The Heart of a Tycoon
engaged, but I didn’t want to do it for just one
company at a time.
I started Symphony Technology Group, with the
idea that I would build a group of companies
focused on software and technology-enabled services.
That some of these companies would be acquisitions and some of these companies would be
start-ups, but in every company we would try and
put the company on a path to becoming a great
company in the technology space.
Our definition — at least my definition — of
greatness, is a company that does four things —
the first is that it is continuously increasing the
value it delivers to customers; the second is that it
can attract and retain the best talent in its sector;
the third is that it is achieving organic growth
through innovation… and the fourth is that it is
the highest-performing company in its sector
whether you measure it by revenue growth rate, by
innovation, by profit margins, by the lowest levels
of attrition or by the value delivery to the clients.
On any of these metrics I feel each of our companies has to be the best in class for that particular sector.
And that’s the foundation of the Symphony
How many companies are there in the group?
Today, we have 12 companies in the group; collectively the companies will do over $2.5 billion in
revenue — keep in mind that 10 years ago it was
zero, so we have come a long way.
We have 16,000 employees, and by the end of this year, we
expect to have about $3 billion revenue, probably 17,000 to
Our employees are all over the world, we have companies
with headquarters in the US, with headquarters in Europe.
We now have one company with headquarters in India
Of our 16,000 employees, they are roughly something like
35 to 40 percent in the US, about 25 percent in Europe.
We have something like 6,000, 7,000 employees in India.
Across our different companies, we have almost a thousand
employees in China.
We have 600 employees in Russia.
All of us at the Symphony Technology Group think globally, because that’s the measure of the world we are in.
So, you are still working pretty hard?
My conclusion is that I have defective DNA and when you
have defective DNA it can’t be changed, so you just have to
accept it and move forward.
I love what I do, and yes I do travel a lot; it’s less than
before, but my working hours haven’t changed.
I still work 80 hours a week; in the old days it would be 80
hours a week applied to one company, now it’s 80 hours a
week applied across 12.
I am actively engaged with all 12 of our companies.
Each of our companies has a CEO, a full leadership team.
I am probably the executive chairman on maybe half of
them, but I am actively engaged in the other six as well even
if I am not chairman — either with their transformation
plans, their innovation plans, or helping them build out their
leadership team and their talent or all three.
Are the majority of them still technology companies, even
the new acquisition in Bethesda, Maryland?
They are all either software or technology-enabled services.
(The new acquisition) is technology-enabled services for
the health-care industry globally.
Was starting a company immediately after your PhD the
way to go for those who did their doctorate at Carnegie Mellon?
Or was it just your DNA?
It was just my DNA.
I must say I made a lot of mistakes in my first company.
If I had the experience of working in another entrepreneurial company — not a GE, not a Westinghouse — but in a
more entrepreneurial company; if I had the opportunity to
see what worked and what didn’t work, I would have been a
better first-time CEO.
I think it’s fair to say that I have evolved as a CEO and now
as a chairman through the lessons learnt in each company.
So, would I advise everyone to start a company after a
Phd? Absolutely not!
But if you have entrepreneurial DNA, if you have done your
homework and tried to learn about the opportunities and the
pitfalls of being a first-time CEO of a start-up, then its okay.
You have to be prepared to make more mistakes than some
experienced person would. And (there will be) lots of scars on
your back in your first company, but they get less in your sec-
Romesh Wadhwani, center, with National Entrepreneurship Network students in 2008.
The Wadhwani Foundation initiative is educating more than half-a-million students each year. The
initiative measures its ultimate success by counting companies and jobs created each year.
COUR TESY: WADHWANI FOUNDATION
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