The Heart of a Tycoon
cessful companies, two in Pittsburgh, one in Silicon Valley.
Today, I run a large group of companies, about 14 companies,
doing around $3 billion a year,’ he said while launching the
Wadhwani Chair for US-India Policy Studies at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies — a leading
Washington, DC think tank – in 2011.
In a wide-ranging interview with India Abroad, Wadhwani
bares his soul as he has never done before on his early years,
his marriage, his entrepreneurial success, his philanthropy,
including his commitment to the Bill Gates-Warren Buffet
Giving Pledge, and the issues of the day.
Romesh Wadhwani came to the US in 1969. He started his first
company immediately after he earned his PhD.
After you received your master’s degree and PhD from
Carnegie Mellon till you founded Aspect in 1991, what did you
do in the interim?
I came to the US in 1969, I got my master’s in 1970, I got
my PhD in 1972, and straight out of Carnegie I started my
first company, CompuGuard Corporation… (It) had nothing
to do with my PhD; (it had to do with) computer systems for
energy management in buildings.
It grew to about $10 million in revenue and then was
acquired by a large European company.
I stayed for a year and then left to run a company called
American Robot, which had been started by the Rockefeller
I bought a major interest in the company, became the CEO,
built it up over a 10-year period and then sold American
Robot as well.
American Robot was a very, very, very difficult journey
because robotics were supposed to be the fastest-growing
industry all over the world, but it never actually worked out
The Japanese were then dumping robots into the US, so
the economics and the business
model of the robotics industry
were absolutely terrible.
These were 10 very difficult
years and the performance of the
We were doing better than
almost every other US company
in robotics, but that wasn’t a high
bar because everyone else was
doing very badly.
I was able to transform the company from robotics to computer
integrated manufacturing software, that allowed us to build a
company of around $40
million in revenue.
We then sold it in two or three
different parts because there wasn’t single buyer for the whole
At that stage I had been in
Pittsburgh for about 20 years, I
was on a number of boards in
Pittsburgh; it was very comfortable, but I could see that the big
winners in technology were not in
COURTES Y: ROMESH WADH WANI
Salman Rushdie (2006)
Jagdish Bhagwati (2007)
Zubin Mehta (2008)
Sonny Mehta (2009)
Madhur Jaffrey (2010)
Pittsburgh they were in Silicon Valley. So, I
had a sort of…
Anita Desai (2011)
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