Not only am I getting the opportunity to meet many wonderful people from India, but I am getting to know my colleagues on this trade mission. Let me introduce a few of them to you:
Kim Pearson founded New Boundary Technologies in 1985, a software company with 30 employees. He said he’s made two observations during his trip here. First, the small tech companies in Bangalore are raising the standard on human resource practices. In order to mitigate rates of turnover as high as 30 percent, the small companies are adopting HR policies typically only found in big companies. “They spell out a compelling career path, and offer good training,” he said. They offer good compensation with bonuses. Pearson said they do a better job than most small tech companies in the United States. The example of the Indian companies is actually going to force American companies to adopt similar HR practices in order to compete for talent.
Second, Indian companies have done a good job of creating a knowledge repository so that when someone leaves the company, the information in their head is not lost. The company records everything and the person who takes over gets all that information and doesn’t miss a beat. With all the people who are going to be retiring as the Baby Boomers age, “we need to be doing the same thing in our companies so the intellectual capital of the company is not lost,” he said.
Erik Paulsen, state representative for Eden Prairie, Minn., recently announced he is running for the third congressional district seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is interested in India because there are a number of tech firms in Eden Prairie. He is interested in facilitating cooperative arrangements between Indian firms and those in Minnesota.
Paulsen introduced legislation last session that resulting in a $150,000 appropriation to the University of Minnesota for the launch of a Minnesota India Center. Paulsen said details for the center’s operation are being worked out by University officials, but he suspects it will offer some kind of support to businesses interested in India. It may also focus on health concerns.
A China Center was set up at the University of Minnesota in 1979, a resource Paulson tapped as he worked for legislation establishing a program to teach Mandarin in Minnesota schools.
Mark Aulik, owner of Allow Hardfacing and Engineering Co., of Jordan, Minn., spends about half his year in India, where he has been doing business since 2001. His company makes equipment for processing food, including automatic potato peelers and fruit packaging machines. He believes his company is a natural fit for India, where food is so important, yet most of its rots before it gets to market.
Aulik sells a system for rendering slaughtered animals so no parts go to waste. The system gives the animal’s owner a more efficient way to process animals and reduces land and water pollution. Aulik said he believes his company can make a big difference in India.
Megan and Dennis Doyle are founders of Hope for the City, a charity that channels excess corporate equipment and supplies to disadvantaged people. They recently shipped a carton of medical supplies to Armenia. In seven years, people all over the world have received millions of dollars in supplies through Hope for the City. The program also offers meals to disadvantaged children during the summer in the Twin Cities.
Hope for the City has a micro-loan program in India, with 75 loans currently outstanding. The loans range from $100 to $500. The money is being used to help villagers start or advance a business. On person used the money to buy an iron to start a laundry business, another used the money to buy a water buffalo.
Boris Miksic is president of St. Paul-based Cortech, which has been doing business all over the world for years. Miksic told the group that his company has just signed a deal to help an Indian state clean up its streets and give work to the poor. The state is hiring unemployed women to go around their city and pick up trash, using biodegradable trash bags made by Miksic’s company.
Miksic has published a 286-page paper-back autobiography, titled “American Dream: a guy from Croatia.” He gave me a copy of the book and I have been reading it as we travel.
Sam Roy is president and CEO of EPS Technologies of Mankato. His company has developed a technology for reducing the pollution emitted by diesel engines. The product already is in use in Thailand. As we drive about, he notes all the trucks driving by, belching out clouds of exhaust. Visibly excited about his company, Roy said the product will make the air cleaner and help the owners of the vehicles save a lot of money.
Steven Cremer is president of Harmony Enterprises in the tiny southeast Minnesota community of Harmony. His business was started by locals looking to do something to spur their economy. In the 1960s, they made the tent components to travel trailers. Now, with 60 employees, the company makes waste management products. For example, the company makes a machine which compacts cardboard, which can be recycled.
Sidney Emery is CEO of MTS Systems, which makes testing equipment. Emery said the company made a decision a few years ago to focus on China and he is here evaluating that decision. His conclusion is they made the right decision. He said the difference is China offers opportunity right now, whereas the opportunity in India is still a few years off.
Brett Shockley is CEO of Spanlink, a company that helps companies automate their telephone systems. With his company’s equipment, a customer can call an office in Minneapolis, and be seamlessly transferred to an employee in St. Paul. This allows businesses to make the most of their branch networks, Shockley explained. With all the economic growth in India, there are going to be a lot of new offices needing phone systems.
Gopal Khanna is commissioner of the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology. Gov. Pawlenty calls him the state’s chief information officer. Before joining the Pawlenty administration, he worked as chief financial officer for the Peace Corps, improving procedures across the organization’s international operations. Khanna, of Indian heritage, is bringing new efficiencies in information management and telecommunications to the state’s numerous departments and agencies.
Steve Korstad, chief financial officer for Coronal, is traveling with his colleague John Howard III. Coronal is an emerging company which offers a pollution-free way to incinerate waste products. Using carbon arching technology, garbage can be vaporized with heat that exceeds the temperature of the surface of the sun. The process produces a methane gas that can be used or sold. The company is preparing to set up shop in northern Minnesota near a paper mill, which will use the methane to dry its paper. Garbage from neighboring communities will fuel the operation.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
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