Jan Baan, the founder of Baan Company that in the late 90s almost become synonymous with enterprise resources and planning (ERP) feels that ERP was not his vision, but came to him by accident. The man who was among the first to recognise the importance of India as a talent base, is still bullish on India with his new venture, Cordys. Now, Baan is dreaming of making Cordys the number one in the service oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) space. In a discussion with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra, Baan shares his future plans and his journey as a tech entrepreneur. Excerpts:
You started looking at India at a time when there were not many global firms who had thought about it. Tell us why?
I, as a part of the Baan Company, was managing a strong team of about 1,000 people in two centres including Mumbai and Hyderabad. It was more than outsourcing. We were not using the name of India for outsourcing, but for talent. When we entered India in 1986, no big multinational was here.
Was it a challenge to find the right talent here?
It was the need of the hour. I could not start a company in 1974 with all senior guys, so I started with youngsters recruited directly from universities. We educated them, and invested a lot on them and helped them grow their careers in Baan.Even today, many of the senior people who were there with me during the Baan days, are integral part of Cordys.
You started as a venture capital firm, then started your own consulting firm. You also developed software applications which became very successful till your dream company was sold to Invensys in 2000. How do you like to define the journey so far. First of all, it (Baan) was different.
After 15 years (I started in 1978) in 1993, I received the first outside funding. I used the money to grow the company from a $60 million revenue company to $600 million in a few years. In 1995, we launched an Initial Public Offering (IPO). In 1998, I sold my shares in Baan.
Then I built on the the old ideas, and started the new venture Cordys, a company based on Internet technologies.I invested over Euro 200 million in Cordys. Now we have Argonaut Partners who validated my investments and joined me as a minority shareholder.
What propelled you to work on ERP application in 90s when IT was still in its infancy?
ERP was not my vision. It happened by accident. Had it (Baan Company) been with me, I would have done a bit of reorganising it to focus more on the Internet productivity. Baan then could be have been the first Hypertext MarkUp language (XML) company in that space.
Being free from Baan, I am stronger now. Because, now I can start an organisation. In Baan, I had the legacy of the customers and the product was not fit for Internet, like every ERP product. And now we could do it.
But Baan still is highly acceptable among the big corporate houses?
Baan ERP can go for another 20 years, and the ERP systems that were implemented earlier, can continue for the next 30 years. In Cordys, we bring them together on our level.
You are now working with companies like SAP, IBM or Oracle, who were your competitors during your Baan days?
We are no longer competitors. We are partners now. I would not like them as my competitors because we are not offering the same solutions any more. Now our focus is service oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM).
What is your visions for Cordys? How far you have achieved this as compared to the Baan Company?
The Baan Company exists no longer, though the products may be continuing. The highest year of growth for Baan was 1995, the year when we launched the IPO.
At this moment, Cordys is as powerful in terms of human resources, as Baan was in 1995. I feel, Cordys is five times stronger than Baan. .From a product point of view, Baan was extremely promising in the ERP market, what Cordys is now in the SOA market.
But Cordys is not financially independent now. Do you have an investor?
Cordys is now financially independent. Baan was not my company any longer in 1995. I had about 45 per cent ownership in Baan at that time. But in Cordys, I have about 75 per cent of ownership now. From that stand point, I feel that Cordys is more financially independent.
What are your future plans for Cordys? Where do you like it to reach in next five years?
The goal is to become the real number one in the space. In the beginning, Cordys was more product driven. Now we have changed the model to a service and market-driven organisation. The focus is now more on go-to-market. We are going there reasonably well.
Where does India stand in Cordys' radar?
We have over 550 people in India. We are looking at expanding this number. Most of the Cordys engineers are in India. We are planning to execute complex works in the areas of cyber consulting and support out of India. For me, the biggest opportunities are in India.