NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Startup 25: Bijal Mehta, CEO and MD, Arctern
Bijal Mehta is the founder of Arctern providing the vision, strategic direction, and execution for the company. He is a seasoned entrepreneurial executive with over 20 years of experience in computer hardware, software, and offshoring.
Prior to Arctern, Bijal was the Chairman of iCode, Inc. (since merged with Versata Enterprises, Inc.). He was a co-founder of the company, whose flagship Everest line of software products, aimed at small and medium enterprises, have been implemented at thousands of such enterprises worldwide and won numerous international industry awards and recognitions. He raised multiple rounds of venture financing to help fund strategic initiatives and fuel the company's growth. He successfully established iCode as a pioneering software company to leverage a India-U.S. workforce model as early as 1996 and built iCode up to 240 employees in India and in the US.
Prior to iCode, Bijal co-founded Accel, Inc., a firm specializing in retailing personal computers with headquarters in Washington DC. In a span of just three years, the company grew revenues to $33 million. The company was sold in 1994 so that the founders could focus on their prime interest: software development.
In 2004, he established Arctern on the premise that with the accelerating forces of globalization and advances in information and communication technology, it was now possible for any company anywhere in the world to get a wide spectrum of “globali-zable” tasks accomplished cost effectively through enterprises located in low-cost countries like, for instance, India without compromise on quality.
Going beyond mere staff augmentation services, Arctern provides word class infrastructure, management oversight, adequate information and data security safeguards, communication and remote management tools, and key support services so that the resources it locates and gets on board as employees (but working on behalf of clients) are well-equipped to deliver their best at the workplace. Arctern services include global staff augmentation as well as software development services for customers worldwide.In 2007, Volt Information Services, Inc., a Fortune 1000 company and a leading provider of global infrastructure solutions in technology, information services, and staffing acquisition for its Fortune 100 customer base, acquired a controlling equity stake in Arctern. Following this development, Arctern became a subsidiary of Volt.
Bijal earned two bachelor’s degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from Virginia Tech. He is a charter member of TiE/ICEO council, a MindShare CEOs alumnus, a member of YEO and SIIA, and a 2003 E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year nominee.
Arctern (www.arctern.com) is a global IT & BPO services company that provides quality project management expertise, skilled manpower, and world-class infrastructure for a broad spectrum of managed services. Arctern’s offerings range from end-to-end software application development, engineering, and integration to business process outsourcing (BPO) and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) services. Through attention to productivity, quality processes and flexible delivery models, Arctern is able to provide clients with expert services, resulting in tangible business benefits, reduced operational costs, continuous improvements, and increased productivity to help transform their business.
Arctern is a subsidiary of Volt Information Sciences, Inc., a leading provider of global infrastructure solutions in technology, information services, and staffing acquisition.
Bijal is a serial entrepreneur seeing opportunities in the needs of businesses. His insight has enabled him to switch to opportunities that hold relevance in today’s globalized world. He talks to Indian Startup EMERGEOUT initiative by NASSCOM on entrepreneurship.
1. Why did you take up entrepreneurship journey?
Bijal Mehta: They say to become an entrepreneur, you have to have passion. For me that passion came early—when I was a college student in the United States. From my early days, I had this strong inclination to build a business, specifically to build a mass market global software product.
After I graduated in computer science and electrical engineering from Virginia Tech, I was keen to venture into software as an entrepreneur but funds were scarce. That prompted me to team up with my former classmate to set up Accel Inc., a Washington DC-based “white box” computer retailer firm that became so successful as to boast annual revenue of $33 million in just three years. In 1994, we sold Accel essentially to focus on our first love: software development.
That same year, I co-founded iCode Inc. (since merged with Versata, Inc.) with the vision of developing an ‘all-in-one’ mini-ERP software solution for small and medium enterprises worldwide. The Everest line of products, all developed at the company’s R&D center in Bangalore, were a great success as evident from the numerous international awards they have won and the fact that they are working at thousands of small and medium enterprises worldwide.
With the march of globalization in tandem with technological advances, it struck me that it was now possible for a company anywhere in the world to get a wide spectrum of “globali-zable’ tasks accomplished cost effectively through enterprises in low-cost countries, without compromise on quality. This prompted me to found Arctern—named after a champion globe-trotting bird—in 2004. In 2007, Arctern became a subsidiary of Volt Information Services, Inc., a Fortune 1000 company and one of the world’s leading providers of infrastructure solutions in technology, information services, and staffing acquisition for Fortune 100 companies.
Today, Arctern provides world class IT/ITES & BPO/KPO and software development services for a growing roster of customers worldwide.
2. What keeps you going (how and where do you find your motivation levels)?
Bijal Mehta: Over the years, if there’s one thing that I think I have not lost, it’s my passion for entrepreneurship—to create new enterprises from scratch, nurture them, see them grow and flower. The passage, of course, is never smooth. But then there’s a peculiar thrill that comes with battling obstacles that come in your way that cannot be described. Also, I believe in business you benefit by developing trust and deep relationships with your colleagues. If you have the humility of knowing the limits of your abilities and are not coy about asking for help when you need it, you have more peaceful nights and better chances of success.
3. What is your advice to wannabe entrepreneurs in India?
Bijal Mehta: When I first ventured into India in the mid-1990s, it was a different country. Economic liberalization was just beginning to happen. Infrastructure even in a city like Bangalore was modest at best. The ecosystem available was limited from a business perspective. Venture capital was practically unknown. But things have changed. The economy is growing at more than 8 per cent. Infrastructure has improved and availability of funding is better than ever before. Besides, we have the youngest workforce among large economies and a large and growing pool of talented resources with a broad skill set.
So, the economy is highly conducive for entrepreneurship. But for any enterprise to succeed, you need not only to excel at a product or service but be able to clearly distinguish it from the competition. Also, think of offering a product/service that’s not limited to any particular geography but has a global need—and appeal. You can take the venture capital route for funding but going by my experience, it’s wise to first ensure that you have invested sufficient funds garnered from your own resources in the enterprise. Also, if you happen to be a technocrat-entrepreneur, it’s advisable to become as hands-on as you can with the financial side of your business.
Three other things are important: building a team that shares your passion and commitment, a capacity to deal with pressure, and the endurance to ride out the storms that are bound to come your way.
4. What success means to you and your organization?
Bijal Mehta: I had two main objectives when I started out as an entrepreneur: provide people with products/services they need and have fun doing what I like to do. Making money was important, yes, but was never the bottom line, so to speak. It’s sometimes tempting to take the easy way out and do something that’s contrary to your own core values. You might even end up earning that extra buck but that is not going to take you far. In the long run, I believe the true meaning of success is doing what’s right, even when it’s not necessarily convenient or in one’s best interests.
As an organization, success in business is important to each one of our stakeholders, including our employees. Equally important is integrity is every aspect of our operations. In fact, it is one of the core values of our work culture. I believe integrity, honest relationships, and sincere collaboration are critical as we build ourselves into a world-class services and consulting firm with international brand recognition, well respected and regarded as the benchmark in its space.
5. What are your learnings from the failures?
Bijal Mehta: One can see a glass either as half empty or as half full. In every kind of business you have challenges, obstacles, and troubles. There is no magic formula to avoid failure. To put it differently, success demands its percentage of failure. The difference lies in how you perceive it, in how you take control of your thoughts and develop the right attitude. The trick I suppose is to never to see failure as failure but as a learning experience. I am reminded of a remark made by Thomas Edison, who had more than his share of failures. Asked how managed to keep going after more than on a thousand of his experiments on electrical filaments failed, Edison replied, “I did not fail a thousand times. I learned a thousand ways that didn’t work.”
Bijal’s loves creating new things and loves challenges that come with it. His secret of success is having fun in doing what you are doing.
As part of the Indian Startup EMERGEOUT initiative by NASSCOM, 23 entrepreneurs have shared their views. To know what they are, please visit the links given below.
NASSCOM EMERGEOUT Conclave, Chennai, April 30, 2010
NASSCOM EMERGEOUT conclave comes to Chennai on 30 April 2010. With “Nurturing the IT DNA in India’s growth sectors” as its theme, the conclave focuses on sectors that hold relevance to Chennai such as the automotive sector, in addition to opportunities that exist in the UID space, and workshops on marketing, product design, and many others.
The Chair of the EMERGEOUT Forum, Mr. Krishnakumar Natarajan, has provided the highlights of the EMERGEOUT Conclave in addition to details about EMERGE Forum and its activities. Please visit http://bit.ly/ckRFhI to read his interview to YourStory.
Phanindra Sama, CEO, RedBus.in, is going to be in a panel discussion on SaaS offerings (IT & SME – Is SAAS Finally Bridging the Gap?). We will feature a conversation with him soon. Phani found an opportunity in the bus ticketing space and has scaled RedBus phenomenally in three years. His success is an indication of opportunities that the domestic market presents.
Apart from this, we are sure to spring a surprise or two by featuring some opinions, interviews, and opinions.
Mr. Bharat Goenka, founder, Tally Software is the keynote speaker. It is a no-brainer right now that if you walk to anyone and ask them to cite you an example of an Indian product, Tally ranks among the top list, and it has been that way for a while. Mr. Goenka is without doubt one of the most prolific icons of the Indian product software industry. Talk to him about product positioning, understanding user behaviour, pricing, marketing and building a brand that is as big as Microsoft in terms of training and development centers, and you are sure to walk away in awe. Would you miss hearing him?
To wrap up the conclave, Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman, Cognizant, is going to engage in rather inquisitive conversation with Prasanto Roy from CyberMedia. He has been a technology industry leader for over 30 years. As a founding member of Cognizant, he was been responsible for the company’s high-touch customer relationship and delivery excellence model. Under his leadership, Cognizant became the youngest IT services company to reach the $1 billion revenue milestone. He is also the part of NASSCOM Chairmen Council and under his leadership, some new initiatives in the EMERGE Forum were started.
Speaker list and program schedule
To find the speaker list, please visit http://bit.ly/dvMYqq.
The complete program agenda is available: http://bit.ly/9on2ci An impressive lineup of programs awaits participants.
Interesting speakers and some sessions of interest
Jessie Paul, MD, Paul Writer Strategic Services, author of No Money Marketing, and formerly Chief Marketing Officer of Wipro, is holding a workshop on “Frugal Marketing—What Works, What's Trendy, What's Hype.” Besides great product or service and innovation, marketing right is crucial to build a brand. Jessie is going to demystify the art of brand building using a frugal budget. Visit her blog post at the EMERGE blog http://bit.ly/ahqdqO for details.
Kiruba Shankar, CEO, Business Blogging, is holding an “unconference” at the conclave.
The e-governance projects like the Unique ID Scheme of the government present huge opportunities for SMEs. One of the sessions at the conclave will explore this opportunity.
Register for the conference here
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–Contributed by Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, Chief Evangelist, YourStory