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Mindtree: The Roots of a Long Partnership with Gainesville


Written By: Scott Costello

When Mindtree announced in March of 2012 that it had chosen Gainesville for its first United States delivery center, it was more than a feather in the cap of the business community. It was also a victory for area families.

“The people who are in the Gainesville community care about families,” said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who spoke at the company’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 13. “They know the most important thing is for each family to have a job, for each family to have the opportunity for their children to get a great education, and to be able to afford to live here.”

The ceremony marked the official opening of Mindtree’s development center in the Ayers Building on NW Second Avenue, and already the job creation is taking center stage. The company currently employs nearly 50 employees (called “Mindtree Minds”) which already outpaces its initial forecast of 40 immediate hires. The plan is to create 400 jobs in the next five years – although if its first months are any indication, that might be a conservative estimate.

Mindtree is a global provider of IT solutions with annual revenues of more than $400 million. The company creates applications and products that customers use either to run their own businesses or sell in the marketplace. Mindtree’s customers include Microsoft, Volvo, AIG and Texas Instruments.

The Gainesville delivery center is the result of a large collaborative effort between many organizations including the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, Innovation Gainesville, the City of Gainesville, the State of Florida and the University of Florida. Several local businesses were also instrumental in the project.

CEO and co-founder Scott Staples said that Mindtree chose Gainesville over other possible locations for a number of reasons. He praised the high level of professionalism and cooperation between the city, the state and the University of Florida. He cited the access to other Florida-based companies and the talent pool that the university and Santa Fe College provide with its top-notch graduates, especially in the engineering and technology fields.

But Staples said it was Gainesville’s commitment to and understanding of technology companies that struck the biggest chord.

“Gainesville and the university and the state realized that we were a technology company, whereas a lot of states are more geared toward manufacturing and other incentive plans,” explained Staples. “You realized early on that this was all going to be based around people, and that you could provide great talent that can help us grow.”

Gainesville’s startup-friendly economy also gave area officials another crucial advantage. Staples said, “We’re not taking 400 jobs from somewhere else in the world and moving them here. These are 400 newly created jobs. With that comes a huge need for help with recruiting, marketing and getting our brand out there and tapping the Gator alumni network. It was understanding what our business was and what our needs were and almost treating us like a start-up within a large organization that was well funded and well planned.”

 

Reversal of Fortune

In an age when many U.S. companies are criticized for sending jobs to India and other countries, Mindtree is taking the opposite path. The information technology solutions company got its start in India in 1999, when the IT industry was relatively new. But as its offerings and customer base expanded to global levels, president and co-founder Krishnakumar Natarajan (affectionately known as “KK”) realized that expansion of Mindtree’s approach would also be necessary.

“As we started doing more critical work for our clients, clients [wanted local support,]” Natarajan said. “What that required was a lot more front-end consulting capability, which means you really need to have the capability to consult with the customer, to understand the customer.”

Because close proximity to clients is one of the best ways to understand how they work, Mindtree made it a priority to establish offices in Asia, Europe and, eventually, the United States.

“It’s clearly a strategy to be local to the economies where we work, which means that we ingrain ourselves into the local economy, see what is relevant and, more than anything else, create local jobs,” Natarajan continued. “As we become more critical to our customers’ requirements, Gainesville is really the beachhead in creating many more centers in the U.S.”

While the company’s initial mission is to establish a solid workplace in North Central Florida, Staples and Natarajan hope to contribute more to the community once that objective is complete. Mindtree is already known for its involvement with cerebral palsy patients worldwide. The company is closely affiliated with the Spastics Society of Karnataka in India; the Mindtree logo was designed by a cerebral palsy patient, and other patients’ paintings adorn the walls of the company’s Bangalore office. Mindtree also facilitates motivational speakers and other programs for the society.

In describing Mindtree’s work with customers, community and charity, one often-repeated word is obviously very important to Natarajan – partnership.

“We believe in terms of partnerships,” he said. “In any large vision, to really execute it, what is fundamental is the partnership which is based on mutual respect, trust and confidence. What we have been able to achieve in the last five to six months has largely been because the spirit of partnership has brought in the ability to do things which we could have seen as the impossible. Our tagline is ‘Welcome to Possible,’ and this is really the first step in creating the excitement.”

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