Sunday, September 9, 2012 Telegram.com
WESTBORO — The evolution of a local company from making computer terminals in Hudson to being a key part of a Mumbai-based global conglomerate was predictable, says Akibia Inc. Chief Executive Officer Thomas Tucker. All the information technology company had to do was keep a couple of simple principles in mind.
First, the company should deliver products and services customers need. Second, keep the customers happy.
In 2010, many years after it left River Road in Hudson, Akibia, which provides a wide range of IT services for more than 400 of the largest companies in the U.S. and Europe, saw more than $100 million in revenue. Major customers include the University of Massachusetts, Sunovion Pharmaceuticals in Marlboro, Worcester-based Hanover Insurance and Iron Mountain.
“I think it’s pretty simple. We mainly focus on the customers’ needs and on solutions that fit the customer, and do what we say we’re going to do for the customer,” said Mr. Tucker, a Leominster native. “I think that’s, in a nutshell, why we’ve been successful.”
During the mid-1980s, Akibia’s progenitor, Scott Systems of Hudson, founded by Frederick Scott in 1974, was making airline and banking terminals, but encountered financial problems. Venture capital investors brought in Tom Willson, Mr. Tucker’s predecessor, to help out.
In 1988, under the aegis of PSI Holdings Inc., Scott Systems was reborn as Polaris Service, which opened on Cedar Hill Street in nearby Marlboro. Instead of manufacturing computer components, however, it focused on computer services, helping companies make them more efficient and useful.
That was also the year that Mr. Tucker came on the scene.
Charles River Investors, the principal investor at Scott Systems, bought the service business at Via Systems in Chelmsford, where Mr. Tucker worked. He joined Polaris, which was renamed Akibia in 2000.
“We have a great level of trust in Akibia, and the relationship has been very successful over more than 10 years,” said Joe McGrath, senior vice president for IT at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals. “Akibia has shown a great level of flexibility; they are extremely agile and constantly adapting to meet our evolving needs.”
Akibia has approximately 350 employees, about half of them in Massachusetts, with most of those at its headquarters near where the former Data General Corp. was once located off Route 9, and at its warehouse and service facility in nearby Northboro.
In 2000, Akibia considered going public to obtain funds needed to grow, but decided against it because it wasn’t big enough, Mr. Tucker said.
“The cost of being a public company outweighed the benefits of it for a lot of smaller companies. It’s tough now, with all the regulations,” he said.
Instead, the company started looking for potential buyers. In 2010, Zensar Technologies, one of the top IT service providers in India, purchased Akibia for $66 million. With more than 7,000 employees, Zensar is part of RPG Enterprises of Mumbai, a conglomerate with $4 billion in annual revenues.
In addition to its information technology business, RPG owns 15 companies in industries that include tires, power distribution and retail. Mr. Tucker said RPG owns about 47 percent of Akibia’s shares, and the rest are publicly traded on the Bombay stock exchange.
The purchase was part of Zensar’s plan to increase its revenues from infrastructure management, in which Akibia excelled. Involved are complex areas in IT including data center services, cloud computing, end user computing, computer networks and security, all having huge impacts on companies’ revenue.
Mr. Tucker said the integration of the companies has gone well so far.
“We’ve extended our lease in Westboro, and we are doing renovations to the building, so I think they’re committed to growing the business in the U.S. and in this area in particular,” he said
The CEO also said Zensar hasn’t brought in people to replace anyone in Massachusetts.
“I think they’re committed to the leadership team that’s here. They’re respecting our expertise,” he said. “We’ve hit our numbers, and they’ve been happy with the results.”
At the time of the sale, Zensar officials expressed satisfaction with the purchase, saying that Akibia was a “very successful and very profitable” company that continued to grow even during the recent recession. While Akibia prospered, others lost their way.
“Some thought growth was all that really mattered. We survived and continue to always run a good, solid business,” Mr. Tucker said.