He may now be lauded as Russia's answer to William H. Gates III, but Anatoly M. Karachinsky, the mild-mannered founder and president of Information Business Systems (IBS), once had a more modest aim. "I would have been content to work as a manager in somebody else's IT company," he says. "Had I been born in America, I would have worked for IBM." But all Russia's big tech outfits were in a shambles in the early 1990s. "We had to create our own business," he says.
Karachinsky, 42, now heads one of Russia's few New Economy success stories. After the Austrian-Russian computer joint venture he worked for collapsed along with the Soviet Union, Karachinsky took $13,000 of his own savings and set up Moscow-based IBS in 1992. It started with 12 employees and just six computers. Now, it's Russia's biggest programmer, with more than 2,000 employees and a roster of clients that includes Boeing (BA), Citigroup (C), and, yes, IBM (IBM).
Karachinsky owes his success to his determination to reinvest profits at a time when other business owners were busy shipping money to Swiss accounts. "All the other entrepreneurs were buying Mercedes," he says of Russia's chaotic, get-rich-quick mid-1990s. "But we wanted to build the business. It turned out we were right." Last year, revenues climbed 24%, to top $250 million. Karachinsky doesn't disclose profits, but says IBS is in the black. Up to 10 other U.S. companies are considering buying its services. Indeed, as more Western companies begin to appreciate Russia's highly trained, cheap programmers, the IT industry is expected to grow 25% to 30% a year.
Karachinsky's near-term goal is to compete with India as a programming center. "Maybe one day we'll be better than our global peers," he says. IBS is already the best in Russia.