India's OfficeTiger: Hear It Roar

Joseph Sigelman, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, OfficeTiger, India

The lights burn day and night in the gleaming glass-and-chrome building that towers over a leafy street in the southern Indian city of Madras. Here at OfficeTiger, 1,500 young men and women peer into computers 24 hours a day, analyzing and processing U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission reports and other documents drawn up by lawyers and bankers on Wall Street. Walking the floor, sometimes even at 3 a.m., is 34-year-old co-founder and co-Chief Executive Joseph Sigelman.

The Madras office is the largest of five operations of OfficeTiger, one of India's top four independent financial-services outsourcing shops. The five-year-old company -- one of 200 such businesses that have sprung up in India since 2000 -- began by offering secretarial services to Wall Street firms and now specializes in sophisticated financial analysis. The company employs 3,000 people on three continents, has doubled its revenues every year since it started, and expects to hit $100 million in sales by yearend. Last year, OfficeTiger attracted a $52 million investment from Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Francisco Partners. "Joe is the quintessential entrepreneur," says Neil Garfinkel, a partner with the venture firm. "I've not met anyone else who has wanted to do what Joe is doing."

Indeed, OfficeTiger is the only successful startup in India's $5 billion outsourcing industry that is owned and managed by a U.S. entrepreneur. Sigelman founded the company in 1999 with his classmate from Princeton University and Harvard Business School, Randy Altschuler. The two were working in the private equity businesses of Goldman, Sachs & Co. (GS ) and Blackstone Group, respectively, when they got the idea that routine chores could be outsourced so bankers could focus on sophisticated tasks. India was just emerging as a back-office processing center. "No one thought it was a viable idea, but we decided to do it ourselves anyway," Sigelman recalls. They called their venture OfficeTiger, after the Princeton mascot.

Altschuler stayed in New York to drum up business while Sigelman headed to Madras, the city with the largest concentration of tech talent after Bangalore. Thanks to their emphasis on quality and hard work -- Sigelman puts in 18-hour days -- OfficeTiger quickly rose to the top. Another plus: The company's meritocracy contrasts with the hierarchical social strictures in conservative Madras. "My ignorance about India's caste system is a benefit," says Sigelman. "We have the best people, be they from the Brahmin caste or from the lowest 'untouchable' caste."

Next on his agenda is the acquisition of a financial processing company in the U.S. His ultimate goal? "We'd like OfficeTiger to be a global professional-services firm and outgrow being an entrepreneurial back-office venture." Maybe some day Sigelman will even move out of his Madras hotel room -- the one he checked into five years ago when he first arrived in India.

By Manjeet Kripalani

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