Exciting Ideas of Social Entrepreneurism: Interview with the CEO of Trans IT mPower Labs
With offices in Bangalore, Malaysia and USA, Trans IT mPower Labs is a software development company specializing in portal development. It is managed by a group of professionals who believe in empowering lives and creating wealth to support welfare causes. The company has won international and national awards for its innovation and has been mentored by industry veterans like the former CEO of Yahoo India and the CTO of SUN Microsystems. Presented here is an interview conducted by BIJU ABDUL QADIR of Young Muslim Digest with ABDULLAH AKBAR, the CEO of the company.
YMD: Can you briefly describe your company’s profile and growth curve over the last six years since it was first set up by a group of enterprising and socially aware Muslim youngsters?
AA: Alhamdulillah, mPower started its journey from a place of blessings, a Masjid. A group of committed sincere individuals namely Ahamed Hasan, Ameen-e-Muddassar, Abrar Wasim and Habeeb Sadath started mPower with a vision to empower lives six years ago with ZERO investment in the basement of a Masjid in Ilyas Nagar. The primary intention was to support fresh engineering Muslim graduates, who hadn’t been selected in the campus interview. Alhamdulillah, our training program helped hundreds of Muslim freshers find jobs in MNCs. A good number of them have moved to USA, Germany, Britain and are doing extremely well in their careers. This is partly thanks to the technical expertise of Ahamed Hasan, a JAVA guru who quit a well-paid GE job to do this. As we moved on along our growth curve, mPower won a prestigious National Innovation Award – The Lockheed Martin Award for Innovation – and the product was launched by the industry’s top personalities like Sharad Sharma, the CEO of Yahoo India, Partha, the co-founder of Mindtree, Sherif K M, former CTO of SUN Microsystems, Subash, MD & CEO of Subex and Ashok Kumar Manoli, IT Sec, Government of Karnataka.
Alhamdulillah, we have grown 25 times in revenue since the last three years and 200% in the midst of recession (2008) due to our focus on Niche premium technologies. Having worked under, and being aware of, a good number of companies, I consider mPower a company with a difference. Companies are built on capital, product, technology, people etc, and mPower was built on faith and a purpose to empower lives. The creation of wealth with the primary intention of bringing a social change within the community and country thus constitutes what is known as Social Enterpreneurship.
Today mPower is a leading IT company with presence in USA and Malaysia, with Industry veterans having an average of nineteen years of IT experience from MNCs like Accenture, Wipro, Capgemini, TCS, and ORACLE. With a fantastic talented team in place and having the right goals and mentors, we are confident of making mPower a model company for young entrepreneurs to follow.
YMD: You have seen your company as always having had a socio-cultural dimension to its activities. Can you please elaborate on some, if not all, of the ways in which this dimension is manifested in your company’s working?
AA: If our minds talks about revenue, our souls focus on the social and religious aspects of life. Having worked and heard about Corporates, we strongly feel that the spiritual aspect is a must for peace within individual and society, irrespective of which religion one belongs to. The recent incident in which a Senior Product Manager from Infosys killed his one-year-old daughter and hanged himself is a classic case in point. Clearly, therefore, corporate jobs can satisfy but two needs of the human condition viz., those of the mind and the body, and surely not those of the soul within. At mPower, we consider the needs of the soul as having priority over those of the mind and body. Thus the soul-factor calls for proper attention. Hence, we have always kept the religious aspect on top priority. We wanted to create an environment where we can practice religion freely and easily, yet be professionals and deliver quality.
By Allah’s grace we have achieved it to good levels. We have a dedicated place for prayer (Salah) and ablution (Wudu) which can accommodate 75 worshippers (Mussalis) at one time. Interestingly, we have started Qur’anic recitation (Tajweed) classes in the office for professionals who would like to correct their reading of the Qur’an. We start with the alphabets of Arabic for those who haven’t read the Qur’an at all. An Imam has been appointed for the job. Two batches have graduated so far. We have a group called ILM, where we share one authentic tradition (Hadith) of Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, everyday with all Muslims in the company. mPower is blessed with visits from many religious scholars. We have short lectures from these scholars to orient our employees with regard to the purpose of our lives.
As can be seen, the entire group is based on five pillars:
1. Providing excellence, professionalism and wealth through business for self and others
2. Generation of a role model of a successful company run on Islamic principles
3. Enjoining all that is Good and discouraging all that is Evil
4. Financial support for Socio-welfare activities
5. Networking with like-minded and brotherly organizations that promote universal equality, tolerance, communal harmony and non-discrimination.
Thus, the overriding principle that permeates all activities at mPower is, quite simply, God-consciousness (Taqwa) in everything that we do.
YMD: The mPower Foundation has been involved with a poverty alleviation program in certain area(s) of Bangalore. What have been the developments on this front? What the modus operandi, and what the results thus far?
AA: The mPower Foundation is the heart of the mPower Group. In the third year of our inception, when the company’s promoters saw signs of growth and profits, we unanimously decided to formally incorporate the Foundation as the charitable wing of the mPower group. The intention here is to share part of the profits generated from our business with those in dire need, irrespective of their caste, creed or religion. The mPower Foundation focuses on Education, Leadership, Health Care and Food, the most basic of human needs. We have started a campaign called Alhamdulillah Bread Basket (ABB).
The Foundation is headed by Syed Habeeb, who is also one of the Board members, and himself an international trainer and passionate social worker. We are working in the EWS slums of Koramangala supporting around 160 families for their basic monthly ration needs since past one year. Our team of volunteers has done rigorous surveys to identify deserving families, the aged, the handicapped, the destitute, and orphans etc. We are in the process of taking our next step, i.e., building value-based leadership in the slum and at schools.
YMD: Are there any other areas like education, career counseling etc. in which the mPower Foundation seeks to play a role, or several roles, as far as community development goes?
AA: Yes, we will venture into the education segment once our business stabilizes. We intend to start chains of schools focusing on value-based leadership. We plan to execute this in a couple of years from now.
YMD: The particular concept of social entrepreneurism now being mooted by mPower is an interesting one. Can you please elaborate on the vision and idea behind this nascent project which is still in its conceptualization stage?
AA: We have recently formed a holding company called Zariya Holdings. As its name suggests, we wish to be the Zariya (source) whence to empower lives for this world and the Hereafter.
We have three private companies under Zariya. They are: mPowerIT, inikah.com, and Breakthrough 360. The idea is to float and develop a number of commercial entities in order to create wealth and to thereby support socio-welfare causes. Our IT division is, of course, the largest in size and as a typical case-study, its success suggests that businesses can be built on Trust and Faith in God professionally. Doubtless, if we repose faith in God, remain humble and persevering, success is bound to come sooner or later.
As you rightly mentioned, the concept – ‘Collaborate for a Cause’ as we call it – is at a nascent stage and we are looking for like-minded professionals and companies with similar passion and drive to help us develop this vision further and to carry it into the practical domain.
YMD: So what exactly do you tell the prospective business partners?
AA: Well, what we tell them is, join us as an Entrepreneur, on the primary principle that out of all profits generated by the freshly partnering Entrepreneur as well as mPower as a whole, some amount (say 10%) must directly go to social causes, right at the company level (through the Zariah Holdings). When they agree and start operating from within the mPower umbrella, they get the benefit of the vast experience of our entrepreneurship. We offer them techniques of business and finance management, as well as help them in marketing their products within the country and overseas. This way, the entrepreneur does not feel like a lone sheep among the wolves in the market. Furthermore, he gets connected with the community through philanthropic works launched by mPower.
YMD: On what basis will eligibility for community projects being taken up (by the proposed mPower philanthropic investment source-pool) be decided?
AA: We plan to have a very professional approach towards the selection process. Every communitarian project will be studied and sponsored on a priority-rating based on the proposed project’s positive impact on the welfare of the community, in particular, and mankind, in general.
YMD: As far as mPower is concerned, is there any limiting framework(s) within which the model must ultimately develop and upon which mPower will insist at all points in the growth of the model?
AA: As things stand today, Allah has put in us an intention, or an idea, to support worthy causes in a very professional, thoroughgoing and well-organized manner through sound business practices and entrepreneurship. Once we form a Consultative Committee of CEOs or Heads of different businesses, we can definitely look forward to developing a framework for the whole model.
YMD: We have talked of the need for creating an awareness and orientation within the Muslim business community with regard to the model proposed by mPower. How do you foresee the different steps in this all-important orientation process?
AA: We will have to adopt various models like The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE)* and the Social Entrepreneurs Club to bring about this much-needed awareness.
[* The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), was founded, in 1992, in Silicon Valley by a group of successful entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and senior professionals with roots in the Indus region. There are currently 13,000 members, including over 2,500 charter members in 57 chapters across 14 countries. TiE’s mission is to foster entrepreneurship globally through mentoring, networking, and education. Dedicated to the virtuous cycle of wealth creation and giving back to the community, TiE’s focus is on generating and nurturing our next generation of entrepreneurs.]
YMD: Which other companies, if any, have been initiated into this concept? What have been their responses?
AA: As mentioned earlier, we are in an ideational stage at the moment and, as such, are on the look out for likeminded business houses to join us and develop a workable framework within which to hoist the entire superstructure of this project.
For more information, Abdullah Akbar can be contacted at his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.