In the 1980s, an engineer in Delhi had two options in front of him: a US green card or starting a startup in India. The path he chose helped determine India’s technological history.
“The rebel in me decided to stay in India. If my father, as a clerk in a government office, could support 10 children with a good education, I could do it too,” says Arun Jain, founder of Polaris Group , and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. , Intellect Design Arena.
Along with two friends, Jain started a programming services company International Information Systems (IIS), which was later renamed Nucleus Software. “We got our first breakthrough from Citibank India when the company was looking to digitally transform in 1986,” Jain recalls. Nucleus thus became the company that built Citibank’s ATMs in India, and created the credit card technology for the financial major whose back offices were in Chennai. The Delhi Jain boy thus arrived in Chennai to make it his home in 1991. The rest is history. “My family and I loved the place [Chennai]we found it very calm, ethical and values-based,” says Jain.
Nucleus was then restructured into three separate entities among the partners, paving the way for the birth of Polaris in July 1993, making it one of the first IT companies to provide opportunities for India’s budding tech talent.
“It was the power of talent and aspirations that resulted in a compound annual growth rate of 105% in the first 7 years and revenues growing from 2 crore to 260 crore,” says Jain. “We [Polaris] were the first to come to OMR in 1997,” he adds. It was a time when the term IT Corridor was not coined, and the Polaris Building became a magnet for future investment.
Polaris went public in 1999, a show oversubscribed 20 times. Despite his success, Jain had doubts about the cost arbitrage model and the “software garage” nature of the IT services business. “It was time to put India on the global commodity map after doing the same with services,” says Jain. To reinvent, you also have to be ready to separate, he adds. Polaris has thus divided its business into “services” and “products” with Intellect Design Arena emerging as the new fintech company focused on BFSI. Jain exited the service industry by selling it to Virtusa.
Today, Intellect Design Arena is a multi-product fintech platform that serves over 270 clients through offices in 97 countries and counts design thinking as its differentiator. Thanks to Jain’s vision, he also set up FinTech 8012, a 30,000 square foot design center for fintech.
“People thought it was a big budget movie, but it was important to change the culture to focus on the product. You spend 10 hours a day in the office and it has to be an inspiring place,” he says. Focusing on the platform, Intellect recorded revenue of 541 crore for the quarter ended June. Intellect spent almost 120 crores on research and experimentation for the year ended March 2022.
As a CMD, Jain focuses on “wave 3” business. “I don’t spend time selling the solutions or implementing them, but I work to define the direction of the platforms three years in advance, in collaboration with our R&D teams”, states- he. Despite all this, he does not compromise on the time he dedicates to philanthropy, in particular his work around the application of design thinking to rural development with Mission Samriddhi.