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Home > Business > Special


Narendra Patni: The original IT man

Shivani Shinde in Mumbai | November 05, 2007

He's in the eye of a leadership storm today. However, Narendra Patni, chairman and CEO of Patni Computer Systems [Get Quote], was among the first leaders to have started the offshoring trend in India.

A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he had gone to the US in 1964 on a MIT fellowship. The husband-wife duo -- Narendra Patni and Poonam Patni -- took the first steps towards the offshoring business way back in 1972. Initially they started operations from their third floor apartment in the US, and later set up back-office operations in Pune (started by Poonam) with 20 people. The company currently has over 14,000 employees.

When he founded the company in 1978, he had the likes of Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani and S Gopalakrishnan on his rolls. While they went on to set up Infosys [Get Quote] which today is the second largest Indian IT services provider, Patni was not as lucky.

Moreover, while the Indian IT industry went in for a complete change in 1999-2000 during the dotcom bust, and companies like Infosys made hay, Narendra Patni and his brothers were grappling with the hardware and software business. In 2001, the brothers decided to split the business into two -- hardware (now PCS Technology Ltd [Get Quote]) and the software business.

Then Narendra Patni had only one option -- to catch up with the others. Those who were working with him during the changing phase of 2002-03, and when the company eventually got listed in 2004, focused on being the preferred service provider in certain chosen verticals. Despite the slow momentum, the company has been able to withstand the competition from both MNCs as well as Indian IT companies.

"He has always been a shy person. He has always believed in keeping quiet and working hard, something that comes with his MIT background," said a person who has worked very closely with him. This was also clear when, despite the disagreement between the brothers on the stake sale being spoken and written about regularly in the media, Narendra Patni chose to remain silent most of the time.

Even when he did speak, he did not attach much importance to the proposed stake sale, saying that both the brothers -- Ashok and Gajendra Patni -- had sold close to 6 million shares since the company went public in 2004. "I have built the company from scratch, and would like the shares to find a good home when they are on offer," is what he was clear about. Simultaneously, he instructed his sales team to get in touch with him in case clients asked them any uncomfortable questions.

Now with the Patni Computer Systems' stake sale being called off, it brings to an end the uncertainty that has surrounded the issue for the last six months. Back in saddle for at least a year (his tenure as CEO expires at end of December, 2008), Narendra Patni chooses to be focused on the work at hand. "He is a very honest and thoughtful person, something which comes out very clearly in the way he works. Transparency is very important to him," says another employee of the company. These qualities may stand him in good stead.



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