Soft Cell

Profile of Urban Wireless Inc.
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The company he co-founded grossed $10 million last year and should reap around $15 million this year. But Asheem Aggarwal, co-president/CEO of urban wireless inc. in New York City, says he lives the same life he did three years ago. "It's not about making money," says Aggarwal, 33, who co-owns the PCS digital phone distributor with Jae Kim, 30, and brothers Peter and Paul Chu, 28 and 31 respectively. "It's to show there's not only one road to take. It's to do things our way and really make a difference."

The biggest impact the kids at urban wireless have made is that now, not only rich kids and stuffy corporate types driving Jags can talk while they walk. Launching three years ago with $50,000 from maxed-out credit cards and private investments, the partners focused on an unexplored niche: marketing cell phone service to ethnic communities and creating a way for consumers with little credit history to purchase pre-paid AIRdiscs for various amounts of time. "We showed people who didn't have credit that [they] aren't downtrodden," says Aggarwal.

Using Paul's marketing expertise, the company, which went from service carrier to branded distributor after selling its 35,000-strong customer base to strategic partner Omnipoint for $4 million in October 1998, has reeled in the masses with the street fashion look and vibe of its phones and ads.

Now also in Miami, urban wireless is looking to become a "force to be reckoned with" nationwide. Besides reshaping cellular culture, Aggarwal stresses the importance of shaking up corporate culture. He and his partners have hired friends "from the neighborhood," family members (Aggarwal's dad is CFO) and employees of all ages. And co-workers have been known to go on fishing trips to Brooklyn. After all, if work's going to be your life, it better be a good time.

Edition: June 2017

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