For its annual focus section on "Women in Business" the IndUS Business Journal took a look at four "Women to Watch" in their respective industries from high-tech to medical services. These women, ranging from young entrepreneurs to seasoned executives, all have set a tremendous example for women in general and for the South Asian community in particular. Their work and their companies are paving the way for women in the business world and for the innovation of the future.
Ranjini Poddar is president of Artech Information Systems, the Morristown, N.J.-based company she co-founded with her husband, and manages over 500 employees in India and the United States.
Ranjini's husband Ajay Poddar had been working in the IT industry when he pooled together $200,000 from friends and family to get Artech off the ground in 1992. She was involved in law studies at Yale Law School, but put in between 10 to 20 hours a week to help keep Artech afloat. The company's first client was the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey. But it was their first private sector client, General Electric Co., which helped the company get its foot in the door of the IT services industry.
For years she worked as a lawyer, while continuing to help run the company.
In 1999, Poddar went to work at Artech full time. To spark growth, Poddar initiated a corporate restructuring in which the company's corporate team was expanded and an aggressive, focused marketing campaign was put into place. Over the years she also expanded the company's client base, led acquisition and most importantly pushed it into the government arena.
As a small, woman-owned business, Artech's qualifies for federal and state government incentive programs. The company subcontracts with large federal contractors such as IBM and Booz Allen Hamilton and works directly with federal agencies as well.
According to Poddar, about 40 percent of Artech's business today is with state and federal government agencies. While Artech's growth in the United States has been an impressive 35 percent increase in revenues over the past few years, Poddar said that the rate of growth in India has been extraordinary with a 50 percent to 75 percent increase in revenue predicted for next year. The number of employees has grown from less than 30 in 2001 to over 300.
Dr. Lena Doshi is the first to admit that getting fired in 1985 was the best thing that ever happened to her.
After eight years of working as a radiologist at Flushing Hospital in Queens a new director came in and fired all the radiologists on staff.
At the time, most radiologists were hospital based but that didn't stop Doshi from renting an office across the street from the hospital, buying some equipment, hiring a technician and opening up shop.
Doshi Diagnostic Imaging Services grew from that one center to 30 centers in New York and Florida, over 1,000 employees and annual revenues of $130 million making it, according to Doshi, one of the top-10 radiology companies in the country. Most recently this year, Doshi sold 65 percent of the company to, Evercore Partners, a private equity firm, in a deal that gave Doshi Diagnostic a value of $255 million.
Doshi said that when she first decided to go solo she had to figure out everything on her own, from how to buy equipment to how to bill a patient to how much to charge for a Chest X-Ray.
Doshi also always kept the business on the cutting-edge of technology from X-Ray machines, mammography machines and sonograms to investing millions in advancements such as CATscans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and computerized billing systems.
Doshi has also followed a shrewd path of acquisitions and sales. In 1997, she sold 70 percent of the business to PrimeCare International Inc., a California-based company, and stayed on as manager.
She continued to buy up other centers — so much so that within the three years the company had increased so much in value that PrimeCare decided it was time to sell. But Doshi couldn't walk away. In 2000, she bought the company back from Prime Care.
Despite recently selling her company again, Doshi is still looking forward. She plans to triple the company's revenues in the next five years. She also said that she is now looking to expand into New Jersey.
Six years ago, when Punita Pandey, chairman and chief executive officer of netCustomer Inc., went searching for a commercial space in India that could operate around the clock, she had a hard time. No one was willing to provide power all day and all night, she said. Eventually, she had to settle for renting out a few rooms in a hotel on the outskirts of Delhi.
A lot has changed since then. Not only have around-the-clock centers become ubiquitous in many urban areas in India, but in the last year netCustomer, an IT- and business process-outsourcing company, moved out of its hotel space to a 50,000-square foot, four-story facility in Noida.
"Now was the time to take the plunge," said Pandey.
And quite a plunge it is. NetCustomer's new facility cost over $2 million and can accommodate up to 1,500 people working in multiple shifts.
According to the company, it is designed to run around-the-clock operations and includes telecom infrastructure, modern labs, hands-on training rooms and ergonomically designed work areas that are supposed to facilitate collaboration among team members. The company currently has 250 of its 300 employees working in India, but Pandey said that the company is in high growth mode and plans to quickly fill out the space.
NetCustomer was founded in 1999 by Pandey and her younger brother Nelin. Another brother, Anup, was quickly recruited. The idea was to provide low cost, 24-hour customer support and technical support. For netCustomer's model to work, the company needed an Indian presence quickly, and it launched in India with a handful of hotel rooms.
One of NetCustomer's key customers was PeopleSoft, which turned NetCustomer on to some of its 12,000 customers.
PeopleSoft has since been acquired by Oracle Corp. Pandey anticipates that some of Oracle's 24,000 customers will eventually work with netCustomer.
Five years ago, Northwest Software Inc. was like many other small, growing IT consulting firms. The Beaverton, Oregon-based company, which was founded by Sonal Shah in 1988 with the goal of providing temporary IT help, had 130 employees, 10 core customers and developed software for its IT projects.
But Shah, the company's president, could see the writing on the wall. It was getting harder to compete with the larger, national IT firms and the economy was beginning to show signs of its eventual decline.
What Shah did was send part of her company back into research and development mode. The move involved nearly $6 million and resulted in EZRecruit, a system that automates the recruitment process.
Shah credits EZRecruit not only with helping the company weather the high tech crash - when many of its competitors either drastically downsized or went under — but also with enabling it to compete on a national field with the larger players.
These days, the company operates in nearly 20 states and is back up to 120 consultants and 14 core customers, including Hewlett-Packard Corp., Intel Corp., Nike, Nordstrom Inc. and Starbucks Corp.
The way EZRecruit works is that once a job is posted, the system automatically matches the job requirements with jobs posted on sites on the Web like Monster.com and Yahoo.com. Within a few minutes up to 200 job invites will go out to potential candidates asking them to apply for this job.
Northwest began marketing the product almost two years ago and currently five customers are using EZRecruit including Aflac and Farmer's Insurance.
In order to further level the playing field with national employment companies like Kelly Services Inc. and Volt Services Group, Northwest has also recently diversified its service offerings by venturing into the non-IT consulting field and is considering a number of partnerships with other minority-owned companies.