GCI: The Silent Achiever
Date: Thursday , March 04, 2010
One company that has marked its presence in the IT consultancy and services industry is Global Consultants Inc. (GCI). With a consistent ranking among the nation’s fastest growing technology firms for over five years, this enterprise has unceasingly surpassed its own targets, which exceed the industry averages, and as a result has established itself among the top 5 Indian-owned IT Services firms in the U.S. GCI has silently scaled heights without being noticed.
It is Jack Welch whom Hiten Patel, the Chairman and CEO of Global Consultants Inc (GCI), keeps in mind while running his company. “Be number one or number two in your market,” was the mantra by which Welch ran G.E. for two decades. Hiten, a former IBMer, runs his company on the same principle. His leadership guides well over 2000 employees in pride and determination: “We need to be in the top 3 vendors of each and every one of our customers. Of course, the question of dropping a customer does not arise.”
Hiten’s standards and convictions are shared by all of his employees. A common belief in hard work and the aspiration to become an integral partner to its clients has resulted in the company’s accelerated growth and success. Hiten has not been engrossed or lured by the flash bulbs of a subjective media. Instead, he has focused on the intrinsic principles and a creed that is responsible for taking GCI from a 1.2 million dollar establishment to a 120 million dollar megacorp in seven years, all the while overcoming obstacles such as the dotcom bubble burst of the late 90’s through 9/11.
Strong beliefs, right values
“As the Cliché goes, It indeed started in a garage in 1997,” reminisces Hiten. Hiten, with two colleagues, took over the management of GCI, fired it up and changed the scope of its offerings by making available, onsite-consulting services to its clients. At the on-start, AT&T was the company’s sole customer. Hiten serviced the telecom giant by focusing exclusively on this prospect and devoting all of the company’s effort and attention on the project. “Our primary concern then wasn’t company building but customer building,” says Hiten. From its inception, GCI’s management built the company by maintaining a sense of near frenzy and a resolute drive to avoid the loss of any opportunity to gain business. Throughout its journey and growth, the management of GCI has continually relied on two guiding principles. ”Every opportunity is a last opportunity” to run the business. “When you know it will be your last opportunity to do something, you will obviously do it to the best of your ability.” GCI, in fact, even today, views all its opportunities—from sales to delivery, to answering a phone call—as the last opportunity. By doing so, Hiten believes there must exist an aggressiveness that will lead to the fulfillment of each and every opportunity. In business, it’s the performance that determines the quality of, so his second theory was on the quality of service, cost effectiveness, experience, responsiveness and flexibility—a universal theory.
GCI did not believe in numbers alone. Taking one customer a time and providing them with the utmost and it the best of its service, was its Modus operandi. One lesson that Hiten learned was: Company building doesn’t mean to constrain yourself with a vendor-client relationship, instead you form a partnership. Partners always extend support to each other and neither of them tries to control the relationship, and this is exactly how he aspired. Today GCI stands among the top-five Indian owned IT services company in the U.S.
“Top-five because of the value we offer to our customers,” says Hiten. GCI’s value has spread so much that most of its clients are Fortune 100 and range from Telecom to BSFI, Pharmaceuticals to Insurance, Manufacturing to the Government sector. Interestingly, GCI’s step-by-step approach in acquiring one client from one domain is by learning each one’s core processes and as result, GCI has earned clients from all the verticals of the industry.
But what attracts clients to GCI? Hiten attributes GCI’s growth to being “customer driven,” as opposed to technology driven or driven by hot wave of its time. “We did not jump on the client server bandwagon of computing, Y2K or even the Internet boom. Our guiding principle was only to work on improvising customer relationships,” he explains. Graduating and uniting is what GCI believes in. Through the client relationship, GCI graduates itself from vendor to a partner by investing into the relationship and exceeding client expectation on all parameters. From being a partner, GCI’s goal is to unite with their clients. “We want to be an extension to our clients,” says Hiten. Extension means to form a seamless part of the company; in Hiten’s parlance it means, “putting ones skin in the game.” GCI believes only in long-term relationships and gains—It is an extension of support to the companies in their needy times and sharing profit from their heydays.
“Bonding with the client will help us in many ways,” says Hiten. Not only do they consider us for any new operation but also help us in our tough times. As GCI’s service efficacy increased, customers were confident about it and made requests for project services. GCI opened offsite service delivery centers near major customers’ offices to offer offsite project services. Today, GCI handles both consultancy and project services. With 20 offices, five development centers and an expanse of added-advanced services, the company has managed to maintain a high customer base. For Hiten, building customers is not what concerns the most; rather, it is the services that he offers them that are of paramount importance.
However, though, customers were never a problem to harness. Like consulting services brought project services to GCI, and project services brought extension of clients businesses; clients bring clients, is his belief. “Most of the clients who were suspicious about revealing their data to us initially, have today changed their approach and taken us as a part of their business model,” he emphasizes. GCI too is gearing itself to build open an innovative relationships with the clients. Some of the ways GCI has struck relationships with clients are through innovative and flexible financial offers like Open Book, Risk & Reward policy and profit sharing. “Building trust is one of the basic elements of building a good, long term relationship. What better strategy to build trust than being open with your clients, giving them flexibility while providing excellent quality and service,” says Ashwin Rao, Senior Vice President of GCI. Incidentally, this is the same model that Japanese auto suppliers use with manufactures like Toyota and Honda to build everlasting relationships.
Ashwin firmly believes in this Japanese strategy of growing business with the customer. “Once we strike a deal with a customer, we are in it forever. We build an entire organization to specifically service that customer, provide a wide range of services right from IT Consultancy to Fixed-price project based services and now, Offshore,” he says. In a recent bid to improve customer offerings & expand services to new markets, GCI bought majority stake in a Bangalore-based new-technology offshoring company, Planetasia. Now Planetasia acts as GCI’s solution arm in offering offshore project services.
GCI’s strategy is to offer all three options to every customer—onsite consulting, offsite project services and offshore services. Customer can decide based on total cost of ownership and time to market requirements, whichever model best fit the needs. “GCI’s Best Shore model is very unlike other offshore services players whose strategy is to drive all business offshore. GCI evaluates various parameters of a project and carries out an analysis of which shore model will suit that project and client. We then provide a cost-benefit analysis for each option and let the client chose which model is best for them,” says Ashwin Rao.
GCI’s service offerings range from Application Management & Infrastructure Management to e-Business Solutions, ERP/CRM implementations and QA & Testing. These services are offered to key verticals using the Best Shore model. Many of GCI’s clients have benefited immensely from this model. For example, one of GCI’s clients, a Fortune 100 Telecom company, was challenged with managing a 20-year-old legacy application for their capital budget management activity. There was hardly any documentation for the application and it was developed in a dying computer language. For supporting this application the client paid an upward fee of 5 million dollars per year to some other consulting firm. GCI took the fixed price project at less then half of annual support budget of application to re-architect this application into a web-based environment using J2EE technologies. GCI, using Onsite, offsite and offshore delivery at various stages of the project, developed software to extract business logic from more than two-million lines of code, developed the system on time and within budget. The client’s maintenance budget went down to less than 20 percent of what it was paying and GCI has now earned a long-term contract for maintaining that application.
Bank of America recently selected GCI as one of their 4 primary vendors to provide IT services. GCI was selected as part of this coveted list, after a rigorous evaluation process. The high-level evaluation committee from Bank of America, led by Rob Robinson - Finance Operations and Reb Conn - supply chain management, was very impressed by GCI's capabilities and profile. It was their highly automated backend systems, client-centric model and end-to-end comprehensive processes that gave GCI the extra edge to qualify into the preferred vendor list above other suppliers.
GCI, ranked as one of the fastest growing IT service company, is confident of its ability to compete with global players. Due to the fact that its top management is based in the US and its project delivery teams are a combination of US and offshore brilliants. “Our operational efficiency was one of our key success factors; our internal processes and systems that are cutting-edge gives it a big advantage,” says Hiten. GCI’s entire delivery process from RFP to customer satisfaction tracking is developed in-house. “ Ironically, internal systems is not given high priority by many technology companies. We have used technology as a big differentiator and have built an end-to-end ERP. Many of our clients have become clients looking at our streamlined systems and processes that are built to maximize efficiency and drive down costs,” says Dhar Patadia, CIO of GCI.
From Here to where?
GCI today has streamlined its business. They have built their own systems for sales, recruitment, quality, project management, support, billing, and knowledge management. GCI currently uses it’s own center in Mumbai to reduce its cost of operations. A large team seated there carries out a good part of its back office operations. “Using India to maximize cost and operational efficiency and sharing the cost savings with our clients and employees is one of our key strategies to ensure client and employee retention”, says Sham Patel, COO of GCI.
GCI’s vision is crystal clear, says Hiten. “Be a leader in what we do, carve out a niche for ourselves and be a dominant player in all our clients.”. He continues to say that there are three important things that he is aggressive about: First, is to build a world-class company and a team that can match his global vision. Hiten is not a man who respects revenues in totality but hard work. His senior management that has stayed intact for eight years now is just a testimonial to Hiten’s recognition of his team. He is very proud of the fact that their attrition rate is one of the lowest in the industry. Second, it’s the expansion of our services to our clients. An area that has high growth potential since the technology keeps changing frequently, in order to keep pace we would be looking for newer services that could add value to the customers. And last, is GCI’s venture into other verticals and target markets. Until recently, we were servicing Fortune 500 clients in certain verticals, going forward, with Planetasia, we would also be aggressively going after the mid-market segment which has still not reaped the benefits of outsourcing.
What is your personal goal now? We asked. Hiten smiles and says "It is now beyond money and personal achievement. I am happy I built a great team and this company to where it is. Now, I want my team to take charge and grow this to the next level while I play a mentoring role. I want to spend my time growing GCI strategically and building the team. That is the key - hiring high energy entrepreneurial talents and mentoring them to take the baton forward." That is what leaders are all about...