Surfing the outsourcing boom

After a successful 29-year stint with hp, the 63-year-old Suresh Rajpal, former President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard India has floated a string of new ventures with mixed results.

 He's always on the lookout for challenges. "Doing something different motivates me," says Suresh Rajpal, former President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard India-turned-serial entrepreneur. After a successful 29-year stint with hp, the 63-year-old Rajpal has floated a string of new ventures with mixed results. Now, he is upbeat about his latest venture, TransTech Services Partners Inc., a special purpose acquisition corporation that proposes to buy mid-sized companies in the US and the UK in the it and IT-enabled services (ITEs) space that are facing significant challenges to their existing business model.

TransTech hopes to realign the businesses to enable them to remain competitive with particular focus on paring costs. This will include outsourcing a substantial chunk of their businesses to low-cost destinations like India. Says Rajpal: "The objective is to move the non-customer-facing technology work and processes to India within three years of the acquisition, thus, reducing costs and improving margins." TransTech has already raised $41 million (Rs 168.1 crore) through a listing on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board Exchange, New York. And now, it's on the prowl for a suitable acquisition.

For Rajpal, it has been a long journey from his extended tenure at hp to his present avatar as an entrepreneur. Under his stewardship, hp India reached a turnover of $200 million (Rs 860 crore then) in 1999 from $20 million (Rs 32 crore then) in 1989. Then, in 1997, he bagged the US Ambassador's Award for contribution to us business in India. The same year, HP India won the CII-Exim Bank Award for Business Excellence.

It was then that Rajpal decided to venture out on his own. "In hp, the work was no longer challenging as everything had been achieved. So I thought of climbing a second mountain," he says. In 1999, backed by venture capital funding, he launched eCapital Solutions, an infotech services company that was subsequently merged with Leading Edge, a BSE-listed company with a similar business profile. The merged company was called Trigyn Technologies and Rajpal was appointed its President and CEO. Says Rajpal: "Even though I was the CEO of the company, I had no control over the board and could not function independently. Therefore, I chose to quit."

His next venture, in 2002, was Technova, a consulting, IT & BPO services company that focussed on meeting the IT needs of European and us firms. But he logged out of this venture in 2006.

His stints with Trigyn and Technova, Rajpal says, taught him important lessons. First, don't become CEO of a company if you don't control the board. And secondly, small investments in small companies don't get you big customers despite your contacts. Explains Rajpal: "The key is to differentiate yourself from everybody else. We, perhaps, failed to do that." Then, in 2006, Rajpal set up Visnova, an IT solutions provider in the healthcare sector that also provided ERP solutions to SMEs. He has ambitious plans for this venture and says he wants to make it "the Infosys of the future in healthcare".

Can he replicate his success at hp with Visnova and TransTech? His track record so far has been mixed. But Rajpal, and his investors, will be hoping that he strikes pay dirt this time.