Hackers such as Kevin Mitnick, who earlier this year was arrested for breaking into Motorola’s computer system, strike fear in the hearts of most corporate managers. But to Kavelle Bajaj, these high-tech outlaws are just another business opportunity.
Bajaj, 44, is president and founder of I-NET, a $235 million technology firm in Bethesda, MD, that helps organizations network and upgrade computers, manage sophisticated digital information, and make sure unauthorized users don’t break into their systems. “We’re in the business of selling solutions,” Bajaj says.
I-Net manages computer operations for the White House and Department of Defense, and counts BP, MCI, and Exxon among its clients. While other firms provide some similar services, none manages and networks all parts of a system as I-NE I does, says analyst Paul Callahan of Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research.
Bajaj is an unlikely corporate titan. A New Delhi native, she moved to the U.S. in 1974 for an arranged marriage to computer scientist Ken Bajaj. After a few years as a housewife, she took some computer courses and realized businesses would need help networking their PCs and mainframes.
With a $5,000 loan from her husband-who is now I-NET’s CFO-and additional financing from a Small Business Administration program allowing minority-
owned companies special access to government contracts, Bajaj hired some computer specialists, and I-NE I got its first contract to upgrade the Department of Commerce’s word processors. Since then, the 10-year-old company has continued to grow, weaning itself away from government contracts in recent years and targeting private business. Last year, the company’s revenues rose 58 percent from $148 million.
Bajaj doesn’t claim to be a techno-wizard; she hasn’t even ventured onto the Intemet yet. “I just try to hire the best people and let them do their jobs,” she says.
Her goal is to go public in the next year and become a $1 billion company by 2000. Forrester’s Callahan believes I-NET runs the risk of being gobbled up if it goes public, but sees $1 billion as “very doable, if the company continues to attract talent as it has.”
Bajaj isn’t worried. As always, the trick is anticipating companies’ needs. “The key to success,” she says, “is being on target.”