Frontier Business Systems
Read full interview
Head Office: Bangalore
Branch Offices: Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kerala
Revenue 2008–09: Rs 210 Crore
No. of Employees: 550
Key Executives: Ravi Verdes, Founder & Director
Key Principals: IBM, Sun Microsystems, Emerson
Key Technologies: Enterprise Computing, Networking, Power, Virtualization
Key Verticals: BFSI, IT/ ITES, Government, Healthcare
Show and tell is the modus operandi of Bangalore-based Frontier Business Systems. The moment one enters the company’s edifice, the color green grabs the eye. The glass walls engraved with images of caterpillars, chlorophyll, and everything that spells green are not meant to add mere ornamental value. It’s a reflection of how Frontier believes in Green IT within itself, even before pitching the concept to its customers.
“We started following Green IT or virtualization a year ago. We started off by developing skills in-house because there is a lot of investment that goes into getting your people skilled. Our solutions are based on two companies, i.e. Vmware and Citrix. Besides, we have other products from vendors like Novell. That’s how we put together a whole virtualization package,” says Ravi Verdes, Founder and Director, Frontier Business Systems. The company is doing well on this front because it’s all out in the open for the customers to see how things work. In fact, the company has managed to clinch quite a few exciting virtualization deals over the last three months.
When Verdes started the company in 1994, the market was dominated by assemblers, who sold systems at throw-away prices. Despite this, Frontier ventured into the IT space by selling IBM desktops and laptops, gradually moving to server, and later transitioning from products to solutions.
“When we started adding more business units, we shifted from products to solutions, because selling was on the personal computing front. Then we got into networking. We started doing a lot of structured cabling business. We also moved from LAN to WAN. We signed up with Emerson and also started offering power solutions. A couple of years later, we got into security. We started off with one and kept adding,” says Verdes, charting the company’s evolution.
Today Frontier is actively working towards shifting its focus on services as it believes in staying relevant to its customers at all times. “We keep looking at what we need to do different and what would differentiate us as an organization,” he says. By adopting this approach, the company is satiating the needs of its employees as well. “We have defined level of skills in each area. So the employees know that as they acquire a skill, they can keep moving up the ladder,” he adds. A lot of time is spent in investing in people and honing their skills. “We have a huge number of certified resources with us. We provide an environment where there is scope for learning and challenges. There is a lot of fun while learning too. So today we hssave people who have been with us for 8–10 years,” says Verdes. It’s the company’s culture and the trust in it that people have that keeps Frontier going.
The company is moving into BFSI in a big way. Frontier is looking at a revenue of Rs 400 crore in the next two years. “We would like to be seen more of a services-driven company,” signs off Verdes.
How was the IT scenario in India when you set up Frontier Business Systems?
VERDES:Frontier was started in September 1994. This was the year before IBM had returned to India as TISL - Tata information Systems Ltd. We signed up with TISL as a business partner. IT at that point in time was still ‘weak’ as there were no BPOs and ITES companies. We still had to convince people on the need for computers, although those who had used computers were easy to talk to. Assembled computers at that time was our biggest hiccup. Laptops at that time was priced at almost Rs 1.50 lakh each.
So what steps did you take to survive in the market?
VERDES:The lessons learned are so many that I could write a book. However, what I learnt is that every person is unique. Also one should always trust people even if there are some who let you down . When your let down, the easiest thing to do is to not trust the next person who comes along, while the difficult thing is to trust him as if nothing adverse ever happened in the past.
Today, there are so many companies that offer the same value proposition as yours. How do you differentiate yourself in this competitive environment?
VERDES:Through our breadth of our offerings. We engineer comprehensive IT infrastructure solutions and services. Besides the breadth of our offerings, we are also very proud of the skills we have in each solution offering.
How do you ensure that the customers come to you for repeat orders?
VERDES:Our customers know that an order given to Frontier will be executed professionally, whatever be the circumstances. As a company we’re easy to do business with and our people are always available for any assitance. We have retained customers we dealt with in 1994. Our ‘repeat business’ percentage from existing customers is very high
What verticals are you focusing at the moment? What verticals will you target in the future?
VERDES:We currently focus on all verticals. However, we feel the need to be far more comprehensive in our focus and coverage. One vertical that we would. like to do a lot more is in the BFSI vertical .
Is it profitable for Frontier to be India focused?
VERDES:Yes. This because of the breadth of our offerings and our de-risk strategy in place .
What new technologies would create a wave in India?
VERDES: Green IT, Virtualization, and IT optimization
How is the concept of Green IT catching up in India?
VERDES:Slowly and steadily, it’s beginning to grow. We have had some exciting wins recently. This was after many months of hard work and lot of investments in building skills.
What’s your company’s future roadmap ? Do you have any expansion plans?
VERDES: We've recently expanded into Western India . We are looking to consolidate our business there. We are looking at entering new verticals like the BFSI segment.