from 1985 to 2014 as its President and CEO. In addition to the Blacksburg offices, the company had a global presence with offices in Spain, Switzerland, Brazil, Malaysia, India and Australia. The company was sold to III in 2014. He served as Vice President of Global Expansion of III.
Dr. Chachra has been active in the library profession for more than 30 years. He represented Virginia in the White House Conference on Library and Information Sciences in 1979, served on the legislative committee for library networking in Virginia, and is a former member of the White House Conference on Library and Information Services Task Force. He has worked with several countries in the design and implementation of their national bibliographic information resources and union catalogs.
Dr. Chachra is an internationally recognized lecturer and consultant in the field of information system planning. For several years he served as the Senior Consultant for NCHEMS (National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.) In this capacity he helped many US Institutions of Higher Education in the planning of their IT resources.
From 1972 to 1985, he successively assumed roles of Director of Software Development, Director of Computing and Information Systems, Vice Provost and then Vice President for Computing and Information Systems at Virginia Tech. He left the VP position at VT to start VTLS Inc.
In 1992, he was invited to be a member of the ALA delegation to Romania and to serve on the ALA International Relations Committee’s Bibliotheca Alexandrina subcommittee. In 1994, the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) elected Dr. Chachra to serve on its Board of Directors. In 2007, Dr. Chachra chaired the NISO Working Group on RFID in U. S. Libraries, and he represented the USA in international meetings regarding RFID standards.
During his career, Dr. Chachra has received many honors, including the Distinguished Information Sciences Award from Data Processing Management Association, the CAUSE Award for Exemplary Leadership, and the Blacksburg Jaycees Man of the Year Award. He was inducted into the VT Faculty Entrepreneur Hall of Fame (2012), the RBTC Technology Hall of Fame (2013) and Academy of Engineering Excellence (2015).
Dr. Chachra has written two books, a chapter in a third book, and numerous journal articles. He earned his Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Virginia Tech. He taught graduate classes in Engineering and Computer Science.
RBTC: What are some of the regional resources that have contributed to your success?
Vinod Chachra: VTLS, the company I founded with Virginia Tech (VT) in 1985, was, the first spinoff company from Virginia Tech. So VT, through VTIP was a major key player in the success of the company. At that time the Commonwealth of Virginia had no laws or regulations governing Intellectual Property (IP) produced at Virginia Universities. Virginia Tech played a key role in helping the legislature develop and articulate the policies that govern intellectual property rights in Virginia. This opened the doors for many other businesses that were based on IP.
Our employees came from Engineering, Computer Science and IT programs from VT and Radford University. Without this resource, it would be impossible to serve the global community we worked with. VTLS provided products and services in 43 countries from the Roanoke Blacksburg region.
The regional economic development agencies were extremely helpful in supporting us our export efforts and helping us participate in international trade missions organized by the State.
VTLS was the very first tenant at the VT Corporate Research Center. Both the CRC and the RBTC helped create a strong and vibrant environment for employees to learn and grow. Their recognition programs, mentoring programs and informal exchanges helped create a vibrant in which to live and work. As a result we were able to enjoy unprecedented retention rates for our IT staff.
RBTC: What makes the Roanoke-Blacksburg region such a good fit for your company?
Vinod Chachra: There are four important factors that make this region attractive.
First, the enormous talent pool available from the many Universities in the region. VT, RU and NRCC all play an important role in providing trained potential employees for us. We regularly participated in job fairs and campus visits. We sponsored student internships and other on the job training activities.
Second, the advanced Research and Development activities of Virginia Tech help the growth of businesses on the cutting edge of technology.
Third, quality of life is enhanced by the scenic beauty of the region and the outdoor activities it offers.
Fourth, over time, there are greater opportunities for cultural activities both in Roanoke and in Blacksburg. The Moss Center of the Arts in Blacksburg offers tremendous opportunities for young professionals. The sports activities in the region are a great draw for the young at heart among us.
RBTC: If you could give one piece of advice to a fellow entrepreneur, what would it be?
Vinod Chachra: I would say one word or acronym — VIVA.
Viva, long live to your company. May it live long!
As an acronym –
V is for vision which brings direction and focus to the business
I is for integrity which is an essential building block for a long and honorable future
V is for value which brings customers coming back and
A is for action that keeps employees and customers moving and motivated.
RBTC: What is one lesson you have learned over time that has made an impact on your business’ day-to-day operations?
Vinod Chachra: Open door policy – it is amazing what you learn from employees and customers alike. Remember that most of employees take great pride in doing a good job and if they are not then it is a problem of incomplete expectations, inadequate training or wrong information. The same is true of customers – they selected your products because they thought you provided the greatest value or best services. So, our day to day business is governed by focusing on keeping employees happy and customers satisfied.
RBTC: How would you like to see the Roanoke-Blacksburg region develop over the next 5 years?
Vinod Chachra: The Roanoke Blacksburg region needs better transportation systems – more flights from Roanoke Blacksburg Regional airport; train connection to Washington DC; truck lanes for interstate 81. These problems are being discussed but our region needs faster solutions. The Broadband Internet Service remains inadequate, inaccessible and expensive. Once this area was the envy of the nation but today (except for VT and CRC) we are underserved and falling behind. Access to capital, though improving, remains a great barrier to entrepreneurial success. Retention of educated young professionals remains an issue as many still prefer to graduate and leave rather than stay here. Job availability is low and growth rate in jobs is also slow.