Vinod Gupta: A Few Lessons in Business

The man, the myth, the legend: Vinod Gupta is one of the most successful businessmen of this age, not because he owns a bunch of companies and makes billions, but because he’s a down to earth soul who strives for the betterment of industry and the furtherment of technology.

His story is one of success, setbacks, more success, innovation, excitement, inspiration, and passion. Vinod Gupta is an inspiration to anyone who has little, but dreams for bigger and better things for their family, their children’s children, and their people. Mr. Gupta may have grown up in a small village in India, where kids ran about barefoot, playing soccer in the streets, and where regular amenities most take for granted were rare. Now, he is one of the wealthiest, most successful people on the entire planet. How did he go from dreaming big in a small apartment in Rampur Manhyaran, India to having everything a person could ever need or want?

Hopes and Dreams

On a normal day, hopes and dreams may seem like a nice getaway during menial tasks in our daily lives, but for Mr. Gupta, it was the beginning of his long and prosperous career. He was born on the fourth of July 1946 in a small village–Rampur Manhyaran. His family lived a simple life in India. Back then, running water, electricity, asphalt roads, and cars weren’t things that were available to the people in this village. His parents worked hard everyday to provide for their family while he attended his village school until he graduated in 1962. Being the smart lad that he was, his education had just begun. Just five years after, Mr. Gupta was graduating from I.I.T., Kharagpur, India with a B.Tech. degree in agricultural engineering.

Vinod Gupta’s thirst for knowledge was not quite satisfied, so in 1971, he ventured to America where he was accepted to college in Nebraska with little more than the close on his back and less than $60 in his pocket. Gupta was able to overcome the odds and earn a master’s degree through the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in business administration after taking the largest step of his life: Flying to America on borrowed money.

Vinod was a master and turning people’s borrowed money to capital. In 1971, while working as a marketing research analyst for Commodore Corp, he was tasked with compiling a list of every mobile home dealer in the United States. After buying lists online from business directories that were incomplete and inaccurate, Gupta requested all 4,800 yellow books that were available at the time and set to work. His employer would not allow Gupta to use company time to sort through the yellow books, but that Commodore would consider purchasing the lists once completed.

Gupta completed the list and gave his boss two options, 1.) to purchase the exclusive rights to the list at $9,000 or 2.) get the list for free but allow Gupta to also sell the list to competitors. Commodore chose option two and Gupta turned $100 borrowed from the bank to send mailers to mobile home companies into $25,000.

Gupta opened his first business, Business Research Services and American Business List in 1972, with two part time employees and was able to quit working for Commodore the next year. Within thirteen years, the entire yellow pages were added to American Business List, ABL, database. After dedicating his profits to growing his business, ABL was able to go public in 1993. ABL expanded and the business began to encompass much more than just business directories. With rapid internal growth and the acquisition of several other data base and marketing companies, ABL became infoUSA and covers the US and Canada.

Today, Vinod Gupta has made quite a name for himself in the United States and India as a superb businessman and philanthropist. He has been awarded an honorary doctorate from three different universities including IIT, U of Nebraska, and Monterey Institute of International Studies. He also served as trustee for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and was appointed to the position by President Bill Clinton. He was also confirmed as the US consul general to Bermuda and was nominated to be the US ambassador to Fiji but unfortunately had to decline due to business commitments. Vinod Gupta is still actively involved in civic engagements serving on many boards.

Philanthropic Efforts

With just a $100 investment, borrowed from a bank, Vinod Gupta has been able to create a $680 million-dollar business which sold in 2010. Gupta is someone who understands the value and stretch of a dollar and has used his upbringing and business savvy to give back to many charities that value education and innovation. He has also made several private donations to schools and programs both in the US and back home in India.

One of his most notable charitable contributions was a one-million-dollar donation to his village in India, Rampur Manhyaran, to create a women’s polytechnic. In the early 1990’s Gupta donated two million dollars to his alma mater, IIT which now offers MBA’s to students who have completed five years of engineering work through the Gupta School of Management. Also, at IIT, an Intellectual Property Law School was established in 2006 through Gupta’s investment of another two million dollars. Vinod Gupta has also given back to his roots by providing the small village school he attended a brand-new science block and also pays for the busses that transport the girls to school.

Gupta’s investment into the IIT Intellectual Property Law School definitely paid off when the school was ranked number one in research and number four overall law school in India. The official name of the law school is The Rajic Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law at IIT Kharagpur but is often shorten to the acronym RGSOIPL. The National Institutional Ranking Framework conducted the survey and compiled the rankings which are developed by the government of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Parameters that were considered in the rankings included teaching, learning, resources, professional and research practices, graduation and retention rates, perception, and outreach efforts. The school received a total score of 76.61 out of 100 in the category of research with its closest competition coming in at only 52 points.

In America, Gupta has also focused much of his philanthropic efforts on education. The university he attended, University of Nebraska at Lincoln was gifted two million dollars in develop a small business management curriculum at the university. He also set up a 500,000-dollar scholarship fund for minority students pursuing degrees in science or engineering.

Vinod Gupta is also part of the IIT Kharagpur Foundation USA which was founded by alumni of IIT This group recently purchased an ambulance to donate to the campus wellness initiative after tragic on-campus events. The group also plans to take steps to create a better communication channel for students who need medical help. The foundation is currently working to create a 24/7 1-800 hotline that students can use to talk to administration about their medical needs.

What is Vinod Gupta Doing Today?

The schools that Vinod helped to establish are churning out innovative new leaders in logistics, engineering, and business management. In 2017, Amrutha Bhamidimukkula credited the Vinod Gupta School of Management for her achievement in winning the Best Business School Project Award 2017 for her optimization of Domino’s Pizza supply chain. Amrutha said in an interview with India Education Diary that not only the curriculum, but the extracurricular activities that she was able to participate in such as debates, presentations, dance, drama, and more all helped to prepare her for this project and award. She also says that without her practical application classes and electives available to her, she wouldn’t have been able to succeed in the way she did. Amrutha, while exceptional, in not necessarily abnormal at the School of Management. The school focuses on data analytics to optimize the supply chain of businesses and save companies money while producing future business managers with a strong background in analyzing data, marketing, and supply chain optimization.

Today, in his personal life, Vinod runs Everest Group, a venture capital firm that looks to build leading services companies through organic and acquisition-enhanced growth. Everest Group allows him to spend more time with his family and engaging in charitable works, which is what his true passion is. He still enjoys helping businesses grow and connecting small businesses to consumers. Vinod believes that success is measured by happiness, not money.

Written by Eric

37-year-old who enjoys ferret racing, binge-watching boxed sets and praying. He is exciting and entertaining, but can also be very boring and a bit grumpy.