After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.
Education: Duke University, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Career: CFO and General Counsel, Office Tiger. Was part of the founding team too
Last Position: Co-founder, Pangea3
Hobbies: Swimming, golf, tabla and cooking
Q. Pangea3 was the second time you’d started a company. What were some of the things you did differently here?
I learnt a lot from Office Tiger. We were very successful but we had made a lot of mistakes. At Office Tiger, we knew that we wanted to build a huge company. The view was that we had to build the infrastructure from the beginning because you can’t move the organisation. From day one, we rented 12,000 sq feet and took the rights to getting it to 30,000 sq feet. When we started Pangea3 we did the reverse. We found someone who was willing to rent space on a month-on-month basis at 1,000 sq feet with no security deposit. At Office Tiger, we raised $6 million to get through the first year.
At Pangea3, we did it with $1.5 million. At Office Tiger, we spent a lot of money on professionals and set up the company with $30,000. At Pangea3, we did it in $2,000. We also learnt from the success of Office Tiger. We built the brand using PR to get the word out. We did the same at Pangea3. Many people, when they start a company, try to keep it under wraps. Here, we evangelised about the industry.
Q. It has been eight years since you set up Pangea3. How has the industry changed?
One of the big changes has been technology. Every year technology evolved and we had to be at the forefront of technological development and integrating it with our offering. Today, it takes less than 25 percent of the time it took when we started doing any job for the client. We’ve also reached a stage where, as a mature industry, more than 50 percent of law students think of it as a good career option. The people that we get year-after-year, their quality, and their ability to go up the value chain keep increasing.
Q. Are law firms becoming more comfortable with outsourcing?
In the early years, it was the in-house legal departments of companies who were coming. Law firms were not too interested. Today, it is the law firms that are partnering with the LPOs and wanting to add those relationships when they go to their clients, and saying we are being strategic and innovative.
Q. What’s your next move?
David [Perla, co-founder, Pangea3] and I are writing a book on building a business across cultures. We’re doing a lot of work looking at the support staff [office staff and drivers] industry, which is completely fragmented. My view is that for-profit companies can do a lot more for people like that than charitable organisations. We are working with startups where our expertise can help them come along.