Romesh Wadhwani

Date:   Friday , November 21, 2008

Many entrepreneurs experienced a point in their life where they “turned” entrepreneur. Others are genetic entrepreneurs; Romesh Wadhwani belongs to the latter category.
IIT Mumbai. Hungry students scouring the pantry in the school canteen. Opportunity is in the eyes of the sharpshooter. Upstart Wadhwani started a competing snacks shop in Hostel II, which soon became a runaway success, returning 100 times his investment within a short time. Alas, Wadhwani moved on, but IIT did not. The startup was “nationalized” by the next student governing body that came to power. “Success begets envy, and envy begets nationalization,” he says now. This experience unlocked the entrepreneurial genetic code in Wadhwani, who went on to “serve up” two successful startups in two decades, before deciding to hang up his boots, and enjoy life. “If you’ve done two startups, you’ve used up most of your emotional and physical energy,” he says.

But like a virus, entrepreneurial instincts are picked up quickly. His second startup was a robotics company, through the evolution of which he had already saw another opportunity. For companies involved in manufacturing, the costs of custom making even the smallest part from scratch can be enormous. This inconvenience was the birth of Aspect Development, which is now a global provider of B2B cCommerce solutions for inbound supply and collaboration, for the enterprise and its trading partners. Wadhwani’s confidence — as well as his employees’ — in the company’s value base manifested itself well in second quarter of last year, when a lost contract and lower sales expectations resulted in the stock price dropping down to about $7. The company immediately bought its own stock in large numbers, which has since paid off well, with the stock price recently noted to be hovering at about $180.

Wadhwani also created the Wadhwani Foundation, which has funded a chair professorship in entrepreneurship at his alma mater, IIT Mumbai. This chair is part of a larger vision for establishing a virtual National Entrepreneurship Center in India. “The objective of the Foundation is to help create a hundred companies and tens of thousands of jobs in the next few years,” says Wadhwani. He meets his brother Sunil Wadhwani regularly, who is the CEO of iGate Capital (formerly Mastech), and they are said to exchange notes on all aspects of their companies with each other, learning from their joint experience.

Which ever way the path took him early on, Wadhwani was definitely born to entrepreneurship. Who knows, while lying in the cradle with a milk bottle in his hands, little Wadhwani may have been dreaming up ways of making a better milk bottle, to beat the competition!