A Good Heart Makes Good Business Sense
India is two countries. One is a country populated by highly
educated people creating and using the technology that makes
life in the developed world what it is. The other is rural India,
where most of the population lives. This is a world in which
the ox and cart is considered “Hi-tech.”
Arun Jain, CEO of Polaris Software Lab Limited, believes that
these contrasting worlds can be united. The CEO of a company
that was the worlds first company to be given a Level 5 by the
Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute is one of 12
children of a village schoolteacher.
His intimate knowledge of these contrasting worlds has inspired
him to try and bring them together. And he intends to use IT
to bridge the gap between the two worlds. This can be seen in
the way in which Polaris seamlessly blends in its focus on its
business mission with a social conscience.
As the son of a schoolteacher he is aware of the value of education
and understands that his business depends on the power of the
human mind. Polaris under Arun Jain’s leadership has played
a role in increasing educational opportunities for India’s
poor. Polaris donates one percent of its annual profits into
the “Ullas Trust.” (Sanskrit for Hope.) And in addition
to that the 4000 plus employees make a point to donate money
to the trust. To date more than 3000 students in Polaris’s
home state of Chenai received an education.
As well as contributing to charity to help create opportunities,
Jain is a hands-on man. He makes a point of returning to his
home village a fortnight every year to work on ways to use IT
to improve the lives of the villager. He personally writes the
code for the IT that has helped improve the lives of the villagers.
This generosity has not dented Polaris’s financial records.
It is as if this charitable contribution has been like an investment.
In spite of the recent down turn in the IT industry, Polaris
remains debt free with a cash reserve of US$20 million. And
in the quarter ending December 31, 2003, Polaris posted a 34%
growth in revenue and a 30% growth in profits, while most IT
companies lost money.
Much of Polaris’s continued success can be related to
Arun Jain himself. He attributes success to aspects of his up
brining. For one, his determination to follow a dream has been
unshakeable. He turned down the much-desired “ US Green
Card,” in 1986 when he worked at Wang Computers in the
USA so that he could go back to India to build a global software
And he’s also placed a great emphasis on relationships
to achieve this dream. His claim to be “A global company
with an Indian view rather than an Indian company with a global
view” can be seen through Polaris’s source of revenue.
At the heart of the business is an 18-year old relationship
with Citibank. Polaris has provided a range of solutions for
the global financial service giant throughout the world and
most of its revenue comes from outside India.
Under Arun Jain, Polaris has grown from a 10,000-rupee start
up where code had to be written by hand, to a listed company
that Forbes Magazine rated as one of the best small companies
(Sales under US$ 1 billion) for 2 years in a row. Much of this
success has been ridding on the boom in outsourcing.
However Arun Jain has plans to move beyond that. In late May
2004, Polaris will launch a new product that it developed from
its own intellectual resources. Can he bring Polaris and India’s
software industry to the next level? – Given his determination,
vision and value of relationships, as well as the source of
brainpower he’s developed through the Ullas trust, it
would be a long shot to bet against him.