Game on: “I was one of those kids who was lucky enough to have the Commodore 64,” Brar said. “I was always enchanted by technology.”
West-case scenario: After graduating from Wabash College—where he played football and studied economics and religion—Brar moved to Silicon Valley. But after a series of jobs, he yearned to return. He applied to graduate schools elsewhere, but couldn’t refute his wife’s logic: “If the goal is to get back to Indiana,” she asked, “how is going to a different state furthering that goal?” Solution: Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “Outside of my marriage,” Brar said, “being a part of the tech story here in Indiana was the best decision of my life.”
Keeping up with Joneses: While in business school, Brar was asked to TA an entrepreneurship class taught by voicemail/ChaCha guru Scott Jones. Flash forward: After stints with Eli Lilly and Co. and Guidant Corp., Brar was hired by Jones and became vice president of business development for ChaCha. In 2009, he left for IT firm Apparatus, which he has helped grow from 40 to 160 employees and from $7 million to $25 million in revenue. This year involves closing deals on both coasts for the expanding company and business dealings as far away as Singapore.
Mentors: Brar credits his high school football coach with helping shape him. “He taught me to do the right thing when no one’s watching and to slog through with the wind in your face.”
Family: wife, Susan; son, Navraj, 4
Extracurriculars: Brar serves on the boards of the Kelley School Board of Visitors (his “stepping stone back into the Indiana economy”) and the YMCA (“It’s in a unique position to help Indy become a healthier and more productive city”). Traveling and camping are high on the Brar to-do list, whether global (including trips to Africa and India) or local. “Take a 4-year-old to Shades State Park and he thinks he’s at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.”
Attracting talent: Brar is an outspoken opponent of the effort to define marriage in Indiana. “People want to be associated with progressive places. Indiana does a lot of things well. But it’s like being an offensive tackle. You don’t get credit for 99 percent of the blocks but you lose credit when you miss one. Things like the gay marriage debate are like giving up a sack.”•