On his right forearm, a little above the wrist, Trishneet Arora, TAC Security Solutions’ founder and CEO, has ‘Scorpion’ tattooed in elegant running hand. Resourceful, brave, stubborn, and passionate—these are the traits of a Scorpio. Arora, 25, ticks all the boxes. How else can one explain a school dropout without much formal training in computers and related technologies launching, at 19 years of age, a cybersecurity firm which now has a 150-plus clientele? On this point, Arora, too, does not have much to say, except “I love my work”.
At the company’s sixth annual general meeting in Chandigarh on April 9, Arora said that TAC Security had grown 270% in revenue in FY19 and was on track to repeat its stellar growth in FY20. He announced commencement of operations with a direct subsidiary in Africa. Today, the company services noteworthy names such as NSDL, BSNL, Canara Bank, PhonePe, Airtel, Reliance Capital, and the Indian Navy. Its U.S. clients include the state of New Mexico. Some 40% of its total revenue comes from the U.S., which Arora says will continue to remain an important region for the company. He has set his sights on Australia and Europe, too.
Arora’s affair with technology began when his father, a tax consultant in Ludhiana, Punjab, brought home a computer. He was nine then. Arora, who would take apart appliances and gadgets to figure out how they worked, did the same with the computer, too.
“I played games on it for a few days but then I wanted to take a look inside. So I opened it up, but I couldn’t put it back together,” he says. At the technician’s where father and son had taken the computer to get it fixed, Arora was riveted by the proceedings. “I asked questions and tried to understand what he was doing,” he says.
In the year that followed, taking apart the computer and putting it back together became a weekly ritual. As time went by Arora became competent enough to fix minor issues with the computer himself. “I then started to fix my friends’ laptops and computers for pocket money,” Arora says. By the time he was in Class VIII, he dropped out to learn all he could about computers and new technologies.
Arora was 14 when he came across the concept of ethical hacking. Gaining unauthorised access to data and computers could land one in jail, but it can be used to do good such as alerting enterprises about vulnerabilities in their system and suggesting remedies. “I was already into hacking. But that I could build my career around ethical hacking, this I was not aware of,” he says. He soon explored the subject further and made notes—much like a “proof of concept”. “Then someone suggested to me that I write a book with the notes I made,” recalls Arora. He was amused by the thought, he says, which ran like: “I, a dropout, an author!”
Thus was born The Hacking Era. When the book was launched he decided he would start a company which would spread awareness in colleges about cybersecurity and then would offer its services to corporates. In February 2013, he launched TAC Security with ₹75,000 that his father gave him. He operated from home with two others.
The company’s turning point came in 2016 when TAC Security raised pre-series ‘A’ funding from prominent investor Vijay Kedia. It was later also backed by some big names like Subinder Khurana, former vice president of Cognizant; Lawrence Ang, Singapore-based former regional sales director of Imperva; and William May, U.S.-based former vice-president of IBM. “My first thought when we were forming the board was that we don’t just want prominent names but we also want someone who has experience in cybersecurity,” Arora says, adding, “We are youngsters.
I think more companies are now keen on working with startups, as they know that startups will put in everything they have to ensure they get the job done.Trishneet Arora, founder and CEO of TAC Security.
The average age of our employees is 25-26. So we wanted to get people who can help us with their experience in the field.” Arora says Ang helped the company improve its sales team while May helped it with its product, ESOF (Enterprise Security In One Framework), which saves time and helps clients get a periodic score in terms of the vulnerability of their systems. “ESOF is the revolutionary product that has helped TAC Security and the cybersecurity world to grow to unexpected heights in FY19.
Its AI [artificial intelligence] and accurate information make it easier for a company to defend it against any kind of cyberattack. It’s both safe and fast, saving around 30% of the time taken to do certain tasks,” he says, adding that the product has been well received by the target clients—banks, large enterprises and government departments.
Arora says one of the biggest challenges that a startup like TAC Security faces is companies’ preference for large brand names doing their cybersecurity audit. “Our major competitors are the Big Four,” Arora says, alluding to accounting heavyweights KPMG, Deloitte, EY, and PwC. “Boards want to see one of the Big Four doing security audits. But we are tackling this issue by offering specialised services at more affordable rates,” Arora says.
However, companies are slowly warming up to cybersecurity startups, he says. “I think more companies are now keen on working with startups because they know that startups will put in everything they have to ensure they get the job done well. They know that startups need to prove themselves,” Arora reasons.
Arora, who is a big fan of the movie 3 Idiots, believes his story so far has been quite a trip, because whatever he has done, has been without walking the beaten path, much like the protagonist in the movie. His mother had wanted him to become a lawyer and her older son an engineer. There were days when his family would worry about his grades as he pursued his passion for computers and tech. Those days are far behind them. Now, with a movie in the works about him, Arora’s family is proud as punch. His mother has a different complaint now. “She says I don’t eat enough,” he says.
This was originally published in the June 15-Sept. 14 special issue of the magazine.