Suddenly no one knew who we were, without a name like Citibank backing
us. Nobody had heard of MphasiS. It was even difficult to get appointments...
man who left the cushy, high profile corporate job to jump into
the uncertainties of business , Jaithirth (known to all as Jerry)
Rao, proved that it was a decision wisely taken when he was honoured
this year with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
No small achievement indeed considering the fact that he had decided
to set up the company as recent as 1998 and was named the chairman
last year. The man himself however modestly acknowledges that the
prestigious award is not his personal achievement but the recognition
of efforts put in by his whole team.
Modest he might be about his feats, but when it comes to his company Jerry
Rao very proudly points out the truly global spirit of the organisation.
While the president of the company Jeroen Tas, is a Dutch based
in America, Arthur Flew the president of the IT-enabled services
division is an American, and the 1250 staff members of various nationalities
are posted across half a dozen countries. Jerry Rao himself has
had a global career in the last two decades. A graduate from the
Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad he worked with the Citibank
for 5 years before leaving the job to pursue his Phd at the University
of Chicago. "I got fed up after two years and did not complete my
Phd. After working for a consulting company for some time I rejoined
Citibank, New York," says he, adding that he worked on major IT
projects for global MIS projects. His postings ranged from Venezuela
to India to London. He was then appointed as head of the Development
Division of Citicorp and chairman and CEO of Transaction Technologies
Inc in California. Rao's portfolio includes prestigious assignments
as country manager and divisional manager for consumer banking of
Citibank in India, the Middle East, Europe and UK. He has also been
on the boards of Citicorp's Indian Development Centre and MECA (a
software company owned by many large banks). This apart he was also
the chairman of the Online Banking Association's Government Affairs
Committee and member of UCLA's Information Systems Associates Program.
When Rao left Citibank and started MphasiS in 1998, many of his colleagues
joined him. Tas was one of the founders. "From the beginning we
were determined to use India for development purposes and started
development in Mumbai and Pune. In the year 1999 it grew at a fantastic
rate," says Rao, adding that following the merger with BFL, the
MphasiS team took over the management in February 2000.
At the time of merger both the companies were losing money but
their profit-centric focus made the year March 2001 end at a solid
profitable note. "We did 82% growth in revenue, took the company
to SEI-CMMi level 5, added nine strategic clients and also started
IT enabled services subsidiary called MphasiS BPO."
Rao's dream is to see take his company from the 20th position on NASSCOM's
list to the top ten. And this, he believes, is not a distant possibility.
The strength of the company is derived from many factors - firstly,
its global management team and investors, although 80 percent of
the staff members are Indians. "Secondly, we are domain focussed
i.e financial, logistics, transportation and retail and technology.
Thirdly, we are moving towards working beyond onsite and offsite
models, that is the virtual domain. This is a big advantage, for
example a project manager in the US can see the day to day development
of a project in India and never lose control of it," says Rao, adding
that cost optimisation and migration of the system to modern technology
are the other focus areas. This year, he points out, they have chosen
to focus on profitability and are not "growing" deliberately.
Following the prevalent situation in the market the immediate concerns for
the company, according to Jerry Rao, are — conserve cash, ensure
quality (in fact Jerry himself monitors 60 projects), not give up
sales and of course constantly keep assuring existing customers.
The aim in short is to take all necessary action to make it among
the top ranking.
Rao points out that theirs is a great working team. The three head honchos
- Rao himself, Jeroen Tas and Arthur Flew, have different personalities
and complement each other. All have different outside interests
and this he feels is very necessary for a successful career. Significantly,
non have any regrets about leaving comfortable corporate careers
and starting out on their own.
It was of course not a very easy transition. "Suddenly no one knew who
we were, without a name like Citibank backing us. Nobody had heard
of MphasiS. It was even difficult to get appointments and I had
to sometimes beg the secretaries," says Rao with a smile. But, he
does believe that professionals with comfortable corporate careers
should take the plunge no matter the initial problems. The success
story of his endeavours is certainly proof enough.