End Of The Patni Era

Narendra Kumar Patni

Narendra Kumar Patni

Narendra Kumar Patni –, though not often found on the top pages of any Indian newspaper or magazine these days – is highly revered in the Indian IT and outsourcing world. Grand pioneer of the nation’s information technology (IT) services revolution, Patni passed away on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at the age of 71. Narendra Patni was best-known as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Patni Computer Systems (PCS). PCS came to be acquired by iGATE later in 2011. Patni ranked 37 among the top 40 riches Indians listed by the Forbes Magazine in 2005.

Father of the Indian Outsourcing Industry

Born into a Jain family of Rajasthani origin, Patni was graduated from the Roorkee Engineering College (currently called the Indian Institute of Technology-Roorkee). He later went on to acquire his Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Often referred to as the “poster boy of Indian outsourcing” and as the “IT guru of India”, Patni started his flagship organization Patni Computer Systems with his brothers Ashok and Gajendra in his apartment in the US in 1972. They were the true pioneers of the offshoring trend that would take the nation by storm in the decades to come. The trio brought back business to the back-office set up in Pune which employed about 20 people to start with. PCS later came to be known as the place where the founders of Infosys had embarked on their careers. At its crux, PCS employed over15,000 employees in 23 offices and had a marked presence in many countries of  the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. The company’s offshore development centers were located in eight Indian cities. Key PCS employees including Narayana Murthy, S Gopalakrishnan, and Nandan Nilekani went on to establish Infosys. Infosys is currently the second-largest IT services provider from India. Despite the professional rivalry that ensued, Narayana Murthy has never failed to call Patni as his personal inspiration and as a professional role model.

In the late 1990s, however, the Indian IT sector zipped ahead and competition from Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and the likes started to become fierce. PCS, remained steady but was soon outpaced despite its dedicated clientele. The Patni brothers struggled to balance the hardware and software segments of the business and eventually decided to split the business with the turn of the century. Narendra Patni remained a silent but strong entrepreneur – rather media shy but very friendly and encouraging in the company his colleagues.

The iGate Acquisition

Patni believed that his work was far beyond revenue earning. He valued the people he associated with and almost never commented on people. Even when the brothers were entangled in a battle over the stakes in PCS, Patni was almost never to be found in the news or in the media spotlight. The company listed was on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006 and Patni net worth was estimated to be about of $650 million.

The next five years were spent by Patni in an increasingly hostile setting with the differences between the brothers growing. Finally in May 2011, IT services company iGate acquired Patni Computer Systems, for $1.2 billion or Rs 6,400 crore. PCS was at the time the sixth-largest software services exporter from India. PCS was soon delisted.

The acquisition by iGate, a much smaller company, left Patni deeply saddened. For the past two years Patni had managed to stay away from an active corporate life. His death marks the end of a pioneering entrepreneur and a true visionary.

At the time of death, Patni was at the Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. He had suffered a cardiac arrest. He had intended to undergo a heart surgery later. Patni is survived by his wife Poonam, his son Anirudh, and his daughter Ambika. The funeral service was held two days later at the Newton Cemetery in Newton Center, Massachusetts.