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Bharat Desai's recipe for success

Entrepreneurs have to plan ahead to remain relevant for their customers , says the chairman and co-founder of Syntel.

Shalini Kathuria Narang | May 21, 2013 | Updated 19:21 IST

Bharat Desai, Chairman and Co-Founder of Syntel, opened the second day of the TiE Conference 2013 on May 18 at the Santa Clara Convention Center with a candid keynote on his journey as an entrepreneur, the lessons learnt on the way, the succession plan for his company and everything in between. The annual TiE Conference is the world's largest networking event for entrepreneurs. It is organised by The Indus Entrepreneurs(TiE), a premier networking organization founded in 1992 in the Silicon Valley by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals.

"I did know that the industry (information technology and outsourcing) was going to grow significantly and with the right moves, we could outpace the overall industry growth and we have been fortunate," said Desai. Syntel is today a leading IT Outsourcing, IT Consulting and BPO firm.

The company started as a bootstrap operation with $2000 in 1980. Even after ten years into the business, when the controller in the company suggested getting a line of credit, Desai says he was not sure of getting support from banks. Syntel now employs over 22,000 people, has a market cap of $2.7 billion and is a global provider of integrated IT and Knowledge Process Outsourcing solutions, spanning the entire lifecycle of business and information systems and processes. Prashant Ranade has been the company CEO since early 2010.

Syntel partners with leading corporations across the banking & financial, insurance, healthcare, life sciences, retail, logistics and manufacturing sectors, leveraging dedicated Centers of Excellence and a flexible Global Delivery Model. The company's collaborative client partnerships create sustainable business advantage through innovation, improved quality and reduced costs.

Desai acknowledged the close engagement of his wife and children in the business in its early days and the support of an excellent board team. "There are ups and downs all the times and I guarantee you in an entrepreneurial journey there are many, many more downs than ups. The thing that propelled me the most was the strong belief in what I was doing, a passion for doing it right, the passion for serving customers well, persisting and persevering," he said.

"One of the things that drives entrepreneurs to success is the constant fear that they will become irrelevant and I'd say that it propels me today. The beauty of the market place is so dynamic and if you take your eyes off the ball, you become irrelevant in a heartbeat. My goal as a chairman is to plan 3 to 5 years ahead and to remain relevant for our customers," said Desai.

Syntel's growth over the years is attributed to its "customer for life" commitment and ability to continually reinvent and expand services to adapt to the shifts of the market and needs of the clients.

"Find an underserved market segment and you have to be really good at that segment, commit to it and work very hard. To be successful in any business, you have to identify who your customers are and your customers have to think very highly of you. You have to offer something very important and relevant and once you identify that niche, then you have to relentlessly focus on it," said Desai.

Recognised by clients for its ability to build collaborative partnerships, Syntel is known for innovative solutions, beyond business benefits.

"We have built a terrific succession plan. Our board reviews our succession plan every quarter and as a result of that, our organisation is much more stronger. Most entrepreneurs must accept that their company could and must outlive them. My children are not in my line of business. They want to do bigger and better things," said Desai. "I don't think our lives changed in any way on becoming a billionaire. It is like getting to a certain level of accomplishment, but nothing more. We embrace the same values as we had when we were children and it is very important for us to bring up our children with the same values and I hope I have we have done that."

Desai also believes in philanthropy. "Two causes that we are very passionate about are education and entrepreneurship and that is where we channel most of our philanthropic activity. We are about to announce an entrepreneurship school at IIT Bombay that I am very thrilled about."

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