IndUS Business Journal interviews Pat Patel, Intelliswift's CEO about the firm's swift growth

IndUS Business Journal article


Issue Date: December 15, 2006, Posted On: 12/14/2006
Pat Patel: Intelliswift's people person

Founder sparks swift growth with employee focus

By Mark Pechenik

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Company:Intelliswift Software, Inc.
Position:Founder, president and CEO
Education:Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering form Bombay University.
Age: 38

FREMONT, Calif. — Ask Pat Patel of Intelliswift Software Inc., and he'll tell you that it's the people, just as much as the product, which has been responsible for his company's astounding growth since its opening in 2001.

"The difference is not so much what we do but how we do it. By making a strong commitment to our employees, we've made significant progress," says Patel, founder, president and chief executive officer of Fremont, Calif.-based Intelliswift, which specializes in software services and systems integration.

Such an assessment could be considered an understatement. Within the past three years, Intelliswift has realized a dramatic revenue growth rate of 367 percent. For the same amount of time, this firm has been consistently rated among the top-10 fastest growing companies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Intelliswift's client list includes such corporate heavyweights as Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., Bank of America, Barclays Bank, Ebay Inc., PayPal and Google. In addition, Patel's firm has expanded its presence with the opening of offices in Mumbai, India and Los Angeles, along with plans to establish a New Jersey site in 2007.

Intelliswift has made its mark by tailoring IT services to meet customers' needs. As a result, the company's efforts can be witnessed in greater user-friendly navigation for visitors to Wells Fargo Bank's Web site, improved on-line trading technology for Etrade Financial Corp.'s customers, as well as integrated software products that enable clients to get more from their IT dollars. In addition, Intelliswift has realized success with its staffing subsidiary, which provides IT consultants, temporary and permanent professionals for corporate clients.

The company's success is even more remarkable given that its beginnings stem from Patel's own harsh life lessons. A graduate of Bombay University, Patel's resume includes work with such pedigree software companies as Oracle, Mastek, Systime and Patni Computer Systems Ltd. Nevertheless, his most recent attempt at technology services failed in 2000. "I used to be in business with another partner and our company had a lot of dot-com customers at the time," he says. "So, when the market crashed, we did too. We had no choice but to close shop."

Patel says that he took this setback as a "personal challenge" and, rather than accept defeat, he was determined to "try my hand at business again." He attributes this positive outlook to his personality as a "conservative risk taker."

"I'm often considered the black sheep of the family," says Patel, who first came to the United States in 1995 from his home in Mumbai, India. "My dad worked for the same company for 22 years — compared to him, I am much more of a risk taker."

Nonetheless, the "conservative" label of his risk taking identity means that, when embarking upon entrepreneurial ventures, Patel focuses on getting results within a set time frame. Consequently, he took this same approach in moving forward after his 2000 business collapse.

"I knew that markets change and go through cycles," he says. "So, if I could find the correct customer solution and service, the business was bound to grow eventually."

He backed this commitment by taking a second mortgage out on his house to fund Intelliswift. At the same time, his wife went back to work to support him through the company's startup phase. "A lot of friends suggested that I just get a steady job at an established corporation," he says. "But I knew that, if I did that, I would likely miss out on creating a customer base that would allow my own company to grow when the good times would come around."

But Patel was also aware that "good times" would not be enough to generate corporate profitability. He had to find the right formula for success. Fortunately, he discovered that formula by taking a "customer service first" approach to both his clients and his employees.

"By taking care of our employees, putting their needs first, we have made sure that our people have grown along with us," explains Patel. In practice, this has meant competitive compensation and benefits packages that makes it possible for Intelliswift to both recruit and retain superior IT talent.

Mike Jani, Intelliswift's regional manager of business development in Southern California, says Patel has given Intelliswift a distinct advantage with the employee team he has built.

"He is an extremely good people person," says Jani. "Pat not only has that ability to make employees feel special, he has a great eye for hiring the best people for the job."

Jani recalls how, in interviews for his position, he expressed a desire to work close to home. Patel readily agreed to allow him to open the southern California office "just 500 feet from my front door," he says.

Once hired, Patel often encourages independence, Jani notes. "He promotes achievement by letting staff have more or less a free hand in meeting goals and deadlines. And by not micromanaging, he allows for greater creativity among employees," Jani says.

This workplace progressiveness is far from altruistic, however. "IT professionals have 10,000 reasons not to work here, there are just so many job opportunities that are available to them," says Jani. "Pat realizes this fact and, as a result, strives to make Intelliswift as attractive as possible to the best talent available."

Patel's staffing strategy, in turn, has translated into strong corporate earnings. "We have a strong commitment to our employees — because I've always felt that a happy employee means a happy customer," he says.

For clients, this means that they can anticipate what Patel calls "personalized attention." Company policy dictates, for example, that sales representatives work with no more than two large customers at one time. Furthermore, if customers have problems, every effort is made to answer their concerns within one hour.

Such attentiveness, Patel believes, helps to ensure quality relationships between his sales force and customers. "We listen to, not just hear, what the clients' needs are. This has not only allowed us to effectively customize IT solutions for customers, it has also enabled us to act upon their concerns in a timely manner," he says.

As to the future, Patel envisions a continued upward spiral for Intelliswift, especially in key areas of business activity. "We especially see a great deal of potential in the insurance and financial industries," he says. The "increasing number of baby boomers seeking investment strategies for retirement" should translate into more IT contracts for the right technology companies, says Patel. And he believes that Intelliswift will be among the top competitors for these lucrative technological opportunities.

About Indus Business Times: The IndUS Business Journal aims at showcasing the drive, determination and innovation that have made South Asian/Asian Indian professionals and entrepreneurs in the United States a successful segment within corporate America. The fortnightly is published out of Waltham, Massachusetts.

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