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Arvind Swami: From films to corporate arena

S Kalyana Ramanathan in Chennai | October 13, 2003

Arvind SwamiThere are possibly two things Arvind Swami, 33, former movie star and now chairman and managing director of ProLease India, finds difficult to avoid.

One, looking directly into your eyes when he is talking to you, and blushing at mention of his former film career.

A movie career that spanned less than three years and nine movies, the biggest grosser being Roja, a film on terrorism in Kashmir, Arvind Swami today has re-invented himself as a BPO entrepreneur.

Not many know that Arvind's BPO venture is one of the biggest players in its segment in the United States.

Having quit movies five years back, he has not looked back since.

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Arvind today is part of the Washington-based InterPro Holding, the holding company of ProLease and InterPro India, and a $670 million business process outsourcing venture.

Worldwide InterPro and ProLease have about 3000 seats and employ about 5000 people in their operations across the US, Europe, Australia, the Philippines, China and India.

After a brief tenure in movies in 1991, Arvind moved to the US for his masters in business administration.

Personal reasons brought him back to India before he could complete his MBA. The brief honeymoon with the arc lights continued for a couple of years more, but by 1994, he chucked it all up for the formation and development of InterPro in the US.

By the time the Indian operations began to take shape in 2001, Prolease was already a name to reckon with in the BPO space in the US. Elsewhere in the world ,the company operates through InterPro.

Hear it straight from the horse's mouth, "Not many know that we are the second largest payroll processing company in Australia."

Of course, the credit partly goes to InterPro buying out NPS, a payroll processing company in Australia.

Talking of acquisitions, Arvind heads the five-member M&A team of InterPro. "We have so far acquired 18 companies world over," he says.

And M&A has been the secret behind the topline growth of the InterPro group. "We have grown 70 per cent year-on-year for the last five years," he says in a subdued and unhurried manner.

The Indian operations are also keeping pace with the hectic pace. It is looking at expanding from a 300-member team to a 1,500-strong team in the next one year.

InterPro already operates out of six centres in India. The expansion will come about in Chennai would cost a neat Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million).

"I would very much want this expansion to happen in the heart of the city. I wouldn't want my colleagues to travel 25-30 km every day to work," he says.

The group's IT consultant business, delivered through software services player Megasoft, has also started to look up. InterPro bought controlling stake in the Chennai-based firm this year. "It is very much a profitable business."

The year ahead, though, is for stock taking. The next year the company would be focussing on knowledge management, and it has already put in place a 30 strong team to handle this.

"We have grown fast and now it is time to take stock and learn from what we have achieved over the last nine years."

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