Technocrat, Evangelist, Venture Capitalist Mr.Bipin Agarwal
You may have seen him in many places… in many roles... sometimes in the Hindu temple catering the devotees, sometimes chanting the holy verses in the front, sometimes in an entrepreneur meet advising on current trends, sometimes busy with architecting a service oriented system and sometimes working humbly along with other volunteers at a charity program. He was an ordinary software engineer when he came to the US about 20 years ago. With a lot of vision, hard work and goal oriented direction, he transformed from an entrepreneur to a venture capitalist. We are talking with Mr. Bipin Agarwal today.
DesiShades: Give us some background about where you came from, what your interests are, etc.
Bipin: I am from India, from a small quiet town called Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. I began my higher education from Regional Engineering College, Allahabad in Electrical & Electronic Engineering, and then went to IIT Roorkee for my Masters. I worked with various software companies including Tata Consultancy Services and C-DOT. In 1989 I came to the US as software engineer. Upon obtaining my green card in 1993, I launched my first IT services company in the US, Tanning Technologies, along with Mr. Larry Tanning as my partner. The company was based in Denver, Colorado, and grew to be an extremely successful software company. The company was exemplary in many ways, one of which was its rapid seven year progression from its founding to its IPO (initial public offering). In 2000 I left the company to start investing into various other firms. At this time, after years of hard work, decided to take a break from the corporate lifestyle and more actively fulfill familial obligations.
Then, in 2004 I started a real estate investment firm, Redhawk Investments Group, which focuses on the idea of a Twenty-Minute Lifestyle. Our goal is to build a network of 120 micro-cities around the world, in hopes to have an impact on the lives of about 50-60 million people through a value proposition of quality living. The concept is straight forward and has three core value propositions: 1) Businesses - we believe that the businesses will put their operations in the area with their employees living close to them, giving them a 30% increase in productivity through reduced commute time. 2) Employee & families – when the people live close to the workplace, their quality of life, based on the industry standard bench mark, will be improved by 40%. This is attributed to several components such as health, stress level, family time available, and other miscellaneous expenses. 3) Environment – We intend to build 120 communities around the globe. Such an endeavor will take 2 million cars off the road, resulting in a decrease of 6.5 trillion pounds of carbon emissions, along with an enormous amount of fuel saving. Our business is environmentally friendly and focuses on "green" operations, making it practical and necessary as opposed to a high risk venture.
In addition to the core values described above, there is significant value in this business for the government. For developed and developing, emerging countries alike the government has the issues of how to channel their infrastructure spending efficiently and create visible economic value. REDHAWK first makes an assessment of the viable economic activities in the country. We then select a location and actually help the government to put their dollars on the infrastructure, and then define and execute the roadmap to create vibrant economic activity in that community. They can see the value of optimizing their infrastructure spending by improving the life of their citizens and increasing the tax base. This is a very important aspect of our business.
DesiShades: Can you elaborate the Twenty-Minute Lifestyle?
Bipin: The Twenty-Minute Lifestyle is intended to provide residents a quality living experience while creating value for business and the environment. The "twenty" of the Twenty-Minute Lifestyle is a very scientific number. For instance, doctors recommend 20 minutes of daily exercise, yogis recommend 20 minutes of meditation, so the number is a valuable one for many activities to enhance your personal lifestyle.
Our market opportunity is significant in-spite of the current economic environment. We have to look at the opportunity in the context of developed, developing and poor countries. In developed countries like the US, there is an enormous focus on the efficiency of businesses. In the US, we have a sprawl based real estate development model where there is a centralized business operation with people living in the suburbs in single family homes, and tend to spend a lot of time on the road. The easiest way for these businesses to capture efficiency is to make their employees live close to work. From the employee perspective, with the increasing price of oil, and an increasing focus on environmental issues, it will be ideal. In developing countries, the benefits are the same and perhaps even more impactful because of a lack of efficient infrastructure due to scarce resources. We give them a localized way of building infrastructure which is a good starting point. 500-1000 acres is a reasonable space for infrastructure development; the area will fit anywhere between 40,000 to 100,000 people depending on the country, and we develop this area efficiently and with all amenites required for a high quality of living. We now simply require government cooperatio to build connectivity to the airport to allow for easy access. Our developments are sensitive to the environment and natural resources; water is recycled water, solar energy is used, we support the community supported agriculture, and we pay attention to housing for the support staff. While most of our focus is on the 500-1000 acres, we also focus on some demographic centric development. This incorporates smaller development projects (25-50 acres) focused on a particular demographic, such as retirees (age 50 and above), who no longer have children in the home, who want to be closer to work. We are working on several such developments.
DesiShades: What are different countries that you are planning to have these micro cities?
Bipin: Currently we have started one in India. We started one in Colorado which is a 900 acre development. We are talking to investors in areas of Africa and other areas of Asia such as Pakistan. Investors have expressed interest in smaller areas such as Costa Rica. In a nutshell, we are trying to do this all over the world.
DesiShades: Many people in Colorado know about Tanning Technologies. Describe your experience in first starting a company, growing it, and then leaving it.
Bipin: One word that best describes my experience is "exceptional". I was very fortunate and blessed to be the part of this opportunity. Of course, the hard work of a lot of people around me made the company a success and I have learned a lot. It takes about seven years to really build any business, and the interesting thing about Tanning Technologies is that we had the opportunity to take it public. Both from a financial perspective and community perspective, the experience was positive. We hired over 500 people, trained them, and made them work efficiently. Tanning was a very people centric business, just like any other IT services company. Hiring the people, and integrating them into the culture and making them productive is very difficult however. Every time an employee is out, he is representing the company, so the quality of the employee hired was very important to us.
DesiShades: Where do you think the current financial trend goes to?
Bipin: This particular financial crisis is originated in US, primarily out of the real estate bubble, indiscriminate landing and indiscriminate consumption by consumers. We have seen some indication of stabilization, and I believe the US will be the first player to recover. The world looks to the US as a role model, and we will see some good early signs of recovery by early 2010. Total recovery might take two or three years. It will interesting to watch the US five to ten years from now, as the US may not be the sole economic power. There is obviously a shift to the "Pacific century" as well as towards Europe.
DesiShades: How are the investment opportunities in developing countries like India in contrast to the US?
Bipin: I think the investment opportunities are always there, no matter how the financial environment is. The world population in 2013 is going to be 7 billion, and by 2020 it will be 7.5 -8 billion. Three things people will always need is living space, food and transportation. Thus, real estate is going to be a huge opportunity for investment, but the question is the availability of affordable housing, not the ivory towers. The other large demand is food. The companies involved in real estate and in the food business will do extremely well in the coming years. Technology is getting cheaper, so at a macro level, this is where the opportunity lies. Public transportation will be a great investment opportunity as well. For instance, India has laid out a plan to have a high speed mass transit system. I think these are the three areas of opportunity all over the world.
DesiShades: You are a prominent figure in the Desi community here. What do you believe to be the secret of your success?
Bipin: I came back from retirement to start the venture REDHAWK Investment Group. I hope this becomes a huge success in next 10 to 20 years. I strongly believe that the key to success is my absolute integrity, ethics, and hard work which will be helpful to put everything in line. I guide all the upcoming entrepreneurs with the same belief system. Be ethical and work hard.
DesiShades: You have been very active in different community organizations. What are the organizations you work for?
Bipin: I strongly believe in the famous saying by my guru "a giving hand is a better hand than the hand that is taking." I am a strong believer of this. Even in Bhagavad-Gita it says you should do all your work without any expectation. When you do good work for the welfare of others that in itself is the reward. I got involved in the Hindu temple of Colorado where I can see lot of progress. I am also involved in Haidakhandi Universal Ashram at Crestone, Colorado and, Mother Karunamayi SMVA trust. Shashi my wife has built an Ashram in India to support the community in her village. My passion is education and health care.
DesiShades: Without cooperation from the family, it is difficult to obtain success. Can you brief about your family?
Bipin: My wife Shashi is a dedicated community worker. She is deeply involved in building an ashram in India. She is also involved in Haidakandi Ashram community services. I have two daughters; one of them is in college at the University of Pennsylvania and another sophomore in high school at Kent Denver.
DesiShades: Do you have any thing to convey to the community?
Bipin: I am glad to say that our Indian community is successful. We should come together and be proud of our culture.
DesiShades: Thank you Mr.Bipin, for the time you spent with us today.
Bipin: Thanks for having me here.