Priti Sharma moved to Chicago from India at age 16 and at the time had no idea that she would one day own a multimillion-dollar company.
Sharma is now the owner and president of Digital Peripheral Solutions Inc., an Anaheim-based security and surveillance company with more than 80 employees and annual revenue of approximately $72 million last year. The company, which does business as Q-See—“quality you can see,” grew 29% over 2013. The woman- and minority-owned business has grown consistently since its inception in 2002, she said. It ranks No. 11 on the Business Journal’s list of women-owned businesses (list starts on page 20).
Sharma, before starting Q-See, took a broad look at multiple industries and said she saw the potential to obtain significant market share in the security sector. She said she noticed the industry was disjointed at the time. For instance, one company provided a security camera and another provided a DVR to record the security footage. Sharma saw a way to offer something better, developing an all-in-one product.
In 2004, Q-See developed a “do-it-yourself security bundle”—a product no other security company in America offered at the time, according to Sharma.
The company targets the consumer market with an expanded product line, competing with the likes of ADT LLC. It designs the pieces, which are made in factories abroad.
“We packaged a complete security kit and presented it to partners like Costco, CompUSA, and Fry’s (Electronics). The product did very well, and we grew a couple hundred percent in the first few years.”
Sharma said she then decided to scale back to ensure future growth was sustainable and not just “fast.”
“Now we have no more than 20 customers, but they are all the big customers.”
They now also include Best Buy, Amazon and Home Depot. Q-See has distributors in Brazil, Romania and Nigeria and is focusing on expanding European distribution.
Q-See “empower[s] the homeowner, allowing customers to have full access to their own homes, as opposed to having a third party do the monitoring,” according to a company press release.
Sharma said Q-See foresees industry needs and develops industry-leading technology. Q-See’s competitors are usually six months to a year behind its technology, Sharma said. For example, the company said Q-See was an early developer of security cameras that give viewers the same video quality they see on their high-definition televisions.
Sharma said she hasn’t noticed any disadvantages or struggles due to the fact that she’s a female business owner. In fact, she said she thinks that being a woman and minority business owner has worked to her advantage.
“At first, I thought I should change my name from to ‘Priti’ to ‘Pam’ in order to fit in, but then I started to notice that people remembered me because I was different—I was a woman with an accent and a memorable name. It’s who I am, and I realized I shouldn’t change that.”
Sharma enrolled in college in Chicago after she moved to the U.S. She was married shortly thereafter and never completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree. Sharma said her lack of a degree didn’t inhibit her ability to establish a successful company.
“I learn by actually doing things. (When I started Q-See) I was so persistent and called people left and right until someone would talk to me. If you’re determined, you’ll find a way to do it.”
Sharma’s husband, Rajeev, is the chief financial officer of Q-See and focuses on technology and product development. Her 26-year-old son, Rishi, graduated from the University of California-Irvine and is now a project manager at the company.
She credits Q-See’s success in large part to its “team.”
“We still have people with us who have been here since the very beginning,” Sharma said. “We are very open and transparent with everyone, and I think people are happy working and contributing towards the overall success of the company.”
Sharma describes the company culture as ethics based—a family-owned business that makes everyone feel like an integral part of the team.
Sharma also tries to adapt that concept to other areas of her life.
She and Rishi work with dyslexic students at UCI. She had struggled to identify the learning disorder in Rishi, the younger of two sons, and said she became passionate about mentoring and providing scholarships to UCI students with dyslexia.
“I don’t really consider it a disorder,” she said. “Students with dyslexia just need different tools. Once they get the right tools, they are very successful.”
Sharma said she loves working and living in Orange County and that she’s grateful for the resources and community the county offers.
“I have traveled all over the world, and I always love coming back to Orange County. The resources here have been invaluable in starting and growing Q-See. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do this in India.”