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Amar Bose
Friday, November 21, 2008
A successful company with great products, a strong brand name and good growth rate. Yet, despite all this, here’s one company that has not chosen the traditional “exit” - that is, no IPO. It remains fiercely private and intends to stay that way.
Such actions speak volumes about a genius founder who revolutionized how sound is heard by us all. To Dr. Amar Bose, the negatives to going public — a constant pressure of keeping up with a public image and financial reporting — outweigh the positives

A 1998 interview with Dr. Bose was a memorable one. His office, to begin with, is like a modern corporate shrine, into which I was gently led at the stroke of the appointed hour.

Shortly thereafter, through a mysterious back door, Dr. Bose appeared. The tall, lean man has a majestic personality befitting a professor-scientist with a noble cause — making life easier and more fulfilling for all through innovation and research.

Bose Corp. has always enjoyed the first-mover advantage. Although a normal product development time cycle at the company is from about 8 to 10 years, the result yields well-honed, high-end products for both consumer and professional markets that define a new product category.

Several upstart speaker companies have worked hard to create competing products, making lots of noise about them. Because sound is a highly subjective experience, to some aficionados, those new brands may even sound better. But it is a combination of sheer product quality and brand name recognition that has helped Bose grow and maintain its market share.

As Dr. Bose said, “If you don’t actually feel that the symphony on a Bose sound system sounds much better than any other product, then don’t buy Bose — you are simply wasting your money.”

Bose was always the hybrid engineer-entrepreneur, starting a radio repair shop in 1943 in his home state of Philadelphia, taking advantage of the fact that because most young engineers had been recruited to fight in World War II, there were no new civilian electronic products being produced. But Bose couldn’t wait to go to MIT to learn how to design things.

The rest of the story is a legend: he bought a hi-fi system while studying the mathematical side of communications theory. The sound from the system was terrible, despite the product’s specifications and reviews. He began researching psycho-accoustics, resulting in the development of new audio technologies for which he held patents.

On MIT’s encouragement, he founded Bose Corp. in 1964 in Massachusetts. His commitment to innovation has seeped deep into Bose Corp.’s approach to doing business.

As the interview was winding down, Dr. Bose suddenly stood. The clock had struck 5 o’clock, signaling the end of our appointment, although I had lots of questions remaining.

He walked around his desk and right up to me, shook hands firmly, said, “You will do well.” With nothing more, he turned around, walked back across the room and disappeared through the back door.

Bose has been listed in Forbes magazine’s “Richest 400 Americans” for the last few years. His net worth last year was estimated at $650 m illion.

Yogesh Sharma

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