Ashok Rao, Grad ’71
Ashok Rao retired from the telecommunications world in 2003. Attempting to perfect his golf game didn’t suit him, so back to work he went. This time, though, he decided to use the creative side of his brain.
Ashok is the CEO of Excalibur Pictures and has produced three full-length Hollywood feature films since 2003. His first film, My Bollywood Bride, was released worldwide in July 2007. His second, The Whisperers, was finished earlier this year and won awards for best picture in the thriller category and best edit in the overall category at the Worldfest International Film Festival. That film, as well as his most recent work, Before the Rains, will debut in the United States in fall 2008. His fourth film, The Lost Tribe, has been contracted for worldwide release in early 2009.
Ashok came to Milwaukee from New Delhi, India, at the age of 20 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. He earned his master’s degree from Marquette.
He worked for several years in the telecommunications world and founded Midcom Communiations in 1990. He grew the company into the ninth-largest long-distance telephone carrier with $250 million in annual revenues, then took it public in 1995. He was the first Indian-American to take a company public on NASDAQ.
He was the president of the North American operations of Enron Corp. from 1996-97, bumping revenues from $300 million to $2 billion during that time. Ashok founded Trex Communications Corp. in December 1997 and grew it to $70 million in two years before selling it to L3 Communication in early 2000. He founded and served as CEO of Prime Wave Communications, a broadband wireless access technology company, from 2000-03.
“I try to live in the moment and be thankful for whatever I have been fortunate and lucky enough to achieve,” he says. “I have always focused on my mistakes, and not my successes, and tried to learn from them.”
Ashok is president of the Houston chapter of TIE, an international group of successful entrepreneurs and professionals with Indian roots. He sits on the boards of several companies and is an angel investor in six high-tech companies.
“Living in Milwaukee and rubbing shoulders with the wonderfully diverse student body at Marquette taught me a lot about life in the United States and what it took to try and be successful in life — both professionally and personally,” he says.