Because Jerry Can


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2002 12:44:09 AM

Some times it takes a poet to make it possible. Sometimes it is a poet who can see it before anybody else. Jaithirth (Jerry) Rao, poet, CEO and chairman of MphasiS-BFL, founded MphasiS in 1998, when dotcoms were beginning to acquire flavour. His favourite poem, TS Eliot's “Love song of Alfred Prufrock”, sums it up: to become an entrepreneur in your middle age is not the easiest thing to do.

To exchange your Citigroup visiting card for non-entity status is, to say the least, a traumatic experience.

When millions of dollars was flowing into anything from garage cans to table tops with a .com in its name, Jerry started another IT company in California. He was not swayed by the hype or fads around him, he focused on the industry he knew. After working for more than 2 decades in banking, he built MphasiS to leverage his experience in banking.

Jerry Rao has always believed in taking risks. He left Citibank at the height of his career to start MphasiS. When he was with Citibank he was the hottest rod in town, he talked and Citi listened.

Then he decided “to dare”. Jerry along with a colleague and friend Jeroen Tas from Transaction Technologies started MphasiS. He roped in three other founder members and raised close to $5m .

When he started MphasiS he knew the importance of using India as an offshore development centre. The merger with BFL in February ‘00 happened due to common venture funds Barings. BFL with 1,000 people and MphasiS with 250 people.

BFL software got access to the high profile customer list of MphasiS, expertise in banking domain area and Jaithirth Rao. MphasiS got a development centre in Bangalore and a listing on the Indian stock exchange.

MphasiS grew at the height of the dotcom boom when growth was everything, and even IT companies forgot about profitability. Mr Rao was however focused on the bottomline inspite of the venture funds egging him to grow faster and faster. In April ‘00, when the merger with BFL took place, both companies were making losses.

A year down the line with a workforce of 1,400 people, revenues had jumped to $64m — a growth of 88%. By the third quarter they were profitable ahead of their own guidance due to the focus on cash flows and not growth per se. From being 20th in the list of Nasscom's top 20 exporters from the country, MphasiS-BFL moved to 14th and is now in the top ten soft-ware exporters from the country after the June quarter growth announcements.

"Jerry feels that the years have mellowed him and his ambition have moved from wealth generation to job creation. Today, he is more enthusiastic about the 1,000 jobs that his ITES business MphasiS BPO generated in the last one year and there’s more to come, he believes.