"No one remembers you for your bank balance."

By Ged Henderson

22 May 2023

Ram Gupta Big Interview

When Ram Gupta stresses the power of IT he isn’t talking about software, hardware or the latest leaps in technology. He is focusing on how it can change lives.

That belief is why he and his business Nybble handed out more than 1,000 free laptops to struggling children and families in the Blackburn area during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company, headquartered in the town, has used its technological resources to set up a programme tackling the digital divide.

That included donating the devices to children with less privileged backgrounds during the pandemic, allowing them to continue their education remotely at such a difficult time.

It is just one of the ways that Ram and the tech company he founded give back to the community. It remains an ongoing mission for the business.

Those efforts were rewarded last year when he was awarded the prestigious ‘Arte et Labore’ honour at the Hive awards.

They celebrate the businesses of Blackburn with Darwen and Ram was recognised for the work he puts in to supporting local charities and educational establishments as well as championing the fight against digital poverty.

Ram’s approach to business is simple and relatable. He says: “We live in our perfect bubble. We are here in this world for a limited time, it is about making a difference.”

ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) is becoming increasingly important to businesses of all sizes. It always has been for Nybble, even before the term became part of the business world’s language. Ram describes it as a “way of life” and says: “The excitement of business for me is giving back.”

He adds: “How do you want to be remembered? No one is going to remember you for your bank balance.”

As well as taking on digital poverty, Ram and Nybble’s commitment to giving back includes supporting Blackburn’s Youth Zone and raising funds for good causes, ranging from local hospices to help for the area’s homeless.

Last Christmas the company got involved with a ‘secret Santa’ initiative for struggling families. He also sits on the board of another support group called ‘Rummage Rescuers’.

He says: “When you hear a child saying the present that they would like most is a toothbrush you know there is something to be done. We need to create an aspiration for our children that is beyond a toothbrush.”

Founded 25 years ago, Nybble now operates from three locations and its activities range from IT support to audio visual and it also has a growing cyber security and cloud services arm. Innovation and R&D play an important role in the business. The result is numerous projects.

Among them, Ram highlights the work that has been carried out to create an interactive coffee table, complete with screen, and the way Nybble has “revolutionised” the automation of dealership management systems in the automotive sector.

The company is leading the way in the field. Ram says: “We do punch above our weight, but we deliver for our clients in every way. We are innovative as a team and no idea is a bad idea.

“There is no fear in the business, it is all about keeping conversations open and delivering solutions that matter and improve the business’s we look after. It’s the Lancashire way of doing business.”

Nybble itself has continued to change and adapt since it was founded in 1998 as a retail business with a strong export arm and a philosophy putting customer service at the heart of the company. Stores were successfully opened across the North West before a swift change of direction.

Ram explains: “We had 10 very successful years, but our aim was always to go into the corporate market. We had ambitions to go beyond offering a retail experience.”

The group moved into IT management and support and in 2011 started to build its software development team. The audio-visual offering followed in 2017.

Throughout it all the mantra that the customer is king has remained and Nybble’s growing list of clients ranges from SMEs and education providers through to major blue chip and international businesses.

Ram, 48, says Nybble’s development is a continuing journey, with acquisitions on the horizon, along with the opening of operations and bases in other parts of Lancashire and the wider North West. He says: “We’re really looking to make headway with acquisitions this year as well as taking advantage of the benefits that operating in a good location can bring.”

Tech is at the heart of the operation but for Ram it could have all been so different. He studied for his degree in accountancy and information systems at the University of Central Lancashire and initially had a legal career in his sights. And after university he was offered a position with one of the big six accountancy firms.

Instead he ended up working in IT for Mercedes commercial dealerships instead, setting up Nybble after working to study his MSc from Lancaster University.

Going back even earlier in time and the young Ram had ambitions to be a professional snooker player. He recalls how Steve Davis was his favourite player and his father buying him a snooker table, paid for in instalments. A pool table in Nybble’s head office reveals his love for cue games continues.

Ram says: “I was brought up in a two-up, two down house. There were six of us in there and four of us shared a bedroom. I used to save up for weeks to buy a cake for a treat, I really used to enjoy that cake.”

His father came to the UK from India in the 1960s, where he had been a high court barrister, and moved to Blackburn from London in the 1970s, finding work as a machine operator in a factory in the town while studying and attaining a first-class honours degree and MSc in maths and computing. He ended his career writing codes for washing machine programmes. 

Ram says: “We had nothing, but we had everything. Mum was a simple sari wearing lady who knew no English. She went to English classes and ended up learning Gujarati. She could always make people laugh and just wanted to look after her family which she did with pride and vigour.

“My parents are no longer with us, but we try and live to their values. It’s through those values they will live on, just as we will live on through what we teach our children.”

Those values include supporting and valuing young people. As well as its support for the local youth zone, the company continues to back Nightsafe, a homeless charity, from where it takes on and trains apprentices.

Ram says: “If you can change just one life then it makes everything you do worthwhile”. He is also a governor at Blackburn College, where he studied his A levels. He says: “There are so many talented young people out there.

“There’s an Elon Musk in every town and city, inventing things in their mind. We have to find them and bring them out of their back bedrooms and into the fore. It’s about inspiring the young generation not only to come up with ideas but actually take them to market.”

He adds: “If you are a gardener and want to attract bees, because it is the right thing for your garden, you have to put in the right ecosystem so the bees will come and do what you need them to do.

“Creating that ecosystem doesn’t happen by chance. You have to plant the right seeds and nurture them, so the bees not only come, but they stay. I don’t see it being any different in business.

“You have to make sure you create the right environment, so your people feel needed and valued. It’s making sure your organisation is doing the right things, so they can be proud to say they work for the company.

“That to me is at the heart of ESG. You also have to leave this world in a better place then you found it. It’s as simple as that.”

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