From Garage Startup to Global Giant: The Inspirational Journey of Arjun Malhotra

Arjun Malhotra’s journey from a modest six-person ‘garage operation’ to the helm of a global IT powerhouse is a testament to his relentless determination and visionary leadership. As a co-founder of the HCL Group in 1975, he was instrumental in its transformation into one of India’s largest information technology firms. Today, HCL Technologies, under his strategic guidance, boasts over 250,000 employees and a market capitalization exceeding $33 billion. His pioneering spirit led him to the United States in 1989, where he took over HCL’s US operations (now HCL Technologies) and grew its annual revenues to nearly $100 million. In subsequent years, he managed successful ventures with Hewlett-Packard and Deluxe Corporation, further expanding HCL’s footprint in Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.

“One of HCL’s greatest achievements in India was demonstrating that a professional and transparent company could create wealth for its founders and investors,” recalls Mr. Malhotra with a proud smile. He adds, “This was a significant shift in a country where such models were rare. HCL helped break the glass ceiling for many middle-class individuals, showing them they could start their businesses.”

“The IT industry, including HCL, played a key role in this transformation,” he concludes.

In 1998, Malhotra’s entrepreneurial flair shone brightly again as he founded TechSpan with backing from Goldman Sachs and Walden International, serving as CEO and Chairman. Under his adept leadership, the company merged with Headstrong in 2003, creating a robust IT-based financial services firm. Malhotra’s role as Chairman ensured a seamless integration, earning Headstrong a reputation as a rapidly growing entity in the industry. Headstrong was sold to Genpact in 2011 for $550 million, marking another significant milestone in Malhotra’s illustrious career. HCL Technologies and Genpact have established substantial operations globally, including in Canada, further highlighting Malhotra’s global impact.

Arjun Malhotra’s academic journey is a testament to his intellectual prowess and commitment to learning. A distinguished alumnus of The Doon School and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kjsonparse, he graduated with honors in electronics and electrical communication engineering, earning him the Dr. B.C. Roy Gold Medal. His leadership skills were further honed at Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program in 1985. Recognizing his contributions, he was named a Life Fellow of IIT Kharagpur. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree, indicating his alma mater’s respect for him.

Malhotra’s contributions extend beyond the corporate world. He is vital to the IIT Kharagpur Foundation and the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. His endowments led to the establishment of the Prof. G.S. Sanyal School of Telecommunications and The M. N. Faruqui Centre of Innovation at IIT Kharagpur. Recognizing his contributions, he was named a Life Fellow of IIT Kharagpur. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree, indicating his alma mater’s respect for him.

In 2001, Malhotra was honored with the Albert Einstein Technology Medal, recognizing his revolutionary contributions to the high-tech industry. The Institution of Engineers (India) named him an Eminent Engineering Personality, and in 2013, Punjab Technical University awarded him an honorary PhD. His accolades include the Dataquest Lifetime Achievement Award 2018, which celebrates his influence in nurturing entrepreneurship and shaping the Indian IT industry.

“Today, many people believe they can start a company, some even before finishing college. However, about 300 million ‘lower-middle-class’ individuals still prioritize job security, often seeking government positions for stability and pensions,” said Mr. Malhotra thoughtfully. He added, “I hoped the BPO industry would help them see beyond this need for security, as it employs many from this demographic and could inspire a greater entrepreneurial spirit.”

Beyond IT, Malhotra’s passion for public health and education is evident in his roles with the Antara Foundation and the Indian Institute of Public Health, Delhi. His ongoing efforts continue to raise public health standards through technological advancements.

Malhotra’s leadership extends to several prestigious boards, including The Doon School, IIM Udaipur, RGIIM Shillong, and ATB IIIT&M Gwalior. A Charter Member of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), he has served as Chairman of the TiE Global Board, promoting global entrepreneurship through mentorship and education.

As a founding member of SPIC-MACAY, he champions the promotion of Indian classical music and culture among youth. His advisory roles at various technology, education, and healthcare startups, along with his chairmanship at Magic Edtech and Evolko Inc., underscore his commitment to innovation and societal betterment. Arjun Malhotra’s legacy is a beacon of inspiration in technology, education, and public health.

Arjun Malhotra’s Family Background

Arjun Malhotra, born in Calcutta, was raised in a family that cherished learning. His maternal grandfather, a renowned zoologist, and India’s best-known ichthyologist, significantly fostered this love for learning. As a Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy and President of the Indian National Science Congress in 1954, he often took young Arjun on morning walks around Victoria Memorial, quizzing him on math problems. This early exposure not only put Arjun ahead in math class but also instilled a deep love for learning that he carried throughout his life.

Arjun’s father, a British army veteran, returned to India from Burma during WWII. He met and married Arjun’s mother, a medical doctor, in 1946. The family, with a strong emphasis on education and independence, instilled these values in Arjun from a young age. Despite never expecting to pursue a doctorate, Arjun respected and upheld the family tradition set by his grandfather, who earned his DSc from Edinburgh in 1924.

Arjun has a younger sister, who is three years his junior, pursued a master’s in English literature and explored various fields afterward, preferring to remain in the liberal arts.

In 1971, Arjun married Kiran, whom he met through her brother, a classmate from IIT Kharagpur. Kiran, who holds an MSc in Foods and Nutrition, taught at Lady Irwin College for many years. Now retired, she is a homemaker actively involved in community work.

Arjun and Kiran have two children and three grandchildren.

  • Poorva, the daughter, married to Tipu Purkayastha, has two children, Vir (16) and Saachi (14), who are both in high school. Poorva earned her master’s Degree from Stanford University and taught there for some time, and then when she had her children, she gave that up and decided to focus on the family. She lives in Saratoga, CA.
  • Shiven, Son, married to Elisa Sartori, has one son, Alessandro (2). They live in Delhi, India. He graduated from UC Santa Cruz and then worked with KPMG and several startups before starting his fund.

PN: The dog in the photograph, OB-One (inspired by Star Trek), is currently in Delhi, thanks to the Malhotras, devoted dog lovers who have rescued many dogs, including him.

By Tushar Unadkat

Photo Credit: The Malhotras.

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Tushar Unadkat

Internationally celebrated award-winning media personality, Creative Director of MUKTA Advertising Canada and Founder, Executive Director of Nouveau iDEA. Website

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