‘We will invest $15 mn in India this year’

Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Syntel, Bharat Desai is ready to assume
another avatar: that of mentor and brand ambassador for his company. Under Desai’s
direction, Syntel has grown over the past 24 years to become a global IT
services company, employing 4,000 people in North America, Europe, and Asia, as
well as seven fully-networked global development centers in the US and India.
Desai spoke to Nanda Kasabe of Cybermedia News about the company’s big plans
for India, and his desire to make Pune Syntel’s largest worldwide center.

There have been plenty of changes within Syntel. What is the rationale
behind these?
There are three key changes happening at Syntel. The first is building
infrastructure and overhauling the telecommunications infrastructure worldwide.
The second key change is the change in the leadership structure and the third is
identifying new business areas for growth. The idea is to be prepared for the
customer demand coming up in the areas of healthcare, financial services and
building services around these.

Could you elaborate on these?
Syntel has acquired 40 acres at Pune to build a sprawling campus at Talawade,
which will be the flagship facility for Syntel worldwide. Another 23 acres has
been acquired at Chennai. We have estimated a total of 9,000 seats in three
phases, which would cost around $40 mn. The first phase with 3,000 seats will
become operational by August 2005. The $20 mn to be invested in this facility
has come from the Indian subsidiary of Syntel. The Chennai facility is coming up
at the IT corridor near SIPCOT soon.

Bharat Desai

In anticipation of huge customer demand we have decided to overhaul our
entire telecommunications infrastructure. Nortel Networks has been identified as
the equipment vendor for this. Secondly, Keshav Murugesh has been promoted last
month as COO. He handles the day-to-day activities at Syntel leaving me free to
pursue other areas. I intend to take on a mentorship role and become a brand
ambassador for Syntel globally. My role would also be to identify new areas for
growth. We also intend to come out with major announcements once every quarter
bringing our productized services to the market. The new service offerings would
be extensions of the current product line.

You have predicted a convergence of IT outsourcing and BPO. Do you see a
change in the focus of existing BPOs?
I see a convergence happening between IT outsourcing and BPO. Customers will
soon look for one-stop shops for their IT outsourcing needs and the BPO needs.
Syntel will now push this model and take steps towards becoming a one-stop for
meeting both the needs.

Typically, IT applications for a BPO are given to another vendor and this is
where inefficiencies creep in. Instead, one vendor could be held responsible for
the end-to-end function.

Syntel has opened a 400-seater BPO at Mumbai, which offers data services
related to high-end transaction services in two to three verticals-healthcare,
insurance and finance. Presently, BPO is a small component of the overall
revenue model, but we see this changing with the convergence happening. During
the current year, we will invest $15 mn in India.

You have won the IIT Alumnus of the Year award for 2004.
Do you have plans of involving yourself with your alma mater, providing the
necessary thought leadership?
Of course. IIT will be celebrating its golden jubilee in two years. IIT,
Mumbai has launched an alumni association and as Pune has over 500 IIT alumni,
we have therefore launched the Pune chapter of the alumnus. The aim is to
formulate plans for IIT for the next two decades, identify future areas of
research, future technologies and funds for these. We see both biotech and
bioengineering emerging as hot areas of technology.

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