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April - 2000 - issue > Cover Feature

Hatim Tyabji

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hatim Tyabji is not an entrepreneur. He is a manager and known as a radical one at that. What he did at VeriFone, which makes credit card authorizing point-of-sale terminals, is legendary in management and has become the subject of a case study by the Harvard Business School, among others.
He was 22 when he left Mumbai and came to the United States, where he earned two graduate degrees, one in engineering and another in management. He worked at the Sperry Corporation (now Unisys) for 13 years and in 1986 became the CEO at VeriFone, the stage for his experiments in management.

Tyabji was among the earliest to conceive of the 24-hour global workday across different time zones, and also one of the first to take advantage of it. Today, software companies, notably, use the time zone to great benefit. Although this initiative was not radical by most contemporary standards, some of his others clearly were.

The 55-year-old executive also created the “decentralized” office, allowing his executives to live where they chose. While Tyabji lived in northern California, his CIO resided in Santa Fe, New Mexico and his head of human resources chose Dallas. Typically, one-third of the VeriFone employees used to live away from “headquarters.” VeriFone spent up to $5 million on air travel, and Tyabji himself logged several hundred thousand miles a year.

At VeriFone Tyabji also banned secretaries, and led by example. Communication was always through email, and paper was never used. He achieved what others only talked about.

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