The answer to recession is digital

Recessions are hard on everyone aren’t they? It appears this is not always the case, particularly when it comes to the technology sector


Computer chip giant Intel posted its best earnings ever in 2010. Intel announced net profits of $11.7bn for the year on revenue of $43.6bn; a 167 percent jump from the profit posted in 2009. IBM was the second computing giant to echo Intel’s success. IBM’s fourth quarter profits announced in January 2011 showed $29bn revenues – up seven percent – and $5.26bn net income – up nine percent – both of which beat   market expectations.

2010 marked an important year for the IT industry. Cloud has become the buzzword in IT and Microsoft, a key player, is completely backing this new technology, and when the Seattle software giant throws its weight behind something, you know there will be only one outcome.

This cloud technology trend is set to continue long into 2011 with expert analysts such a Gartner predicting that by 2012, 20 percent of businesses will no longer own their IT assets. Research by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (CEBR) confirmed Gartner’s predictions with a report suggesting widespread adoption of cloud computing could give the top five EU economies a 763bn euro boost over five years and create 2.4 million jobs. It seems not only is the technology booming but it could give countries’ economies a well needed boost.

For companies that are offering these solutions they are often driven by a certain type of character, European CEO speaks to some of the business people who have succeeded in the industry.

Chris Papa
Chris Papa is at the head of multi-million pound communications business Qubic Group plc. Qubic is a technology company specialising in delivering integrated voice, data solutions and support services, it is currently entering its sixteenth year and is going from strength to strength.

Chris Papa is first and foremost an entrepreneur who draws upon a wide range of professional and commercial experience. He gained an HNC in electronic design while working for Rolls Royce as design engineer for both the aircraft and motor vehicle divisions. In his time at Rolls Royce Chris produced bespoke designs for some famous people including: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Jimmy Tarbuck and the Harlem Globetrotters.

Chris has been involved throughout his career in starting up and growing companies. He has worked with a wide range of entrepreneurs and management teams and has a number of businesses. Chris Papa said: “I have been interested in business from the days I worked in my father’s restaurant, off licence and greengrocers. My attention as a teenager turned to the technology and telecommunications sectors.”

In 1994, Chris set up Qubic as a voice and data systems integrator delivering the benefits of converged communications to commercial organisations and public sector clients. Always at the forefront of technological innovation, Qubic, delivered its first IP telephony solution in 1995. The company supplies infrastructure, hardware and software through a range of its own products and those of key strategic suppliers such as Mitel, Microsoft, HP, Global Crossing and O2.

Papa said: “My current venture Qubic, now in its sixteenth year, is very much an entrepreneurial success. With my City background and West End experience, the blend of commercial and professional experience means we are still continuing to flourish, even in a recession.”

Papa added, “Technology is thriving, I believe this is due to a new business era we are entering. Companies are now looking to cut costs and re-build after what has been a tough couple of years; one way in which they are doing this is by outsourcing their IT infrastructure to the ‘Cloud’. The biggest advantage of the cloud is its ability to change the way IT is ‘consumed’, allowing a business to avoid hefty upfront investment costs associated with buying IT equipment, and spread the costs over a fixed term, changing IT costs from a capital expenditure to an operating cost (CAPEX to OPEX).  As a result the cloud allows businesses to focus on their core activities (and not running and maintaining IT) and is rightly one of the fastest growing areas of technology.”

Tim Wallis
Tim Wallis is the CEO of Content and Code, specialists in SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365. Content and Code solves business challenges with creative IT solutions, built on SharePoint, Microsoft Online Services (BPOS) and other key Microsoft platforms.

Content and Code was founded in 2001, during a massive global IT slump. As the dotcom bubble burst, its two founders, Tim Wallis and Craig Beard, both lost their jobs with a large US-based dot-com that filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protections, and started Content and Code initially as a ‘contracting’ company to finish the projects. Ten years on and Content and Code powered its way onto the Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100. In 2010 it entered the prestigious list at number 20.

Tim’s route into the IT industry was initially more of a vocational one than strictly academic. He embarked on a BTech national course, later graduating with a degree in Business Administration and went on to pursue post graduate studies.

He then travelled extensively and his strong interest in programming and IT became apparent; he trained as an accountant and began working in the accounts department of Advanced Network Systems (ANS). Driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit, it is Tim Wallis’ aim to bring about change in business.

Wallis said, “The strong growth that has lead to our inclusion in the Tech Track 100 in 2010 shows that cloud and managed services are genuinely the way forward that our strategic direction is correct and sound. Craig and I saw an opportunity in the market ten years ago and feel our ambition and drive has made this possible.”

Andrew Gilbert
Andrew Gilbert is the Managing Director of Node4, a specialist in data centers and communications solutions. Gilbert at 30 years is arguably the youngest business leader in the IT sector for the size of turnover/company and now heads up an organisation that has a turnover of £11m in the space of only six years. In the formative years it experienced a growth of 150 percent per year, and even in the tough economic climate today, has maintained a growth rate of 60 percent year on year for the last three years.

This impressive growth for a reasonable ‘young’ business earned Node 4 a place on The Sunday Times Tech Track; it entered the list at number 45 out of a possible 100 companies nationwide. Andrew started Node4 in 2003 at the tender age of 23 when he had the foresight to see that hosted data centres and managed services could have a strong future as technology innovation would fuel a significant demand in years to come across all industry sectors. His business partner at the time agreed to provide funding for this new venture and provided a cash injection in return for a small slice of the business.

Gilbert said, “The technology sector is on a completely different growth trajectory to general business. This is because it is driven primarily by companies wanting to save money and strip out costs from their businesses. We at Node4 have experienced considerable growth during the recession as a result of this trend.”

Gilbert added, “Node4 was not my first entrepreneurial endeavour; I already dabbled with a collaborative venture I went into with a friend which gave me my first real taste of enterprise. However, just a year into the venture I could see that the real money lay in outsourcing technology and I sensed that data centres could potentially be hugely profitable in and out of recession. Having worked from the age of 16 I had my first real taste of enterprise at a young age and I think this really helped me get where I am today. I have always worked in the technology industry and been passionate about IT so I just absorbed as much information as I could in my early years and now it has finally paid off.”

Ravi Pandey
Ravi Pandey is the UK Head of NIIT Technologies Ltd, a leading IT solutions organisation, servicing customers in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. It offers services in application development and maintenance, enterprise solutions including managed and infrastructure management services and business process management to organisations in the financial services, transportation, retail, and distribution, technology, media, entertainment and insurance sectors. Pandey has worked with some of the largest industrial houses in India and has shown a passion for technology, he has a Bachelor of Technology in Electronics and Communications from National Institute of Technology, Warangal and a MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

Pandey said, “NIIT’s vast experience and proven domain skills in the travel, transport, insurance and logistics sector demonstrates how we are able to provide business relevant, tailor-made industry solutions in order to address challenges such as reducing costs, enabling business and improving services to allow our clients to focus on their core business operations without the added strain of maintaining and managing their business processes. NIIT understands technology can be seen as ‘chore’ by most business leaders and strives to relieve any unwanted pressures.”

Last year saw NIIT increase profits in the face of a tough economy and Pandey puts the success down to specialisation in specific domain sectors, stating: “There is a significant movement away from general outsourcing companies, like the huge multi-nationals which have dominated service provision in the past, to those that offer a more focused and cost-effective approach like NIIT. Over the years we have built up a great reputation which has led to long-term partnerships of typically between five and 15 years.  As a result we have prospered in tough times and see a robust future ahead.”