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Awesome Foursome

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DQW Bureau
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Ambition is something that can break chains and drive one towards success. It was ambition that brought together Mahesh Kumar, Prashant Behl, Naveen Nagpal and Jalaludin Kokan, to form Infonet Solutions. It has been 12 long years of hard work for the four of them, who continued their journey as promoters without losing their focus from their target, which is scaling Infonet to greater heights and establishing it, as one of the leading technology company in the south.

The quartet started their business in 1996 when the IT boom had just begun. While Behl and Kokan were childhood friends, Nagpal was a senior in college and Kumar was Kokan's colleague at CMS Computers. Kokan and Nagpal studied electrical and electronics engineering respectively, Kumar was an instrumental engineer and Behl did his computer science engineering major, with a keen interest in technology. Initially the company provided structure cabling solutions and their primary focus was helped by the fact that the industry lacked solution providers at that point of time.

Slow and steady growth

The company began in the dining room of Behl's home and was later relocated to his father's office. While, Kokan and Kumar were first generation entrepreneurs, Behl's family was into sports business and Nagpal hailed from a chemical business family. Behl and Nagpal's business acumen, which they had acquired from their families, helped the company to a huge extent, especially in terms of knowledge and other complexities involved at the time of starting.

Although Infonet was lucky in terms of getting big orders due to their sound technical knowledge, the company upgraded their skills on a regular basis to attain more business. The foursome believes that providing strong technology solutions to their client quickly has been the USP of the company. Setting up their own office space had been a huge moral booster for them. They pride themselves on the fact that they have retained every single customer till now providing cutting-edge technology solutions.

The triumph of value business

The company focuses on value business rather than volume business and the foursome has not been attracted towards it despite several offers from vendors. “There were few alluring offers to venture into run-rate business; however we have been very clear about our intention of only dealing with value business as we have complete confidence in our technical ability and have been quite content with what we have been doing for years. Few feel that economically the volume business is better but I perceive project-based business to be more reliable,'' claimed Kokan.

Similarly certain decisions that the quartet had taken, paid off well. The alliance with HP was one such positive gamble for the company, where they have been unipolar with only HP solutions offering and had no other tie-ups.

However, they have a partnership with Cisco for active networking components, Molex for passive networking components and few solutions with Nortel,

APC, VMware and Panduit. “First of all we need to have confidence in the product with which we are dealing and only then we can convince others to believe in it. HP has been the best for us and the partnership has been fruitful for the company's growth,'' Kokan added.

There have been lots of offers from other vendors for potential partnerships with the company that could have well been profitable, but Infonet has strongly remained faithful to HP by saying 'no' to all of them. But the rejection of these alliances has not slowed down the growth of the company and their technical abilities.Infonet has been the first company in India to partner with HP for VDI with mobile thin clients as well as the first company, who successfully implemented huge projects in this product.

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Rocky roads

It has not always been smooth sailing for Infonet after their initial project successes. When the dotcom bubble burst in 1999 there were investments from the IT companies and the industry completely nosedived. Infonet suffered a huge setback and there was no business for 12 to 18 months. “We realized that there were more things that we needed to earn other than just money. Building a strong team is a difficult task and managing it is tougher. We had to keep giving salaries to our employees to prevent the team from collapsing,'' Kokan reminisced.

The four entrepreneurs had to use in more personal resources and assets to safeguard the business and its employees. “We took the challenge and came out with flying colors. We had to strive hard for customer's acceptance. Slowly, the situation also started to improve and the rest is history,'' Kokan asserted. The promoters never forgot to thank 'Global reality', the company that gave them a second breakthrough during their lowest point.

The power of unity

Generally, when there are many people in the management of a company with equal powers, too many thoughts crop up and decision making gets tough. For Infonet, however this has not been the case. “For every decision the company takes there would be huge amount of deliberations amongst us. Strategic decisions like remaining unipolar, has been a hugely debated topic. But the confident that we have on each other triumphs all and we accept it if someone makes a valid point. This has been the great strength of the company,” claimed Nagpal.

Although there is no formal power sharing agreement amongst the four, each takes care of a different portfolio. Behl takes care of the implementation of technology and the service part of it. Kokan handles the financial part of the company, Nagpal is in charge of the general administration and Kumar is responsible for promotional activities of the company. Each is well versed with the other's responsibility and helps the other when the situation demands it. Despite the work pressure, the quartet makes it a point to meet for lunch every day at the office and they have been following this ritual religiously for the past 12 years. This unity is the success mantra of Infonet.

The future bright

The quartet constantly tries to understand and research into new technologies to add to their offerings and increase the customer satisfaction as much as possible. Infonet has clocked a turnover of Rs 80 crore in the financial year 2009-10. “We are already working as consultants for large corporates and we are leaders in implementing technology. In the next five years, we are confident, that we would be one of the leading technology providers in the country and we would like to provide technology derivatives high-end datacenter solutions. We would also like to branch out to every metro in the country,” Kokan concluded confidently.

Ramkumar R

(ramk@cybermedia.co.in)

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